Why conversionist stories promote dishonesty

Screen shot 2015-11-11 at 4.06.48 PM

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...]

How conversionist stories promote dishonesty

Clive Rowe sings "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat" in the 1982 revival of "Guys and Dolls."

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...]

T.F.: The Logic of Hell


Accept that Hell is real and that it is infinitely more important than any earthly concerns and suddenly the very things that might compel you to attend to this-worldly needs and injustices — compassion, empathy, faith, hope, love — become reasons NOT to do so. … If Hell is real, then you are a monster unless you drop everything else and become like Rayford Steele — the sort of person who cannot allow himself to care if his co-workers all regard him as a pushy jerk and a nutcase zealot. [Read more...]

Just watching myself in some play


A great magician reveals a trick; the end of the season and the End of the World; standing athwart algebra, yelling Stop; coherent theodicies; “How to Get a Drink at a Crowded Bar;” and the twilight of the answering-machine song. [Read more...]

God is not like Ramsey Snow


For those unfamiliar with the TV show “Game of Thrones,” this is a picture of Ramsey Snow, and he’s a monster. He’s smiling in that picture, and that can’t be good, because the only thing that makes Ramsey Snow smile is hurting people. His proudest achievement is the horrible torture he has wreaked on the wicked traitor Theon Greyjoy — a kind of Hell. [Read more...]

Smart people saying smart things (5.12)

Candida Moss on the pedagogy of Hell. Libby Anne on “Orgies, Bisexuality, James Dobson, and Evangelicals.” Ronald Osborn on misreading Genesis and mistreating animals. Matthew Frost on the Bible on its own terms. And the Associated Press finds that “Your seafood might come from slaves.” [Read more...]

Indiana Jones, the Antichrist, and Hell


The stories in the text provide the basis for other stories about those stories, and details from those new stories seep back into the popular understanding as though they were part of the original. The revised and expanded original then provides the basis for even more new stories, and the cycle repeats itself. The text feeds into popular culture and popular culture, in turn, feeds back into the text, and after multiple repetitions of that cycle we lose the ability to distinguish one from the other. [Read more...]

‘You will have no more mercy than I do’


It’s an ambiguous statement that can be read in two opposite ways: “You will have no more mercy on sinners than I do, for I was crucified because of them.” Which way do you think it should be read? Your answer will depend on what you think Jesus is like. Your answer will depend on what you believe about the character of Jesus. [Read more...]