Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I recently saw the Clint Eastwood movie "Hereafter". Before seeing it, I wondered if one of Clint's motivations for such a movie is his advancing age. I have spent some time ruminating about death and what is to follow, but I have found that it can be difficult to broach the subject with most people, especially the young (defined as under 40 or so).

Anyway, it is a huge subject, so any attempt to say something important in a 2 hour movie is certainly a challenge. Frankly, I was pleased with Clint's attempt, but not blown away. Perhaps because I have spent time thinking about the subject myself which made it hard for the movie to present any new information.

The main point I took from the movie is that there is an afterlife and that there is much scientific proof of its existence, in addition to all the religious myth. Clint presents a place where the awareness of the ex-human still resides and can be accessed by certain humans who possess the gift (or curse). The story follows a few recently dead people and those they left behind and attempts to portray that those who have passed can and sometimes will communicate an important piece of information that can help the survivors move on.

It is not a dramatic movie in the sense that there is a climactic scene of revelation, but it is certainly an interesting flick and one I would recommend.

Since I was raised a catholic, I have presumably incorporated the heaven and hell version of life after death. Unfortunately, I often wonder if the popular perception of heaven and hell is accurate as I am convinced that the vast majority of people believe that they are going to heaven. One could argue that if life on earth is a test for the eternal thumbs up (or down) that there would be a stricter criteria to pass. (I am only referring to those that believe in heaven and hell although I would imagine that whatever your religious point of view, I would bet that more often than not, you believe you are going to earn the "reward"). In other words, does God grade on a curve?

What if God is more of a socialistic bent, meaning he rewards or condemns an entire generation or society as a whole? Was there spiritual progress or did mankind go backwards in its treatment of each other? Perhaps the entire society is judged based on how the least among them were treated by that society?

More likely, we will be judged individually, but again, what is the criteria. How much money we made? How many people we helped? Will it simply be as is the lesson from "Its a Wonderful Life"; were those you encountered better off for meeting you?

For all the talk about the United States being a Christian nation, it seems that our obsession with money and wealth suggests that we believe that our eternal judgement will be based on material possessions. No, you say?

Think about it for a minute. Is not success measured by your bank account and by how much money your job pays? When was the last time you saw a social worker being interviewed about the record they just set for helping the poor in their neighborhood? Do we flock to seminars which will teach us how to invest wisely and beat the market or to those that teach how to help find shelter for the homeless?

As self proclaimed Christians, one would think that our role model would be Christ, a person who spent his ministry with the outcasts of his time while reminding the rich that their chance of reaching heaven was the same as the chance of a camel passing through the eye of a needle.

Perhaps that is why it can be so uncomfortable to talk about what follows this life. It might sound harch, but perhaps the hereafter may not be all that accomodating to a population where money is the first priority and the welfare of mankind barely a speck in the rearview mirror.