Hi Johnny Now that’s difficult one –
On the substantive issue I’d agree with Pogo that the Pog list is trying to present the varieties of Christian universalism currently and the shades of meaning between Christian universalism and other Christian eschatologies (all in historical context). Therefore it’s going to give our Pog a real headache if he starts admitting other non-hell positions from other religions to a list that is just grappling with a distinction between a vapid pluralism and a committed Christian Universalism that is still open and dialogical.
But I’ll try to sketch an answer Johnny. I like George’s songs – but always preferred the Small Faces and the Kinks to the Beatles. I’m not sure that George was every seriously a Christian at anytime, apart from his cultural background – was he brought up a Catholic like Paul McCartney perhaps? (I’m not a great fan of Paul’s )
Well George certainly believed that God is Love and he was a gentle soul and a compassionate man. He seemingly embraced a form of Hinduism – but the last time I saw him interviewed he wasn’t majoring on Hinduism; he was actually quoting Tennyson (the Christian Universalist) to support his diffusive belief in ultimate Love.
Apart from his brief dallying with TM – the major commitment he had was to the Hara Krishna movement. This form of Hinduism comes under the general heading of the ‘Bhakti Marga’ – the Way (to moksha or liberation) through loving devotion to the personal God. The ultimate personal God - the supreme personality of the Godhead - can take different forms (or be perceived as having different forms). The main two in Hinduism are Shiva (who is god of destruction primarily, but becomes revealed as God of tender loving kindness to those who turn to him in love and see his true nature) and Krishna (who is the incarnation/avatar of Vishnu the god of creation; Krishna is the charioteer in the Mahabharata who gives the revelation of the Bhagavad Gita or ‘The Lord’s Song’ to Arjuna the Royal archer in the thick of battle).
The Krishna Consciousness people don’t believe in eternal hell. That’s cool. But as a movement it has other troubling characteristics – it is a bit cultish, and actually can be very intolerant and is often ridiculously fundamentalist and simplistic in its teachings (and perhaps also escapist). It was of course trendy and exotic for a while – and I’m sure like some forms of Christian fundamentalism it has often given refuge to people whose lives have fallen apart – say from drug abuse – and need simple certainties. I don’t think it is a dangerous cult – and I’ve had some really nice conversations with Hare Krishna People (and I remember an article in one of their magazines which I was shown, that was a critique of Jack T. Chick’s view of God and a very witty one too). But I have me reservations
There are other sects within Hinduism that do believe in the possibility of eternal hell and others still which although not believing in hell have an impersonal idea of the absolute in which all distinctions fall away and we simply cease to exist as individuals (I guess some in the West would view this as a kind of hell!). The impersonal way is referred to as the Jnana Marga or the Way of Knowledge.
Hinduism like Christianity has lots of aspects that require prophetic critique – especially some of the most sacred aspects. For example the caste system, that perpetuates racial and social prejudice and exclusion and is predicated on the idea of reincarnation. Ghandi saw this – he perceived that there is an eternal Dharma (Way/Truth) that is over all other dharmas that seem sacred and eternal (like caste) and judges them. Ghandi is no cardboard saint – like all of us he had problems – but I think he often got the prophetic critique courageously right (and that’s not the case with Krishna Consciousness people as far as I can see). He was a follower of Bhakti Marga – but a critical and engaged one. His inspiration came not only from the Bhagavad Gits but also from the Sermon on the Mount and Tolstoy’s Christian Anarchism.
So where does that leave George – there is an ache in his lyrics for a Love most universal.