Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Burning Hell, Part Three, with a Jack Hyles cameo appearance

It's Sunday morning, and time for another visit to the video collection of New Albany Mississippi's Reverend Estus Pirkle.
Every weekend I'm posting a clip from "The Burning Hell", Reverend Pirkle's early 1970's masterpiece. The film depicts the eternal consequences of disagreeing with Brother Pirkle's theology.
This movie scared the bejeebers out of my when I saw it as a middle-schooler in Mississippi. I spent years worrying about friends and relatives who might be "lost". I might have had a shot at becoming a normal human being if it weren't for this damn movie.
So now I'm making fun of it every Sunday morning.

In the first episode, Pirkle gave us some background on the doctrine of eternal torture. There's a reenactment of the story in Exodus where disobedient Israelites were swallowed by the earth. (They had disobeyed Santa Claus Moses.) Pirkle, as narrator, steps in and out of the picture, causing one to wonder if Phil Donahue ever did any live reporting during the Bronze Age.

The second episode begins the story of two hippies, Ken and Tim, who confront Reverend Pirkle one Sunday morning before church. Ken and Tim have been turned from The One True Path by a Dr. Long, who teaches that a loving God would never condemn anyone to be burned forever and forever in a place like Hell.

Pirkle tries to set them straight, explaining that if you die without accepting Jesus as your personal lord and savior, God is going to make Hitler look like Mary Poppins. The hippies disagree, leave Pirkle's study, and ride away on their motorcycles.

Ken, the more abrasive of the two heathens, drives his motorcyle recklessly and is beheaded.
Yes, his head and helmet are removed from his body.

Episode 3 begins after the accident, with the viewers wondering if Tim will call the police, wait on the hearse, mourn the death of his lost friend, or abandon Ken in the ditch and go back to Pirkle's church for another heaping helping of Jewish mythology.

If you find my commentary helpful, it continues below the video.

:05 Tim abandons Ken in the ditch and goes back to Pirkle's church for another heaping helping of Jewish mythology.

:40 Tim dramatically staggers down the aisle, and Pirkle stops his sermon. Tim asks if Ken is merely in his grave, or is he being tortured in Hell. Estus Pirkle puts on his Pastoral Counseling Hat and gently, lovingly tells Tim that "Chances are, he's burning in the flames of Hell right now."

1:20 Pirkle gives Tim a seat on the aisle among an assortment of Mississippi Hausfraus, and continues his sermon.

2:01 Pirkle: "There is no such thing as friendship in Hell. There will be no TV programs to watch or movies to go see. There will be no cookouts to enjoy or sunsets to watch together. No vacation trips with the family. All will be one long night of sorrow, remorse, and regret forever and ever. such memories will haunt you in Hell, you will not be able to get away from them. Go back in your mind ! Think !! Perhaps you made fun of somebody handing out tracts on a busy street corner. You thought it all a big joke ! ! "

2:30 A flashback to Tim and Ken (?) making fun of Orville Redenbacher handing out Gospel tracts on a busy street corner, and thinking it's all a big joke.
Reverend Pirkle's films are not subtle.

3:59 One of the church ladies puts her hand on Tim's knee, and he looks uncomfortable.

4:05 Pirkle tells the story of Belshazzar. I believe the actors are all Mississippians, except for The Demon In Charge, who may have been played by Dom Deluise. You might also be wondering about the special effects. How did they ever convince so many asylums to coat their inmates in mud and cow manure and herd them through a burning Tupelo cotton field?
It remains a mystery.

5:25 "Ah hate chew, Ah hate chew ! !"

6:20 Ken's head, but not his helmet, is reunited with his body. Dom Deluise is waiting to carry Ken into The Outer Darkness.

7:00 It's 1974, but Pirkle's church is already equipped with a video screen ?? He shows his congregation a clip from Reverend Jack Hyles, who claims that "if there is no Hell, I'd close my Bible. If there is no Hell, I would not preach another sermon as long as I live. If there's no Hell, I would take life easy, I would not go day and night...."

And that's the end of this week's clip from The Burning Hell. I hope it has been instructive.

But speaking of Jack Hyles....

Jack Hyles invented the Bus Ministry concept. He took a small church in Indiana and grew it into a massive organization with more than 100,000 members. Go here to read about the inevitable scandals.

Even if you distrust Wikipedia, their Jack Hyles entry has a good collection of links to mainstream media accounts of the scandals, the child abuse, and the missing money.

And this is from a website devoted to the former followers of Reverend Jack:

I remember some of the meetings that the college girls would have with "The Preacher" (Dr. Hyles). If anyone would have walked into the room, they would have thought that all these college age girls were waiting for Elvis to return. We were taught to actually worship him and treat him as an idol. There was a song that we would sing to him to make him come out to the stage:
"We love you preacher, oh yes we do, we don't love anyone as much as you. If you're not with us, we're blue, Oh Preacher we love you"!

Gag me with a dirty diaper. She continues with this:

He would not come out until the girls were in a frenzy. What happened to only preaching Christ and him crucified? Even at the time, these meetings made me very uncomfortable. They seemed to be very sexual in nature. He would speak to us as if we were his girls that he was trying to court or swoon. Being a mother today, I would NEVER allow my daughter to attend these meetings. Hyles' Church and college have hurt many people. Many of the young pastors that have looked up to him (like the one that I spoke of) carry on his legacy of man-worship. I feel mostly for the women who suffer the degrading remarks and humiliation that comes from their beliefs.

According to the theology of Estus W. Pirkle and Reverend Jack Hyles, none of this really matters. Jack Hyles believed in Jesus, and is now in paradise. Gandhi didn't, and he's now being roasted by demons.

Come back next Sunday for another episode of THE BURNING HELL ! ! !

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