Depending on which media outlet is your favorite you will have heard a couple different slants on the thing. MSNBC has labeled the legislation as an “anti-gay law” and even a “right-to-discriminate” law.
Saturday Night Live was even taking shots at Indiana.
– The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is a federal law introduced by a democrat and signed into law by President Clinton (so it’s not about the religious right and conservative Christians)
– The RFRA gives religious objectors a statutory presumptive entitlement to exemption from generally applicable laws (subject to strict scrutiny).
– 19 states already have a Religious Freedom Restoration Act and 10 other states have religious liberty protections that state courts have interpreted to provide a similar (strict scrutiny) level of protection.
– It does not give anyone a “license to discriminate,” [and] it would not undermine our important civil-rights commitments.
The law protects ALL religious people from behaving in ways that conflicts with their religious beliefs as long as there is not a greater compelling need to comply. So it covers Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, etc. Of course that’s not how it’s playing out in the media. Liberals are proclaiming this as an attack against gay marriage and Conservatives are heralding this as a moral victory for Christian businesses (and a sign of a Christian nation).
Regardless of how you view the law, I think the controversy has sparked needed conversation about how Christians businesses interact with a secular clientele. Never one to miss the bandwagon, here are my two cents on the subject.
Jesus interacted with sinful people without condoning their sin.
Some people act as though any dealing with sinners is going to taint us – especially when it comes to business dealings. We also act as though providing goods for behavior with which we disagree is an act that condones the behavior. I’m not one who holds that view. I think that selling goods to people is about providing stuff for a cost. Candles, flowers, cakes, tuxedos, thank-you cards; these are all things that are associated with weddings. Do we really think that selling a gay couple any of these things is an act that condones gay marriage?
It’s just STUFF!
And let’s be honest – we don’t run background checks on other customers to see if selling them our stuff would violate our notion of sinful behavior. That means we’re cherry-picking homosexuals and ignoring other sinful behavior. We’ll sell to adulterers, fornicators, idolaters, drunkards, gluttons, and on and on, but HEAVENS forbid we sell to a gay couple. I can just see Ebay listings:
Collectable Star Wars Action Figures (will not sell to homosexuals).
We’re masterful hypocrites, aren’t we?
Of course the question I’m always asked is, “Well, would you marry a gay couple?!?”
And my answer is, “No.”
I believe there is a difference selling stuff to people and the act of participating in & officiating the ceremony. Officiating the ceremony WOULD be condoning the marriage. Selling my stuff doesn’t condone anything the buyer does. Stuff is stuff. Refusing to sell people stuff because we disagree with their behavior IS discrimination.
When we think about the Bible’s call to act in loving ways towards people, and when we examine the way Jesus interacted with sinners he didn’t condone, I think it is safe to say that conservative Christian attitudes toward selling stuff to gays is deplorable.
Our stuff is not holy. And since there are no sin-free people, you’re always going to be selling to sinners.
It’s time to get off this train and treat people decently. Don’t discriminate – sell your goods to any buyer regardless of sexual orientation. It doesn’t matter if you’re a baker, dress-maker, or anything else.
Stuff is stuff, and stuff can’t be holy or Christian.
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I welcome all discussion, just keep it civil and polite. If this post resonates with you in any way, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email!
Before the decision people took to the streets with signs and banners and flooded social media with the slogan “No H8” (no hate)
It seems that I hate because I differ in my ideas. I hate because I’m trying to “legislate morality.”
Here’s the kicker, though – we ALL try to legislate morality. All legislature is based on someone’s morality. The real question comes down to, “Whose morality is going to rule the day?”
I prefer mine. You prefer yours. It doesn’t mean I hate those who differ any more than those who differ hate me. Are we not allowed to disagree and seek to pursue our morality and to govern according to it without name calling and denigration? One of the wonders of a democratic republic is that we as citizens have a voice in determining the kind of country we want. You want yours. I want mine. So we peacefully work to bring it about. That doesn’t make me a hater.
