When I was a teenager, my friend Sare and I would occasionally watch the Trinity Broadcasting Network for a laugh. We called it the Crazy Christian Channel on account of the faith healers, end-of-days prognosticators, Pentecostal screamers, and gold-suited fire-and-brimstoners who filled its programming. You'd think we'd be more forgiving of this sort of thing seeing as how we grew up in a pretty flashy church ourselves, but, then again, maybe that's precisely why we weren't more forgiving of this sort of thing.
Our favorite on-air personalities were Paul and Jan Crouch, who looked like Captain Kangaroo and Tammy Faye Bakker, respectively. Jan talked like a baby, and she often cried and dressed like one too. She also had pink hair. One time I persuaded Sare to call the number that was always posted at the bottom of the screen in case you wanted to telephone with a prayer request or, more importantly, a donation.
"Why does that lady have pink hair?" Sare said when the operator picked up.
"Honey, that woman is used by God."
"Yeah, but why does she have pink hair?"
Trinity and its stable of televangelists feature prominently in an essay by David Lumpkin in the current issue of the Oxford American. Taken from the author's upcoming memoir, the piece--titled "Church Is Wherever You Are"--is a funny and moving account of a time in Lumpkin's teens, following the mysterious disappearance of his mother, when he and his father watched religious programming, well, religiously. It made me cry on the bus.
My short review of The Rock and the Ripe is in this week's Chicago Reader.