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Monday, January 13, 2014

Nothing in America Ever Really Goes Away

Posted by on Mon, Jan 13, 2014 at 10:31 AM

For the best American expression of the Calvinist theology Mark Driscoll spews like the volcanic asshole he is, check out Jonathan Edwards' 1741 sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Great digital commons version of the first edition here. If you want it without the 18th C spelling and punctuation, go here. Most famous passage:

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes as the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince: and yet ’tis nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment: ‘Tis to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffer’d to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep: and there is no other reason to be given why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up: There is no other reason to be given why you han’t gone to hell since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship: Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you don’t this very moment drop down into hell.

The same arguments just happen over and over again in American culture. This was my favorite colonial period reading for my PhD qualifying exams, though, way better than anything by Increase or Cotton Mather. Much more fun to get drunk and read aloud.


Comments (28) RSS

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seatackled 1
You mean Driscoll plagiarized this, too? He's going to hell.
Posted by seatackled on January 13, 2014 at 10:48 AM · Report this
California Kid 2
Good grief! I bet that guy had one messed up family
Posted by California Kid on January 13, 2014 at 11:05 AM · Report this
passionate_jus 3
I think one of the main reasons why I am no longer a Christian (and, in fact, agnostic married to an agnostic Jew) is because of "Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God" which I read in high school. My 15 or 16 year old mind couldn't wrap itself around this God versus the God that I was mostly taught about in Methodist Sunday School (mostly about Jesus' love, etc.). Of course that God made no sense either as I read huge chunks of the Bible, which is filled with hate and venom.

I also had the misfortune (or maybe fortune) to have a best friend who went to an Assembly of God Church.

I went with him a few times and was freaked out by how they spoke in tongues. He also only watched Trinity Broadcast Network and told me watching "Star Wars" was satanic.

The end of my religious belief came when he told me masturbating and pre-marital sex was sinful and that I would go to Hell if I did so. It wasn't very long afterwards that I learned that he had married his girlfriend (at age 18) after getting her pregnant.

That was that.
Posted by passionate_jus on January 13, 2014 at 11:07 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 4
I understand this kind of thinking comes from a different time. A time of crushing poverty. Of rampant diseases that ravaged whole families. Of warring groups that could descend on a village and cut it to ribbons. Of shifting climates that could leave people starving or flooded. The dangers were countless. There was a desperate need to find answers, to make some sense. A ruthless god with a penchant for torture was a reflection of the human condition and capricious natural world.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on January 13, 2014 at 11:08 AM · Report this
passionate_jus 5
Oh, and then there was the time when I was told that I was going to burn in hell for having an earring. I was 17 or so and some girl my age approached me in a movie theatre parking lot to try to "save me" with this information.

And the time a local school where I grew up censored "Catcher in the Rye" because of the word "goddamn" in it.

And the time my mom tried another church in the area and the sermon was about how gays were going to burn in hell forever. She never went back.
Posted by passionate_jus on January 13, 2014 at 11:10 AM · Report this
smade 6
The level of circular logic, special pleading, and explaining away that contributes to the obscene violation of Occam's Razor that is current Christian dogma, is so reminiscent of the efforts of early Renaissance "scientists" to maintain the fiction of a universe made of perfect circles and spheres. Eventually, the house of cards has to fall and the simple explanation has to be accepted.
Posted by smade on January 13, 2014 at 11:17 AM · Report this
Fnarf 7
Who the hell holds spiders over the fire? Besides future serial killers? I guess God is a serial killer, if you think about it.

I've never heard a convincing explanation for why God, if She exists, would give a flaming fuck at a rolling doughnut what any human does or says or thinks, anymore than a geek cares about the views of the individual ants in his ant farm. He can't even tell one from the other.

But there's no depiction of the horrors of Hell as grisly as the one by Father Arnall in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, which draws heavily on Dante but adds a special lyrical touch to the depiction of boiling brains and other jollities. But, you know, every imagining of Hell is a human imagining, not a divine one.

Posted by Fnarf on January 13, 2014 at 11:27 AM · Report this
From here on out I'm just going to replace Driscoll in my mind's eye with season 1 Boyd Crowder, for comfort's sake.

Too much Driscoll on the mind leaves me feeling slimy.
Posted by dirge on January 13, 2014 at 11:36 AM · Report this
AmyC 9
When I was in college, and a Christian, I had a history professor who was fascinated nearly to the point of obsession with early colonial religious history. Then, I couldn't understand how he could know all this theology so intimately and not become saved (he was agnostic). Now, myself an atheist, I don't understand how he could study all that theology so closely without just becoming sickened and fed up.
Posted by AmyC on January 13, 2014 at 11:44 AM · Report this
very bad homo 10
Why would anyone believe in, much less worship such a jerk god?
Posted by very bad homo on January 13, 2014 at 12:04 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 11
Posted by Urgutha Forka on January 13, 2014 at 12:08 PM · Report this
seatackled 12

Maybe if you think of it as God is us and us is cats, then it make sense. We are God's cat videos; we can haz salvation.
Posted by seatackled on January 13, 2014 at 12:27 PM · Report this
seatackled 13
Oh, and then sometimes God is a dog person, but we're still cats.
Posted by seatackled on January 13, 2014 at 12:29 PM · Report this
--MC 14
By 1971, however, Jonathan Edwards had mellowed out, and had a hit on the US pop charts with this song.
Posted by --MC on January 13, 2014 at 12:32 PM · Report this
treacle 15
I can't really distinguish between "God" and "Devil" in that passage, seems like you're pretty fucked in hellfire either way.
Posted by treacle on January 13, 2014 at 12:38 PM · Report this
ɥsɐןɯouǝʌ 16
Aaand a Judaic perspective on sin and redemption, taken from the translation of the Weekday Amidah:
Cause us to return, our Father, to Your Torah; draw us near, our King, to Your service; and bring us back to You in whole-hearted repentance. Blessed are You L-rd, who desires penitence.

