TEoD: Chapter 17: Ruby Recommends
So Murphy and Wagoner head out to one of the tent revivals. J.B. Solstad’s Faith in God Crusade. They get directed to park in a field like it’s the Ren Fest or something, and wander with hundreds of others into the tent.
Interestingly, though Wagoner was most concerned initially about the faith healing aspect of this, the signs leading to the tent inform us that J.B. also deals in Blab It and Grab It theology, as well as the psychobabble Christianese self-help of the kind generally preached by Rick Warren.
Murphy and Wagoner chat a bit about these various claims, in a bizarrely stilted manner that makes it sound like they know they’re being recorded:
“I don’t think that Sonstad’s message is completely legitimate.”
“He seems to have the ability to draw large crowds.”
The revival starts off with some singing, which lasts a HALF-HOUR. Jesus. Sounds exhausting. Then Sonstad appears with a flourish of music and smoke machine smoke. He preaches for another half-hour, and I guess we’ll have to take Phillips’ word for it that the sermon “was similar to almost any minister with a radio program or a pastor in a local church,” since we don’t get to read a word of it.
Then we finally get to the faith healing. With mentions of Blab It and Grab It and “special angels that will minister to your needs” in the same paragraph.
So at least now we know why Murphy preached on angels in his biblical archaeology class—so we readers would know that Sonstad is “distorting the truth.”
Said Sonstad warms up the crowd by telling an admittedly-ridiculous tale of a man in the previous town he visited, who had a bunch of cavities, which were miraculous healed by being filled with gold “from the heavenly city—where the streets are paved with gold.”
Apparently, everyone in the crowd but Murphy and Wagoner buy this:
“Why didn’t God just put the enamel back in his teeth?”
At this stupid story, a bunch of people start running around, then running out of the tent. This is as bizarre to Murphy as it is to me, so he goes to investigate. Outside the tent he sees that merchandise tables have been set up for after the meeting. BLASPHEMY! For when has any preacher sold books or other merchandise???
So, having discovered absolutely nothing, Murphy heads back to his seat, and watches as a man named Clyde with kidney problems is called to the stage by word from the LORD (via Sonstad), and then is HEAL-AHHD in the usual manner of being shoved backwards in a trust fall, into the waiting arms of the healer’s minions.
Wagoner recognizes the guy, because ole Clyde just started attending his church. So I guess we’ll learn more about Clyde’s kidney problems (or lack thereof) soon enough.
Then an offering is taken. This is presented as a bad thing, because real churches and legit preachers would NEVER ask for money from hardworking common folk, right?
More trust falls, more HEEEE-AH-LING, and that’s the end of that.
Yanno, for two men as Strong in the Faith as Murphy and Wagoner, they have utterly failed to do anything or even find out anything about the supposed fraud of this guy. They sat around like everyone else, and Murphy saw the merch tables (which, of course, are hardly a secret). Did they do ANY research before coming here? Like look into this guy’s background, and maybe do some reading on fraudulent healing techniques and how to spot them? Nope, they’ve just decided to rely on vague feelings and intuition:
“I’d like to see a doctor verify that healing.”
“I think there’s more here than meets the eye. Something’s not quite right.”
“…my gut tells me this whole program is not on the level.”
“Yeah, jeepers, if only we’d thought to investigate this more than not even a little bit.”
Probably too little, too late, but the Christian Scoobies decide to follow Sonstad’s limo after the show. I have no idea what they expect to accomplish by doing this…and apparently, neither do our heroes. They try, though, and manage to follow the limo for ten whole seconds before two SUVs box Murph’s car in and force him to stop. A bunch of angry dudes get out and start rocking Murphy’s car. Yeah, they don’t take no guff from anyone who would dare look at their merchandise tables before the show is over!
Silly intimidation over with, the Scoobies decide to come back to the next show. After all, they accomplished so much the first time!
And, after that trip to boredom, Ruby has a much better source of fictional faith healers: Leap of Faith, with Steve Martin. Recommended!