The passing of Edward Kennedy yesterday has provoked a great many comments, most of them predictable in their spirit and intent. While Senator Kennedy was best known as a political man and his person is generally judged in the light of his political actions and behavior, there is also a strong moral judgment in the public appraisal of the man, and to that end we may consider the condition of his soul. That does not mean that we are fit to do so, but judging others is a very common practice, even a game, among humans. Pride being the chief of sins, we often imagine that we can speak as we will about others with no worry about the consequences we bring upon ourselves.
And there is the point for this article. There are many things we cannot know in this life, but one sure thing is that we all must die. We are finite, and we are imperfect at best, and frankly most of us have things in our lives which we would be very happy to keep private and hidden away, if they could not be erased from the record completely. That’s not to say we are all guilty to the same degree, but all the same there’s few enough of us who could honestly claim to deserve the reputation we show the public.
Those who wish to condemn a man for his life, should remember that we all fail to some degree, and for all that we may rightly curse another for his wrongs we never know completely his own pain and trials, what may have brought him to speak and act as he did. And those who wish to praise a man might consider that everything we do will falter and end just as our own bodies do. The greatest acts of men have all come to end, so that only the Divine touch makes anything endure.
And that is where God and human souls come into the matter. All that truly matters is of God, and all that we may hope for depends in the end on His perfect will and hope of His mercy. Through all of Man’s history there have been attempts to make sense of the human identity and our place in the Cosmos, from ancient myths and legends to theology and reasoned thought, extending to every conceivable conclusion, including skepticism and antitheist hostility. In the end, however, one comes to one of three places – rejection of everything not proven beyond the possibility of doubt, belief in a greater purpose and Person than this universe proves, or essential doubt and abandonment of the question for fear of the question.
I believe we are made for better purpose, indeed we are each of us specially made for not only a purpose but a specific personage. We are each of us unique in our person, yet part of family, community and nation in many ways. This life ends precisely because it, and we, are imperfect, so that we may learn perfection and seek the greater person we are to become. I do not accept the notion that if someone murders someone else and is never arrested, if someone rapes another person and never serves a day in prison, if someone oppresses someone else through intimidation and never faces an accounting in this life, that there is no accounting for that injustice. I will not accept the claim that someone’s good dies with him and has no value beyond the moment. I believe and affirm that while God remains invisible to human eyes, He is imminent to us in faith and truth and hope. All that we do is either perfected or consumed according to its nature, and every one of us will discover good and evil in our lives to a greater depth than we ever suspected before.
All souls are made by God, yet all people are given free will to choose our disposition. I cannot promise heaven to anyone, as heaven belongs to God Almighty and must serve Him perfectly and so I cannot speak to His judgment. I also will not condemn anyone to hell, knowing its eternal torment and again being unworthy to sit in judgment of another sinner. Paul wrote that we believers shall judge angels, but may the Lord save me from the pride of believing that I am fit to judge my neighbor.
How the world ends is written in Scripture, but the mystery of a specific person who can say? I cannot earn heaven but cannot bear hell, nor do I imagine any man could do so save our Savior. So I depend, as we all do, on our Advocate and Champion to resolve what is, as always has been, beyond our ken, and for my part I pray that Edward chose well and sincerely. For even among Christ’s own hand-picked disciples, two betrayed Him and came to repent of it, yet one chose a way that ended in condemnation while the other was reconciled in penitence by the Lord’s grace. In the end we are resolved by greater power and purpose than we know.