Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Heaven's Gates Swing Open for Little Oral

Good night, Oral.  You had a good run.  Ninety-one years is nothing to sneeze at.  Better men have not seen so many years on this earth ... or raked in so much dough on the fears, gullibility, and plain meanness of inbred troglodytes.

Yes, I'm intrigued by the coincidence of your passing today with the failure of real healthcare reform in the Senate.  You leave us at a time when a good many poor people will have need of a faith healer, and the prayer cloths you charged nothing for (except to save databanks of addresses to dun for future contributions) were immeasurably cheaper than health insurance premiums and probably just as efficacious.

I remember watching your program on a little black-and-white TV set, my family's first, in Altus, Oklahoma.  I remember your white shirt tight on the wattles of your throat and the sweat pouring down your temples.  I remember your frenzied voice full of the Holy Ghost.

I was a good Christian child of seven and eight and nine, but I was not moved.  I knew you were supposed to be a man of God, but, little sucker of a believer I was back then, I wasn't a big enough sucker to believe in you.  You looked fishy.  Your congregation looked like chickens clucking in a crowded poultry house, waiting to have their necks broke.  I had a sense of the smell of you and them rising off the screen of our boxy television.  The lights glared pitilessly over everybody's head, but nothing looked enlightened.

In 1980, a 900-foot Jesus told you to get your people to pay up or he was going to shut you down, eternally.  Folks paid up, and your City of Faith Hospital got built.  You've got a lot of people to thank for the last 28 years, Oral.  I hope you spend the next ten thousand years writing thank-you notes.

In a Flannery O'Connor sort of way, I miss the old hellraisers like you.  We still have Fred Phelps, of course, to keep the joke going.  These days we have cleaner, spiffier-looking tabernacles and congregations.  They have gift shops where people can buy the Left Behind series in paperback, audiobook, and dvd formats, along with Christian-y knickknacks like fish-symbol necklaces and the old reliable praying-hands figurines.

Despite my snide attitude, I hold you and your religion in grudging respect, if not admiration.  There are some good ideas in bibles.  Too bad you never worked any of them into your sermons.

Anyway, rest assured, Oral, plenty of money is left to be made on the old rugged con.  And plenty of sharks out here still ready to swim in toward the blood.

1 comment:

  1. I'll forever mentally sing your version of that old hymn of my youth.



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