On a recent visit to Birmingham’s Railroad Park, I had a very brief encounter with a polite gentleman who handed me a church tract that was made to resemble money – “One Trillion Dollars” of American money with Abraham Lincoln (not the vampire hunter version, of course) on it.
Growing up in the South, and in church, I am familiar with tracts, and while I’m not religious and do not attend church, I don’t begrudge a polite gesture from a stranger who cares enough to share his beliefs, even if printed on fake money.
However, I’m also reminded of the Mitch Hedberg joke:
“Whenever I walk people try and hand me a flyer. And when someone tries to hand me out a flyer, it’s kinda like they’re saying, ‘Here, you throw this away.'”
The more I thought about it, though, the more I had questions, and the more I thought it would have been much more interesting to have a conversation with the man. He was long gone, however.
The back of the tract begins with “The trillion dollar question: Will you go to heaven when you die?”
The rest of it is pretty standard verbiage – you’re a sinner and need to ask Jesus for forgiveness – but that first part, and the money part, raise some questions.
I do wonder who actually reads these things and thinks, “Wow. I really do need religion!” (The best tract I’ve seen so far was one titled “The Gospel According to Karate.” The writing in that one is hilarious, comparing Christianity to potential martial arts-based violence and self-defense.)
But I also wonder how the question of eternal life has been monetarily quantified into a trillion dollars, specifically a trillion American dollars.
So why is eternal life worth one trillion American dollars? Does the value of an afterlife change with a strong economy? Does it follow the stock market or adjust for inflation? Is this good news for the European Christians with the exchange rate? Are there brokers and banks in heaven (to calculate the value of golden streets, of course)?
And what is the implied connection between the Christian afterlife and American money? And is Lincoln the best choice to put on the front?
But it seems that these questions, like most matters of religion, shall remain a mystery.