For the last couple of months I've devoted my Sunday blog space to the cinematic wonders of New Albany, Mississippi's Reverend Estus Pirkle.
Back in the mid-1970's, this guy's movies made their way through most of the Baptist churches of the southeast. Back then they were horrifying. Why? Because they were the only movies we'd ever seen about the Hell we heard preached from pulpits every Sunday.
I no longer believe in the hell for infants.
I no longer believe in the hell for Chinese 10-year-olds who die without hearing about Jesus.
I don't believe in the hell for Brazilian teenagers who die in some remote part of the Upper Amazon without access to the broadcasts of Jimmy Swaggart.
I don't believe in the hell for old men who can't believe that God created us with "original sin", then impregnated a Palestinian virgin with himself as her child so he can have himself killed as a sacrifice of himself to himself to save us from the sin that he originally condemned us to. (If you can't follow that, you're not alone.)
I've gotten to know a lot of preachers in the last few years who don't believe it either.
I don't even believe in the hell for serial killers, Chairman Mao, or Stalin. I don't believe in the justice of eternal punishment for a temporal offense.
I do believe in giving Estes Pirkle hell, though. So let's continue.
You can hit the Pirkle tab at the bottom of this post to see what's happened in previous episodes of THE BURNING HELL. In short, two hippies named Tim and Ken have rejected Brother Pirkle's theology of Hell. When they're riding away from the church, Ken has a motorcycle accident and his head is cut off, so Tim staggers back into the church for some preachin'.
Pirkle's sermon is illustrated by actors from his congregation, the B-movie troupe that followed Ron and Tim Ormond into the Christsploitation film industry, or whichever Mississippians were wandering past the set that day.
Pirkle also supports his argument with cameo appearances by Jack Hyles and Bob Gray, two famous preachers who were later accused of molesting their flocks. Especially the little ewes.
God, I know that I'm a sinner, and I ask that you, and the victims of these two witch doctors please forgive me for making that joke. Couldn't help myself.
Let's get started. If you find my commentary helpful, it continues below the final excerpt from THE BURNING HELL.
:00 An early example of waterboarding gone wrong. There are reports that Nancy Pelosi knew about this, although she denies it.
:55 Tim has hallucinations of biblical murderers.
1:10 Satan appears, looking like Cesar Romero as The Joker in the old Batman TV series.
2:30 "He's steeyull uhlaave! He's steeyull uhlaaave ! But this tahm, ah'll kill 'im !"
3:20 Tim snaps out of his Pirkle-induced trance, overcome with the vivid pulpit imagery.
4:00 The altar call begins. "Why don't you get up from where you are right now...." If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that phrase, I could outsource this website to some other bitter ex-southern baptist.
4:35 Tim kneels at the altar. In a few minutes they're going to vote him into the church, they're going to come down front and "extend the right hand of Christian fellowship", and then they're going to take up a collection to get that boy a haircut.
And that's all there is to see of THE BURNING HELL. I think next week I'm going to start dissecting another Pirkle production called "If footmen tire you, what will horses do?"