How to Survive the End of the World According to Sleepy Hollow

Review of Sleepy Hollow Episode 11

George Washington’s Bible is the key to victory over the forces of evil.

And if that isn’t the set up to a great blog post on religion and American culture, I don’t know what is! (Alas, that’s not what I’m going to write about; I just thought I should point out what a good post it would have been.)

This week on Sleepy Hollow, a demon has been sent to capture the Washington Bible so that Moloch can harvest its secrets and bring about the Apocalypse. The demon has a truly evil plan: if Ichabod and Abbie don’t turn over the Bible post haste, Orlando Jones’s wheelchair-bound daughter is going to meet an especially messy end. Will the heroes figure out just how to deal with a demon that can possess anyone at any time with just the touch of a hand? Will they manage to steal the magic French lantern—the one thing that can destroy the demon—from the religious survivalists? Or will they spend so much time talking about their feelings that the demon just gives up in boredom and moves on to other shows?

Okay, that’s a little bit unfair—as has regularly been the case, this week’s episode of Sleepy Hollow was entertaining and fun, if not quite as chock-full of crazy as previous episodes. In fact, it was sane enough that really the only thing worthy of reflection is the device of the fundamentalist survivalists. As I noted in the summary, the artifact necessary to defeating the demon is in the hands of the survivalists. What makes the survivalists interesting in this episode is that they just happen to be right. The world really is coming to an end, and it may very well be the case that the best we can hope for is to batten down the hatches; turn on the electric fence; and stockpile guns, food, and magical demon-repelling trinkets while the rest of the world sinks right down into hell. And if your survivalist leader can quote Jonathan Edwards in the process, so much the better:

“We’re all just spiders, you, me, everyone, dangling over the pit of hell, and at any moment any one of us could fall into the fire.” (Jonathan Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, kind of)

This probably isn’t the right place to talk about what a “fundamentalist” really is and why cultural presentations like this are so very wrong. (Check out the series on the life of the mind Schaeffer’s Ghost did last year for a least a hint of something on that topic if you want to know more.) It is, however, the place to talk about Christian withdrawal from the culture in the face of the oncoming end of the world.

We know that the world will end in the resurrection and judgment of mankind and that a new world under the direct rule of Christ will be put in place for those who have believed the Gospel. And frankly, I would be hesitant to fill in any more details than that (and certainly not in a 1,000 word blog entry). But what I’m not hesitant to do is to ask the question of whether, in anticipation of this coming end of the world, it is right for Christians to withdraw from the doomed city of man and retreat into isolated cells awaiting the end?

Without getting into the sticky question of the value of Christians-only communities in general, I think we can with confidence say that the sort of isolationism on display in the fundamentalists of Sleepy Hollow (there’s your band name: “The Fundamentalists of Sleepy Hollow”) should be anathema to the Christian. We are all called to be witnesses to the world for Christ between His first and second comings, and we cannot do that from behind fifty-foot-high walls or while cutting ourselves off from unbelievers.

For that matter, our ultimately goal in life is not supposed to be mere survival in the first place. As the old catechism says, our chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” We do not do this when we disobey his command to interact with others and witness to them about His Gospel. This is to be our goal even if it involves suffering and death. Survival is never a promise God makes to His people—only that we need not fear death because it has been overcome on the cross.

In fact, one of the purposes of this blog is to help equip Christians to be among other people culturally—we are reading the same books and watching the same movies and, in doing so, better equipped to witness to others about the good news of the Gospel. And while that’s a more abstract application, the underlying point is the same.

If you’re interested in thinking more about this, Collin Garbarino has organized a Facebook Group to read through Augustine’s City of God—written when Rome was collapsing and the world seemingly coming to an end, and throughout which Augustine steadfastly refused to advocate Christian isolationism.

Dr. Coyle Neal is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri, where he dwells in splendid isolation awaiting the end of it all. 

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