Why Some People Should Go Straight To Hell

tentslogoI would never tell my good friend Dr. Mark Elrod of Harding University (Hail!) to go to hell. He’s too nice a guy for that, plus he has this “condition”–an enlarged heart. Not the type that would cause you to keel over in the middle of a pick-up basketball game, but the kind that bleeds heavily when people are suffering. It’s a malady we could all use a little more of these days.

As for Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh, those purveyors of post-quake logorrhera, and the political dude from South Carolina who when speaking about people on public assistance used the analogy of denying animals food so they couldn’t “breed” but now “regrets” saying that even though it brought him much attention and fired up his “evangelical” base–I would wish them all straight to hell in a handbasket.

Or maybe a parachute.

Now before someone gets on here, as sometimes happens on this blog, and yells “ALL ABOARD THE TRAIN TO CRAZYTOWN!, allow me to explain. Mark, you see, has already been to hell and back. In fact, he returned from there to Searcy, Arkansas this past Monday, changed for life but still in one piece.  He surprised all of us last week by suddenly announcing that he was going to Haiti (which I think we could all agree is as close to hell on earth as one could possibly get at the moment) as a representative of Harding to scope out possible ways that the University community to assist that tragedy-torn country and her people as quickly as possible.

Philip Holsinger, Harding alum, photojournalist and missionary who has spent considerable time in Haiti prevailed upon Mark to go, and with that “condition” of his, of course Mark said “Send me!” Andrew Baker, head of the Church and Family Institute at Harding, was a key figure in arranging the trip,  and other “higher ups” approved it. Now it’s no secret that a few of those Harding “higher ups” don’t care a great deal for Mark’s personal politics. I know this may come as surprise to those of you who may have been off mining lunar rocks, but that kind of thing happens in many circles these days.

But the powers that be nonetheless figured correctly that Mark was the perfect person to represent the University on the trip. They were willing to put past differences behind them and sign off on this anyway because it was the right thing to do. We need a little more of that kind of “bipartisan” spirit these days.

Kudos, Harding. That’s the kind of pure, unadulterated religion that might shake a little contribution money out of me this year.

Once there, Mark and Philip experienced enough heart-rending pain and tragedy to last ten thousand lifetimes. They traveled around and made numerous contacts while surveying the damage. What they noticed immediately was that with many homes and building destroyed, countless Haitians are living in makeshift “tent cities,” fashioning shelters out of whatever bits and pieces of tarp, cloth, sticks and rope that can find. Since they’re likely to be outdoors for some time to come, meager accommodations like that will be unsuitable for the long haul, especially when the rains come.

After camping beneath the stars themselves, Mark and Philip knew what needed to be done;  Tents and Tarps, a Harding University student body-sponsored drive to send 4500 tents and tarps to Haiti by February 1st, one for each undergraduate member of the student body, was born. To date, Harding students have raised over $17,500 which much more on the way. If you live near Searcy and have a tent to contribute, you can contact the Institute for Church & Family at 501-279-4660.

If you’re like me and you don’t own a tent and your idea of camping is “roughing it” at a Motel 6, then you can now donate online at the Tents and Tarps website. A contribution of $50 will house one Haitian family.

This fledgling effort is an ambitious project, and it’s going to take a lot of coordination with contacts who have an intimate knowledge of the culture and lay of the land to meet its goal. But, as it turns out, Providence may already be at work. Since it’s Mark’s story and he tells it better than I ever could, I’ll let him fill you in:

“Philip and I missed our connection to Dallas in San Juan on Sunday and had to fly to Philadelphia for the night, where we ended up sleeping on the floor of the airport.  Compared to some of the other places I slept last week, that wasn’t too bad.

On our way through security, we met Pat, a woman from Belgium who works for a travel agency in Delaware.

When she told me where she lived, my jaw hit the ground — I don’t run into people from Delaware very often, particularly in the San Juan airport.  As it turns out, Pat lives about a mile from my parent’s house (near the WaWa on Rt. 13).

We then learned that Pat had spent the night at the Good Samaritan Clinic at Jimani on the DR border on Friday and that we probably slept about 25 feet from each other on the roof of the clinic. She also accused me of being the one who was doing all of the snoring that prevented people from hearing the aftershocks.

Pat had gone to Haiti to check on some friends after the earthquake and to deliver medical supplies and she did all of this on her own.  She speaks both French and Creole and has a lot of contacts in Haiti that can help us get the tents delivered.

This morning, she gave Philip a free ticket to Haiti and it looks like they’ll be working together in Port-au-Prince to get Harding’s tents and tarps delivered.

The only thing that brought us together was missing a flight in San Juan.

I experienced too many other “coincidences” like this one to believe that the hand of God was not moving Philip and me in a direction that is eventually going to cause good things to happen in Haiti.”

Eureka! Amid millions of pieces of rubble, a small shiny nugget of Grace to serve as a foundation for rebuilding a country. That incident alone may not solve the problem of theodicy and “why bad things happen to good people” once and for all, but it seems to me to be a compelling sign that God actually does give a rip.