As a Christian I will vote for the measures and ideas I believe align with my morality and values. I would expect the same from liberal Christians and non-Christians. We cannot label opposition as hate. When the time comes that America moves completely away from my morality and values (and I have no doubt that day will come) I won’t accuse you of hate just because you voted contrary to my beliefs. That’s what being in a democratic republic is all about.
For you readers who are conservative Christians, some of you need to simmer down. It’s okay to vote your beliefs without becoming angry and mean towards those who disagree. Jesus always loved on people who were “sinners.” He called people to change and to live new lives, but he was never rude or hateful towards them.
For you more liberal types, please stop labeling us as haters when we vote our consciences.
We can love and act in loving ways while still seeking to legislate our values. Disagreement does NOT = hate.
And in case you didn’t really hear me – I don’t hate gays.
Personally, I believe that God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman. I don’t have a disagreement with that concept. My problem is with this man’s mouth. There is no excuse for derogatory name-calling. In fact, it seems to fly in the face of biblical principles MORE than the behavior Mr. Culler is railing against.
There’s more in the Bible about controlling your tongue and using words than there is about gay marriage. Yet we often find it excusable to engage in put-downs when we disagree with someone’s beliefs or behavior.
But Chris, what about Jesus? He called the Pharisees a “Brood of Vipers.” (an argument I’ve actually heard)
Here’s the thing – Jesus was addressing the people who were supposed to be religious leaders. He wasn’t addressing people who disagreed with him on morality. In many ways, Jesus and the Pharisees came from the same perspective. This isn’t the case with conservative Christians and the LGBT community. In every case Jesus came into contact with someone who he would have considered a sinner or unrighteous person he always used his words to speak grace and love into people’s lives.
I get the Mr. Culler was trying to stoke conservative ire in order to get votes. I get it. But don’t trash the reputation of Christianity for the sake of appealing to your base.
Words can heal.
Words can hurt.
As Christians we have a holy obligation to make sure that we are speaking words of life to this world. That doesn’t mean we agree with everyone or ignore immoral behavior. But we can have conversations in such a way where we make our position crystal clear without ever being derogatory and denigrating.
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I welcome all discussion, just keep it civil and polite. If this post resonates with you in any way, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email!
I get a lot of questions from people. Some are deep, some are fun. Here are some of my favorites and my brief responses to them. If you’d like to talk about any of them more in depth I’d be happy to converse. So away we go!
– Is a believer’s baptism valid if the minister that performed it later renounces the faith?
Interesting question! Yes, it is still valid. Salvation comes by God’s grace through faith, not by immersion. Baptism is an outward sign of what God’s doing in the heart. The pastor doing the baptism doesn’t save or confer salvation.
– What are your thoughts on the future of organ music in churches?
Depends on the type of organ. A Hammond B3 rotary sound is popular again. I do think that the era of the pipe organ is waning. That’s okay, though, because musicianship is fluid and not static. Who plays the lyre in worship anymore? 🙂
– What do you think of the doctrine of the inerrancy of the bible? Do you see any errors or real contradictions?
I believe that the Bible is inspired. I think that inerrancy is a human way to try to protect the Bible because we don’t have a big enough view of God to believe simultaneously in inspiration & humanity within the text. That being said, I don’t think the Bible contains “contradictions” the way that angry atheists do when they try to poke holes in Scripture.
Since ancient thinking, writing, and narrative were different than contemporary thought, word, and narrative, it doesn’t make sense to force our understanding on the Bible. Since the advent of the printing press our culture has been obsessed with “historical truth” and “fact.” Oral societies don’t function in these concepts the same way we do.
Two storytellers from oral societies could each tell their version of a story and be “truthful” even though their stories might have slight variances. This is merely a part of storytelling, not error. For example, when Jesus exorcises demons and sends them into a herd of pigs how many demoniacs were there? Mark says 1. Matthew says 2. Who is right? It doesn’t really matter. The point is not the number of demon possessed men but the power encounter between Jesus and the demons.
The Bible contains these kinds of differences, but we should not view them as error or contradiction – merely the result of multiple people telling the story. It does not minimize or reduce the power and potency of Scripture to say that God used flawed humanity to communicate Divine truth.
– Are you opposed to the legalization of gay marriage?
