Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company in New York.
There is an old saying that goes something like this: If you and I are being chased by a bear I don’t need to be faster than the bear, I only need to be faster than you.
I sometimes wonder if this is how our personal judgment will go? If the bear represents hell, do I only need to be better than the guy next to me to eek my way into purgatory? I guess what I am wondering is—does God grade on a curve?
I think by 21st century standards, I am a stand-up guy. I mean, look how most people act these days; by comparison, I am like St. Francis. Well, maybe not St. Francis, but probably almost as good as St. Rene Goupil - Patron saint of Anesthesiologists.
If you remember back in college, one of the first things you wanted to know on the first day of a new class is if the professor graded on a curve and how much the mid-term and the final counted toward your final grade. That is all I am asking here. How much does the time and place that I live in influence my final grade?
Look at it this way, I am pretty sure that if I lived in Sodom I’d be doing the walk of the righteous—high-fiving Lot at the end of the day with ol’ salty pulling up the rear. But if I am to be compared to those Christians that were singing hymns of praise while being eaten by lions, I have a problem on my hands.
I am a little worried by all of this. I am worried that I might not live next to bad enough people. When I am standing before the pearly gates, I am not sure if pointing out that the neighbor across the street steals cable T.V. and the guy next door has his fence 10 feet past the property line is going to be enough for entry. Perhaps I need to play it safer and move to San Francisco. Or, if I really want to be safe, maybe I should move to Washington D.C..
But the unruly thought that I can’t get out of my head is, what if, perchance, God doesn’t grade on a time and place curve? What if I am judged by how much I loved, and not how much my neighbors didn’t? What if I am judged by how well I saw Christ in a stranger and invited him in, clothed Him when he was naked, or fed Him when he was hungry, or visited Him in prison? What if I am to be judged by what I did and not how well I noticed what my neighbors were not doing?
If this is how I am to be judged, and what my neighbors in the Castro or on K-Street were doing doesn’t matter, then one thing is for sure. I am definitely going to need some lions.