CBS Sunday Morning: Heaven Vs Hell
Martha Teichner shared a look at our imaginings surrounding Heaven and Hell in her Sunday Morning story “Upstairs, Downstairs.” It began with a choir performance at Knoxville, Tennessee’s Temple Baptist Church. There, Pastor Charles Lawson has often spoken out in an animated fashion about the prospect of hell, even as the choir sings of heaven’s promises.
Nelson gave an illustrative description of hell before Teichner suggested that people of all religious faiths may have similar visions of heaven, in part because we have shared the same cultural depictions through the years. Visions of clouds and angels are probable, thanks to centuries of conditioning. Where did it all begin?
Sunday Morning: Biblical Art History
The faithful may or may not be surprised to find that these visuals are not derived from biblical texts. Dale T. Irvin of the New York Theological Seminary said that the text portrays Hell as “shadowy” and “a place of sleep.” Irvin, a professor of world Christianity, said those visions of hell come from Greek mythology and depictions of Hades.
The concept of Hell as a world of punishment came later, thanks to interpretations of the New Testament. Heaven, meanwhile, is the place above our heads, where God lives. A sculpture dating to around 1500 was on display at New York City’s Museum of Biblical Art, where Richard Townsend showed Sunday Morning around.
CBS Sunday Morning: From Divine Comedy To Heaven is for Real
He pointed out the detail work on demons and other signs of eternal peril rather than paradise that started to become popular around the Middle Ages, thanks in part to Dante’s Divine Comedy. The next step were elaborate cathedral ceilings and other religious artworks, both promising and terrifying.
Teichner questioned how much the world of art shapes the Western concept of Hell, and Townsend suggested that it’s almost entirely reflected in and from historical depictions right up to present-day films. Screenwriter and director Randall Wallace, the man behind the 2014 film Heaven is for Real, had the challenge of appealing to all faiths.
Wallace said his goal was to keep it simple, recalling being inspired by the words of the Lord’s Prayer. Apparently, 66% of Americans believe in both Heaven and Hell, at least among the Sunday Morning audience. According to Pastor Lawson, it’s more important to understand Hell than Heaven. In that same poll, only 2% thought they would wind up in Hell.