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St. Peter was flummoxed.

There was a large group of Americans waiting to be processed into heaven and no matter how many times he told them to line up single file, they insisted on being in two separate lines that did not mix.

St. Peter didn’t know how to deal with the two separate lines, so he began to question them to figure out what had gone wrong. “What are your credentials to enter heaven?” he asked them.

“I have always believed in justice,” said individuals in one of the lines. “I lived my life in fervent justice and associated only with other people who believe correctly as I do. “

“I have always believed in righteousness,” said individuals in the other line. “I lived my life in fervent righteousness and associated only with other people who believe correctly as I do.”

Though both groups spoke with sincerity about different aspects of goodness, St. Peter still couldn’t get them to agree on how to form one line together, so he went to get Jesus to sort it out.

Jesus presently appeared among them and asked, “Of what use is a baby who enters the world but never grows in it?”

Seeing nothing but the usual blank stares in response to his opening question, he continued more directly. “For your own selfish purposes, you have taught yourselves that the entrance exam into heaven is completely an individual reward, based on unwavering adherence to your separate factions. But by your logic, everyone in America can get a passing grade even though your combined performance does not pass. Did you really think that there would be no group project score? And did you think that portraying yourselves as never-changing would find more favor in heaven than never-improving?”

“On earth the lifelong abolitionist is rewarded as a hero, but in heaven the abolitionist has no special standing because they have given nothing and lost nothing. Let he who was a slave owner but is no longer come to me, for he is the one who has experienced a moral change. Likewise the recovering addict and repentant sinner are seated in the very front row of heaven. Give me not that which began pure, for purity will become impure. Give me impurity, that it may be made pure.”

“Furthermore, on earth you believe that if two sides act passionately in their own opposite self-interest, no one has to take responsibility for the whole. But in heaven there is no such separation of interest. Failure to achieve productive agreement is for eternity.”

“Then change the hearts of the others, Lord, so that we can finally agree. Don’t let their stubbornness deprive me of my deserved heavenly reward!” shouted an anguished voice from the crowd.

Jesus answered, “King Solomon was wise enough to know that she who would accept change in order to save the child is the true mother. Who will show themselves to be the true mother of America?”

“I am a tough grader, but out of compassion, I will give you all an ‘Incomplete.’ Come back when you have shown that you can form one line. Heaven doesn’t have two gates.”

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Warren George is a resident of Corvallis and an advocate for civil and hopeful dialog between people of different experiences and ideologies. He invites readers interested in participating in inter-ideological dialog to send an email to varied.strengths@gmail.com.

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