Tales from the Dark Side

The same challenge Jenkins is tackling here faces any Christian who attempts to consider what is widely and popularly believed to be the Christian doctrine of Hell. It’s almost impossible for us today to talk about — or even to think about — any idea of Hell that isn’t thoroughly intertwined with and shaped by a host of folklore, legends, pop-culture storytelling, tabloid sensationalism, and pseudo-academic malarkey that’s every bit as weird and bogus as the belief that poor Charles Walton was ritually sacrificed in 1945 in a “witch killing” intent on ensuring a bountiful harvest. [Read more…]

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The Fall of the House of Graham (ongoing)

The transition from Billy Graham to his son Franklin Graham is a microcosm of the past 40 years of white evangelical Christianity in America. For Billy, the primary thing was always proclamation evangelism. That was the core of his identity. For Franklin, the primary thing is always the culture wars — anti-feminism, white supremacy, and the lucrative demonizing of the Other. That is the core of his identity. [Read more…]

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Left Behind Classic Fridays, No. 67: ‘Selective literalism’

The point of all three of Jesus’ stories, of course, is that the kingdom of God is made up of those who do good, not those who do evil — and particularly not those evildoers (weeds, goats, Dives) who ignore the needs of the poor. To read such stories and ignore this point is perverse. To interpret them as primarily about the specific mechanics of the End Times — the role of Abraham and angels, the heat-setting of the fiery furnace — is even more perverse. [Read more…]

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Slaves in the hands of an angry white God

The New York Conspiracy of 1741 probably wasn’t a conspiracy at all. While there’s little evidence to suggest that any significant “slave revolt” had been planned, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that white New Yorkers lost their collective minds in a fearful frenzy that led to 18 hangings and 13 people being burned at the stake in the streets of Manhattan. [Read more…]

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Sometimes so strange, sometimes so sweet

The resignation of Wheaton College president Philip Ryken wouldn’t completely unsoil the sheets there, but it might be a good start. Plus: Municipal broadband beats however you’re reading this; Ted Cruz has some hideous friends; the Webby Awards apparently still exist; and yes, of course I’ll link to a piece on “Buffy” and the folklore of Hell. [Read more…]

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Advent Calendar, Day Five: Magnificat Is Coming to Town

“The kids in girl and boy land,” the song says, “will have a Jubilee.” But this promise of a coming Jubilee isn’t for everyone. Alongside that promise there’s also a repeated warning, almost a threat — “You better watch out.” This mix of a promised Jubilee and a repeated warning echoes the very first Christmas song or Advent hymn ever written. [Read more…]

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Why conversionist stories promote dishonesty

It’s more than just the temptation to give our stories, as Burke writes, “a little stretch” with an eye to make them more compelling calls for “winning souls for Christ.” That idea — that exaggerations are acceptable because they serve this higher purpose of spreading the gospel and saving souls — is a key to the rationalization that defends the tendency toward dishonest conversion stories, but I don’t think it’s the cause of that tendency. [Read more…]

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How conversionist stories promote dishonesty

The evangelical conversion narrative encourages — maybe even requires — exaggeration, which is to say that it encourages or requires dishonesty. It compels/induces/rewards/expects/elicits a two-fold dishonesty — one that exaggerates our wickedness prior to the moment of conversion and then exaggerates our transformation after that moment. [Read more…]

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