Two years ago, the TV program ER had a story about a retired doctor who was brought into the hospital. He was dying of cancer; but, that was not his biggest problem. Dr. Truman had served for years as the doctor at a prison, and as part of his duties he had administered lethal injections to carry out death sentences. The last man he had executed was later found to be innocent, and Dr. Truman was crushed by guilt. While in the hospital, he was visited by a hospital chaplain, and he told her of that execution and how it had at first failed; the IV had gone through the vein. But, he carefully inserted another needle and injected the drugs that killed him. This exchange then took place:
Dr. Truman: It took him 90 seconds to die. Two months later a police officer came forward. The boy was framed for the murder. He didn’t do it.
Chaplain: You couldn’t have known that.
Dr.: God tried to stop me from killing an innocent man, and I ignored the sign. How can I even hope for forgiveness?
Chaplain: I think, sometimes it’s easier to feel guilty than forgiven.
Dr.: Which means, what?
Chaplain: That, maybe your guilt over these deaths has become your reason for living. Maybe you need a new reason to go on.
Dr.: I don’t want to go on. Can’t you see I’m old? I have cancer. I’ve had enough. The only thing that’s holding me back is that I’m afraid. I’m afraid of what comes next.
Chaplain: What do you think that is?
Dr.: You tell me. Is atonement even possible? What does God want from me?
Chaplain: I think it’s up to each one of us to interpret what God wants.
Dr.: So people can do anything? They can rape, they can murder, they can steal, all in the name of God, and it’s ok?
Chaplain: That’s not what I’m saying.
Dr.: What are you saying? Because all I’m hearing is some new age, God is love, one size fits all crap! I don’t have time for this now!
Chaplain: I understand.
Dr.: No, you don’t understand! You don’t understand! How could you possibly say that? No, you listen to me. I want a real chaplain who believes in a real God and a real hell.
Chaplain: I hear that you’re frustrated; but you need to ask yourself…
Dr.: No, I don’t need to ask myself! I need answers, and all your questions and your uncertainty are only making things worse!
Chaplain: I know you’re upset.
Dr.: God, I need someone who will look me in the eye and tell me how to find forgiveness! Because, I am running out of time!
Chaplain: I’m trying to help.
Dr.: Well, don’t! Just get out! Get out!