Talk of heaven as “Pearly Gates” and “Streets of Gold” has largely given way in popular culture to sentimentality about family reunions.
The older version at least had the virtue of some tenuous scriptural roots and as being kind of an obvious stand-in for “more fabulous than we can even imagine.” The newer version lacks either of those and lacks roots in the historic tradition of the Church.
What I think is more accurate is that when you’ve passed the Pearly Gates and walked down that Street of Gold, you get not to a picnic shelter for a family reunion, but to a Temple (e.g., Revelation 1:12-17).
More relevant to my own religious life before Orthodoxy, the Streets of Gold don’t lead to a dorm room for a bull session.
Calvinism, my home for twenty years before Orthodoxy, loved thought and talk. I talked, back in my pipe-smoking days, of heavenly hunkering down with C.S. Lewis, a pint and a pipe, for some conversation (in which, oddly, I was not his equal but neither did he view it as an imposition). Calvinism’s thought was pretty serious – I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Calvinism claims Nicholas Wolterstorff, Alvin Plantinga, and other world-class Philosophers – but it’s disembodied, deracinated, and somehow unreal even if it’s a tight package with few loose ends.
The realizations, first, that I had not been doing much to get ready for a heavenly Temple, where God was worshipped and that just wasn’t at all about me or fulfilling my fantasies and, second, that I wasn’t sure that my Church knew how one does get ready (beyond the famous “Sinner’s Prayer” and “catechism preaching”) were part of what propelled me out of Calvinism and into Orthodoxy. It’s hard to rank that among the causes, but it certainly was one, and very consciously so.
I most definitely did not want to end up like those in C.S. Lewis’ Great Divorce who got back on the bus and returned to the alienation of Hell in preference to a Heaven that had no room for grudges, intellectual pretensions, or pride.
I’ll leave it there for now. I may or may not pick it back up.
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I was surprised and sort of pleased to hear Jim DeMint, late of the U.S. Senate, now of Heritage Foundation, saying things on All Things Considered about “small platoons” and the federal government sticking to things like national defense that are its core responsibilities, letting the rest of us be diverse and even eccentric if we wish.
Dare I believe a word of it? Must I retract my snarkiness toward the Heritage Foundation, which I thought was on a big slide?
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I was also pleased to find local poet Marianne Boruch writing a sort of essay (prose poem?) in the December Poetry Magazine. Special bond, sort of, as she alludes to her musical son, who (if she’s referring to the son I know) was a very fine teenage cellist – good enough to consider it as a vocation – ten years or so ago, when he performed with Tippecanoe Chamber Music Society.
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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)