Belfast Telegraph

It's not for us to judge what will happen to a person after death

By Alf McCreary

The death of Sir Terry Wogan is being mourned by many of us because it feels as if we have lost a friend, even though most of us had never met him.

With the intimacy of television and radio, a leading broadcaster almost becomes part of our daily life. Terry Wogan had an added dimension because he was clever, he did not take himself too seriously, and he once said that kindness was one of life's most important qualities.

However, there has been a distinct lack of kindness following comments by Fr Brian D'Arcy that God would surely find a place for his close friend Terry, even though the latter claimed to be a non-believer.

Terry Wogan once said that, while his wife and mother were both devout, he was not a believer. He was a deep thinker, and not a person to accept codes of thought simply because they were deemed to be "religious". He was his own man.

Brian D'Arcy, himself a good and courageous priest, was speaking emotionally at a time of personal grief, and everyone with a kind heart would have immediately understood what he was trying to convey.

He said: "If there is not room for Terry Wogan in Heaven, well then, the God I've been preaching is a way off."

He was reminding us that God has a wide forgiveness and that Terry Wogan was not only a good human being, but also a man with a deep spirituality.

Sadly, however, Fr D'Arcy has been criticised, particularly savagely by those who show no mercy to others who do not measure up to strict so-called Christian requirements. If you do not conform to these human interpretations of Divine mysteries, then you are not going to Heaven, and almost certainly to Hell.

What an awful commentary this is on Christianity, which is supposed to have at its heart the love of God.

Such appalling exclusiveness is not the preserve of narrow commentators from little-known denominations. It can also be found in the main Churches.

How often have you winced during a funeral service when the speaker has inferred that "good Sammy" will go to Heaven because he was "saved", but "bad Sammy" will not be allowed in because he did not conform to the narrow Christian interpretation of "goodness"?

During my life, I have met a number of "Christians" who were, and still are, very nasty pieces of work. I have also met people who had no formal religious affiliation, but who were kinder, more loving and better human beings than others who claimed to be followers of Jesus Christ.

It is no wonder that the established Churches, which for many centuries have been the cradle of Christianity, are losing influence and numbers because they have not been able to attract, convince and keep those people who are searching for a meaningful spiritual path, beyond the arid dictates of the others who follow the letter, but not the spirit, of the "religious" law.

As I often note, the words of that lovely hymn underline what we should all aspire to: "There's a wideness in God's mercy that is wider than the sea."

Therefore, it is not for us to judge what happens to a person after death, but to leave their souls to the mercy, forgiveness and love of the Almighty. Don't ever allow a certain kind of "Christian", or a religious dogma, to come between you and your God.

Belfast Telegraph

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