As you know, these are trying times, filled with economic uncertainty, terrorist threats, military aggression, global warming, and even a few presidential candidates who aren’t white guys. In times like these, it helps to turn to religion.

Old-time religion.

No, not that old.

No, I’m thinking of something a little more high-tech, although just as exciting and venomous.

Now we’re talkin’!

Who else misses the behind-the-scenes drama of 1980s televangelism? The sex scandals! The teary-eyed confessions! The fiscal irresponsibility!

Growing up in the ’80s, regular, nontelevised religion — Diet Christ, if you will — didn’t provide me with the sizzle or the edutainment of tele-revs like Jimmy Swaggart, Oral Roberts, and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. And once these stars began to fade, I quickly lost faith in Christianity’s marquee value.

But just like anybody else, I’m a sucker for a second coming, and I’m happy to report that televangelistic turmoil is on the comeback trail! Last month I read an article about a Senate probe, led by Republican senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, investigating the financial wheelings and dealings of “prosperity gospel” televangelists like Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn, who tell their followers there’s nothing wrong with making money and promise that God will grant them material riches — if they cough up some of their own meager earnings first, of course.

You gotta be in it to win it, right? And isn’t religious faith a gamble to begin with? None of us really know if we’re going to meet our maker when we die, but I sent $1,000 to Reverend Copeland just the other day, and I gotta tell you … I’m feelin’ lucky. I am feelin’ very lucky.

See, Jim and Tammy Fae got it all wrong back in the ’80s when they built their Heritage USA theme park in South Carolina. (Of course, so did Oral Roberts, whose “900-Foot Jesus” roller coaster killed more than 5,000 tourists in the summer of ’85 due to the absence of seat belts.) What the Bakkers should’ve built with their collection-plate millions was a religious casino. Seriously, would you rather talk about your faith in Sunday school for an hour a week or put that faith to the test in a high-stakes game of Texas hold ’em? It’s up to you, but either way, the house of the Lord wins. (The house of the Lord always wins.)

So far this new crop of televangelists hasn’t been rocked by any sex scandals, which is disappointing, but they make up for it with amazing hair.

See what I mean? It’s a trade-off I humbly accept, Lord. Now hurry up and send me my check. Amen.

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About the Author

Robert Cass

Robert Cass lives in Chicago. For Popdose he's written under the Sugar Water, Bootleg City, and Box Office Flashback banners and collaborated on the series 'Face Time with Jeff Giles and Mike Heyliger.

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