• Return to Cliff's Index
    • Home to Positive Atheism
    • Go to Previous || Next || Notes

March,1998

The Tents Will Be With You Always - by Cliff Walker

The news story still strikes me as odd: On February 19, Promise Keepers a right-wing, men-only ministry, announced that "Promise Keepers today gave its staff six weeks notice that they will be paid until March 31 and no further."

This comes on the heels of the news that Psychic Friends Network, America's leading 900-number psychic hotline service, has filed for bankruptcy protection, listing liabilities of $26 million. Like Jeanne Dixon's death, which caught so many by surprise, didn't they see that trouble was brewing? Dixon wrote her column a year in advance, but they cut it the day she died, denying us a year of predictions.

My first thought was, "What a great fund-raising ploy! Just hold a press conference and donations start rolling in!" I doubt any of Promise Keepers' staff of 345 will need to become volunteers.

It's not like I doubt that the ministry is in trouble; au contraire, I don't see how they could stay afloat. They had been on a roll with their stadium events. Recently, though, they reduced admission to their events from $60 to a mere donation.

Last October's attempt to upstage Minister Louis Farrakhan's million-man math class was probably financed with faith. Now the bills have come due.

The Promise Keepers' events are not unlike the traveling tent meeting of yore, where the flamboyant preacher whips up a frenzy, but the town is back to business as usual within weeks. Read a biography of a preacher such as Marjoe Gortner or Billy Sunday: even those sympathetic to the cause admit that, for the most part, any change is momentary -- at least until "the next of these cockroach messiahs is hatched and descends from the baseboards," as composer Frank Zappa put it.

Marjoe Gortner makes an excellent case (Critical Thinker, August, 1996) that traveling tent-show evangelism served as entertainment in cultures which forbade traditional amusements such as dancing and the theater. Punk singer Jello Biafra studies the methods of televangelists for their entertainment skills. In this sense, "Coach" McCartney, Promise Keepers' leader, would be staging a series of Holy Ghost sporting events.

Meanwhile, the predictions of the nineteenth-century freethinkers are coming to naught: this goofy tent-show religion is not going away any time soon.

Our work involves individual cases rather than trends. We've won the Death With Dignity battle, and we now go on to deal with the Boy Scouts, the Oregon Citizens' Alliance, the history revisionists, and the like. Armed with history books and the Constitution, we can, at least, keep some of this madness in check.

Graphic Rule

    • Notes:

    • See also: Christians Revolt Against Their Own Best Interest by Cliff Walker
    • See also: "Marjoe Gortner" by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, an excerpt from their 1978 book, Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change
    • Some wording has been altered from the original.

Graphic Rule
Copyright ©1998 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon