Good morning, y’all. Wow, just wow. The Supreme Court did the right thing. Even if Scarface Scalia had still been around, the forces of good had the votes to push back the case that infringed on women’s rights. In this instance, it was a Texas case that the Supreme Court said violated Federal law, but, there are several other states who had imposed similar laws. Those laws that were written to limit women’s rights to an abortion will be repealed as a result of the Supreme Court decision. Yeah!
Speaking of women’s rights brings us back to the retelling of the history of The Full Gospel Original Church of God. Wednesday night prayer meeting on August 26th, 2015 went smoothly in terms of the Right Reverend Dale E. Bread’s ability to talk before a small group without a microphone. His singing voice was still impaired by his inability to fully open his mouth due to the swelling in his face and neck. The swelling was not that noticeable from the outside, but apparently the internal swelling was constricting the Reverend’s voice. The Elders decided after the meeting that the services of a visiting preacher would be required again to give their pastor more opportunity to heal. After a placing a call to the Church of God referral service, the Elders found that Reverend Bill Foldes had already been booked. The Elders were referred to a new up and comer, Reverend Evan Elpus.
Reverend Elpus was fresh out of the seminary, but was highly recommended. He arrived on Saturday evening, and was given the lay of the land by Elder Cheatum. Tall enough to be a starting forward in the NBA, the young reverend moved with an athletic grace that caused the Elder to dig deeper than usual into his background. “Yes”, he had played basketball in college. “Yes”, he was hoping for a career in the NBA. All of those hopes had come crashing down when the young reverend went up for a rebound and his knee reversed direction when he returned to the ground. Having torn several ligaments in his knee, the young man was faced with months of rehab. While looking for activities to fill the time normal spent practicing, the young reverend found he had an interest in snakes and reptiles. The interest became an obsession, and the young reverend traveled with many of his “pets”.
Elder Cheatum was impressed. When the young reverend asked, “My snakes or yours?” Elder Cheatum responded, “Your call.”
In fact, Reverend Elpus’ sermon, “How Faith Grows”, appeared to be just a warm up to the Testament of Faith. There was no question that Reverend Elpus’ faith in his ability to handle serpents was peerless. When the Reverend pulled the coral snake from his sack, eyes popped open all over the congregation. All mountain children are taught from birth the rhyme: “Red and yellow, kill a fellow; red and black, friend of Jack” Watching the reverend dance with the colorful carrier of death was quite the showstopper. Especially when compared to the otherwise uninspired service. When Reverend Evan Elpus placed the coral snake in his mouth, the congregation let out a collective “ahhhh”. At Reverend Elpus’ height, there was no one in the auditorium that missed the tempting of the fates.
Elder Cheatum observed the trick from his place in the last pew. While the Elder was impressed, he also knew that the coral snake didn’t have the fang length or striking power of the timber rattler. Not that he was anxious for another snake bite story to hit the news, he was just giving credit to the young reverend’s judgement in which snake to use for his final act. The altar call was performed and the Elders took their place at the doors to wish the congregation good tidings as they left.
After the last worshiper had departed, Elder Cheatum sought out Reverend Elpus to settle up. Reverend Elpus was placing his snakes back in their respective aquariums in his Ford Econoline van. There appeared to be about a dozen aquariums secured to the floors and walls of the van. It was like a traveling pet shop. “Here’s your money”, Elder Cheatum said as he handed the Reverend an envelope containing five one hundred dollar bills. “Does the DOT require you to put some sort of signage on this thing in case you have an accident?”
“You know, I don’t know about the DOT, but that’s probably not a bad idea.”, The Reverend said as he placed a small pygmy rattler in its aquarium and secured the lid. “I’ll have to look into it.”
“You’ve got a mighty fine little church here, I’d be glad to come back anytime.” The Reverend closed the back doors to the van and climbed into the driver’s seat.
