The Poor Widdle Heathens in ‘Only God Can’

The Poor Widdle Heathens in ‘Only God Can’ November 21, 2019

Hi and welcome back! We saw a movie recently, Only God Can, that covered quite a few tropes in fundagelical thinking. Today, we’ll be covering one of the most-beloved ones of those tropes: the idea that TRUE CHRISTIANS™ are much happier and more functional than poor widdle heathens ever could be. Come to Fundagelical U with me for a lesson in Soulwinning 202!

dogs relaxing at an obedience school
(Carl Campbell, CC-SA.) Dogs relaxing at an innovative “doggie day school” at an exercise park in Mexico City. Just realized: I’d watch the hell out of a movie called Only Dogs Can.

Hi, everyone, c’mon in, have a seat. Let’s just start things off with a hearty PRAISE JESUS! Thanks. Okay, I’m Professor McGillicuddy. Don’t worry about the spelling yet. This class is Soulwinning 202. Here, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about how to get right out there and save everybody you know. The prerequisites are Shouting 101, Logical Fallacies, both 101 and 102, and Parable Construction 101. Everyone got those covered? Thanks, good. Okay. Let’s begin.

The Trope of the Wrong Christian.

In the first two weeks of class, we’ll be talking about all the wrong flavors of Christianity. Oh, yes? Buford, was it? Oh, like in Smokey and the Bandit? … Never mind. We’re not allowed to watch movies anyway… Yes, here students and all staff alike must sign confessions of faith and provide copies of our testimonies in order to be allowed to teach, work here, or attend classes. Thus, rest assured: we are all TRUE CHRISTIANS™ here.

Incidentally, class, please remember that a University Purity Officer works undercover in every class to make sure we all stay that way.

Only God Can describes the lives of five intertwined, largely-successful middle-aged women. After forming a close bond during their college years, they’re all now in their 40s or so.

  • Coley, their ringleader and queen bee, grew up on the child-pageant circuit. She married rich and divorced well, and now exists largely to donate money to philanthropic causes and drink herself to death.
  • Patrice, her bestie, met her as a struggling and alienated young black woman. Now she’s a successful office manager or something, but her real claim to fame rests in her incredible social-justice, race-aware poetry. I think she’s literally the only black person in this movie.
  • Glen is a big name in local philanthropy. Currently, she’s building a women’s shelter in town.
  • Gracie married kinda young and now has a zillion kids and a husband who has some less-than-stellar qualities. She recently converted to TRUE CHRISTIANITY™.
  • Sara is a divorced mother of two hellion boys and a TRUE CHRISTIAN™. She’s got the hots for her pastor, who comes off as a major sleazeball grooming her for an affair. She recently converted Gracie to the correct flavor of her religion.

But appearances deceive.

Or at least, the movie wants us to think so.

The Trope of the Suffering Heathen.

This movie sells us two dichotomous views of modern life.

Gracie and Sara are relatively poor, but it’s in that movie-land way like in Pretty in Pink, where characters are presented as poor even though they’ve got all the necessary and appreciated accoutrements of life. Still, compared to the other three women they struggle considerably more.

The other women all have enough money to go through life on cruise-control settings. Coley’s fantastically wealthy. Patrice boasts of having a literary agent and a publisher. Glen’s a high-roller in the philanthropy world.

Of course, their personal lives are a complete shambles. Coley’s set to kill herself through alcohol poisoning. Patrice pursued literary success so single-mindedly that she missed out on all those fundagelical-mandated humanity markers for women like marriage and children. Glen’s philandering husband and her own online love affair threaten to undo all her professional work.

This movie wants us to think that because these three successful women aren’t Jesus-ing the correct way, there’s no way their lives could ever turn out except unhappy and dysfunctional. 

And if you noticed a major problem in the setup here of the five characters, don’t worry. We’re circling back around to that point in a minute.

All Y’all MF-ers Need Jesus: Southern Belle Edition.

Welcome back, class! On the whiteboard, I’m putting up a timeline of Christian denominations and doctrinal thinking. You’ll only need to eyeball this because it amounts to “everyone but us is totally wrong! Isn’t Jesus lucky we eventually came along to get it right?”

Saji George, “Tom’s Doubts #14.” (Sept 2011)

Class, one of our central premises is that if someone’s not the right flavor of Christian, they’re not Christian at all. You can treat them like they’re wearing an offensive atheist t-shirt and holding a particle accelerator in one hand… Yes, Jilljinjer?.. It might offend some people, yes. They sure complain about it! But that’s a big part of why we do it. This tactic drives your targets on the defensive immediately, and that’s where we want them: feeling like they need to justify themselves to King Us.

