The First Fairy Tale
Dale K. Brown
Many fundamentalist faiths had great hopes for World War II. But the "war to end all wars", although a secular victory, was just one more religious disappointment. The great battle of Armageddon had failed to materialize and the Lord had refused to return, so the best they could do was pin their hopes on World War III.
The recently developed hydrogen bomb seemed to offer promise in that regard. At least, it was thought to be a weapon of apocalyptic proportions. The prophetic works of the Good Book were thoroughly combed, obscure passages of scripture in the four gospels overhauled, and their possibilities evaluated. Verses such as Matthew 24:22 and Mark 13: 20 undoubtedly referred to these hellish devices and, thus, many true believers were comforted. It the nations could somehow manage to get in a fight with these things, there might still be hope for the righteous.
Pentecostalism and evangelism enjoyed a resurgence at this time. Pentecostalism was an audio/visual religion, not by mode of transmission but, rather, in method of worship. They sang, they danced, they spoke in tongues, and some of the more devout, having read Mark 16:17 & 18, handled live rattlesnakes or drank drain cleaner and strychnine. They wouldn't drink alcohol or soda pop, though. Apparently, the sacred promises did not extend to anything that deadly.
These practices never really caught on outside their local geographical areas, however, and were primarily limited to the deep south. Up north, people preferred to demonstrate their faith by drinking coffee, various colas, and beer.
Techno-evangelism, the use of radio and, later, television, to spread the "good news" of impending global catastrophe, began to appear about this time. It was far more efficient on several levels. Preachers, could regularly play to larger audiences on a regular basis and, since religions have historically never been regulated by truth in packaging requirements, they could make any claim, no matter how outrageous, without worrying about money back guarantees.
Selling protection from the wrath to come, plus a free nibble at the Tree of Life, became a lucrative profession. Electronic evangelists so crowded Sunday morning radio and television channels as to render them inoperative, except for the few hundred thousand who regularly tuned in to hear their favorite panhandling prophet of choice plead for more "gifts of love", more tithes, more freewill offerings, more, more, more, more, more...for the widows, the orphans, the sick, the heathen, the demon possessed. Anybody else? Oh yes, the frugal minister's living (and sometimes, live-in) expenses which included, but were not limited to, his private university, a personalized 747, a multimillion dollar mansion, and those semi-monthly payments on his modest fleet of Rolls Royces.
When hard pressed about these seeming excesses, the doubting were sternly admonished that the Lord had written "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treads out the grain," to which someone reportedly replied, "That may be, but nowhere did he give the ox carte blanche to devour the whole harvest!"
But if the preachers were getting richer, God certainly wasn't. This new technological God was suffering from the twin banes of the twentieth century; he was always short of time and money. He was so impoverished, in fact, that there were rumors he might have to hitch hike to his second coming. And the worse case scenario had it that, unless the faithful dug deep into their checking accounts and in some cases mortgaged their homes, his great plan for the ultimate salvation of all humanity was in jeopardy.
Their god had evolved in other ways, as well. In the good old days of America, God was an independent. Do right, he'd leave you alone. Cross him and he'd load you up with so much trouble you'd need a wagon to haul it all off. And either way, you could be done without. But things had changed; he'd joined the welfare state and without abominable sinners to prepare the way before him, or at least sign promissory notes to finance his great work, there was no chance of getting out the gospel before hell itself froze over.
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