My wife and I lived in Wilmington, NC when we first got married. We were both a long way from home in a town that we had no family living close by and no money so “fun” on a Friday night was a cheap pizza and television. After about two months of this isolation in a city where everyone seemed to be related to everyone else except us we would make the drive to Charlotte, or Greenville, SC at least every other week to see our families.
Because my wife was working in a Department Store, she couldn’t find any other work that would take advantage of her degree in human resources, we typically didn’t leave Wilmington until 8 pm on Friday night. The drive to Greenville was about 5 hours, mostly backroads through dots on the map named Nichols, Mullins, and Marion away from most civilized areas and an FM radio signal.
Within an hour of the drive my wife would fall asleep, and I would search the AM dial for some deep woods, snake handling, country preacher to listen too. Now I didn’t do this because of my deep religious convictions, I did it because I found it hilarious and entertaining.
Growing-up in Charlotte I had the opportunity to experience the fire and brimstone guys, you know, we are all going to hell unless we repent on our knees, right now and the money grabbing, charlatans. We are all going to hell unless you send us a love offering today! Remember, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker started their “ministry” at a small television station not far from my house in Charlotte. As a matter of fact, we use to see Tammy Faye at the Park N’ Shop grocery store. This was before she wore 10 pounds of make-up.
I also had a front row seat to a small town, country church preacher in my great uncle. He was a towering man, at least 6’2” with a booming deep voice and calloused, hard hands from working on his farm. For a small church like he lorded over in the wood’s attendance was light, and tithing was even lighter. But when you asked what he did for a living he was always a pastor first and a farmer second despite earning 90% of his income growing corn and beef.
I always thought of my great uncle as two people, the farmer, and the preacher. The farmer was quiet, thoughtful and despite his height and good looks, with a greased-up Pompadour of sun-bleached blond hair, very unassuming. But get him behind his lectern and all hell broke loose. He could fire and brimstone with the best of them in his tiny, Southern Baptist churches in the woods with names like Flat Creek, Cedar Grove, Red Hill, and Olive Branch. And we are not talking about an hour of preaching and then head to the Cracker Barrell for lunch, church opened at 10 am and he might wrap-up around 2 pm if you were lucky and sneaking out wasn’t an option. That’s how gossip got started.
I write all this to recognize the passing of one of the strangest, weirdest, televangelist I have ever seen, the incomparable Ernest Angley, the man that coined the phrase “evil spirts out!” Reverend Angley died this past May at the ripe old age of 99. The Ernest Angley Ministries released a statement that read; “He touched multitudes of souls worldwide with the pure Word of God confirmed with signs, wonders, miracles and healings.” What we also know about the Right Reverend is that he enjoyed “touching” more than just souls.
In a six-part investigative series done by his hometown newspaper in 2014, former church members detailed accusations of wrongdoing by Angley. One tidbit about the good Reverend that was exposed, he was a man that railed against the sin of homosexuality, but was in fact a gay man himself and for whatever reason enjoyed “touching” the genitals of his male flock before and after their surgeries. I guess he was trying to cast the “evil spirts” out of their dicks.
Ernest Angley was a fraud, and a grifter, who used religion to get in to dim witted, gullible people’s pockets and sadly over the course of 60 years these simpletons kept paying him millions. In 2005 he bought a Boeing 747 for $26 million so he could fly all over the world and rip-off other fools in foreign countries if they let him land his plane. Some saw the con and the circus coming to town and didn’t.
For Angley, Jesus was a business and a damn good paying business not only for him but for all the employees of Ernest Angley, Inc. And despite his timely demise the Jesus gravy train continues on a television station near you. It might be airing at 3 am but some dumbass will still send the dead man, whose toupee lives on, a check.
“You remember Ernest Angley? TV healer. He’d slap people’s foreheads—whap!—and they’d flop over, quivering like fish.” She hooted in laughter. “I used to love watching him. It was like professional wrestling for Baptists.” – Daryl Gregory, The Devil’s Alphabet