I am opposed to the legalization of same-sex MARRIAGE. I believe that marriage is a spiritual event, not a state-sanctioned event. That being said, I do not believe that Christians should forbid people from living the way they want, so I would not oppose the legalization of same-sex unions (and the rights that go with) from a political point of view – but I think the state should stay out of the “marriage” business (and out of all of the church’s business, actually) and leave that to the church.
– If you could have anything you want for dinner tonight, what would you have?
Easy! Hotdogs and Mac & Cheese. It’s my fave. I’m a man of simple tastes. 🙂
– What is the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything?
Respect God, keep his commandments, and never take life so seriously you can’t laugh at yourself 🙂
– Is it wrong to get piercings? My parents are freaking out about one little thing…
It is not wrong to get piercings. The Bible does talk about obeying and honoring parents. If you’re having trouble convincing them but REALLY want one, I would recommend waiting until you’re out on your own. Honor them before seeking to exercise your Xian freedom. 🙂
– What was the worst thing you ever ate?
Wasabi. Didn’t know what it was…
– Is there a passage in the bible that addresses swearing?
No, the Bible never addresses profanity. There are some passages about wholesome talk, but in context they’re not about saying four letter words. Now it IS a good practice to use real words to communicate rather than expletives (you’ll offend fewer people) but God won’t condemn you for profanity.
– Who is your favorite person in the Bible?
I know you mean besides Jesus – no Christian can have a favorite person above Jesus. After Jesus, one of my favorites is David.
He’s a tragic character who made a lot of personal and professional flubs, yet he is still remembered as “a man after God’s heart”.
David gives hope to schmucks like me. Though I mess up God can still use me for His purposes.
In case there was any doubt in your mind, yes – Americans have a rebellious spirit. You can see this most evidently in political diatribes on social media. We love to stick it to each other. We rail against the horrible policies of our opponents and those of differing agendas and parties.
In extreme cases, I’ve seen people call for Soldiers to openly rise up and seize the White House and remove the President from power. In less extreme cases, I’ve seen people call all sorts of horrible names and level all sorts of wicked accusations against politicians with whom the accusers disagree. It seems that there is no such thing as civil discourse any more.
What really saddens me is how quickly Christians jump on board with this kind of behavior. It’s as though we are giving in to our basest nature and forgetting the Godly nature that is supposed to now guide us. We justify our behavior and our language in all sorts of ways – trying to find an excuse for why we’re calling Senator So-and-So a poo-poo head or linking the President to Hitler. It goes on and on.
The simple fact is this – I don’t see any cause in the Bible for treating people like this. The Apostle Paul seems pretty straightforward:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.
Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Romans 13:1-7)
Of course, Paul’s “governing authorities” were not the duly elected officials of our era. We’re talking about the Emperor and his governors. You know…the ones who put Christians to death. And still Paul calls us to surrender our rebellious spirit to God and to subject ourselves to the authorities. If God is really in control of this world, then even the authorities we despise are part of his plan.
Politically minded Christians are the worst, because we tend to justify our behavior with the God-card – trying to mix our politics and faith. Missiologist Ed Stetzer recently wrote: When you mix politics and religion you get politics.
Even when we disagree with the policies and decisions of the elected officials, let us make sure that we are not embracing a sinful rebellious spirit but can submit; Republican, Democrat, Independent, whomever.
No matter what happens in the country, this world is not our home. Our ultimate allegiance is not to the flag but to our God. Eventually you will get jerked around by government and organizations – it’s the nature of the beast (yes, pun intended). But take it with a measure of grace and know that God’s got bigger plans than American health care, or gay marriage, ____________ (insert the issue of your choosing).
I make no secret of the fact that I am a big fan of television and movies. Often times after a tv show has been running for a while it will save production costs and time and commit a whole episode to clips from previous episodes – it’s called a clip show.
Today is my day. I hit 100 posts on my blog and I wanted to take some time to look back over the last 4+ months of writing. In that time I’ve had nearly 8,000 views and over 200 likes (thank you all for reading and liking).
