Hell at the Movies
BT11 – I found the poster taped to the doorpost of my mansion.
“AHA! (Angelic Host Assembly.)
“The OAT Team will present the report you have all been waiting for, explaining the chain reaction of thoughts which selfishness begins in the hearts of the fallen. Learn how that tragic experiment led to jumping upside down and sideways until their heads explode.
“The meeting will begin instantly.”
I mingled with the milling crowds flying towards the assembly. I heard expressions of relief and optimism all around.
“At last! Our sad brothers have been so weird. They must be sorry, and anxious to return to normal!”
“That’s for sure! Now we will get answers. With answers, we can help our brothers correct their wills and get healed. Our Body will be restored!”
“Finally, I say! They will see how silly they have been, will repent, and then we can all laugh together about them turning their heads into Frisbees!”
“What a relief that will be! I’m so glad this is almost over!”
So went the talk all around me. Having attended most of the meetings myself, except for the last two, I could only encourage them.
I knew the connection between our prodigal brothers’ foolishness, and their pain. Fascinating, how it works. But entirely logical. And entirely capable of being explained to them, I assumed. And surely any problem is quickly solved, once understood.
The crowd pressed past God’s Workshop, where God was just finishing writing in a book. As He saw us streaming by, He smiled broadly, stopped writing, closed His book, and put it on a shelf so He could join us.
“Are you going to speak too?” someone asked Him with excitement.
“No, this time I’m just going to enjoy the speakers and your company.”
Cool! I stared back at the book He had put away. The cover said “When I was alone.”
Wow! It had not occurred to me that there might have been a time when God was alone. I presume He means, before He created angels. I never thought about what that might have been like, or what God did during that time, but now that the question had been put, I was anxious to know! It will be hard now to wait until God is ready to tell us.
The Host is now fully gathered. The presentation begins.
“Spiritual pain is the result of a stairway of dumb ideas, each painful step of which leads to the next, which is eventually taken unless the choice of direction is reversed.
“The Fallen allege that the Fire of God causes their pain, which we have learned to our astonishment is half true! The other half is that the worst pain is felt by what the Fire of God is there to minimize.”
Serious, our Public Relations Specialist, gave his report to the assembly. He hovered where we could all see him. Joy and Brainy hovered nearby, ready to field questions.
Serious’s face is a very nice shade of orange today. Very nice choice. Very bright, too. He held up his paper to read by it.
He unrolled it, until the end of his paper, flapping noisily in the downdraft from his wings, dropped the depth of three angels! We groaned, as he took a deep breath. We groaned again when we saw how tiny the print was! And how deep the breath he took was! We want understanding, but do we want that much?
We could only hope that his side of that paper was mostly pictures. Maybe he would look at them and stop talking and we could go home.
As my Mindmail recorded that thought, it fascinated me: wasn’t that the theme of several conversations with the Fallen? Although my complaint was in jest while theirs was bitter, wasn’t it the same complaint? Other than a difference in degree, don’t we all enjoy learning at a comfortable, entertaining level, but there comes a point where we resent the intense concentration required for deep learning?
VerseScout: Proverbs 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. 8 Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. 9 She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.
Ecclesiastes 1:18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
Even before Serious’s first word resonated, he was gesturing wildly to punctuate whatever he was thinking. I must say it turned out to be entertaining. However, I don’t know how to write down gestures, and I am not going to record every word he said! I don’t have as much paper as he does.
So, just a few highlights. I’m sure anyone interested in sitting through the whole show again can find the Realogram of it in the archives. Just ask for Real #404,5501,2324½,23859.
He began, “Gentlemen, we have come together to understand why our fallen brothers are experiencing a new phenomenon known as ‘pain’ and ‘suffering’, and exhibiting bizarre behavior which contributes to their burdens, such as banging their heads on the Streets of Gold until their halos emit showers of sparks, which they are determined to believe is turning them into God.”
The best jokes are the simple truth. Serious waited for us to compose ourselves.
“You have waited patiently for our OAT team – Observers, Analysts, and Testers – to complete our work, and now you will be r – i – c – h – l – y rewarded.” He waved his l – o – n – g paper – even longer than his towering neck – as he emitted his last phrase, and we laughed at his equation of the richness of our reward with the quantity of his words.
“We have reconstructed the stairway of dumb ideas which begins with Beelzebub’s novel concept of ‘self-ishness’, and explains all their irrational words and behavior. Here’s the first step, which leads to all the rest.”
Serious took us back to the beginning of The Trouble. All the way back to Beelzebub’s first horror movie.
The star looked kind. But he gave me the creeps.
VerseScout: Job 38:7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
VerseScout Relevance Report: This verse takes place before the creation of man, and is usually interpreted as describing angels. The fact that the Bible calls some angels “stars” (see also Revelation 12:4) lends some support to the theory that angels produced movies.
