Sunday, April 27, 2008

Local Flavor Pt. II: The Angel of Jeffersonville

There's a small cemetery about five minutes away from where I work in Jeffersonville, Indiana with a bit of a peculiar reputation. You see, one of the headstones is shaped like a pyramid, save for a large metal eagle stuck to the top of it like a wind vane, and local rumor has it that every Easter a number of people eagerly wait around the grave in anticipation of either its occupant's resurrection or the end of the world itself. It's an odd thing, but most of the local folks take it in stride, because the guy buried there was a bit of a celebrity in Indiana some forty years ago. His name was William Branham, and according to his followers he was a mighty prophet and maybe, just maybe, an angel.

Convinced by childhood hallucinations and astrologers (seriously) that he was meant to do the work of God on earth, Branham eventually set up a faith healing ministry where he did pretty much the same things as every other faith healer in the country. He also claimed to have received visions of the future from God Himself, though the ones that actually had any detail to them (for example, "Franklin D. Roosevelt will run four terms and take America into a second world war.") were only revealed to his followers after the fact. His vaguer prophecies, which were basically along the lines of "America will fall" and "Jesus will come back", were naturally proclaimed loudly and constantly.

Branham's ministry consisted primarily of a religious philosophy that he made up as he went along - Both astrology and the Great Pyramid (for whatever reason) were also the divine word of God (though the KJV Bible had supplanted them), the Bible is the infallible word of God but is subject to amendment by the angels with whom he regularly conversed, he might be "the seventh angel of the Lord", Cain was the result of Eve having sex with "a devil-possessed serpent" and thus women shouldn't get the vote, etc. Branham was also an ardent believer in UFOs, though it is unclear whether he thought them to be the result of aliens or demons. In any event, he preached that they had something to do with the Rapture and whatnot.

As part of his "prophetic gifts" Branham also claimed to have predicted the death of Marilyn Monroe, a claim his followers repeat to this day. Just for fun, let's have a look at that particular prophecy:

"...And then, back there one night, I saw a vision. And it was of a lovely, pretty young woman running; she had her hand here, and she was perishing with a heart attack, a beautiful woman. And she dropped and was gone. And the Angel of the Lord said, "Now, when you hear of this, remember, they're going to say that she committed suicide, but she died in a heart attack. And it's almost four, so you just say four o'clock," and then he left me."


Okay, so let's make a list of the details:

1.) Beautiful young woman.
2.) Drops dead while running.
3.) Died of a heart attack.

Now, Marylin Monroe died of an overdose of barbiturates while in bed, so let's tick off the correct details of this prophecy:

1.) There was beautiful young woman.

Wow! Branham successfully predicted that there was a beautiful young woman somewhere in the world. Everything else was flat out wrong. The best part of course, is that Branham's followers rationalize all this by saying that the claims that Monroe died of a drug overdose are hoaxes. Absolutely delicious.

Well, one way or another, Branham died in a car accident in 1964 (according to his followers he died shortly after using his magical powers to resurrect his wife from the dead). Some of his higher ranking followers tried their hand at resurrecting him from the dead, but apparently they just didn't cut the mustard. Thus, William Branham, who foretold himself to be the one who would preside over the entire "last age of the church" before the end of the world, is planted in the ground up in Jeffersonville, inexplicably followed by a set of peculiar folks who still believe in him.

Oh, and one last thing: Branham predicted that the world would end in 1977. 31 years later, here I sit making fun of him. Now, just like with Marylin Monroe, Branham's followers have an explanation. You see, Branham said he "predicted" the end of the world in 1977, he didn't say he "prophesied" it, meaning that he wasn't quite sure. This is doubly delicious because Branham himself had to jump through some theological hoops shortly after making the claim, noting the while Jesus said no one would know the "day or the hour" when the end of the world would come, he didn't say anything about knowing the year. (That, by the way, is exactly the same explanation given by Edgar Whisenant, another loon, as to why he knew that the world would end in 1988...and then again in 1989 after it didn't end in 1988.) Branham's followers also claim that he's somehow correct in his prediction because Jesus actually returned in 1963(?!) in "Word form".

If you ever want to blow your mind on stupid, check out the main William Branham wesbite here. Wait, or was Branham a dangerous heretic?

9 comments:

Garret said...

