Saturday, March 12, 2011

Heaven: Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Way Up High?

Kitchener, Ontario

As I mentioned in my last blog post, lately I have been listening to Southern Gospel music that I used to listen to often as a teenager. In my last post I talked about songs that were about Jesus and how there is often a romantic view of the person Jesus. Today I want to talk about heaven. If you find yourself at a Southern Gospel concert and don't hear a song about either Jesus or Heaven, you've travelled to an alternate universe.

Let me give you some lyrics of some of the songs I find myself listening to again these days:

The Unclouded Day:

O they tell me of a home far beyond the skies,
O they tell me of a home far away;
O they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise,
O they tell me of an unclouded day.

O the land of cloudless day,
O the land of an unclouded day,
O they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise,
O they tell me of an unclouded day.

Goodbye, World, Goodbye:

I won't have the blues anymore
When I step across to that shore.
And I'll never pine for I'll leave behind
My heartaches and cares ever more.
A day maybe two then goodbye,
Goodbye to each sorrow and sigh.
Heaven is near and I can't stay here,
Goodbye world, goodbye.

Now don't you weep for me when I'm gone
For I won't have to leave here alone.
And when I hear that last trumpet sound
My feet won't stay on the ground.
I'm gonna rise with a shout, gonna fly,
Gonna rise with my Lord in the sky.
Heaven is near and I can't stay here,
Goodbye world, goodbye.

What do these lyrics tell us about the afterlife, particularly Heaven?

1) It is a place far away, presumably above us.

2) We'll be with God there.

3) All of our troubles will be gone.

Many of these songs also talk about how we'll see our friends and loved ones who have died before us. It's a nice thought, but I'm sure it is even found in the Bible. Another idea in some of these songs is that we'll be given answers to all the questions we have had in this life. This is particularly true in the songs "We'll Understand It Better By And By" and "Farther Along (We'll Know All About It)."

These are very emotional songs, and listening to them again after many many years is really tugging at my heartstrings. While I don't believe the theology the songs present, they take me back to a time that I had largely shut out from my present life.

What do you believe about Heaven? Do you believe that it is a literal place either above us or on another plane of existence? Do you believe we'll receive all the answers to our many questions? Will we see our loved ones who've gone before us? Will we meet God?

I respect you whatever your answers to those questions are.

Personally, I am quite content to not know the answers. This is a huge change in my thinking. The comforting thing about holding such a view of Heaven as has been described above is that you know what is going to happen when you die; there's little doubt.

And that's a big reason why I think the idea of a literal Heaven was probably created in the first place. Death is a scary thing because we don't know what lies on the other side. I mean, you can believe as fervently as you want what the Bible says about a literal Heaven, but has anyone ever died, spent some time in Heaven, and came back with pictures or video of the pearly gates? No. I think since the beginning of human consciousness people have been afraid about death, so we created ideas about what happens when you die. If you were good (or for Christians believed in Jesus) you went to Heaven; if you were bad or didn't believe in Jesus you were sent to Hell. This can be very comforting to people, but I doubt it's very realistic.

What do I believe happens when we die? Here I use 3 of my favourite words: I Don't Know.

And you know what? That's perfectly alright with me, it causes very little anxiety if any. I don't think about it. I deeply believe in spirituality and a Divine reality. I believe that our spirit was alive before we were physically born onto this earth, the spirit lives within us while we're here, and when we die our spirit continues on within God. Apart from that I have no concrete picture or answers. But there's no threat. I choose to live my life within Love completely, rather than fear or threat of what may befall me should I not "believe" a certain doctrine about God or Jesus. The word "Heaven" now means a state of consciousness that I can have here and now as I unite my mind with the mind of God.

For now though, I will continue to listen to the old Southern Gospel songs and very fondly reminisce about my Grandparents as well as be deeply moved by the emotion behind the songs.


Mark Andrew