“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of moral crisis, preserve their neutrality.”
This quote is usually attributed to the Italian poet, Dante Alighieri. It’s a loose translation from Dante’s Inferno.
That was one of those things they made me read in school, and I wound up loving it. It’s just an allegorical tale, but it’s very visual. And since I grew up in a hellfire & brimstone sort of church, Dante’s visual metaphors were the sort that I could easily latch onto.
In Dante’s Inferno, people at various levels of hell are afflicted by their own chief sin. They’re people who tried to justify and rationalize their sins, and who are unrepentant.
Dante lived in the 14th century, but if he could have looked into the future, I can’t help but wonder whether he might have placed Southern Baptist officials inside that metaphorical “hottest place.”
After all, Southern Baptist officials have done a pretty darn good job of ducking moral responsibility on clergy sex abuse, haven’t they?
Even with all the massive resources that they could bring to bear on the crisis, they choose instead to stand on the sidelines.
“Congregational autonomy,” is their mantra. It’s code for “not our problem.”
And by doing nothing, they assure their OWN protection. To hell with protecting kids.
These are cowards of the worst kind.
Metaphorically, these are the faces we glimpse in windows -- the faces that watch while children are carted off for molestation by Baptist clergy. Oh . . . they don’t actually see the rapes and molestations, but they know where those children are being led. They know what is happening.
And what do they do?
They pull the curtains.
With their indifferent, blind-eyed, do-nothingness, they tell clergy abuse victims “go to hell.”
But perhaps Dante would say that the hottest places are actually reserved for them.
For those of you who are getting ready to fire off an email to me, let me reiterate: It's a metaphor.
The photo: Auguste Rodin’s sculpture "The Thinker" was originally created as a small part of a larger whole called “The Gates of Hell.” It contains over 180 figures, most of them writhing and distorted, but directly above the doors sits an apparently serene man, lost in thought. This figure was said to represent the Italian poet Dante Alighieri, contemplating his vision of hell in "The Inferno." Eventually, Rodin presented "The Thinker" as a much larger independent work.