I was driving in rural Maine, channel surfing on my car radio, when the dial paused on an evangelical preacher (of which Maine radio has many). “I know some non-Christians who are nicer than some Christians,” he was saying, some who are kinder and friendlier. But they aren’t going to heaven, he continued. You don’t get there by being a nice person. There is only one way to heaven, and they aren’t on it. My takeaway: Enjoy these charming people while you can because you will never see them again. From my perspective this seems progress, if not exactly toleration, for at least the preacher is giving me a chance to get out of this world unrepentant. Of the next world he has no doubt, and I think of his heaven as a place where he can say “I told you so” for eternity.
For now, though, there exists the possibility of friendship between the saved and the damned, although marriage still seems off-limits.
For Zakia and Mohammad Ali, the young Afghan couple – Zakia a Sunni, he a Shiite – who fell in love and eloped, marriage isn’t just off-limits. In their families’ eyes, it's a capital offense. They have been in hiding, in jail and live in fear for their lives.
“After I get released,” Zakia told a Times reporter, “I hope we can have a happy life again and go and live in a place that is safe for us. If my family catches us, they won’t leave us alive.”