8/7 Flashback: Pop-culture Hell

8/7 Flashback: Pop-culture Hell August 7, 2022

From August 7, 2016, “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.

Oh, but the Bible talks about Hell! It’s biblical!

No. It really, really is not. The Bible mentions a word that our English translations present as Hell. We read that word not just in translation, but filtered through centuries of agglomerated lore and legend and sheer Barnum-esque razzle-dazzle. We then take all of that — legends, speculative nonsense, Dante and Bosch, Tundal and the Gospel of Nicodemus, medieval morality plays, Orpheus and Persephone, Buffy and the Winchester brothers, Danzig and Dio, Billy Sunday and Mike Warnke, Charisma and Weekly World News — and we carry it all with us as we read that English word “Hell” in our Bibles, finding there in that biblical word everything we’ve learned to expect in it.

But that’s not what it actually says. And none of that is really there for the finding. It’s only there, in the Bible, because we’ve carried it with us and put it there.

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