[Translator’s note: Hey, what’s going on here? I did NOT program my VSRR program to tell jokes!]
He said an angry word to nobody. He approved of anybody. He had a kind word for everybody.
But there was cruelty in his kisses.
VerseScout: Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
Luke 22:48 But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?
He never tried to hurt anybody. But he never grieved when others hurt.
He “loved” everybody. He sacrificed himself for nobody.
He said “amen” to every statement about God, from the goofy to the grandiose. His “amen” was framed by a smile of bemused condescension. He suspected none of the statements he “amened” were true, although he did not care enough to investigate whether any of them were.
He said “it doesn’t matter which concept of God is true – all paths lead to God – so I don’t let facts influence what I believe. I go by what feels right. I will love others the same either way.”
We had laughed loudest at that line, back when the movie was released. We had thought we were watching a comedy.
We laughed because one’s concept of God defines one’s responsibilities to others. One’s grasp of reality determines whether one’s good intentions will help or harm.
And the star thinks he can “love” others just as much, whether he “decides” to believe God, or fantasy? Ha ha!
No, the star did not “hate” anybody. Or at least he was not angry with anybody, for anything. That is, he did not have a strong emotion.
VerseScout: Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
His emotion towards others and towards God was happy and friendly. He wanted everybody to be happy and well. But if they were not, he was uninterested in helping. Or knowing.
His commitment to others and God was nonexistent. He was dependable to nobody, to do anything for them contrary to his own interest. His apathy towards others was perfect. His only serious commitment was to how he feels.
We winced as, once again, we saw the kindly-speaking lead character tell his student, “Love everybody. Hate nobody. Become detached from this problem-packed existence. Be self-ish. Care about nothing outside yourself. Desire nothing but self. Commit yourself to nothing beyond yourself, and set yourself free to pursue your own happiness – your own Nirvana! Become ‘Self-Realized’!”
VerseScout: Proverbs 18:2 A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.
Here’s how the student went about pursuing his happiness: he skrinkled up his face, as hope drained, from it, of helping his friends find happy endings to difficult challenges.
Life evaporated from his face, as he “detached” himself from anything outside his own tiny existence. His features dried, cold, as his “love” for others shed its readiness to accept any cost of helping anybody.
His “love” became profound hate – more violent than violent emotion – willing to watch suffering, unmoved, doing nothing, while feeling a love-like emotion, a kindly wish for suffering to stop.
No, there was no “hate”-like emotion. There was just no inspiration to “get involved” enough to lift a finger to stop suffering. Or even to examine his own words and actions for mistakes that might unintentionally perpetuate suffering.
VerseScout: James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
We watched profound apathy bleach the spontaneity from every muscle in his face. Tension made his head throb. His back slowly bowed from the weight upon his mind of the hatred (not the emotion, but the decided noninvolvement) which displaced his joy.
VerseScout: Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, ….
Philippians 2:1 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels [inward affection: compassion, sympathy, tenderness] and mercies, 2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
VerseScout Relevance Report: “consolation”, “comfort”, and “joy” are experienced by those who “esteem others better than themselves” – the very opposite of selfishness. In other words, selfishness leads to the opposite of consolation, comfort, and joy.
Student’s suffering body became as sick with pain and disease as Teacher’s. The word that came to mind to describe his pathetic appearance was “old”, whose meaning I still ponder.
Teacher smiled, a smile twisted by pain and hate. No, not “hate”. But hate.
He strained to straighten his bent back. His fist before his heart, his thumb pointing inward, he announced with an air of hateful pride, “I’m looking out for #1!” Student did likewise.
Overcome by the exertion of holding their backs straight, they slumped again, tenderly cradled their throbbing heads in their hands, and moaned, “A god of love wouldn’t let me hurt.”
We roared at that line when we first heard it. We had assumed Beelzebub was joking. No one could literally be that slow, we assumed, to see the connection between their selfishness and their pain: depression, headaches, sickness, failures, despair.
This time, we winced.
The more of the embarrassing movie Serious showed, the lower our heads hung in sympathy. We watched teacher and student trying to interact with others, and finding themselves less useful and less appreciated than formerly. The surprising thing was that they were surprised! After making such a mess out of their top priority – Self – how could they be surprised that they had become no more useful to anybody else?
Hadn’t it become their mission in life to be useless to anybody but themselves?
Well, not quite. They had certainly chosen to serve others less, but they had kind of hoped they could still feel needed.
(Not because they wanted to serve anybody’’s needs, but because they wanted something they could deny others.)
It was a bit embarrassing for them to find that their selfishness had cost them much of their function, and hence, some of their usefulness to others. They covered up by reminding each other that they didn’t care if they helped so and so anyway.
