October 13, 2009

Reverend Ike

Reverend Ike
Remember Reverend Ike? I sure do. Dad Bones sent me news of his death recently. I had been too busy to notice. Reading about his life brought back some old memories.

In the early and mid 1970s, I studied am radio and TV ministries with an eye toward improving my own persuasive skills. The ones I liked best were Jimmy Swaggart and Reverend Ike. I made audio tapes, now in storage, of the best shows.

My favorite sermon has Jimmy Swaggart perpetuating the likely apocryphal story of Voltaire calling out for Jesus from his deathbed. Swaggart pronounced it Vol-tare-ee, and pointed out that folks still read the Bible while Voltaire's works sit on the shelf in "some dusty Me-YOOZE-e-um". All brought to me by the "miracle of tele-VEE-sion."

Impressed by his style, I sent away for a special prayer cloth from Reverend Ike. It turned out to be a piece of red yarn and a big packet of literature asking for donations. I kept the yarn until my last move, though I never found it to be particularly magical.

Reverend Ike was what I like to call a Deuteronomist. He preached that God rewards the faithful in this earthly life. If you say your prayers just right, this view has it, then God will make you rich. Ike called it The Science of Living, or more modernly, Thinkonomics. Its like some sort of creative visualization theory with Godly justification thrown in for effect. Done right, the system should make its practitioners rich. From the NYT story about Ike's death:
“Close your eyes and see green,” Reverend Ike would tell his 5,000 parishioners from a red-carpeted stage at the former Loew’s film palace on 175th Street in Washington Heights, the headquarters of his United Church Science of Living Institute. “Money up to your armpits, a roomful of money and there you are, just tossing around in it like a swimming pool.”
This image brings back my childhood fascination with Donald Duck's Uncle Scrooge McDuck. For all my creative visualization of Scrooge, I never got rich, but did become a miserly tightwad. I haven't given up on parts of Reverend Ike's theories. His Washington Post obit piece quotes him: "The best thing you can do for the poor is not be one of them". This quote has been used by trendy motivationalists, so it can't be totally wrong, can it?

If I were to close my eyes right now I'd be at home in the New Mexico desert, breathing hypo-allergenic air and having a ginless gin and tonic with my old partner.
I'm actually in Ames, Iowa. Packing her stuff for storage, filling a rented dumpster with her excess baggage and living in a normal neighborhood. It is good.

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