Genre: Satire, Humor, Religious/Philosophical
“Billiam (not William) finds that, after dying in an unfortunate washing machine accident, that the afterlife offers more challenges than he ever thought. Tasked with bringing back just one televangelist minister from a Hell slightly different from traditional views, he has to contend with horrible clothing from the eighties, curdled wolverine milk, smoking dogs, and a cockroach as a roommate. But Billiam has only a limited amount of time to learn about others, and himself before time runs out. You see, Hell is apparently sitting on some valuable real estate.”
The amount of wit it had to have taken to write this is astounding. To me, humor is the most difficult thing to write because there is such a thin scope between actually being clever and just being nonsensical. In “Evangelicals in Hell,” JC Paulk displays a mastery of satire through not only humorous situations, but through the underlying message behind the comedic presentation.
We are introduced to Billiam, an evangelical pastor who finds himself at Heaven’s gates after haphazardly slipping in his laundry room and breaking his neck. He is approached by Mingus, an angel or otherwise heavenly creature, with a proposition. According to him, everyone in the top level (the least worst) of Hell can simply walk out if only they would choose to do so. If Billiam can convince just one of the numerous evangelical pastors in this part of Hell to come with him to Heaven, then God will spare all the others.
Sounds simple enough, right? Who wouldn’t choose to leave Hell for Heaven if all they had to do was take a short walk, especially a Christian pastor? Billiam thinks the same.
He soon finds himself in the utterly absurd environment that is Hell’s top tier. Nobody looks how they did in their past life, everyone wears bizarre (often cross-dressing) outfits, the only refreshments available are a vast array of animal milk, it’s uphill in every direction, buildings are made from cardboard, and there are churches absolutely everywhere fueled by sermons that are little more than unrelated words strung together .
I’ll admit that at this point I spoke aloud more than once “what the fuck am I reading?” It wasn’t in a bad way either, as I was laughing and enjoying every moment of the story, but I did begin to wonder if the book was indeed going to be a crazy, albeit humorous, mess.
Plot twist: it wasn’t.
As we follow Billiam’s journey as well as that of a few other characters, it is revealed that everything serves a higher purpose toward the message(s) of the story. The largest of this is explained with a quote from C.S. Lewis: “The gates of Hell are locked from the inside.” This is what makes Billiam’s task so difficult. Those within Hell are trapped by their own guilt and/or stupidity which is often more powerful than any physical barrier.
This book is an absolute gem and there isn’t much else I can say. Grab a copy and see for yourself.
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~Sahreth ‘Baphy’ Bowden