It isn’t always easy being smug and self-righteous in the here and now, and it might be even more difficult in the hereafter. According Dr. Johnny Joe Dennis, Saved Person, writing in the latest issue of Oh Joy: The Journal of the Really Special People God Truly Loves, the self-righteous might find their eternal rest less than restful.
Dr. Dennis assures those certain of their salvation that their salvation is certain. After all, God’s love is the greatest love of all, and the love of the self-righteous man for himself is a close second. Therefore, Dr. Dennis says, the self-righteous are the most god-like of God’s creatures, which, of course, they already knew.
But there is one lingering question: Who, besides the smug and self-righteous, will be granted entrance to the kingdom? A noted Stringentarian, who frequently assures his congregation that Heaven will not be overcrowded, Dr. Dennis has always believed the answer to be “no one.”
He has always pictured Heaven as a gated community where the objects of God’s affection can be safely and comfortably segregated from all the riff-raff and other less-than-special persons. At first glance, it is an enticing picture, but the longer Dr. Dennis looks at it the more he wonders.
The riff-raff and less-than-special persons, he notes, are responsible for the preternaturally prodigious self-image of the smug and self-righteous, from whence cometh their happiness. A nose, Dr. Dennis notes, will be of little use in Heaven if there is no one to look down upon. In a place where everyone is as wonderful as everyone else, the smug and self-righteous might start to feel average, no better than anyone else, run of the mill, less than special, uninspired by their own being. And with God and the angels just down the street, the smug and self-righteous might even feel some inferiority.
To avoid that, Dr. Dennis urges the saved to occasionally go to the edge of the abyss and watch the less fortunate doggy paddle on the lake of flames. But, while the smug and self-righteous have that wonderful ability to gain strength and comfort from the misfortune of others, he wonders if the salubrious effects of the scene from the precipice will last for more than a few thousand years.
There is also the possibility, Dr. Dennis writes, that the riff-raff will be frolicking in the flames. Watching those inferior to them drink and wench their way through eternity while they are cowed by the perfection of God and the angels, will not be a gratifying experience.
Of course, God could be a Latitudarian and allow in some of the riff-raff -– the homeless, with their soiled and smelly trousers; the drunks and the druggies; the centrists; the leftists; maybe some communists, even; some Muslims and Buddhists; some agnostics and free-thinkers; some Darwinists, maybe old Charles himself; the prostitutes; the Roman Catholics; and, perhaps even, the homosexuals. Dr. Dennis does not think it’s likely –- God’s selections just couldn’t be that slipshod –- but it might happen, although it would deeply disappoint the self-righteous, and God certainly would not want to do that.
Besides, the presence of riff-raff in Heaven would serve to make things more tenuous for the smug. Having a less-than-special person next door would give the prim-and-proper prig a neighbor to look down on, except this is Heaven and all the residents were chosen by God and everyone is special. As Dr. Dennis points out, the self-righteous have a special need to feel special, but where everyone is special, no one is special.
Dr. Dennis urges his readers not to despair. They are, he says, the greatest of all God’s creations, and God has a plan, a wonderful plan, for them. But he ends with a cautionary note, “Eternity,” he writes, “could be a hell of a long time.”