A common and longtime trope in fundagelicalism involves the supposedly sorrow- and drama-wracked lives led by non-Christians (or the wrong type of Christians).

The movie wants us to believe that the TRUE CHRISTIAN™ women are the only ones living functional and happy lives. A scene between Gracie and Sara makes that intention crystal-clear. After lamenting their own relative poverty compared to the three successful members of their clique, they dive into congratulating themselves on believing exactly the correct flavor of blithering nonsense.

See, if they have that, then they have everything that matters. Ultimately, they’re happier than the other three women, they loudly insist to each other.

Oh yes, they do insist it, and they insist it loudly.

But Are They Really?

Welcome back, class! Today, we have a speaker from the Student Health Center to talk to us about depression, anxiety, and domestic violence in campus housing. Please give him your undivided attention. After his lecture, he’ll hand out crisis resource cards. Please put them in your wallets.

…Excellent lecture, Dr. Gantry. Thank you for coming… Okay, class, now let’s get into the topic for today: how TRUE CHRISTIANS™ have such amazingly better lives than non-Christians ever could.

Remember: the wrong kind of Christian always counts as a non-Christian for soulwinning purposes!

Gracie and Sara have achieved that dazzling prize in evangelical women’s eyes: they got married and had kids. They Jesus correctly and with the tribally-mandated amount of fervor. In fact, they are way too zealous to be useful or pleasant in any context except for the strictest and most transactional interactions with tribemates. Anything else comes after that is gravy, as far as that tribe’s concerned. Really, too much more would be suspicious.

That said, you might have noticed a big problem with the characters in this movie. And it’s a big one: Gracie and Sara aren’t actually doing better than their friends. At all!

Gracie’s husband, despite his faults, remains in their marriage. She goes to a lot of trouble to justify to King Sara how grateful she is for that little bit of good luck. But they don’t seem happy.

However, Sara’s husband dumped her for fully tribe-approved reasons: she just Jesus-ed too hard, dangit! She wanted to homeschool those hellion boys of hers!

And as all fundagelicals know, atheists just HATE homeschooling cuz it makes kids totally want to be Christian forever and ever!

Sara’s meaniepie atheist husband JUST couldn’t HANDLE her Jesus Aura! OMG!

(See inevitable endnote about Jesus Auras.)

No, They Are Not.

Yes, Navaeh?… “What do you do when your life isn’t that great but the people you’re witnessing to are doing much better?” Well, remember that heathens are always sad and suffering while you’re doing a million times better than them just because you have Jesus and they don’t. If they seem like they’re doing well, that’s just them pretending. We all know about that, right?

…They don’t seem like they’re pretending? They insist they’re not?… They’re lying, Navaeh. Heathens always lie. All the time. I know, yeah, they’ll be angry about the accusation, but if you can’t believe this alternative fact then you’ll fail the course. I’m sorry. It’s in the Statement of Faith.

Because of Despite their fervor, both these women are struggling in every single way.

Gracie makes clear between the lines that her family’s growing weary of her zealotry.

Sara, in particular, is unemployed (I think? if she has a job, I can’t remember it being mentioned or depicted). She’s a single mother whose zealotry drove away her husband; he’s no longer even in contact with her–so probably not paying child support. She has no real friends. Her pastor’s perving on her. And she’s painstakingly trained her kids to be misogynists who regard her as a domestic servant.

When Coley gives Sara a huge check after the get-together, Sara announces that she’s giving it to her church instead of using it to pay her probably-humongous bills. The other women in the group seem shocked by this. They do not in any way look impressed by her virtue-signaling.

I ain’t impressed either.

In that scene, Sara demonstrates exactly what piss-poor judgment she has. She clearly doesn’t care that her rejection of money means her kids get raised in poverty. That decision could have some very serious repercussions on them for quite possibly their entire lives.

Feelin’ that JESUS AURA yet, y’all? I’m sure they’ll remember it when they get old enough to reject Christianity. And she’ll probably martyrbate over that too.

Better Living Through Jesus-ing Harder.

When witnessing to heathens, class remember that most of them–even in secular settings–will already be Christians. They simply won’t be the correct flavor of Christianity. When selling the benefits of conversion, make sure you stress that the Magical Jesus Pixie Dust won’t work if they convert to the wrong flavor. Nope! They must join OUR groups, or else they won’t reap the benefits. It’d be like buying a car, except there’s no engine in it! 

Make sure you check out the Diagrams compilation in your Soulwinning Handbook. Diagram 1.3.7 explains that metaphor in more detail.

It always amazes me that so much of authoritarianism consists of one command to followers:

Do what we told you to do. If it doesn’t work, do more of it and harder. It will work. You will see.

