Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Grandpa Elek

Much to my alarm, I received a phone call from my mother on Valentine's day, at 7:30 in the morning informing me that my Grandpa Elek had a heart attack and died in his sleep. He was my last Grandparent.

I don't really know what to do with the information. I loved my Grandpa a lot. He was a really jovial wonderful old walrus of a man with a great shiny bald head, and a white bristly mustache. It's going to be very difficult to see him in that wooden box.

The more I think about things, the more I realize how numb I am to death. I guess I'm trying to take a more accepting view of death. Rather than being angry, or rather than feeling depressed and sad, I'm trying to realize that it's just part of the way things work. I don't deny that I'm saddened by the loss of my grandfather, I guess I'm just wondering how much good it would do to get worked up about something as inevitable as the sunrise.

I have been thinking a lot about the afterlife as well. Where is my Grandfather? He hated religion. With a passion. So I guess he's in hell. But, he loved people so much and was such a good person in comparison, that I think maybe God is allowing him into heaven. Maybe God is talking to Grandpa Elek right now saying: "You never hated me. You hated the Church. And frankly, the Church gave you plenty of reasons." Maybe God is telling my Grandpa right now "You know all about Jesus, and you like him. You hate the people who choked you to death on the false loveless judgement of my son. You don't hate me, you hate the lies you were told about me."

I guess what I'm wondering is this: Grandpa Elek hated religion because the people who told him about Jesus were pushy, arrogant, insensative, judgemental, calloused, unintelligent, self-righteous, snide, unforgiving, unloving, joyless, hypocritical malicious human beings. He hated all of it. So, Grandpa didn't care much for God because the people who told him about God didn't really tell him about God. They told him about something else. Some eternally arrogant, insensative, judgemental, calloused, unforgiving, joyless god that sent the majority of his creation to an eternal hell. Now, does my Grandpa go to hell for hating that God? Or does he get to the gates and realize what God really is? Does he get to decide on God after seeing the real thing? Or does he go to hell hating the false God that he was told about here?

I really don't know. I know Scripture tells me he can't get there without Christ. But, I'm not sure he was ever given the opportunity to meet Christ because the people who initially exposed him to Christ exposed him to an unloving Christ. An Anti-christ. So what happens to my grandpa after refusing to submit to the anti-christ?

I hope no ultra-conservative Christians respond to this by telling me the things I already know about their insensative self-righteous beliefs. Let me start by telling you guys, I am a Christian, and I think Christ is about love. I'm trying to find out how Christ is going to love my grandfather now that my grandfather is dead.


Anonymous said...

Hey, Josh.

My name is Amber Walker and I attended Malone College with you for the latter part of your college career. You probably don't remember me really well, if at all, but I am currently living, writing, and working in Louisville and spending time with my boyfriend whom I met at a rural mission in the Blue Ridge Mountains. (Aka The Middle of Nowhere.) Anyway, I read your blog about your grandfather. I am very sorry about your loss. I think that you are courageously facing his death and where he stood with God. It's so true that Christ is not presented to people in the way He desires. Christianity today has become a "culture" bloated with its own self-righteousness and interpretation of the Scriptures. It has unfortunately been fattened with scam and hypocrisy and leaves no room for illumination. New believers today, seemingly have to choose between pleasing the people of Christianity instead of the Christ of Christianity, and to fit in, many of them choose the former than the latter, and the result is the suffocation of the message of love and a forceful message of you do this, you go to Hell. You do that, you go to Hell. (and all the while, many preachers of this message are struggling with the same sins of which they accuse their congregation.) The fact is, no one, Christian and non, can judge the eternal resting place of any soul that passes from what we know into what we do not know. I may look like a great person. People may say I am definitely Heaven-bound. But that is an earthly perception. They don't know who I REALLY am. Like the first book of Sam states: "Man looks on the outside appearance, but God looks on the heart." Not only does He look on the heart and know the heart, He is a just God. He is famous for that. Of course, the many tragedies of the world causes His "justness" to be debated throughout churches and colleges and what-have-you, but God knows your grandfather intimately. More intimately than you or your family, his wife, his friends, etc...He knows who jaded your grandfather, He knows who shunned an opporunity to share the proper message of Christian love with him. Your grandfather's life and death were in His hands, just like all of us. This is only an insight...this is coming from me, a mere mortal like you, and I can only say what I believe and what I know for myself. One thing I do know, however, is that you need to ask God for peace in this matter. When my grandfather passed away two years ago, I faced a similar situation. There were moments were it seemed my grandfather (on his death bed) was filled with God's peace and other days when he acted questionably on this matter. After he passed away, I felt similar to you--where is he now? Did he make it? Did God judge justly? Of course He did. And over time, I have realized that it isn't about what people tell's what God tells you that matters. He can be hard to understand sometimes, ultimately leading to human discouragement and human confusion. But when we go deeper, He leads us to spiritual enlightement, spiritual peace. I don't know if what I said helped or not, but I hope that all is going well in your world. I read bits of your blog and enjoyed it...especially the oatmeal part. My morning ritual is pop-tarts. Not as classy. If you need any encouragement or just someone to chat with sometimes, I am reachable at

Anonymous said...