Pardon us, our Father, for we have sinned; forgive us, our King, for we have transgressed; for You are a good and forgiving G‑d. Blessed are You L-rd, gracious One who pardons abundantly.
I prefer this understanding of God, who waits (passive-aggressively, one could argue) for sinners to apologize and make redress for their wrongdoings.
Posted by ɥsɐןɯouǝʌ on January 13, 2014 at 1:26 PM · Report this
Bauhaus I 17
The last thing I read by Jonathan Edwards was in American Lit class when I was a junior in high school. Let's keep it that way, eh?
Posted by Bauhaus I on January 13, 2014 at 1:47 PM · Report this
I was told a story of a Calvinist woman who was so tortured by the question of whether she was saved or not, that she threw her child down a well, because she knew then that if she had done that, she was clearly going to hell, and could stop stressing.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on January 13, 2014 at 1:52 PM · Report this
I would think, being forced to live with such a vision of your impending doom, constantly, would be so fatiguing that you would eventually have to discount it, set that vision entirely aside, check yourself to see you didn't immediately incinerate, and go about the rest of your happy life whistling.
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on January 13, 2014 at 3:48 PM · Report this
mike in oly 20
Mar Hill just opened a church in Olympia. Hopefully we will see them close up shop before too long. Dear lord, why this pox upon our city?
Posted by mike in oly on January 13, 2014 at 4:22 PM · Report this
Dr_Awesome 21
@20 And they opened one in Everett just last weekend.

The city father's are overjoyed as it means one less empty building staring back at them.

I think the church/tavern ratio had to be near 50/50 now. And most of the bars up there suck.
Posted by Dr_Awesome on January 13, 2014 at 5:43 PM · Report this
I'm a bit puzzled. I get that you all hate Christianity and, for reasons that escape me, Mars Hill with an abiding passion.

What I don't understand is why. You think Christianity nonsense or even choose the nihilist route, atheism. Okay. So if those of us who disagree are such laughable simpletons, why the hatred? Seems to be me the easier and less stressful choice would be, I don't know, don't go to church and Mars Hill particularly.

Posted by Seattleblues on January 13, 2014 at 5:58 PM · Report this
ɥsɐןɯouǝʌ 23
@22: If you think homosexuals are just poor deluded people who don't understand biology, why the hatred and outrage?
Posted by ɥsɐןɯouǝʌ on January 13, 2014 at 6:22 PM · Report this

It's not nihilism, it's the fact that a belief in God suggests certain consequences which have not been observed, thus we reject the hypothesis.

Further: Mars Hill in particular is extremely damaging to the people in and around the church. Note that we don't rail against the UCC, or the vast majority of Christian denominations. Just the ones who cause pain and anguish to people.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on January 13, 2014 at 6:30 PM · Report this
smade 25
@22 First, because almost all Christians fail to follow the teachings of Christ. That is, to reject all worldly goods and wealth and devote one's life to serving the sick, the poor, and the helpless, which is totally understandable. That's a lot to ask, as we non-Christians don't expect that kind of sacrifice from our fellow humans.

However, instead of trying to live up to the Christian ideal, failing, and acknowledging your failure, you use the most mean-spirited parts of the non-Gospel Bible to sublimate your failure to follow the teachings of Christ by persecuting those who personally offend you in some way.

That's why people are fed up with Christianity, because people like you project your failure to be holy onto others who are different and don't share your shameful guilt. And that's what you should be ashamed of the most.
Posted by smade on January 13, 2014 at 7:46 PM · Report this
Lissa 26
@22: Well I will say the idea of The Almighty holding you over the pit of hell like the loathsome insect you are does have a certain appeal......
Posted by Lissa on January 13, 2014 at 8:33 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 27
@22- My opinion about Christianity in general is the same as my opinion of any other religion: It's wrong about theology. My contempt for certain churches and certain Christians is based entirely on their actions. I can see how an self-deluding egoist such as yourself would mistake actual humility (atheism) for nihilism. The universe is vast beyond comprehension. It's not created to test your soul. There is no plan for you. There's no supreme being that cares about you. It is not about you. That's not nihilism, it's realism. I know the vastness of the universe, I know wonders without end, I know oneness with the universe.

I know this because I know there is no such thing as divinity.

@26- Nice zing.

Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on January 14, 2014 at 1:26 PM · Report this
Lissa 28
@27: Thank you kindly!
Posted by Lissa on January 14, 2014 at 2:22 PM · Report this

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