They shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone…Yes, all the liars and fornicators and murders and sorcerers and blasphemers and idolaters—yes, even idolaters. All those who do not know the Lord; all those whose lips have not called on the sacred name of Jehovah; all those who have failed to kiss the son in order to avoid God’s wrath — they all shall be one vast pile of tinder for the great, everlasting bonfire kindled and supervised by God. Such a fire in which they shall burn would be an unquenchable one — didn’t the Reverend say that? An unquenchable, ever-burning fire raging for thousands, millions, billions of years, ay, for eternity; and the agonised soul is kept alive all the while for the sake of being tortured. It is for that alone that he is granted immortality: that he may suffer forever and ever, as innumerable trumpets and celestial choristers harp away in interminable paean ditties to the Lord God who sitteth on his golden throne. And the Great Jehovah whose cognomen is Love smiles from his lofty throne. So the clergy and all the men of God tell us, and only the wicked do not believe.
Our mind cannot comprehend such sadism; and it were better for us to die and join the suffering hordes than to imagine the uncountable number of mankind burning in the universal fire, stirred by the forks in the hands of the wicked angels. Yes, the impeccable Lord, holy and immaculate, also employs the devilish angels so they may torment mankind. Dare we then to open the Bible again? Dare we say with our lips that the Lord is good all the time?
They tell us (they think they are comforting us) that only the sinners shall burn. Unto us holy ones is given the resplendent temple where there is no night but light always, luminance of God’s presence, where our adoration will ever peel upward to the one sitting on the throne, ancient of days. They tell us that we are the chosen ones; the ones whom the good Lord has sanctified from the belly to be His children, his special property. O, how they want to see our tears of joy as we kiss the great cosmic feet in adulation! How they want to see our heart burst in appreciation! Sons of the kingdom, they call us: we are only to raise our voice to Jah and he gives us his vast, cosmic empire for inheritance. Says he who sits on the white throne: ask of me my son and I will give you the nations as inheritance. O how wondrous these promises, that nothing short of wickedness will not drive us mad with happiness…
But the wicked and the sinners shall burn, burn eternally in the ever-kindling fire, so they emphasise to us. The sinners: the pickpockets, the liars, the fornicators, the murderers, the revilers, the toy-breakers, the slappers; all categories of sinners, for no sin is small but the same in the eyes of the Lord—all these are tinder for the universal fire, so they tell us. And we ask, like the disciples, who then shall be saved? We wonder if they have forgotten telling us that the man is a liar who says he has no sin, for all men have sinned. Have they forgotten? They have not, they hasten to assure us; they can never forget things seen by their eyes nor heard by their ears, nor read from the sacred book of God. But when we press for answers, for we do not understand, they only tell us that it is a mystery. Are we so wicked and mischievous we cannot have contentment in what has been revealed to us through the mouth of the Popes? No matter how much we persist, we are told it is mystery: the mystery of God sealed up and reserved for his saints, and the key is given to our Pope and only he can open it. And we wonder: is our God helpless now? Can He never get back the key He has given to the Pope and must the Pope deal with his precious vessel as he sees fit? O God, we ask, are you helpless now? Mystery! Mystery!! Mystery!!! That is the only answer we get: mystery!
We are told that it is the mystery of God that these innumerable hordes should burn, people whose plenitude are as the sands in the strand. They pat us on the shoulder and say, ‘But you have come to know God, haven’t you? You shall be saved. Lo and rejoice, the Lord is with you.’
But it is not with the Lord we want to be. He is perfect, sinless, bright, surpassingly good in every aspect, but it is not for his company we crave. We are quite content to know that he is watching from high heavens; we are happy if allowed a glance of his majestic appearance, like sage Moses – but it is not to dwell with him that we desire. He is light, we are darkness; he is gold, we are dross; he is power, we are weakness – therefore, we cry aloud: We want no company of God! Allow us to live with our fellow human beings. Allow us to live with those who are like us, with all their weakness: their love and their hatred, their strength and weaknesses; their sins and their righteousness – we are content to live with them as they are! And if we must be in the Great One’s presence, allow us to do so in the company of fellow humans, so that when we can no more bear the great luminance from the Great One, we may turn to our fellow humans for comfort and normalcy. Why do you think the Jews were afraid of hearing the voice of Jehovah rumbling in great glory from the Mount of Sinai? Did not nature say unto them that they belonged not to the spiritual; and did they not prefer Moses’ imperfect voice to the Lord’s glorious one? Let everyman understand this: no companionship gladdens the heart of a man as that with a fellow man, though it be filled with ups and downs.
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. We are awed by this generosity; truly, we cannot comprehend such love and benevolence. But how do we carry our happiness with us when we remember those who must howl forever in tormentuous fire? How do we feel happy when we remember that billions of earth children are writhing in agony, hopeless of ever being redeemed? How can our heart fail to feel sorry if we remember our sister who had been keeping her virginity until one day she was overcome by fleshly desire and, surrendering, was taken by death before she could repent? How can we not bleed in the heart if we remember our honest neighbour who had toiled all his life but stole one day to feed his dying child, only to be lynched with his sins on his head? How can we sit still in the company of angels if we remember our friends who have died with evil inclinations in their heads, those things which no man is truly free from? How can we rejoice in the Lord’s presence if we must remember all these people, and hear their cries of agony reverberating in our own soul?