Dangerous heretic. My good ol' bible says, if they claim to speak for God, and they don't line up with what the bible says is true (on spiritual matters)- don't believe them, reject 'em!
Notice he had angelic revelations to suppliment the bible, we believers are to reject that outright-Galatians 1:8,9
Of course, I only know what you told me on your post here.

yep

JAK said...

There are a number of recognized psychological disorders that lead sufferers to hear voices, see visions, and construct elaborate delusional architectures. My vote in this instance is "nutcase".

JAK said...

Actually, Garret, Gal 1:8-9 was specifically referring to Paul's teachings, not the Bible as a whole:

8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.
9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.


When Paul says "gospel" here, he's not referring to Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John - those weren't written yet. Nor is he referring to the Bible. That hadn't been established yet, either.

He was referring specifically to the Pauline version of Christianity, as he and his associates were preaching it, and he was trying to distinguish his version of Christianity from the Jacobite version of Christianity in Jerusalem.

(Verse 8 is kind of interesting, in that it seems to suggest that Paul felt that at some point he might find himself in a position to recant his teachings, but wanted to ensure that his orthodoxy was preserved.)

Your own rationale is circular, by the way: You're saying "I trust my Bible because my Bible says my Bible is trustworthy." You've assumed your own conclusion. Tsk.

dale said...

Sounds a bit like what Ray Comfort is doing.

Met u at his site.

Skippy said...

Hey Dale. Good to see you, man.

Garret said...

Hi Jak,
"When Paul says "gospel" here, he's not referring to Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John - those weren't written yet. Nor is he referring to the Bible. That hadn't been established yet, either."

The Gospel is the message of the cross. Pauls version agreed with those of the apostles. It is possible that Mark or Matthews account was written by then.
It is easy to argue that Paul would not have agreed with the theology of this character, so your point is valid, but absolutely mute.

"(Verse 8 is kind of interesting, in that it seems to suggest that Paul felt that at some point he might find himself in a position to recant his teachings, but wanted to ensure that his orthodoxy was preserved.) "

That is interesting, I agree.

"Your own rationale is circular, by the way: You're saying "I trust my Bible because my Bible says my Bible is trustworthy." You've assumed your own conclusion. Tsk."

yeah, well, it is true or it is not. I believe that it is, so TAA DAA!

JAK said...

Garret -

There are absolutely no good reasons to conclude that GMk and GMt predate the authentic Pauline epistles, and many, many good reasons to conclude that they don't. There may have been a Q-like "Sayings Gospel" floating around somewhere, but it's not apparent that Paul was aware of it.

The point here is that there is no evidence internal to the writings in question to lead us to conclude that Paul was referring to GMk/GMt/GLk/GJn in any way, shape, or form.

You couldn't convict someone of running a red light on the strength of the "evidence" you've shown so far, and you've basically fallen back to a position of "Nyah, nyah, nyah! I'm not listening! I believe my Bible and that's that."

The weakness of your position, and your apparent lack of understanding of any real Biblical history and context suggests that the only reason you're here at all is to witness. I further suspect that at the inevitable point in the future when people like Skippy and me decide that there are more interesting things to do than flense your arguments and stop engaging you, you'll run off to Ray's place or some other assemblage of friendly opinions and crow that you've victoriously done battle with the skeptics and atheists.

I wish you well, Garret. Hopefully at some point you'll actually dig in and look critically at the things you believe, instead of letting others tell you how to think.

A true believer said...

You're skating on extremely thin ice, If you read correctly Brother Branham never specifically said in 1977, Jesus will be returning!,He follows the Bible by saying NO MAN KNOWS THE DAY OR THE HOUR. IF YOU READ FURTHER ABOUT HIS DEATH, HE ASKED GOD TO TAKE HIM OFF THE SCENE BECAUSE HE DID NOT WANT TO LIVE IN THIS CORRUPT AGE. KEEP LAUGHING AND MAKING JOKES, YOU WILL FIND OUT ONE OF THESE DAYS. IF FACT, PRAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON YOUR FAMILY THIS WEEK, MARK MY WORDS!!! WE'RE NOT FOLLOWING A MAN, WE'RE FOLLOWING THE GOD IN THE MAN!!! Remember this response when one of your close family members needs prayer!

Skippy the Skeptic said...

Classy.