Josh: First, I am deeply sorry to hear of your loss. I too lost my grandmother a year ago, and can only offer this consolation about death:
"Forever. And we're bound for that, Forever-like Emily Dickinson's horses-headed to the End./They know the way-These Steeds-run faster than we think-it's our own life they cross-and take with them." (allen ginsburg)
stephanie bencin has too much time on her hands at work and called me this PM to tell me about discovering your blog. I am happy to see that things are going well with your fiance, and it really is an exciting time. i too recently got engaged. anyway, i just wanted to say 'allo. I hope things continue to look up for you. If you ever feel like chatting, drop a line at Cheers from good ole MHS and Stanley Siedlecki's creative writing class,

Leah Copeland

Tim 2 said...

I wish I could put in words the setniments you expressed regarding why Church burns people out.

Anonymous said...


Uncle Bob here! I'm enjoying your insight into "the way things are" and thought I'd add my two cents to the pot. Dad did the church thing when he and mom were young and so even if you DID have to follow some formula cooked up by some modern day Pharisee in order to get to heaven, he probably did it. I think however , that when Jesus said "I am the way and the truth and the life" He was showing us a way to live and not a password to get into heaven. Religion is what men do with what God gave us, and that's why it tends to be all screwed up so often, but being so far from where He meant for us to be, I thank Him that we can even see Him through the fog. I guess that proves He's initiating the relationship, and not us in a way, dosen't it? The night dad died, after I left his body at the hospital, went to his house with dorothy and all the family that was close enough to be there, and finally got back in my car at about one a.m. I prayed as I put my key in the ignition. "God..You have to give me something to get through all this..I can't handle it on my own.. You know my need. please fill it." I turned on the car and the radio was playing a country western song by Brad Paisley called "When I Get Where I'm Going" These are the words that came to me right after the prayer.."so much pain, so much darkness,in this world we stumble through,all these questions I can't answer,so much work to do..but when I get where I'm going and I see my makers face, I'll stand forever in the light of His amazing grace. When I get where I.m going there'll only be happy tears..." so there you go..answered prayer!! I know God loves you and really appreciates you honest search for Him and His truth. Keep up the good works, even if they CAN'T get you into heaven.

Love you

Uncle Bob

Joshua said...

Well, to comment on the comments:

Uncle Bob: Thank you. It is a comfort to know that there are other Christians out there with hearts. I just got back from a two day retreat with two thousand college students where we discussed the challenge of being a Christian in our world today, and I feel like there is a common struggle among Christians to be Christians without being the Christians that society sees when we think of Christians.

Tim: I am sad about how Church burns people out. But, for the sake of a semantic argument, I would say that the Church itself doesn't burn people out. Rather it's bad churches with bad goals that burn people out. I like what Tony Campolo had to say this weekend. When talking about Church today, he said "I'm sick of rich white churches in America today doing what they can to make more money to have bigger sound systems while there are poor people dying in the streets only blocks away. It's not right for there to be a rich white church with plenty of resources if there's a poor black church with nothing but volunteers and a priest who doubles as the mail carrier."

I love Christianity. I hate Church sometimes. But, then again... it's not much different from how I feel about my country. I love America, but I hate my county sometimes.

In the end, I guess I don't know how to express those sentiments very well either. That's why I'm reading "A Generous Orthodoxy" which is about this very struggle.

Leah: Holy freaking cow. How are you? I can't believe you and Stephanie both found this blog. I was just thinking about you guys earlier! I hope you're well! Where are you now? I guess these are all things I should email you about. Feel free to shoot me an email as well:

Joshua said...

Oh yeah... Amber. I remember you! It sounds like you are doing well. We just were in Lousiville on our way to New Orleans.

Thank you for your kind words. I have been very encouaraged by the reflections people have offered me in response to my feelings regarding the passing of my grandfather. It's nice to hear your thoughts. Thank you.

I just wish we as Christians could find a way to be what Christ was calling us to be. A group of people without borders where there honestly is no judgement, no particularization, no Greek, no Jew, no Slave, no Free, no Male, no Female. Maybe someday we'll figure it out, and Christians will actually start trying to champion the cause of the oppressed and the poor. Maybe I'll stop talking and start doing as well.