Ann Althouse notes that John McCain has said that he'll follow Osama bin Laden to hell and that Rudy Giuliani says that Saddam Hussein is already in hell. Of course, both bin Laden and Saddam men have been guilty of horrible evil, but, after some Althouse commenters said they don't believe that hell is real, I said, in part:
I know that McCain and Giuliani are using this rhetoric to prove their toughness and to show that they regard Osama and Saddam as evil. But, as a Christian and a pastor, it makes me feel uncomfortable.To the extent that the two candidates are using hell to make political points, they trivialize both hell and their points. This is especially true if, like some Althouse commenters, they don't believe that hell exists.
From that perspective, it's appropriate for us to make judgments about people's actions, but not their eternal destinies. This is precisely the kind of judging Jesus was excluding when He said, "“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged" (Matthew 7:1).
As to the existence or non-existence of hell, it may be consoling for us to say that it doesn't exist. But some who adgere to this position have reason to second-guess themselves. I refer to that segment of the population surfaced repeatedly by public opinion polls: those who indicate that they regard the Bible as the Word of God, accept the deity of Christ, and believe that there is a heaven, but also dismiss the idea that hell is real. Yet Christ, the central figure of the portion of the Bible accepted as part of the Bible by Christians, insists that both are real.
It's worth noting though, that the Bible doesn't see hell as a threat against the recalcitrant, just a realm people choose. Jesus puts it this way: "“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God" (John 3:16-18). (Keep in mind that when the Bible speaks of "belief," it has more than intellectual assent in mind. It denotes trust.)...
Back in the 1948 presidential campaign, someone at a Harry Truman whistlestop tour encouraged the embattled chief executive with the words, "Give 'em hell, Harry!" as he excoriated the do-nothing 80th. Congress. Though the supporter's words became his nickname, Truman insisted that he wasn't giving the Congress hell, just telling the truth, and it felt like he was giving them something else.
McCain and Giuliani obviously feel that their hell-rhetoric proves to Republican primary voters that they will be tough on national security, the same reason that Mitt Romney made a big point of how he wanted to see bin Laden killed during the debate on Thursday night.