It was the sort of lazy Sunday morning in October when most Americans were forced to put on shoes and a jacket to retrieve the morning paper from the frosted front lawn. Following the paces of an average Midwestern blue collar citizen, Hyrum Beebletutz sat in his comfortable recliner, turned on the TV and opened his paper.
He flipped the channels a bit, stopping on a replay of a Pat Robertson sermon first, followed by a live service from Robert Tilton. We started our interview during the service.
Agnostica: "So you prefer the televised ministry to live church services?"
Beebletutz: "Absolutely. You can tell they got the fire of the Holy Spirit. Them other local pastors talk a good game but don't seem to have the sincerity of these fellers on TV."
Agnostica: "How do you mean?"
Beebletutz: "Well you can always tell from their faces. It looks like they're in pain, like they are truly communicating with God. Look right there, Pastor Tilton's face is scrunched up like he just sucked on a lemon."
Agnostica: "And that means his prayer is being heard?"
Beebletutz: "Sure it does. Nobody I know prays like that. See, right there he's asking for only $50 to help spread the word in Somalia. Hang on a minute, I need to make a call."
Beebletutz was heard in the kitchen offering a series of 16 numbers followed by a date. He was heard to say, "Yes, send me the green prosperity prayer cloth for the additional $19.95."
Agnostica: "So you sent off 70 dollars just like that?"
Beebletutz: "No of course not. It was $69.95 and I'm getting a personal prayer at next week's service plus another green prosperity cloth."
Agnostica: "This was not your first prosperity cloth?"
Beebletutz: "Oh no, I have 7 of them now."
Agnostica: "But you're living in a mobile home and sitting on the only piece of furniture in the room."
Beebletutz: "True, but I have my health and that's important too."
Agnostica: "And what about those kids in Somalia, wouldn't they benefit from food and shelter rather than a church?"
Beebletutz: "I don't know about that. If Pastor Robertson, Pastor Tilton or Pastor Don Stewart tells me it's best for the kids or the country, I believe."
Agnostica: "So it's all about clenched fists, scrunched up faces and verbal promises for things you can't see that drive you to open your wallet?"
Beebletutz: "I don't know what you're really asking mister, but I don't like your tone. I think it's time for you to leave. They're about to break into song here and I don't want to miss it."
As Beebletutz settled back in his chair $70 poorer, I made my way to the door. The only thing settled during our interview was that an energetic word and a squinting, pinched face on a salesman can sell just about anything. Praise the Lord and pass the bank deposit slip.
This is Angelo Agnostica reporting.