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Why is Joel Stein going to Hell?

by Brad A. Greenberg

October 19, 2007 | 2:52 pm

I often used to wonder what I’d go to hell for. Not giving my money to the starving and homeless? Eating animals? Dumping girlfriends? Being a journalist? Then I checked out the Bible and realized how capricious God is: He’s down with slavery, slaughtering children during war and turning people to salt for pitying gays who are being burned alive. I gave up riddling out what ticks off the Almighty.

That’s Joel Stein being a little snarky about the vengeful God of the Tanakh. Based on past columns, of which I am a fan, I’d say God has plenty of reasons to chose from. But we know God is also forgiving, even if Stein doesn’t live biblically like A.J. Jacobs, whom he was dining with for this column.

The Bible, it turns out, is much like other long books, in that reading it apparently turns you into a huge dork.

I sinned by using a credit card (taking on debts, per Romans 13:8), not giving thanks after—not before—my meal (Deuteronomy 8:10), telling the waitress that “I’ll have the burger” without adding “God willing” (James 4:13-15) and “cursing the ruler of thy people,” George Bush (Exodus 22:28). The Republicans should focus more on that Scripture instead of putting so much emphasis on Leviticus and sodomy.

But Jacobs was only truly appalled when I told the waitress that yes, thank you, I enjoyed the burger. “That was terrible!” Jacobs yelled. “That was a flat-out, bald-faced, dishonest fib. Proverbs say that people appreciate frankness more than flattery.” He wouldn’t let it go, mimicking me with a very squeaky, high-pitched tone that I’m sure Leviticus has something to say about. “‘The burger’s good! Oh, it’s dee-licious!’”

At the end of the meal, I asked Jacobs what I was going to go to hell for. “It’s your evil tongue,” he said. I had apparently “slandered” (Leviticus 19:16) the guy who created the 43 Folders organization system by calling him “crazy” even though I know nothing about him, and I made fun of Miss Teen South America. Plus, even though he didn’t know it, I was scribbling notes about Jacobs’ irritating moral superiority.

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