“We like it”, said Elder Cheatum, “Travel safe, you’re carrying precious cargo.”
The Wednesday edition of the North Georgia Gazette contained no mention of the Full Gospel Original Church of God. That didn’t mean that the young religion reporter, Howard Doohan was done with the Pentecostal movement. In his column he took one of the more popular ministers of all time to task.
“This week I’d like to talk about one of the most successful pastors of all time, Oral Roberts. Speaking of waxing eloquently, Oral lived up to his name. He could spin a tale with the best of them. He’d have you “walking down the garden path”, as they say in the sales business, and be so convinced everything was true you’d be picking daisies along the way.
My Daddy, Angus Doohan, was one of the great salesmen of all time. Daddy could “sell refrigerators to Eskimos”, as the saying goes. Daddy use to pay particular attention to preachers, particularly televangelists, and would hoot out loud when one of them would spin a particularly convincing yarn.
Daddy use to call preachers “air salesman”. He’d say, “look at what they’re selling, is there a product you get to take home with you”?, “Is there even a piece of paper that signifies you own something like land or stocks”? “No, there’s nothing!”, “For ten percent of your life’s earnings you’re given a promise that when you die you’ll be given a place in this magical land that no one has ever seen!” Daddy would finish up with, “Now that’s salesmanship I tell you!” After I got older I’d finish up Daddy’s rant for him with, “And no one’s ever come back and asked for a refund!”
How all of this telling of family history, and revealing my Agnostic roots relates to Oral Roberts is this; one Sunday morning when I was just a little fellow I was watching what turned out to be a rebroadcast of Oral Robert’s Hour of Healing on the TV. Out of the blue, Oral Roberts started going on about a 900 foot Jesus he’d seen while driving around Tulsa, Oklahoma. Oral related that Jesus was at least 900 feet tall because Jesus was taller than some other local landmark that Oral named that I can’t remember. It seems that the Lord can not be intimidated by any man made structure and so he appeared to Oral as something larger.
Well, my mind was racing and I start yelling for everyone to wake up and gather round because the man on TV had actually seen Jesus in person and is revealing the sighting to the world. Oral continued with his dissertation and related that Jesus spoke to Oral through his car radio. I was already thinking that a 900 foot Jesus would talk really, really loud, so any message He uttered would not be a secret. Oral went on to relate to the TV audience that Jesus told him to build a gigantic, humongous, super-sized medical center there in Tulsa. Jesus added the provision that the Doctors would all have to believe in faith based healing.
I’ve done the research, and Oral needed millions and millions for this endeavor. Oral’s followers did not disappoint the preacher, and ponied up with a boatload of money. At a later date, Oral told the faithful that God had given him an ultimatum. If Oral couldn’t come up with the millions more by the end of the year, then Oral would be “called home”. The faithful dug deep and came up with 9 million reasons to keep Oral on this mortal plane.
Not long after that fund raising effort, the “City of Faith” closed its doors. Something about doctors and the AMA not wanting to give all of the credit for a successful operation to the Lord. Go figure.
After assorted lawsuits for misappropriation of funds, Oral’s income declined from an estimated high of $88 million in 1980 to $55 million in 1986. Not bad for an “air salesman” as Daddy would say.
Elder Diggum put down his copy of the paper and looked at his friends over the table in the BlueBell Cafeteria in Nunsuch. “Better Oral, than us”, he said as he reached for more syrup. “Besides, Oral’s already dead, ain’t he?” the Elder said as he poured a cup of syrup on his hotcakes. “Where’s this kid going with this?”
“Probably some old piece he had handy, who knows.”Elder Cheatum said.
“Like you said, at least it ain’t us.” said Elder Wiley as he stirred cream in his coffee.
The friends parted company after breakfast for their daily routines. They would meet up again for prayer meeting that night. Hopefully, Reverend Bread would be deemed ready to return to service. Paying Reverend Bread and his substitutes was getting expensive.