Rather than highlight the most popular posts, though, I wanted to share my person Top 10 – the posts that I liked the most even if they weren’t the most popular to readers (although many were). So without further ado, here is my list:
My Kids Don’t Know They’re Black ~ In this post I talk about race relations from the standpoint of my kids. I find that there are a lot of ignorant people out there who say and think stupid things, especially when it comes to race. This was the first post where I literally felt compelled to write. It kept me up thinking about it – I couldn’t sleep until I sat down and hammered it out.
Reflections on Racism from a Mixed-Race Couple ~ Here my wife and I look at racism from our own perspectives. As much as I know her I’m always reminded that her take on racism comes from a very different place than mine. I loved writing this post because I got to co-write it with my wife. I keep trying to get her to write more, but no success yet.
Christian Beer…I Mean Liberty ~ Christian freedom is one of the most misunderstood and hotly debated issues in the church. What are we allowed to do? What are we not allowed to do?
Patriotism vs. Faith ~ We often confuse the two. It’s a personal pet peeve that many Christians equate patriotism with Christianity. You can be one without the other.
THAT OFFENDS ME! ~ Another pet peeve – people who try to manipulate other’s behavior through mishandling the Bible. Just because something offends you doesn’t mean the other person must stop doing it.
Forced Gay: Punishment for Religious Dissent ~ Oooh, this one got me into some tense conversations. It seems that my own view of Gay Marriage was not clear. I had people question me as to why I was going against the Bible (I wasn’t, but people get hot-headed over sensitive issues).
Leave Your Bible on Your Shelf ~ A personal favorite of mine, this was a post where I was responding to another blogger. It doesn’t matter whether your Bible is leather-bound or on your smart phone – it’s still Scripture.
Shirt Sleeves ~ I love my son. Tremendously. I can’t even think about him without warming over on the inside. He’s my little dude. I love writing about him, too.
Jesus Loves Dinosaurs ~ This was just a fun post to write (and the idea of Jesus hugging a dinosaur always makes me smile).
Permit me to get out my soap box. I waited a couple days, debating whether or not I should even bring this up again. But the firestorm that I caused in my circles only solidifies in my head that we need to be talking about this…
If you had told me a year ago that I’d be arguing against Evangelical Christians in support of civil rights for same-sex couples I would’ve told you that you were nuts. Yet here we are.
A couple of days ago I wrote a post revolving around the wedding photographers in New Mexico that refused to provide services for a same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court of New Mexico ruled that the photographers had violated the couple’s civil rights – and Evangelical Christendom roared.
After a lot of thought about it and an eventual change in my own position, I publicly stated that I think the photographers were wrong to discriminate against the couple and that all Christians should think twice about refusing service to same-sex couples (I’ll post the link to my full post below).
I know that my position would clash with mainstream Evangelical thought, but I never expected the backlash I saw. And, not being one to back down from a verbal sparring, I’m going to write about it some more. I’m convinced more than ever that the Church has got to make some changes in how it approaches the LGBT community – for Christ’s sake. So…here we go.
I am a conservative Evangelical Christian (at least I thought so). I believe that God designed sexuality to be between one man and one woman who are married to each other. This means that adulterous relationships, fornication, and same-sex relationships are not part of God’s intended design. I believe that the Bible makes this case. I believe that nature and human physiology itself bears this out.
At the same time I believe that the Church should not be party to mistreating and discriminating against people – any people. I believe that the Church has been complicit in such discrimination. In my last post I compared the photographers’ behavior to establishments in the south that used to post “Whites Only” signs out front. I received criticism from Christians who told me that I cannot compare the racially charged civil rights movement with same-sex issues. I was told that the gay marriage issue is different from REAL civil rights.
To me it’s not an issue of gay marriage, racial equality, or any other issue. The topic at hand is about businesses refusing to serve certain elements of the public because of a personal disagreement with that element. Who gets to decide who is worthy of service or not? If conservative Christians can refuse to serve the LGBT community, who’s to say that racist business owners can’t refuse to serve other races?
I know, I know. “Racism is different.” That’s what I was told by other pastors. “You can’t compare racism with LGBT discrimination because racists distort the Bible for their own ends while we understand that the Bible is clearly against homosexuality.”
Do you understand what was just said? “It’s wrong for racists to discriminate because they believe the wrong thing. It’s okay for us to discriminate because we believe correctly.” This infuriates me. The whole idea of freedom of religion is that we don’t hold another person’s private beliefs against him. You can believe anything you want and I can believe anything I want and we still come together as citizens in the same nation.
You can’t claim that your discrimination is okay because you read the Bible correctly and say another person’s discrimination is wrong because they misread it. So the civil rights laws step in and say, “We’re going to make sure that all people are treated the same no matter what their status or what your personal beliefs may be.”
If you have a business that serves the public you are not allowed to say, “Well…I won’t serve THOSE people.” I was told by other Christians that vendors ought to be allowed to refuse service to same-sex couples because a gay marriage might violate the vendor’s idea of marriage as a covenant between the couple and God. I agree that marriage is designed to be a covenant between the husband and wife and between the couple and God. Being a vendor does not endorse the views of the couple.
A baker can bake a wedding cake without endorsing the couple. The florist can arrange flowers without endorsing the couple. A Christian waiter can’t refuse to wait tables if it were an engagement party for a gay couple.
A Christian owner of a candle store doesn’t vet her customers to make sure that no Wiccans buy candles. “Excuse me, are you Wiccan? Because I won’t sell these candles to you if you’re going to go conjure up spirits with them.”
In all honesty, I sincerely doubt that Christian wedding vendors are performing background checks to make sure that every couple they serve fits the biblical model of marriage. Would the vendor refuse to provide services for a man who divorced his wife so that he could marry his mistress? They never even ask that question. At least I was never asked about my relationship background when my fiancée and I visited vendors. No one double-checked to make sure it wasn’t an adulterous relationship.
Rather than pretending that we care about God’s ideal for marriage, we should simply admit that we’re picking a particular segment of society to discriminate against. It’s the thing to do. Gay relationships offend our sensibilities more than an adulterous relationship. It’s become socially acceptable within the Church to single out the LGBT community for condemnation.
The natural follow-up question I received: “If you believe this way would you marry a same-sex couple?” And without hesitation I answer all who ask, “No, I would not.” As I said, I believe that God’s design for sexuality is for one man and one woman who are married to each other. It was at this point that I was called a hypocrite, putting myself and other pastors up on a pedestal while calling out non-clergy Christians.
I don’t see it as hypocritical. I genuinely see a difference between a wedding vendor and a pastor. I was told by one Christian that there is no difference between a pastor and any other vendor or justice of the peace. Am I not obligated being licensed by the state to perform same-sex marriages?
Let me clarify in case you did not know: pastors are not licensed by the state. I have never been nor will I ever be licensed by the state. I am ordained by the church. The state merely recognizes the church’s endorsement of the clergy. I am not a vendor – I am a pastor and spiritual care-giver. I do not claim to serve the public through my service. Pastors are not the same as vendors. We’re not the same as a justice of the peace. When I marry a couple it is more than a ceremony. I pastor them – talk to them about what marriage looks like from a biblical point of view. I talk to them about God’s ideal for healthy relationships. I read Scripture to them. I’m not a vendor, I’m a pastor. That might not make a difference to you – it makes a difference to me.
A friend commented to me that any issue combining civil issues and moral issues is messy. It is messy. There is no easy solution or answer to this stuff. But I do see too many Christians behaving poorly. We’re not acting like Jesus.
There were several times in Jesus’ public life that he encountered “sinners”. In these encounters we see him acting the same way. He talks to them. He touches them. He cares for them. He loves them. THEN he tells them to go and stop sinning. Not so much the Church today. Our attitude is often, “Go and stop sinning. Then come back so we can love you.”
I’m ready for the Church to lead the way in loving people. Too many Christians think that loving people means encouraging and allowing sin. I’m not for a soft-sell faith. I’m not for white-washing Jesus. I still believe in the Jesus of the Gospels who proclaims, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But we forget that he loved first, called for change second. And, honestly, I think most people in the LGBT community know my position as an Evangelical pastor. I don’t have to beat people over the head with my view of the Bible. I can love them in spite of our differences.