O the pains, the agony! We understand, or at least try to understand, the justice in torturing these several peoples. But how do we understand the fate of the several millions, ay, billions who have not come to know the one name under heaven with which all men shall be saved? The primitives, the faraway Chinese and Africans, the Asian heathens, and all those God’s children who had no opportunity of hearing of the redemptive name? What of the millions who resided in the place and time when they simply could not hear the proclamation of the gospel? Those earth children, brutes and savages, children killed in war, men who did wrongs out of ignorance; are they all in the great fire, while we the chosen ones are glad to sit each one on his little throne in the dazzling presence of the Lord, hymning a song such as no man could sing but he who was sealed on the forehead with the blood of the lamb, song as of the voice of many waters? Can we be happy in this weltering chaos of our soul if we must remember the mystic wilderness which those God’s children must tread who shall burn eternally in the fires of God their father?
Heaven is no more pleasant to us, though it may be offered to us in a platter of gold. Our selfishness does not extend this far. We only yearn to have, not to deprive others from having. If we can but have enough, the whole world might have their wish. And so our precious heaven recedes from us; it can never come back to us for as long as we remember things of yore. As long as we remember the things which our infallible Pope has said were the immutable will of God, set in motion for as long as there was time: before I formed thee, I have known thee. Ay, so long as we remember our Pope’s telling us that from the onset our Lord has fashioned each man for his purpose, some for honourable purpose and others for dishonourable purpose, some to sit on golden thrones while others must be the tinder for the everlasting burning – so long as we remember these, we can never think of heaven with happiness in our face. Only the waters of Lethe can purge us now; but we have no need for purity: unto us has been given the wormwood which we must chew all our life, and each man must bear his affliction in his soul.
We have no need of the Bible again but we still read it. One day, we hear Jesus saying to his disciples: Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. We are baffled. What of those yearning Samaritans and Gentiles? We ask: why are they not given the message of life as well? O God, tell us, why do you restrict privileges to the boundaries of Israel? Are those others not your children too, the untaught heathens? How can they do good unless they know, and how can they know without anyone preaching to them? Ah, dear God, we don’t understand. We don’t understand the mystery of your wisdom. Tell us O Lord, and we shall know; heal us of our ignorance and we shall be healed. But we cannot hear the Holy Spirit comforting us. Are we lost? Have you taken your spirit from us so that we may be tormented, like Saul, by the wicked spirit in our inquisitive soul? Are we so wicked you have abandoned us? We only strive to know, for truly, we are surfeited with the doctrines issuing from the mouth of our Pope. We have come that you may teach us in your surpassing kindness.
The love of God keeps calling on us but because we have been deafened by our soul’s sadness, we do not easily hear. When we turn around and ask, like the Hebrews, Dear God, where is your love? Malachi answers us in vatic utterances: was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith Jehovah; yet I loved Jacob and Esau I hated, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.
What an answer to give us! We nearly feel happy if we have not heard him, for now we cannot understand why our God should love Jacob and hate Esau; why He should lay Esau’s heritage waste for the dragons of the field, and while his descendants howl in search of water, the Israelites are bathed in fresh, life-giving oasis. O soul brother of mine, fellow African of the black and shiny skin, have we not at times felt like Esau? We have at times felt like him: the abandoned, the unloved, the Ishmaels left to die in waterless deserts. We have at times felt as though we are made from a different soil, a murky one; and while the whites were being moulded by the loving hand of God, we are being shaped by the mocking Devil, vessels for dishonourable purpose—sons of destruction! At times we ask: Are we black because the Devil made us? And we are told that we are not only black in the body but also in the heart. We hear voices as though the Lord is speaking to us: Ye are of your father the Devil! Can we deny it anymore? Can we deny the several centuries, ay, millennia, when we, the blacks have not heard the Word of God? He that is of God heareth the words of God: for this cause ye hear them not, because ye are not of God.
We no more have the feel of brotherhood with the whites. We are the Esaus and the Ishmaels, dross of the earth; we are the ready tinder for God’s fire! Yes, our black skin shall burn, and while the whites are singing praises to God for His extraordinary mercy, we shall be writhing in agony. Pains unknown, sufferings unfelt, agonies undreamt of: all shall be our lot. We shall burn in the great pot of hell where our father the Devil will stir us unceasingly—and he never tires! What more can our clergy and saints and imams and all those exegetes of various scriptures tell us? What is left unrevealed? That God has waved his parting hand on us and submitted our raw clay to his apprentice angels to mould?
Already the whites have taken dominion over us: sons of the kingdom – they are to fetter us ready for delivery to our father the Devil when he comes with his myriads of wicked angels to take us home. Yes, our home is the ever-burning fire which is never put out, and in it we are not even allowed to die. Such is our fate – immutable, predestined, sealed, and the key is dropped unto the laps of our immaculate Pope that none but him might alter the things decreed. And who, looking at that devilish face, would question our eternal damnation? How can he allow us to soil the kingdom of his Father with our black skin reeking of evil? O soul brother, we are lost, lost forever and irredeemable in the world of the whites!
We feel no brotherhood with the whites anymore. We have been trying these several decades to shake the giant iroko tree merely in order to let a tiny dewdrop fall to our thirsty tongue. We have merely been clamouring for the love that is not ours to have. We have been seeking companionship where we feel no affinity. We have been cast away, not grafted; and now we have no hope of where to turn to for comfort, for we feel that even the God of the whites have rejected us.
Nothing is left but for us to go back to the way of our forefathers. But the old way is thorny and filled with trammels. The future is a nebulous abyss, and to us it beckons.
- (excerpt from the Voices of Unreturning Days (unpublished) This is the musing of a character in the book, not a personal opinion – if you must criticise, direct it to the excerpt, not the writer. But of course nothing precludes the writer from liability for his writing…)