POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN TORONTO'S GLOBE AND MAIL
The Great Okie Fraudster has played his last confidence trick.
He will, perhaps, be best remembered by his stunt of locking himself up in "the Prayer Tower" at the college campus he named after himself. The great man refused to eat until someone came through with a fresh ten million bucks for the Oral Empire.
And it worked. Oral got his gift from God, even if only by way of some eccentric Oklahoma oil billionaire.
Oral used to start his pitches - err, I mean, sermons - by assuring the crowd that "something GOOD was going to happen to YOU."
And, just as in the picture accompanying his obituary, he used his long, husky fingers like someone playing a musical instrument in the air. It reminded me of Harpo Marx doing his melodramatic musical gig in the old Marx Brothers’ movies.
In true Christian fashion, he left his flock – said to be good for an annual fleecing of around five million bucks – to his son, a sort of look-alike without the magic medicine-wagon voice and rough hands of the Master: a meat-substitute burger instead of the bleeding slab of sirloin, if you will.
Sadly, the Good Lord often sends sons to these great Christian Entrepreneurs who prove something of a disappointment. Maybe it’s just that old business of pounding-fist fathers bringing up rather feeble sons. Still, you’ve got to keep the money in the family.
Certainly that seems to have been the case with Franklin Graham, inheritor of Rev Billy’s Dazzling Empire, for Franklin is a man who proves that in America you don’t need any brains to be rich.
Then there’s that Venerable Pomposity, the Rev Robert Schuller, and son, Rev Robert Jr, a dysfunctional pair if ever there was one. Because the princeling proved unworthy, the old Rev had to hand over his Chrystal Cathedral Business Empire to a daughter – Heavens! – Rev Sheila, and word has it that now the Chrystal Cathedral can’t meet its weekly bills for vandalized windows.
It’s called inherited ministry, one of America’s more original contributions to world culture.
But the one thing about Rev Oral you had to admire: he had great hair.