Thursday, September 25, 2008

the beast in the details

Sometimes America's Folk Religion is much more fascinating to me than the intellectual arguments between the respectable leaders of more defined theological beliefs and movements. If eschatology comes up I find myself speaking to other smartypants Christians about the practical implications of Moltmann's theology of hope or making light of the premillenial dispensationalism of our youth.

However, I was observing a meeting today and the present financial crisis came up. To my surprise many in the room brought the conversation (before the actual start of meeting) around to the End Times (not something I had expected). While some were quiet, others started sharing their opinions, what they had heard from others (church or family) and how this could bring about the last days, the beast, the 1 world economy, paperless money which leads to the mark of the beast and how it may be better to move to the woods.

Wow? Where did I just step into? Backwoods Live Oak (my hometown)? Nope. A meeting of professionals at a place that has is not a faith based organization. 

America has its own folk religion and once again I am reminded what it is and how little our theological protestations will change it. This is the theology of the People. I must face it. Tim LaHaye, Hal Lindsay and DTS have won the battle for the rank and file (and yet we intellectuals fail to understand popular voting patterns and Dr. Phil).


kristi said...

wow. and i imagine you stepped right in to offer your opinion, right? ;) no way! i guess you can be thankful that people were discussing something other than work?

Anonymous said...

Just wondering what you think that America's folk religion entails....

Brandon said...

You mean LaHaye isn't right? I'm crushed.

Rick said...


good question. I think Folk Religion is the religion of the masses that is passed around via relationship and media, not nec church... although church can influence it.

some beliefs of American folk religion would be...

God helps those that help themselves

America is a Christian Nation

We are living in the last days and the AntiChrist is coming to make us get a number. those that don't will fight the AntiChrist and win (Lindsay, Lahaye, Thief in the Night, etc)

Self Help/ Positive Attitude can accomplish anything (Tony Robbins, Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura)

the Bible is the word of God... but we don't know what it says and think it says all kinds of things it does not.


That is what I can think of right now, but I thought of some others last night. they are not all nec good or bad.. they just are.

Anonymous said...


From reading your posts, I am assuming you do not mean that "Folk religion believing that the Bible is the word of God" is a bad thing....I am assuming you mean that people believing that, but not knowing what it says is the wrong.

That being said, I believe that such is the problem with many mainstream religious practices and not just "Folk" regligous practices. I am struck by two scriptures....John 1:1 when it says "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God." Jesus is the word. Then when David says in Psalm 119 that I have "hidden his word in my heart that I might not sin against God."

When I look at these two scriptures together, it emphasizes the need to know the Word of God (Bible) but also, in so doing I am learning more about the Word (Jesus). In doing this and opening myself up to the working of the Holy Spirit, I will hopefully start the process of being more like Him.

Rick said...

I think we may be in similar places. The thing that makes it into a folk religion is after the (...).

I think many of our mainstream beliefs and practices could be considered folk religions. It may be a case of semantics. I am using a term that is usually not connected by most people.

I would expound by saying that belief that the Bible is the Word of God in and of itself means absolutely nothing. It only takes on meaning when it moves beyond mental assent to confession and practice... to penetration... to the life of Jesus taking hold of us, like you were saying in your comment.

Too many Christians and churches talk about the Bible being the Word of God but don't deal with it like it is an alive document penetrating our assumptions, our beliefs, our actions, etc beyond prescribed things within our folk religion (I might call it Nationalistic Christianism).

I hear people say someone preaches the Bible, but they only talk about the Bible and use it in a proof text for their agenda too often.

This is the negative I would speak of regarding the Bible as Word of God without knowing what it says and thinking it says things it does not.

One other folk religion belief that I was talking with a friend about is our view of the afterlife...

heaven, hell and angels.

Heaven is in the clouds where we can look down on the earth and see what is going on. there is so much that comes from books and film- and the Bible is pretty quiet on the subject.

The same thing with Hell and judgment. Those tracts from childhood with judgment day as a movie screen where God shows you every bad thing you have done before sending you to a lake of fire or saying you are forgiven.

And our angel view seems to be straight out of some Frank Capra, Preacher's Wife, etc. movie.

We may say we believe something else, but our songs and discussions betray those real beliefs.

Does that make sense?

RDF said...


Sorry, I'm late responding to this post, but someone made reference to Obama being the antichrist today on the Schnitt Show and then I saw your blog. Although, I'm diverging from Schnitt's political views more daily, I was pleased that he dismissed her comments. However, it is somewhat concerning because of the amount of lip service the Obama Antichrist thing has gotten from my Mom's cronies to people at work and church. Personally, I don't hold these views of Obama and do not wish to go down that path. Although in the interest of theological hyperbole, what if the book of revelation were actually playing out today? What would it look like? (I did see the movies "Constantine" and "The Reaping" recently. Feel free to imagine Keanu as Henry Paulson.)

"...and how this could bring about the last days, the beast, the 1 world economy, paperless money which leads to the mark of the beast..."

The Beast (Antichrist of Middleeastern descent)? - Could oil itself be the beast? Or, perhaps the Big Oil Companies?

One world economy? - NEW YORK ( -- Global stocks rallied at the open, on the heels of a massive rally in U.S. and European markets and in anticipation of more government investment in ailing banks.

paperless money? - Credit cards and HSAs.

Mark of the Beast? - Maybe its the Visa, mastercard or amex emblem.

Pretty folksy religion, huh?