Thursday, May 05, 2005

When Prophets turn to profits

Before I moved to the US I happened to be flipping through the TV. I found a particular show on the 'God' channel. You know the type, a huge auditorium with American Televangelists performing 'miracles'.

"Where do they find so many gullible people?" I mutter.

Suddenly "Live From the Bi-Lo Center, South Carolina" Scrolled across the bottom of the screen. That's right, The same Bi-Lo center I now live a few short hours from.

"Uh-Oh." I said.

Now before I begin todays little outpouring, let me state for the record I am NOT under any circumstances anti-religious. While I am not a religious man myself, I beleive everyone has the right to beleive in anything they wish...as long as they don't try to force their beliefs on me. I think this is fair. I don't attempt to persuade church-goers that their beliefs are wrong, so I don't think people should attempt to persuade me that my beliefs are wrong either.

Anyway, fast forward a year. I know live in an area where there are no fewer than 15 channels on basic cable devoted to religion. At any time during the day you can find religion on the box, in the wee hours of the morning, you can rarely find much else.

Picture the scene, it's 3.30am, I'm sitting in my trusty recliner, remote in hand, just going 'click', 'click', 'click'. All of a sudden, I'm face to face with a televangelist...and he's just staring at me.

The first thing that popped into my head was "Holy S**t, that guy looks like a deformed Jonathan Frakes!" (You know, the guy who played Riker on Star Trek the Next Generation...the one who always looked like he was carrying bits of wood under his arms.)

Let me decribe this guy. Jonathan Frakes mixed with Serial Killer, with hair that looked like it was made of injection moulded plastic. Imagine the hair on a lego man but with a widows peak, and bizzarely, a huge quiff.

He just stared at me for a moment.

"You NEEEEED!" He began. "To SOOOOW a SEEEEED!"

Hmmm. I thought. I need to sow a seed, I never new that! Maybe this is God's Gardening Hour.

"Turn your back on Satan, take action, "

After watching for a few minutes (Which was scary... he didn't just have eyes that followed you around the room, they followed you out the door and chased you down the street as well) it turned out that a 'seed' was actually $1000.

Bloody big seed! I thought. For a grand, those daffodils had better be HUGE!

I watched for a while, basically because it was late night, I was home alone and had visions that if I turned the TV off the scary b*stard on the screen wouldn't go away, and would climb out of the screen 'The Ring' style.

After a while, I realised that one thing on the show was missing.

This guy did not mention once where any of this money was going. Using religion to raise money for worthwhile causes is a perfectly fine and honourable thing to do. Using it to amass money just because you want it, somehow seems less than Christian.

Maybe he wants another lego-man press on hairstyle and can't afford it. I thought.

That wasn't the worst part. He read out a letter from a Mrs. M from Henderson, North Carolina. The letter read as so:

"Dear Mr Lego Hair,

2 Months ago I had no money, no job and 5 kids to feed. I used the last of my savings to sow a seed. I now have a new job, a new man and my life is great. PRAISE JESUS!"

Mr Lego-Hair was pleased as punch. He read a few more.

"You SEEEE PeooooPLE! If Yoooooooou toooooo call in and SOOOOWWW you SEEEEED right Nooooow! This could HAAAAAPen to Yooooou!" (I promise not to write like that any more, I know how annoying it is.)

Now, let me get this straight.

What this guy is saying is that if I send him a thousand dollars, he will personally get me preferencial treatment from God.

Now I don't want to be a nit-picker here, but doesn't that go against nearly everything in the bible? Didn't Jesus himself throw the money changers out of the temple? Didn't he say the old lady's small donation was worth more than the rich man's large donation?

So apparently, people, God no longer cares that you lead a good life, go to church regularly and be a good christian. All you need to do in order to get preferencial treatment from the supreme being is send the guy with the lego hair and scary eyes a measly grand.

Where do I sign up?

The part that really needled me about the whole thing was when he said. "Go to your phone. Do it now. Delayed obedience is still disobedience and a sin."

What the hell!?!? Apparently not only does not sending Mr Lego Hair a grand make you a bad christian, disobeying his orders is now officially a sin! You can spend an eternity in hell for not financing this crazy eyed televangelist's new plastic hairstyle.

Is there anyone else out there who doesn't find this wrong on about a million different levels?

At this point I turned the TV over to the cartoon network. The cat was hissing at the TV to loudly. Luckily he didn't climb out of the TV, although I spent the rest of the night clutching my baseball bat...just in case.

It doesn't end with Mr. Lego Hair. There's another televangelist who I've named "Spray it don't say it", due to the sheer amount of spittle flying when he's on the air (a small country could drown in it) who took the whole thing one step further. Apparently if you don't send him large sums of cash, God will punish you by making terrible things happen to you. Apprently there is an 11th Commandment we all missed: Thou Shalt Send Your Money To Weirdos On TV

He also performs 'miracles' live on the air. His miracles, however, consist solely of reaching his hand towards the camera (those poor camera men must be wearing wetsuits and squalungs), and saying "Someone is about to lose their job, I aprehend that, they're gonna miss that mess! Someone is about to be in an automobile accident, I reach now and apprehend that, they're gonna miss that mess!"

Wow... What a miracle... I'm a beleiver.

Now please, correct me if I'm wrong, but imagine you're God for the minute. Imagine you're the supreme being. You want to spread the word. Who do you pick as your messenger? A priest or monk that has spent his life devoted to you? Or some bug eyed weirdo with plastic lego man hair and a saliva problem.

I can see it now. God Speaks:

"Hear me my prophet! (hey Peter, what's the deal with his hair? I'm pretty certain I didn't create that... Shhh, he's listening.) I want you to go forth and spread the word. Do this on late night cable TV at 3.30am with only the insomniacs watching. Demand money for no specific purpose. To give you credibility I give you the power to reach towards camera and say you've just performed a miracle. That will deal with the skeptics."

I...Don't...Think...So

I'm pretty sure that the supreme being would not choose to spread the word in this manner. Also, if you were the supreme being, you see people's lives on earth as a mere heartbeat before they spend eternity at your side or in hell. What does money mean to you?

On that original show I saw back in England, a woman had left hospital after a major operation, against the will of her doctors, who told her that without complete bedrest there was a good chance she would die. These televangelists brought her up on stage (nothing as relaxing and restful as being watched by a few million people) and lauded her for it. The woman worked herself up into a frenzy before fainting, or as the televangelist described it, she was overcome with rapture.

I hope against hope she survived.

There is a such thing as a good televangelist. There are the very few who simply go on TV and preach. If they ask for money they ask for donations to charity, or whatever you can spare to keep their station up and running. That's fine and above board.

On the other hand, demanding money, threatening people with accidents and other misfortune if they don't, and promising poor gullible people that their lives will improve by a million percent if they send a specified (and huge) amount of money to them for no particular reason, is just plain wrong.

If you're a religious person and feel the need to talk to God or improve your life. Go to church and pray, don't send money to people on TV.

Let's face it. If God does exist, these people are definately going to hell.

In closing, if you've read this, send me money for a new PC.

Go to your checkbooks now. Don't wait. remember, delayed obedience is still disobedience and a sin.

Translation:

Send me money or go to hell!!!!!


Bastards.

1 comment:

serendipity said...

Yet another post that had me laughing out loud. I don't know where you find the inspiration, but i'm glad you do. The first thing I do when I get to work in a morning is check your site so I can have a good giggle before the days starts!