What I Don’t Understand About Xtianity

Jeanne D’Arc points out an intriguing bit of information: Mel Gibson thinks his wife is going to hell.

My question: is this really unique to Mel Gibson’s freaky brand of Catholicism?

I had an email exchange recently with a very nice young man who saw my online personal ad and thought we might get along, but who had marked “Christian – Protestant” as his religion on his profile. Usually when I get pings from men who are any flavor of Christian, they are so grossly inappropriate for me in so many ways that I don’t feel compelled to respond (i.e. they hunt, vote Republican… it’s obvious that they just looked at the picture, rather than read anything I had to say.) But this guy was vegan, and talked about playing Scrabble, and was very polite and well-spoken.

The religion part of the conversation went something like this:

Me: So what’s up with this Christian thing?

Prospective Suitor: I see that you take issue with the “my way or the highway” types, but I’m relaxed and groovy about it.

Me: So how do you square “In order to go to Heaven, you have to accept Jesus” with “relaxed and groovy”? Would you marry someone who didn’t accept Jesus as her lord and savior and was therefore going to hell?

Prospective Suitor: Well, it’s just a difference of opinion, really, and no one’s going to know who’s right until we all die.

Errrr, what? He didn’t say “that doesn’t mean she’s not going to hell.” He said “we won’t know for sure that I’m right that she’s going to hell until after we die.”

The story that Jeanne D’Arc links to, by a professor of theology at Notre Dame, seems to say that Vatican II changed the Catholic rules a bit to say that “Some people who aren’t us aren’t going to hell, even though we’re right.” At least, that’s how I’m reading this:

The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism put it even more strongly. While non-Catholic Christians may not enjoy “full” communion with the Catholic Church, they do enjoy some “degree” of communion, enough to connect them spiritually with Christ’s redemptive work.

And in its Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, the council noted that salvation is available to non-Christians as well, without prejudice to the truth of the church’s own faith.

But what of those who don’t believe in Christ’s redemptive work? What of those who believe that a man called Jesus Christ was an extremely gifted healer, teacher, and speaker of truth who had an amazing power to reach people’s higher selves and make them really think about the kind of world they wanted to create and live in… but who don’t think he was God?

I still don’t see how you can square a religion that claims a monopoly on the path to salvation with religious tolerance, expressed clumsily by the Prospective Suitor above as being unconcerned by a “difference of opinion.” And there aren’t many flavors of Christianity that I’m aware of that don’t claim a monopoly. How non-monopolistic can it be to say that “you must accept” Jesus as your lord and savior? Is there not an implied “or else”? Or is there an implied “only if you want to”?