Monday, June 20, 2011

Why ALL dogs go to heaven

As a theologian I have always been fascinated by concepts of heaven. Many cultures reward their heroes and base their afterlife on a concept of heroes.

The Greeks, for example, rewarded valor with the Elysian fields. On Saturday I attended a performance of Die Valkyrie, part of Wagner's Ring cycle. The Valkyrie, in full armour and bearing her sword appears to Siegmund with her prepared speech. "I appear to heroes who will fall in battle and will escort you to Valhalla" she describes Valhalla as a place where Siegmund would be attended by fair maidens and would be greeted by other heros. He is interested but then asks if his wife Sieglinda could accompany him. The Valkyrie shakes her head "no girls allowed". Siegmund then refuses to go to Valhalla.

The Valkyrie is shocked. A similar scene was shown in the movie Black Robe where the Jesuit priest is speaking to the natives he is accompanying on a long canoe journey about heaven. He describes heaven and the chief asks as he is smoking if there will be tobacco. The Jesuit shakes his head, very sure that there would be no tobacco in heaven. The chief then asks about women..would have have his women. Again male or female in heaven. The chief, at that point, writes off Christianity.

The problem with heaven is that every time we extrapolate from our own experiences we create ridiculous versions of heaven. Is heaven a hall of heroes? Is it a smoke free zone? Is it people playing harps? If we believe in an afterlife, what is it?

This is why all dogs go to heaven. I have learned about heaven from my dog Sophie. For the first 8 years of her life, she was abused, neglected and starved. She was brutalized. If you had asked her about heaven she may have answered that it was a place where you could get a meal..but her experiences and life was so limited she could not extrapolate. She never knew love.

Sophie now has soft beds, she is greeted with affection, has homemade meals, is never hungry and is very much loved. Sophie could not have extrapolated love as she had no concept of love.

The problem with our concepts of heaven is that they are based on our extrapolations from our experiences. Our life experiences, like that of Sophie, are simply too limited to understand what it would mean to be totally loved and appreciated for who you are. To be welcomed not as a hero..but to be loved and appreciated. To be valued and cherished.

Sophie has taught me that a concept of heaven that does not consider the depths of love and is too bound by physical concepts and simply not worth going to.

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