Escaping the Bully-God of American Evangelicalism


When I say God comes to Dostoyevsky’s characters, it’s not how evangelicals describe it. It’s more a dawning of a certain truth about themselves, who they are in their brokenness, along with a sense of acceptance and an ability to have compassion on themselves. To grieve what they have done as well as to accept who they are. There’s a way in which the gospel in its purity comes through in The Brothers Karamazov: that the divine is unconditionally loving, even to the worst of people. You can feel it in Dostoevsky too, that he loves his characters, including the worst of them. Fyodor Karamazov, the father, is described in lurid ways as a despicable character, and Smerdyakov, the illegitimate son, has become sinister and malicious, in part under the blows of Fyodor, but you can feel Dostoyevsky caring for them both. He seems able to accept everybody, no matter how despicable. That’s the genuine message of Jesus, as far as I can see it.

Doug Frank

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