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When Jesus gives you bacon, but also sends you to hell

By Pedro Fortunato ~

Yesterday on Facebook, I saw a picture that ironizes the judgmental logic so present in many Christians. There was the phrase "How to get a ticket to hell" and then, those well-known not so popular commandments from the Old Testament prohibiting eating pork, working on Saturdays, etc. Well, I know it was meant to be just a joke, but anyone who knows a little theology, knows there is a theological error in this picture (the error of thinking that the laws of the Old Testament were meant to save people from hell). Anyone with a little more understanding of the Jewish culture knows that the idea of hell and heaven are not in the Old Testament as the Jewish religion did not, and does not, have a hell (the idea was developed when the Old Testament was already written and only “stuck” on Christianity).

It does not take much study to comprehend that breaking the law in the Old testament did not mean eternal, but temporal punishment, as it is summed up in the book of Deuteronomy 30:19 “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live”. Only a very poor theology would take it out of context and teach that life and death here are synonymous of heaven and hell.

But this misunderstanding of interpretation, this mix of the Old Testament laws with the Christian hell as consequence of breaking them, made me think about which one of the “testaments” is actually better. The Old Testament, with the god that sends plagues to kill entire civilizations or the New Testament, with its god who loved the whole world so much that he will send that same world to hell for not loving him back.

It is not uncommon to hear people claiming that the Old Testament is too severe and complicated and the New Testament is all about god’s love. We hear people saying that the old covenant was of the law, but now is the time of god's grace. It seems that while the god of the Old Testament was always looking for someone to punish, the god of the New Testament just wants to save humanity, giving his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). This passage is well known, however, after John 3:16, there is John 3:18, saying that whoever does not believe in the son is already condemned. Thus, if in the old version, god used his Law to establish a temporal condemnation for his chosen people, in the updated version, he uses his loving son not only for salvation, but also, for eternal condemnation of anyone in the world. Weird, right?

Back to Facebook. A friend of mine commented on the aforementioned picture. She wrote "thanks god for the New Testament". I understand her commentary as it is something I would have written myself in the past, when I was still a Christian. She believes that the New Testament "puts an end" to the inconvenient laws of the Old Testament and brings the gospel of salvation, enabling us to go to heaven while eating a cheeseburger with double bacon (maybe after working on a Saturday, wearing a tight cotton-polyester t-shirt that does not cover a cool tattoo of Jesus Christ). What she may not realize is that the New Testament is precisely what brings the possibilities of both eternal salvation and eternal damnation to humanity. The Old Testament was about the earthly life of a single people (Israel), but the New Testament deals with the afterlife of every single person who ever lived. Like that bad Suicide Squad movie with Jared Leto and Will Smith, the New Testament comes to solve a problem created by itself. Without the New Testament, there is no Jesus to save us from hell, but also, there is no hell to be saved from.

In the Old Testament, when Israel disobeyed the law of god, they would lose god’s favor and be conquered by the latest emerging, cruel, nearby empire. And any Jew would be impure before god for just a bite of pork meat. But it is only in the New Testament that we find the threat of spending eternity in weeping and gnashing of teeth. Think about that the next time you complain about the price to add extra bacon on your sandwich.

By here, you might think I am saying that things were way better in the Old Testament, when someone could be stoned to death just for stubbornly disobeying their parents (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Well, I am not saying that. I am not saying the Old Testament is overly better than the New one. I do not believe that, and I know I am oversimplifying a discussion that could easily result in a much larger text. But, with these few issues considered here, the question remains: which one is better? The severe god, who may send you the ten plagues or the loving god, who might send you to hell?

Well, it is eternal suffering, but if you ask me, I’d rather have my cheeseburger with extra bacon, please.