Pugh gets personal in new book about the 'End Times'
Pugh, the Maude Sharpe Powell professor of religious studies at Elon, has contributed a volume to a series sponsored by the Homebrewed Christianity podcast.
Crafting a book focused on what Christianity says about the end of the world, Elon’s Jeffrey Pugh didn’t have to look far to understand the impact of apocalyptic speculation on the mind of a believer.
Pugh, the Maude Sharpe Powell professor of religious studies at Elon University, needed only recount his life as a college sophomore, a time when he became entranced by Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” and later joined an apocalyptic cult, then called The Children of God, before abandoning what he calls “the peculiar world of Rapture culture.”
Those personal experiences have been melded with his vast theological scholarship into “The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to the End Times: Theology After You’ve Been Left Behind,” Pugh's latest book published this month by Fortress Press. It's part of a series sponsored by the popular Homebrewed Christianity podcast that takes a unique approach to helping delve into key Christian concepts, figures and ideas.
"It was an exercise at trying to make something that I think is very, very complex at least initially accessible to readers," Pugh said. "I wanted to be theologically serious, and how to convey that kind of serious content in a way that makes it accessible made it a bit of a challenge, but a fun one."
Pugh's "Guide" doesn't read like your typical theological text, but is instead written for what Pugh describes as "the Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert crowd." Its conversational style is interspersed with hashtags and interjections from four members of the Homebrewed podcast community, such as "In high school, my family's church had a weekend seminar on preparing for Y2K. Army surplus shopping for Jesus!"
This work is the first time Pugh says he's been able to weave his personal experiences into a book. Admitting to being plenty snarky at times in the book, Pugh said "at my age, you're willing to take more risks to do some thing you might not do when you're younger." The guide follows another creative treatment of a weighty theological topic — Pugh's 2011 book "Devil's Ink" that explores sin and evil and is written as a series of blog posts penned by the Devil.
But while the tone and format of his latest work might be more casual, Pugh offers a serious treatment of the topic, with an extensive accounting of apocalyptic interpretations of the Bible through history, the role "Rapture culture" has played within the church and the evolution of groups that interpret modern events through the lens of sacred Christian texts to predict the return of Jesus Christ. In particular, Pugh zeroes in on how a person's view of the potentially impending end of the world shapes how they interact with the world in the present.
"If you are shaped to accept a certain idea about the end times and eschatology, that belief shapes your behavior in the world," Pugh said. "That means we can create communities who live around the sort of understandings that we find in the gospels about how we should live, how we should treat each other."
As Pugh writes in the book, "Christ comes again in our willingness to manifest the life of God, a life of suffering love, within Babylon. ... The appeal of a story that calls us to sacrifice our egos and agendas pales in comparison to one where our enemies are put under our feet and we reign triumphant."
Pugh's book on the End Times joins others in the Homebrewed Christianity series on Jesus and God, with others planned on topics such as evil and being human. Pugh hopes readers find the guide to be a starting point for deeper theological exploration.
"The guide is meant to be a pointer to a more extensive treatment," he said.
The book is available on Amazon and through Homebrewed Christianity, and will be distributed through major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble.