I do highly-researched posts on the Bible and Christian history. This is a place for facts.


Lewis Carroll’s muse had a new adventure

Alice Hargreaves posing for reporters (1932; public domain)

Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, died in 1898 at the age of sixty-five, and so was unavailable to celebrate his hundredth birthday. Event organizers in America, however, realized they could get — Alice? The girl who inspired the children’s classic, now an old woman, agreed to come.

The former Alice Liddell sailed from England and arrived in New York on April 29, 1932. A Paramount newsreel, Alice in U.S. Land!, was filmed before she disembarked. She had a prepared speech:

“It is a great honor and a great pleasure to have come over here, and I think…


A transgender story is a spiritual story

In church you might not hear about too many transgender stories. Christian history does tend to erase them.

I pick up the published journal of a legendary performer in New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and what do I find? “I ask for spiritual enlightenment,” she writes. Or jotting:

“ask holy spirit to breath into you
Do what you can because there are many things that need doing.
Mission from God”

Those stressing her importance to LGBT history are as apt to overlook the references. Let’s examine the spiritual history of Candy Darling.

Candy Darling by Bill Goulding c.1971–72

Candy was born as James Slattery in 1944.

‘Jimmy’ grew up in Massapequa Park, New York. There is as yet no biography (one is expected), but we have available a…


For the author of “Dracula”—sex was monstrous

A Victorian horror novelist with one hit — that one about vampires — Bram Stoker died in 1912. He was on track for obscurity.

It wasn’t readers who made him immortal, but moviegoers. A German art film based on Dracula was released in 1922. A phenomenon was born, and biographers went to find out who Stoker had been.

Bram Stoker c.1906 (public domain, colorized)

Abraham Stoker was born in 1847, in Dublin.

He’d been somehow sickly as a boy, but pushed himself to be an athletic young man. He married at age 31, and had one child.

To learn about him has been a tug-of-war with the blanks and silences. The first major break was in 1975, when Daniel Farson, a journalist who was Stoker’s grand-nephew, published a biography. It had facts the family hadn’t planned to share.


The famous Christian was a sexual revolution

Clive Staples Lewis was born in 1898. As a child he rejected his assigned male identity.

He wasn’t Clive, he said. He was ‘Jacksie’. The story of his re-naming is curious. Here is a telling of the story by his older brother Warren, or ‘Warnie’:

“Disliking ‘Clive’, and feeling his various baby-names to be beneath his dignity, he marched up to my mother, put a forefinger to his chest, and announced ‘He is Jacksie’. He stuck to this the next day and thereafter, refused to answer to any other name: Jacksie it had to be, a name contracted to Jacks and then Jack.”

Warnie doesn’t note that ‘Jacksie’ was British slang for the ‘anus’.

For Lewis…


A religion loves a story about a missionary massacre in Ecuador in 1956. They leave out some facts.

Peter & Olive Fleming; Ed, Marilou & Steve McCully; Elisabeth, Jim and Valerie Elliot c.1955 (credit: Wheaton College)

If you grew up Evangelical, the five missionaries to Ecuador were heroes. Back in 1956, they’d gone into the jungle to ‘save’ some natives—who killed them!

It seemed like everyone knew the story of these amazing saints. As found in the ‘classic’ book, Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot, you’d be riveted by a tale of the dark, violent ‘Auca’ of the Ecuadorian rainforest—the ‘savages’ who’d cut our missionaries down.

But God had a plan! They got saved eventually. That was the story, but I’d started to re-think it after reading God in the Rainforest, Kathryn T. Long’s 2019 scholarly study of Evangelical missions in Ecuador. The sacred narrative just started to read a little different.

“The indigenous people were secondary, shadowy figures. Most important…


The true story of a 1980s religious obsession

Throughout the 1980s, Evangelicals widely said the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons was Satanic and led to teen suicides.

A distraught mother, Patricia Pulling, seemed to prove it. For a decade she led a crusade against a game. I’m looking up facts, and finding a lot I didn’t expect. You won’t hear any of this in church.

Patricia Pulling (still from 1985 CBS “60 Minutes” segment)

She seemed so convincing

Whenever you’d see Patricia Pulling, she came off as the voice of conscience and reason. And her 1989 book, The Devil’s Web: Who’s Stalking Your Children for Satan, was available in a Christian bookstore near you!

She opens with the terrible tragedy she’d endured—reconstructing her son’s last day of life, June 9, 1982, moment by moment.

Irving Lee Pulling II—known as ‘Bink’—was…


The puzzling life of Mary Latham

Shepard Alonzo Mount, “Back of a Woman” c.1857 (Met Museum; public domain)

Hanging people to death for having sex might not seem like a very Christian thing to do—as often as it’s been done. But a story from Puritan America in 1644 puzzles for other reasons. Historians aren’t clear why James Britton and Mary Latham were executed.

Many books summarize the account from the journal of John Winthrop, the governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony. He tells of a “proper young woman” whose father, a “godly man,” had “brought her up well.”

She fell in love with a young man—who rejected her. …


A Christian scholar suggests—a #MeToo messiah?

* This post discusses the idea that the gospels of the New Testament tell a story of sexual abuse. Themes include rape and torture.

Ramone Romero, “Crucifixus (The Naked Son of Man)” (2006)

David Tombs might seem an unusual figure to suggest a massive shift in reading the central event of the Christian faith.

In 1998, he was an Anglican graduate student in London working on his Ph.D. about the history of Liberation Theology in Latin America. He read an account of a female health worker who had been tortured and killed in El Salvator in the early 1980s.

He tells the story in a few places, including a recent interview with The Shiloh Podcast. The details of the woman’s death were gristly, terrible, horrifying. …


Scholars are pointing a few things out

To be a Christian, one wouldn’t be thinking the figures in the sacred text even have ‘sexuality’, exactly. Aren’t they—Christian?

They wouldn’t be drawn to members of both sexes. Or would they? If Christians read one way, scholars have been reading the New Testament narratives in another: with the cultural psychology of the time.

Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano, “David and Jonathan” (c.1510)

In three gospels of the New Testament there’s a story about a Roman centurion and his slave.

They seem to have a rather close relationship. The centurion calls his slave a Greek word, παῖς, that can suggest a sexual relationship. In Luke 7:2, the slave was “dear” or “precious” him. This man seems to really love his slave.

For decades, there’s been suggestions that it reads as an erotic relationship. That wouldn’t be unusual for the time. “Roman society almost unanimously assumed that…

Jonathan Poletti

religion. sex. facts.

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