Back to Robertson, Limbaugh and the political dude from South Carolina and my wish that they would go straight to hell. Of course, I’m not proposing that we get all medieval and send them off to a place of everlasting, conscious torment. I don’t care much for torture, and I think there are some compelling reasons to believe that a place like that might not even exist. Besides, none of us are the sum total of our worst moments.

I’m talking about the kind of hell that could burn off the dross, refine, and actually do some good. Like getting them out from behind the cameras and microphones, putting them in some work clothes and dropping them into Haiti, and once there, giving them a tiny shovel and telling them, “Welcome to the real world. Now get to work.”

The odds are very good that once they have looked into the eyes of the suffering and seen the Imago Dei, that they would be less inclined to treat them like inanimate objects on which to score theological and political points. They might also come to realize that there are various levels of hell in their own neighborhood, or at the very least just across town.

You know, come to think of it, I bet there are some fine members of the 82nd Airborne Division who might be able to assist in the transfer.

Go Bisons!

  1. rebecca boone

    Hi Mike,Another coincidence of sorts – after a few days of watching the Haiti coverage, I suggested to Dan (or Boone) that what they needed in Haiti was TENTS – lots of TENTS as these people have no living quarters, and won’t for quite a while.   I’m feeling all twilight-zoney.  As for Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh – there is so much to be said.  IF one believes there is a god or God, how can one also believe he visits misery and destruction on the Earth?   Won’t he sort out all the saved souls and the unsaved souls after Judgment Day? In my opinion, they are two of the most un-Christian supposed Christians on the planet.   Ditto for Britt Hume – Tiger Woods, come on over to Christianity where you can be forgiven for your adultery and rebuild your monetary empire.  My recall of the Bible is that there are 10 absolutes and they all start with the phrase “Thy shalt not…” and they include adultery.  And yes, God can forgive one for these transgressions, but that doesn’t mean “go ahead, commit all the sin you want, you will be forgiven.”  Isn’t there an expectation that we at least try to follow the “word of God?”  Of course, I prefer the words of Richard Dawkins.Cheers,Rebecca Boone

  2. Mike the Eyeguy

    Hey Rebecca, good to hear from you as always.

    I love that “twilight-zoney” feeling! (Mine is usually enhanced by too much coffee!) It often happens when I least expect it, and it always causes me to sit up, slow down and pay close attention. I love a good mystery. I have a feeling that there a lot of such stories going on in Haiti right now. Honorable people may disagree as to the source, but we can all agree that it is a good thing that there is an overcoming spirit which seems to rise to the occasion in times of great stress and travail.

    I appreciate your comments and I understand the frustration with so-called experts who hold forth in front of TV cameras and microphones. Especially if they claim to speak for God. I often tell people these days that I believe in God more than I ever have in my life; I just don’t believe all the things that men say about him. And it is mostly the men–we hear way to little from women (or at least we don’t listen often enough).

    It would appear from all reports that Tiger is not interested in cheap grace and indeed is walking down the kind of tough path that could possibly lead to redemption. He and Elle have done an honorable thing by disappearing from public view and attempting to work through this and I wish them nothing but the best.

    Richard Dawkins is a brilliant man and gifted writer who has done much to explain the wonders and intricacies of science to the masses. I also understand many of his frustrations with organized religion, and persons of faith would do well to listen to and consider many of the criticisms he offers.

    Ultimately, though, I don’t share his materialist presuppositions with regard to “Ultimate Things,” and I don’t think he is able to hold in tension some of the inherent paradoxes of faith as well as some theologians who have pored over these weighty issues a lot longer than he has.

    My favorite scientist is Dr. Francis Collins (Human Genome Director, now NIH Director) who manages to integrate his faith with the truths elucidated by science. Did you ever read the exchange between Collins and Dawkins in Time Magazine? (here’s a link). It’s brilliant–both men offered good points and were congenial and winsome. A perfect model of public discourse which sadly is seldom seen these days.

    Cheers back. Or as we say in these parts: Y’all take care now, ya hear?

  3. ME

    Thanks to everyone! The amount of money collected by Harding students in t-shirt sales and donations is over $20,000 and rising.  My Haiti travel partner (Philip Holsinger) is on his was to the DR via Atlanta to deliver the first shipment of 400 tents to PaP.

  4. Mike the Eyeguy


    Thank you for caring enough to help make this happen and inspiring us all to look for ways to help.

  5. Charlie

    MikeGreat work in Haiti by your Harding friends.  I also read the link to the dialogue between Francis Collins and Richard Dawkins.  A long article but well worth reading.  I’ve read Collins’ book “The Language of God” and was familiar with his bridge building between religion and science.  When in doubt, it is good to know that a brilliant but humble scientist like him is a believer.

  6. Bill Cobbett

    “I often tell people these days that I believe in God more than I ever have in my life; I just don’t believe all the things that men say about him.” Well said!  I often think that, in the end, when it comes right down to it, just about every pastor in the South uses The Bellman’s Rule of Three as his hermeneutic principle! 😉

  7. Mike the Eyeguy

    Must be that Trinity thing. And then there’s the “3 point” sermon, these days increasingly powered by Microsoft. Don’t even get me started.

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