Serious turned off the Realogram.
“Selfishness reduces function by choice, as Beelzebub has taught us.
“There is another way selfishness reduces function.
“Allow me to introduce you to Whineus, who will illustrate how selfishness directly undermines intelligence.”
Serious sat down, his elbows on his knees, his chin in his hands. He looked sad. Even defeated.
He whined, “What can one angel do? Am I my angel’s keeper? I can’t do the impossible.”
Serious stood up, stepped aside, and looked down at where he had just been sitting, the spot now occupied only by Whineus, whose existence owed itself to the readiness of our memories to reserve his place in now empty space.
“Will you no longer try? We need you!” Serious begged, leaning towards Whineus.
“Those we have been trying to help need all of us. Does your heart no longer care what happens to brothers whose only hope is that you succeed in what seems, to you, an impossible mission?”
Serious sat down again as Whineus. “Am I God? Can I do miracles for everybody? That’s God’s job. He made all these angels. He needs to take care of them. That is the way to be sure all needs will be met. Rely on me, and you rely on a wish and a prayer. You need to count on God. You need to put your trust in God, not in me!”
VerseScout: Matthew 25:24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
VerseScout Relevance Report: A Commentary by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown explains this verse: “The sense is obvious: ‘I knew thou wast one whom it was impossible to serve, one whom nothing would please: exacting what was impracticable, and dissatisfied with what was attainable.’ Thus do men secretly think of God as a hard Master, and virtually throw on Him the blame of their fruitlessness.”
Serious stood up, stepped sideways, looked back down on Whineus. “You know very well God promises to do great things through you. That’s why they are called ‘miracles’. It is no miracle when God does great things. It is when God does them through us that they are miraculous. Yes, God takes care of us, but the most satisfying way He cares for us is through inspiring all of us to help each other, in love. Ability to bless others is something you must use, or lose.”
VerseScout: Matthew 25:26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. 28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. 29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
Serious continued, “If all our brothers hate us, yes, God will still love us. We thrive on that blessed assurance. But we really appreciate our brothers’ love too! Of course it’s beyond your capacity. Of course it takes a miracle. That’s why you need God. You need to love our brothers enough to want to help God help them, because outside love, there is darkness.”
VerseScout: Matthew 25:30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“I am pleading for your help, to share the blessing of God working through us, because I love you. Not because my ultimate trust is in you. It is in God.”
VerseScout: Esther 4:10 Again Esther spake…unto Mordecai; 11-12 [If I go to the king without an appointment, to plead for the Jews, I might be put to death.]13 Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, …14 …if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there …deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
Whineus: “You’re too radical for me! You’re a fanatic! A God of Love wouldn’t expect that much of anybody! That’s unreasonable! You expect me to be a Faithaholic? Gimme a break! I may owe a tithe (10%) to others. Not 100%! Not my whole life!”
VerseScout: Matthew 19:21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. 23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Serious: “Well, since you are content to do just a little for others, won’t you at least exercise great care to study how you can effectively invest your little?
“You surely know helping requires not just desire to help, but intelligence. In fact, a lot of intelligence and creativity. Without it, help may not be helpful, and may be harmful.”
Whineus: “Look, fanatic, I’ll do my part, OK? Don’t expect miracles. I’m not going to sit around doing research for the rest of my life on how to get the most out of my helping. I’ve got my own life to live, you know. The Host doesn’t depend on my help for its existence, and the Host isn’t going to be hurt if my help isn’t perfect! I’m not trying to hurt anybody, so relax.”
Stauros addressed us again, as if Whineus were no longer present to hear what Stauros had to say about him. “Do you see how selfishness suppresses intelligence? Do you see how selfishness is the choice to access only a fraction of the intelligence available – which is another way of saying selfishness is the choice to enter a stupor – to become stupid?
“To not care about our usefulness to others, is to not care whether we understand their needs, and what will help. In other words, apathy about others causes atrophy of the brain.
“Apathy, atrophy. Brain, drain.
“We who are determined to serve are careful to judge others accurately. We would be horrified to learn that we have been angry with anyone without a cause.”
VerseScout: Matthew 5:22 …whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment:.…
“We are vigilant for evidence that we have been wrong. We are anxious to examine it thoroughly, so that if there is anything to it we can correct ourselves as quickly as possible.”
VerseScout: Proverbs 13:18 Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction: but he that regardeth reproof shall be honoured.
“We would be equally horrified to learn that our well-intentioned help has been misguided. We watch for such evidence, ready to change if needed.
“That is because love motivates us. We aren’t satisfied to look like we are helping. We want our brothers to be helped.
“Not so the Selfish! The Selfish don’t care if their accusations are unfounded! They don’t go around eager and grateful for evidence that their hatred is misdirected and that their ‘help’ would be better directed differently! One does not expect friendship to result from showing them they hate the wrong people, for the wrong reasons!”