So…call me hypocrite. Quote Proverbs to me. Tell me you think I’m going against sound judgment. Tell me that you can’t believe I’ve fallen away.
Me? I can’t believe the Church has become so coldhearted. We don’t have to stop preaching righteousness. We don’t have to stop talking about Jesus, the cross, and forgiveness of sin. But we don’t have to discriminate, no matter what our differences may be.
We can still love people, no matter who they are or their type of sin. At least – I think that’s what Jesus would do.
So I’m off my soap box. Please feel free to send this to CNN. Or Oprah. It would be kind of cool to be on the air as the Evangelical pastor who is against gay marriage but for civil rights. But keep it away from Fox News – I don’t want to be crucified… 😉
I welcome all discussion, just keep it civil and polite. If this post resonates with you in any way, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or email!
Today I was contacted by a woman who had some pretty heavy questions regarding the LGBT lifestyle (unless you have your head stuck in the sand or are stuck at home raising multiple children you will know about the Supreme Court’s decisions today…). She had a question about an appropriate response and felt like and “outsider” because she didn’t feel contempt for the gay community or have a strong desire to convert them to heterosexuals. The following is the letter I wrote her back. I understand that you may differ in your take, but this is coming through my lenses on how I see the world and how I read the Bible – which I believe should set the standard for actions and belief.
From my reading the Bible is pretty clear that God’s design is that sex be restricted to one man and one woman who are married to each other. Do people break God’s design? ALL THE TIME! You are right that God’s design is also for marriage to be a life-long commitment without divorce, yet that happens as well. We live in a broken world in which people act in broken ways.
In that sense we’re all messed up, loved by a gracious God in spite of ourselves. There are probably several reasons why the church focuses so much intensity and anger towards the LGBT community, but that is our error. We are called to love people no matter what their personal sin is. Some drink to excess – yet the Bible says that drunkenness is a sin. We love them still. The Bible says not to divorce, but Christians do. We love them still.
I believe that God designed male and female to be compatible. Same-sex sexuality goes against the natural order. But let’s differentiate between sexual behavior and sexual inclination/attraction. I do know people who have same-sex attraction as a result of life circumstances (bad parenting situation, sexual abuse, etc.). There is also a cultural push to see same-sex friendships as gay because we are uncomfortable with the idea of a deep friendship between two men. I have heard some people interpreting the intimate friendship between David and Jonathan in the Bible as being a homosexual relation. While they were closer than brothers there is no indication that they were gay. But we are often uncomfortable with same-sex intimacy. How can you experience intimacy with someone of the same sex unless it is sexual? This is more of a Western point of view than an Eastern one. My wife, who has a degree in missions and has traveled quite a bit in southeast Asia, tells me that it’s not uncommon in foreign countries to see two men walking down the street holding hands as a sign of camaraderie and intimacy, even though they are both happily married to women.
Even still, some people claim same-sex attraction with no childhood trauma. I am not a scientist, so I will not deny that it may be possible that there is a same-sex attraction born in some people. To my understanding this has not been proven. But even if it were proven, I believe that God’s Word remains unchanged about same-sex behavior and that God loves them no matter what (if our behavior determined God’s love we’d ALL be in trouble).
To the person who claims attraction I would differentiate between attraction and sexual activity. Some see this as a cop out, but I believe it to be a valid way of maintaining a sense of truth to oneself and to God’s design. Just because you might find yourself attracted to the same sex does not mean you have to act upon it. Humanity has a marvelous capacity to exercise self-control if we want to – sadly, much of our society laughs at the idea of self-control (and not just in regards to our sexuality, but to every other area of life).
At the end of the day you are right that God calls us to love and embrace all people regardless of their choices. People go against God’s design all the time – we love them anyway. Ultimately God is judge and we are not. As a pastor I will tell people what I believe God’s design is. It’s up to them and God as to whether or not they act on it. I still love them no matter what they choose.
And I do believe that, at the end of time, there will be people in heaven that will surprise us – and people in hell that we never expected to be there!