AT WHAT point would you let your child take his own life?
My friend Gelo decided to respond to an example I brought out last week, of a parent stopping his child from committing suicide. He asserted that the reason for stopping the child is that the parent still holds out some hope that the child would see the error of his ways and change his mind.
“But what if there is no such hope?” asks Gelo. “What if your child has his mind set on taking his life and will keep attempting until he does so. Do you tie him up to make sure he won't? To what extent are you willing to go to stop him? See, I suspect there will be a point where you'll decide to let him be. Chaining him to the ground will arguably be worse, after all. And, basically, that's the point of hell.”
Another friend, Nicky, pointed me to an article from Catholic Answers entitled, “What is Hell?” which briefly reminded me of a poorly-worded church announcement that said, “The topic for next Sunday’s sermon is ‘What is Hell?’ Come early and listen to our choir practice.”
Anyway, I get what Nicky and Gelo are driving at -- that hell is not a place of torment but an eternal state of separation. In short, if you decide you don’t want to be with God, then God respects that choice and lets you be -- which is the essence of freedom.
Will there be pain and suffering? Well, the Catholic view is that the pain is more of the pain of isolation and loneliness, rather than the pain of being roasted alive -- like standing and facing the corner of eternity while everyone around you is dancing and partying.
It was interesting growing up as a Protestant in a Catholic school. I remember a church sermon where the pastor seemed to take delight in describing how much hell was going to hurt -- what being burned feels like, and how the fires of hell was going to be much worse. And then I got the “separation” explanation from the priest in school and I remember thinking how wimpy Catholic doctrine was.
But back to Gelo’s point -- assuming that is the case, what if the child could communicate with you after death and says that he regrets his choice and would like to live again. If you, as a parent, had the power to restore him to life, would you do it?
I suspect that no parent in his right mind would say, “No, he made his choice, it’s too late now.”
In fact, I know of a dad who has a daughter, but does not approve of the daughter’s choice of husband-to-be. Yet, he does not fight with his daughter over her choice though he did provide plenty of warnings and advice. Still he allowed her to make her own decision.
In that way, he said, he keeps a good relationship with her and she will always feel free and welcome to come back to him should the marriage turn sour or his husband turns out to be a wife-beater or worse.
So whether one believes that hell is a place of active torment or simply a state of separation, why should that state be eternal? That is what I do not understand.
Why would we not have the freedom to make different choices after death? If a human father could be considerate and forgiving to a daughter who defies his wishes, how much more should a heavenly father be considerate and forgiving as well, especially after the child has fully experienced the consequences of his actions and has come to regret them?
And so regardless of whether the pain is physical or emotional, the question would be why a loving God would allow it to go on and on for all time. Would it not be more an act of mercy to simply snuff that soul out of existence?
Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on December 29, 2017.
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