That’s because in broken systems, followers must always maintain that their group’s message–their instructions, their demands, their promises–is always and without exception perfect. It cannot be improved in any way at all.

Thus, if someone puts the message into lived practice–somehow; most of these messages are way too vague to do this with any reliability, which isn’t an accident by any means at all–and doesn’t get the promised results, the group knows beyond a doubt that the reason can only be a problem with implementation.

The equation provides no other room for anything else to have happened.
It contains only two variables, and only one can actually shift in value:

PERFECT MESSAGE
+ PROPER IMPLEMENTATION
—————————————-
= JESUS MAGIC!

What Jesus Does For His Followers…?

Now that we’re coming up on our first test, let’s review, everyone! So first, you’ll want to stress to your targets that their lives are terrible because they don’t believe in Jesus like we do. Then, you’ll tell them that if they start believing in Jesus, or at least act like they do, then they’ll start doing great like us! You can promise them that Jesus will help them.

(See postscript for the rest of the scene.)

The problem, of course, is that Gracie and Sara do not in any way live lives that look even remotely enviable to the other three friends.

That much is crystal-clear. The friends–frenemies, really, if we’re being strictly accurate and hey y’all, that’s what we’re all about here at Roll to Disbelieve–mock the TRUE CHRISTIANS™ every single time they try to Jesus Juke the festivities at hand. For most of the movie, the heathens do not in any way seem intrigued by the Jesus Auras of Sara and Gracie.

Oh, but y’all, dass okay. Dass alright. Don’t you even worry, baby. Jesus has a foolproof plan to nail these stubborn ol’ heathen gals to his cross. Don’t you worry none ’bout it.

And next time, Your Loyal Corr. &Etc will reveal exactly what that is.

NEXT UP:

THE JESUS BEATINGS WILL CONTINUE UNTIL SALVATION IMPROVES.


The Usual Endnote Section.

About the Strange Inconsistency of the Fundagelical Jesus Aura: Fundagelicals think they possess a sort of magical aura fueled by Jesus Power. Jesus Power, of course, comes from their devotions, the accuracy of their specific beliefs, and the magical fairy dust Jesus sprinkles on them when he’s in a good mood.

Fundagelicals’ leaders teach (and have for many decades) that normies can’t resist a good shiny Jesus Aura. They’re drawn to it like moths to flame. They want it and secretly feel a lot of envy about it. However, at the same time normies despise it and do whatever they can to fight against Christians who possess it.

The way fundagelicals engage with this idea depends massively upon the reactions they get and what their goals were at the time. They can use it to indulge in their imaginary sense of faux-persecution (martyrbation), or they can inspire potential volunteers to get out there and SELL SELL SELL WITHOUT MERCY. Amusingly, they often forget completely that their imaginary friend is the one who “makes the seeds grow,” to use their silly metaphors. (Back to the post!)

A Postscript.

FADE IN:

INT. CLASSROOM – FUNDAGELICAL U

We’re looking sidelong at PROFESSOR MCGILLICUDDY. She wears A PROFESSIONAL SKIRT SUIT. She stands at the front of THE CLASS. We ZOOM IN on her.

What is it, John Bob? — Hey, the MAGA hat has to come off. Sorry, it’s the rules. Yes, you still have to listen to me even though I’m a woman. Reverend Billy Lumpkin, the president of the college, says so. It’s in your Student Conduct Agreement. Okay, so what’s your question? … Oh, what if they convert but don’t think Jesus is helping them?

Then tell them that he only promised to get them out of Hell. If you and your pastor have done their jobs right, that’ll scare them out of trying to hold Jesus to our promises like it’s a Costco warranty or something. How dare they show such disrespect to Jesus! He’s not an ATM!

::Professor McGillicuddy’s eyes dart to a student in the back dressed like a Hitler Youth member who’s carefully taking notes on the conversation. He looks pleased. She visibly relaxes.::

“Class dismissed!”

SCENE DARKENS.

CREDITS ROLL.

(There ain’t much more to the post, but here’s your return link to it!)


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About Captain Cassidy
Captain Cassidy grew up fervently Catholic, converted to the SBC in her teens, and became a Pentecostal shortly afterward. She even volunteered in church (choir, Sunday School) and married an aspiring preacher! But then--record scratch!--she brought everything to a screeching halt when she deconverted in her mid-20s. That was 25 years ago. Now a comfortable None, she blogs on Roll to Disbelieve about psychology, pop culture, politics, relationships, cats, gaming, and more--and where they all intersect with religion. And she still can't carry a note in a bucket. You can read more about the author here.

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