Back in the early 1970's, Pirkle's "The Burning Hell" terrified the crap out of every church youth group in the southeast. I'm posting excerpts from the film each week because I saw the movie when I was twelve or thirteen, believed every minute of it, built a lot of my life around it, and therefore suffered extreme mental, spiritual, psychic, and emotional harm.
Now I'm getting even by ripping the lid off of it every Sunday morning. This is cheaper than a psychotherapist.
To recap the previous episodes.... Two hippies, Ken and Tim, have a discussion with Brother Pirkle about the reality of hell. Their preacher has taught them that hell is only a metaphor. Pirkle disagrees. Pirkle vividly paints a picture of non-believers burning for eternity in a massive field of mud and slop. Ken and Tim object to Pirkle's reasoning and leave the church on their motorcycles.
Ken has an accident, and is decapitated.
Rather than wait around for the police or an ambulance, Tim decides to go to church.
You can hit the Pirkle label at the bottom of this post to see each episode in its entirety. Even if you're in a hurry, you've GOT to see episode #4 with the worms.
At the end of last week's clip, Pirkle was telling the biblical story of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:19).
If you find my commentary helpful, it continues after the clip.
:01 Wild debauchery, as conceived and filmed in a 1973 Myrtle Mississippi Baptist fellowship hall. The candlesticks have appeared in two generations of wedding photos. Check out Mrs. Dives at the :12 mark - her tiara betrays her as an Ole Miss Tri-Delta pledge.
1:45 The screenplay of Pirkle, the directing of B-movie king Ron Ormond, the acting of The Mississippi thespians, and the music of Handel. Which one doesn't fit?
2:10 Lazarus discovers that in the next life, everyone gets a pre-resurrection shave.
3:05 The Santa Claus beard is pressed back into service, and this time Abraham is wearing it. The shots of heaven were filmed in whichever Magnolia State property got "Yard Of The Month" during production.
4:29 Proof that at least two trips were made to Burger King.
4:40 The Roman soldier has a Pavolovian response to the wine. Priceless editing.
5:15 The Dives Funeral - "Mr. Dives was a personal friend of mine...." "and while he was not faithful to attend many of the services...." "I'm sure that God understands that he was a busy man" All of these are straw men that Pirkle is about to kick over. Plus, how many kings are addressed as "Mr" ????
5:50 Dives in hell. "Father Abraham, have mercy on me. Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame".
This doesn't sound like a typical Jesus parable, does it? The folks at The Jesus Seminar, my go-to guys for biblical scholarship, are divided on whether it's authentic. The doctrine of salvation through faith hadn't yet been developed by Paul, and John 3:16 wouldn't be written down for another 60 years after the death of Jesus. So who knows?
The story did inspire a catchy African-American spiritual called "Poor Man Lazrus". The lyrics are as follows:
Poor man Lazrus sick and disabled. Dip your finger in the water, come and, cool my tongue, 'cause I'm tormented in the flame. He had to eat crumbs from the rich man's table. Dip your finger in the water, come and, cool my tongue, ‘cause I'm tormented in the flame.
I'm tormented in the flame. I'm tormented in the flame.
Dip your finger in the water, come and, cool my tongue,
'cause I'm tormented in the flame.
Rich man Divies he lived so well. Dip your finger in the water, come and, cool my tongue, 'cause I'm tormented in the flame. And when he died he went straight to hell. Dip your finger in the water, come and, cool my tongue, 'cause I'm tormented in the flame. (Chorus)
I love to shout, I love to sing! Dip your finger in the water, come and, cool my tongue, 'cause I'm tormented in the flame.
Jester Hairston, the great choral composer, did the best arrangement of the song. Here's the Asbury College Men's Glee Club singing in the college chapel service. Kinda like singing an upbeat ditty about Abu Ghraib.
6:30 Tim remains in the congregation listening to Pirkle explain why it is that who goes where in the next life.
6:40 Dives asks for another chance, just to warn his family about the dangers of THE BURNING HELL.
7:00 Abraham shoots him down. In full Faulkner/Tennessee Williams mode, the father of his race says "They hayuv Moses 'n' thuh prophets. Let theyum hear theyum. If they heer not Moses 'n' thuh prophets,,,,
To hear what other words of comfort Father Abraham said to the burning Dives, come back next Sunday.