Bad Habits and Strange Bedfellows

At least once a month, I sink into the pillows of my rattan sofa, fixated on the flicker of the TV and drop off into an abbreviated sleep. It’s unintentional, though by now, I should know better. I awake several hours later, groggy and groaning, my neck akimbo, those  pinched nerves clenching my back, and slowly pull myself forward. There’s a voice pouring through as I dig myself out of this makeshift bed – mellifluous and steady. It’s a few body lengths away, filling the TV screen. The preacher brings me back to consciousness.

There is something peculiarly attractive about his presence. That statement contradicts my adversity to institutional religion, to my Roman Catholic upbringing, my mother’s disdain for evangelicals, even my preference for companions and partners.

He’s an unattractive man with a greasy cast to his black hair, a sadly pockmarked face and a softness to his body. But the preacher is the embodiment of sartorial splendor – stiff white shirts, jet black suits, deep purple ties.  In fact, his clothing is woven into every homily I’ve heard – how he placed his trust in the voice in his ear, donated a hundred or a thousand dollars and then experienced the dramatic results of his seed money – pastors at such-and-such church in such-and-such town taking him to such-and-such men’s store where he is gifted with these fine wardrobes. The detail is superb. I think immediately of the propagandist. The advice to make the lie as intricate as possible to add to its weight of credibility.

I imagine this fellow had few opportunities open to him with his acne and pudginess and definite absence of sexual grace. The radio disc jockey gig is a dead-end. Car and home sales are hell in a slow economy. But he had that voice and an ability to parse scripture in a non-stop, common-man sort of way. There, that was his future – his fortune.

It’s the voice that intrigues me. He speaks in a gentle tone, holding that open bible with its fallen pages in one hand while walking the stage. He uses big words and crafts complex persuasive arguments. There’s no excoriation, none of the hell and brimstone of the Southern Baptists. Rather, this preacher speaks of possibility. He’s all about hope.

These are angry days. Hate-filled language is the coin of the country. Divisiveness encouraged. Dark forces at play. Hope is a faint sound; the weakling in the fight. Up in the Oval Office, we witness the decay of decency. He pushes rivalry, lies, deep resentment. Donald Trump is the most ungodly man to hold that office.

I’m so tired of my anger.

So when I wake, muscles tense, anxiety in my eyes, the steady voice of that TV preacher pitching his send-me-a-dime-you’ll-make-a-dollar scheme has a calming effect. I don’t buy his line, not for a second. But lordy, at least he isn’t pitting me against my neighbor or causing me to debate the value of violence or stoking the iron fire of hatred.

We all need a break. Find it wherever you can.

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