Religious porn

no poperyIn the past few days a book arrived at my address with no indication of who sent it. The title of the work, Mark of the Beast, inclined me to throw it straight into the rubbish. Then it occurred to me that my intense dislike of the subject matter, a trawling through obscure sections of scripture, needed to be thought through and I have skimmed read it for the purposes of this blog.

What is the book about? It is written by an individual with an intense hatred of the Church of Rome and it is full of biblical quotations which appear to support this venom. It contains a great deal of historical facts, carefully selected to show the heinousness of the Roman church and also how the writers of the Bible knew about events 1000+ years before they happened. The particular crime which most upsets the author is that the Church of Rome changed of the day of rest from Saturday to Sunday. Thus the 10 Commandments have been corrupted by a church council dominated by Rome in the fourth century. Good Christian people can now no longer obey the natural and inerrant command of God. I must confess that it had never occurred to me that this was a problem for most Christians. But for the author of Mark of The Beast it is one more reason to hate the Church of Rome with a degree of considerable pathological dislike.

I refer to a book of this type as religious porn. No doubt there are many other ‘Christian’ books which encourage conspiracy theories and contemptuous loathing for people that they don’t like. Most of the time these books remain in the shadows and you would have to work hard to find one example of such literature unless you are in the right circles. I remember it being said about a Christian bookshop near Swindon that they used to keep copies of contentious books under the counter with brown paper covers. These were generally books describing the worst excesses of demonic behaviour. People wanted to read about cruelty, sexual deviance and other crimes while believing that they were reading Christian literature. To read a claim that the devil was interested in corrupting good Christian people by making them do unspeakable actions was believed to be somehow edifying.

In many ways even to handle a book such as Mark of the Beast is a depressing experience. It is depressing because one is once more encountering the way that a so-called literal reading of the Bible can inspire so much in the way of distasteful attitudes and opinions. The venom that is encouraged through the reading of this book feels a long way from anything resembling Christian attitudes. To build even a small area of Christian belief on Daniel 7 and Revelation 12 to 14 is going to produce a very strange end product. There are many Christians with whom I profoundly disagree but I do not detect inside myself any degree of hatred because of this disagreement. The only thing I feel is a profound sorrow for the victims of aberrant and hate-filled teaching such as found in this terrifying book. People who learn their Christianity within an environment of paranoia and fear do not seem to be in any way liberated by the message of Christ. Of course they will be impressed by an apparent deep knowledge of Scriptures and also a fluency in a knowledge of historical facts. But these are just used to impress. Serious scholars will never encounter this kind of literature and so the parade of ‘facts’ and historical claims in this particular book are never likely to be challenged.

I have no knowledge of the publisher Harvest Time books or the author E.G.White*. This book will be solemnly placed in the refuse with the hope that my copy at least will never be able to corrupt the mind of an individual who wants to learn about Christianity. For me, the overall message is once more brought home as to how difficult it can be for a newcomer to Christianity to find reliable literature through which to continue their search. If this book is typical of what is being handed out to new Christians, then we are seeing the corruption of minds. This is a serious matter. The problem for many mainstream Christians is that they simply do not know about the content of much popular Christian literature in circulation. It is only by a strange event that this book has come into my possession. I do not even know if it is an act of malevolence towards me as an individual or not. Perhaps the sender thought that my opinions are so heretical that I needed to read some ‘good’ Christian literature. I have no idea. What has been aroused in me is once again a great sorrow for those who spend their time reading this kind of religious pornography. I cannot believe that to hate other Christians with such vehemence is ever going to further any expression of the faith.

I would be interested to hear from my readers if they have ever encountered a great concern over Sunday being a day of rest rather than the biblical Sabbath. It is certainly the first time that I have found this idea. But having found it presented to me, it has a certain biblical support and consequently it will act as a focus of obsession for those who want to be more biblical than their neighbours. One conclusion about biblical study has been reinforced for me. It is not a good idea to start trying to find spiritual truth by reading first the passages of Scripture chosen by Ms White. To learn about the will of God, one can do no worse than a study of the words of Jesus. It is also worth studying these same words having carefully absorbed the command ‘Do not be afraid.’ Fear will never have any part in the Christian message, in spite of the earnest efforts of writers like E.F.White and her ilk.

*Ellen G. White in fact is a 19th century writer and a prolific producer of religious tracts. The fact that someone has gone to the trouble of keeping her books in print means that there is still a Christian constituency desiring to keep her ideas alive. To know that these opinions emerge from the 19th century does help to give these ideas some sort of historical context.

About Stephen Parsons

Stephen is a retired Anglican priest living at present in Northumberland. He has taken a special interest in the issues around health and healing in the Church but also when the Church is a place of harm and abuse. He has published books on both these issues and is at present particularly interested in understanding the psychological aspects of leadership and follower-ship in the Church. He is always interested in making contact with others who are concerned with these issues.

3 thoughts on “Religious porn

  1. These last two blogs of Stephen have focused us on the heart of a great problem.
    The Christian music scene and now the problem of, (So called) Christian publications.

    The fact that a group of people can care more about hating a certain denomination, than carrying out the simple acts of loving neighbour, and working for a fair and just society is sickening. All the above (Loving neighbour etc) was at the very core of Christ’s teaching.

    Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the general public, those outside the church can’t see this, they do! Since I have been outside organised religion, I know these people intimately; they reject what they see as modern Christianity utterly and with contempt! If I were in their position today, I would do the same. Today there are thousands of Ellen G White’s, but they wear a cloak of decency?

    The faithful churchgoers are being betrayed; the average priest is nothing more than a church manager, no time for anything else. This leaves us with ‘Christian literature’ on line together with ‘Christian music’ that is very often printing and producing fantasy and hyperbole! Who cares for the vulnerable? You have more chance of finding a snowflake in Hell than anyone caring about it? The circus goes on like Dylan’s ‘Desolation Row’ while silence screams.
    Power to your pen Stephen.

    Chris

  2. Fortunately, Chris, most people don’t get this stuff thrown at them. Serious question, Stephen, these things are depressing I believe because they focus on evil/the devil. It’s a bit like having one of those pictures in your living room of the crying boy. But to what extent does focussing on the devil actually have demonic power? Either way, it’s not healthy. And I’ve certainly come across stuff like this on other blog sites. There’s a poster called “wachabe” who haunts the pages of the Guardian’s “comment is free” site and is full of spleen. Possibly Brethren? But he never answers questions about denomination. He’s been banned a few times. Some of the stuff is foul, all of it totally anti anyone else’s denomination, and anti papist in particular. Now I seem to remember that he is heavily into the Sabbath actually being the Saturday. But he’s not alone.

    1. Oh, and the local expert on religious publishing thinks it’s an American imprint, but isn’t actually familiar with it. Educated guess.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.