This was originally a post on I Fry Mine in Butter from 2010.
In the beginning, there were good preachers and there were scary preachers. The good preachers seemed kindly, they talked about love, they talked about forgiveness, they talked about acting as Jesus did, minus all the getting betrayed and walking up a huge hill with a board, and getting crucified. And that was good. And they have remained basically the same, still talking about love and forgiveness and modeling.
There were also the scary preachers. They ranted about hell fire and damnation, and sin. Lots of sin. Everyone a sinner, with the implication, never acknowledged, that they must be sinners too. And while scary preachers could raise a ruckus, most people preferred the other kind of preacher, especially when the scary preacher got embroiled in personal scandal, showing that despite their invective, they were not better than the rest of us.
So scary preachers evolved, which is to say, they changed. They started selling snake oil. Actually, they’d already been selling snake oil, they just codified the arrangement. They became carpetbaggers, hucksters, oil men, fake journalists hawking gold, Wall Street barons, politicians, and some even kept the preacher mantle. But their message is still the same as it was at the dawn of time. Hate, fear, judgment, death, pain, sacrilege. More drama spews out of their mouths in 44 edited minutes of air time than in 20 years on an average soap opera. The message is loud and clear: we cannot possibly be as righteous as they are. So we better look out for the moment when God Will Strike Us Down.
September 11, 2001, according to Jerry Falwell: “the ACLU has to take a lot of blame for this” in addition to “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays, and the lesbians.” Do note that transsexuals were not mentioned. Transsexuals had nothing whatsoever to do with al Qaeda bombing the US. But when Falwell said it, Pat Robertson heartily agreed. It wouldn’t be the last time Robertson said tragedy had befallen a nation because of The Big Mean Left.
When Haiti came crashing down in a tremendous earthquake, scary preacher man was here again, not to reassure us, not to tell us that we were just too small to understand God’s will, but because the Haitians had “made a pact with the Devil.” Watch as Kristi Watts nods at whatever she can (Haiti is on the island of Hispanola, okay, I can nod to that) and looks a bit like Michael Myers when Kanye announced “George Bush hates black people.” Why doesn’t she slap this guy?
Iceland’s Eyjafjoll volcano started spewing lava and ash last week, twice in as many months, and shut down most of Europe’s airports, for the particulate matter in the air eats jet engines. And Rush Limbaugh was there to explain basic plate tectonics to the masses, saying “You know, a couple of days after the health care bill had been signed into law Obama ran around all over the country saying, ‘Hey, you know, I’m looking around. The earth hadn’t opened up. There’s no Armageddon out there. The birds are still chirping.’ I think the earth has opened up. God may have replied.”
Sure, because God don’t know the difference between the United States of America and Iceland. It’s all the same planet, after all. We have the scary preachers to guide us. We have them to shoot abortion providers, or create such restrictive laws that those doctors are shut down. We have them to tell us that our service people who have died in action were really killed by an all-powerful and crazy ass manipulative God who is pissed that this country lets gay people exist. Because of course any of that crap makes sense. (Incidentally, Fred Phelps’ son is coming out with a pretty pissed-off-at-Dad memoir. It’s on my reading list for sure.)
Once upon a time the good preachers and the scary preachers had to travel to spread their messages of hope and complete destruction. But humans progressed and well, now they only need a microphone.