VerseScout: Proverbs 1:29 For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: 30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. 31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. 32 For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. 33 But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.
Proverbs 15:12 A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him: neither will he go unto the wise.
“God calls people ‘fools’ who push away the wise.
“And so they are, by definition.
“One deliberately chooses to be a fool, when he turns his back to the wise. By definition.
“One deliberately chooses to remain in error – another way of saying his mind is crippled, or he is in a stupor – who turns his back on scrutiny, or correction. By definition.
“The stupid are not ashamed of this fact. They are actually proud of knowing less than those who search for truth more intensely, because that saves them from being ‘fanatics’.
“They are proud that their helpfulness is not whole-hearted. They are too easily satisfied that they have done enough for another. ‘Am I my angel’s keeper?’ they demand. It is selfless enough, costly enough, they tell themselves, to do anything at all for another! How dare anyone ask more? They don’t watch to see if their half-hearted help has achieved its intended benefit.
“But notice the ray of hope. Notice how Whineus, as selfish as he is, resists admitting his selfishness. God gave every angel a desire to be helpful to others, which selfishness cannot entirely suppress. That’s why no one is happy to admit his uselessness. Not even the Fallen.
“They are annoyed by any suggestion that their help might do more harm than good. Or that benefits for themselves and others await improvement in their understanding of God. Their very rage – their very drive to punish those who would help them with these matters – is a hopeful sign, that there still remains within them a dying spark of longing to be useful, wise, and at peace with God.
“But without growth in their wisdom, their help is symbolic, we may say: it is enough for them that their ‘intentions’ were good, even when their intent is to help the minimum amount that can still be counted as ‘help’.
“To the extent of such an attitude, the effectiveness of their help is unnecessarily limited, because their help is offered with half their brains tied behind their backs.”
Whineus reappeared. He appeared to have been listening after all. “How dare you call me stupid! I’m no more stupid than you are! I just apply my intelligence to different topics. Topics I care about. Like halo-throwing statistics. I’m way ahead of you on halo-throwing statistics!”
“No doubt”, Serious answered. “Which leaves before us this question: can any amount of intelligence about topics that do not benefit anybody else make up for crippling ignorance about how to function effectively with others – how to contribute to society – how to be useful to somebody? To the extent you are of no use to anybody, doesn’t that make you irrelevant to society? Is that what you want for yourself?
“To the extent you have no intelligence other than what is of interest only to yourself, what kind of measure is that, since you can choose – as many do – to be perfectly satisfied with your level of intelligence no matter how low it is?”
Whineus: “I’ve got my friends! Probably more than you have! And mine aren’t fanatics! They appreciate my expertise in halo-throwing statistics! In fact they are quite impressed!”
Serious: “You say they aren’t fanatics?”
Whineus: “You got that right!”
Serious: “Meaning, they don’t challenge you to a higher standard of accuracy in your judgments of others?”
Whineus: “For starters. Because they know I’m right. I’ve got pretty good judgment. For example, I’ve got you figured pretty well. You’re a fanatic!”
Serious: “So your judgments of each other never start fights? You never argue? Your relationships are all happy?”
Whineus looked uneasy, as Serious continued, “So that you never wish you understood people better?”
Whineus: “I don’t need to understand anyone any better! They all better start understanding ME!”
Serious turned his back to the imaginary – but so very realistic – Whineus and addressed us. “We all watched the pattern evolve. Those who disengage from the hard work of building solid relationships, founded on Love, don’t escape the hard work. They just find their work cut out for them closer to home.
“Those who will not struggle to build bridges of love between strangers, struggle to salvage scraps of love from their crumbling closest relationships.”
VerseScout: Proverbs 1:16 For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. 17 Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird. 18 And they lay wait for their own blood; they lurk privily for their own lives. 19 So are the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; which taketh away the life of the owners thereof.
Just a quick note to myself: I’m reminded, as I see God in the back row thoroughly enjoying the presentation, that I need to go back in my notes and describe one more thing I saw in God’s Workshop as I passed it on my way to this meeting. That ball of tears, hovering over God’s Workbench, has grown a lot bigger. If it keeps growing it looks like God will need to expand His Workshop.
Translator’s note: As interesting as the rest of this conference was, it made my VerseScout software smoke and put out WAY more Scripture than I think will interest anybody. My publisher said it is just too long; if it stays in, the last chapter has to go. And of course there would be no point in even publishing the book if the last chapter goes. The last chapter is what makes the book even remotely marketable, since that is the chapter that tells how to lose weight.
So we will have to omit most of the remainder of this conference. We will have just one more excerpt:
Chapter 4: Demon Drink!
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