pearlygates2It’s a day like any other in the place we all pass over to when we leave this life. What we as mere earthlings might call Judgment Day. For the sake of perpetuating at least part of a familiar story, I’m going to keep St. Peter in charge at the snazzy front entrance as events unfold.

The first person to step up is 57-year-old Anna. She’s smiling that smile of those that arrive believing they’re a shoe-in. St. Peter knows the expression well.

Anna: Hello, St. Peter. My goodness, I’m so happy to meet you.

St. Peter: Hello, Anna.

He begins reviewing information on his clipboard. He has her file. Anna’s smile disappears as she sees his furrowing brow.

Anna: Is there something wrong?

St. Peter: You’ve lived a fine life. But I see here that you are one of those tedious Christians who missed the whole point.

Anna (taken aback): Oh whatever do you mean? I went to church. I read the Bible. I taught its principles to my children. I condemned homosexuality.

St. Peter: Yes, I see that. Did you not realize God created everyone and that his highest goal was for people to love each other?

Anna: But, I …

St. Peter: It’s OK. You tried your best. So we’ve set aside a room over here so all the people like you can be together and talk about your righteousness until the end of time.

Anna (confused): But the noise coming from that other direction sounds livelier. Who’s over there?

St. Peter: The awake and open and compassionate. They are a lively bunch.

Anna: But I’m awake and open and compassionate.

St. Peter: Hmmmm … well. Remember that comment you wrote on an article about a college girl being raped by some guys from the football team? The one that said women shouldn’t drink in excess and if they do they’re inviting trouble? That’s not open. And it’s not very compassionate. But congrats. Being one of the 10 people in the entire Universe who didn’t experiment with alcohol in high school and college earns you entry to this special lounge if you’d prefer that.

Anna: What do we do in there?

St. Peter: Point fingers at each other and give each other the “mom” look of disapproval. Until the end of time. Oh, and no champagne to tempt you in the least.

Anna: Oh dear. This isn’t at all what I thought. Can you tell me where my friend Janet is? She arrived over a year ago.

St. Peter: The Janet who was screaming at women outside abortion clinics? She’s in the righteousness room yucking it up about all the babies she allegedly saved.

Anna (gasping): What do you mean allegedly?

St. Peter: You noticed that God made sex feel really good, right? Did you think that was so no one would have it? Now humans went a little crazier than even he anticipated, but still, he had to admit that kind of pleasure was pretty irresistible. He kind of outdid himself. But because of it lots of people find themselves in positions they aren’t equipped to handle. Screaming at them isn’t God’s answer.

Anna, unable to handle much more, gets her pass for the righteousness room and moves on. Next up is 47-year-old George, who absolutely cannot wait to tell St. Peter that he stockpiled all kinds of guns in his home to protect his loved ones from the secret Muslim running the United States. He was ready for the uprising and would lay down his life for Jesus.

St. Peter (looking at the ledger before him): Oh, George. I’m not even sure where to begin with this.

George: What do you mean?

St. Peter: Well, first of all, you know there are Muslims up here, right? A lot of them, actually.

George: But they hated us. I was trying to protect my family.

St. Peter: God knows that, George. But this is the kind of thing that makes him shake his head. Why don’t earthlings understand that all religions and spiritual paths are simply a way to God? Even atheism. God doesn’t operate from ego, so he doesn’t require that everyone have the exact same faith. No one on earth actually knows for sure if there is a great Creator or not. Atheists don’t believe there is one, but they don’t know for sure either. That’s what makes life so interesting in the world he created.

George: You’ve really lost me, St. Peter. I thought I had it right.

St. Peter: Love one another. That’s the one they all need to keep going back to, but so many lose their way.

George: Does that mean they go to hell?

St. Peter: H-E-double toothpicks? Please. Did you really think God would cast people into fire? Although Dante had some pretty creative ideas. God was tempted to put a few of them into play just for the entertainment value.

St. Peter composes himself and looks squarely at an earnest George.

George: So why did God create the world?

St. Peter: You know, George, you’re not the first one to ask this. I have a prepared statement here from God. Let me read it to you. Here goes:

I created the world and all these people to see what they would do with it. Would they get that they’re all one? Or would they divide themselves into camps? Would they get that no one is their enemy? Would they use the brains and resources I gave them to destroy or unite?

George: Wow. That says a lot.

St. Peter: There’s more. He amended that original statement recently with this:

It didn’t occur to me that pettiness would ultimately be the downfall of the whole Universe.

George (sighing): If I could do it all over again …

St. Peter: Oh, don’t worry, you’ll have that chance. In the meantime, George, please leave the gun here.