I’d like to share with you an excerpt of a piece I wrote for the online and print publication, The Culture Crush. I’m an occasional contributor to the magazine and the subject matter is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately.
A few weeks back, I wrote a piece called, Religion–A Personal Perspective. In it, I asked you to share some of your own personal experiences as it pertained to religion. I was struck by the wide variety of opinions and life-altering effects of early indoctrination. It was clear to me that religion is, and remains, an important, yet divisive subject in our society.
Around the time I was writing my post for this space, I was also working on a piece for The Culture Crush. But instead of religion in general, this particular piece deals with the history of snake oil salesmen and how we’re all susceptible to being conned. That would include, of course, the current president of the United States, as well as some of the more shameless televangelists we see begging their congregants for dollars to help them bask in a sea of luxury.
As luck would have it, the editor and founder of the magazine, Debra Scherer, informed me that she was going to publish my piece as a companion to another article written by a lifelong member of the evangelical community, Jerry Gramckow. Jerry’s piece digs deep into the world of religious fundamentalism–it’s history, as well as how the community has attached itself, mistakenly according to Gramckow, to the Republican Party.
At the end of my excerpt, I will include a link to continue reading at The Culture Crush, as well as the link to Jerry’s provocative post. I hope you will find them both interesting, and considering the current political climate, timely.
Under The Influence–The Origins Of The Snake Oil Salesman And The Conmen We Still Fall For Today
A long time ago, a man rolled into a small Texas town and told the townspeople that the world would end at midnight. The people, at first, were skeptical. One of the townspeople asked him, “What are you selling, some kind of snake oil?” To which the man replied, “The world will come to a flaming end at midnight tonight. Without my help and knowledge, every one of you will be dead.”
The fraudulent man’s name was Trump. No, not that Trump. In this case, it was the fictional Walter Trump, and the scene described above, is from the 1958 TV show Trackdown, starring Robert Culp as the Texas Ranger who eventually exposed Trump for the fraud he was. The delicious irony and prophecy of a TV show more than 60 years old eerily boggles the mind. A man named Trump rolls into town to tell folks only HE can build the wall. Only HE can save them from impending doom.
It is not that some are necessarily smarter or more intuitive than the people who fall prey to these schemes, cons, and games. We all have an anxiety, an unanswered question, a desire to be better, to feel safer, and above all, to find a quick fix. Candidate Donald Trump rode down the golden escalator in 2015, warning us of the drug dealers and rapists from Mexico. He was there to save us all.
Sixty-three million people bought his con, much like the people in the fictional town. After all, there is a con out there for everyone, some are just more successful than others.
Though we think we no longer live in the Wild West or under the influence of the carnival barker, we’ve continually seen guys like Bernie Madoff pull off their own versions of Ponzi’s same old scheme. And we have a president of the United States who has ruthlessly conned the public and enjoys the undying support of about 35% of Americans based on a lie perpetuated by yet another television show. Not surprising when you look back at the very American origins of all this proverbial snake oil.
And if exploitation is the foundation, then who are some of the most dangerous (and successful) snake oilers of today? The ones with the supernatural on their side, corrupting those searching for answers to make themselves rich. The televangelists of America, much like some of our best-known politicians, have no shame in what they do. When they tell their followers they need donations for private corporate jets, they say it’s either to spread the word of God or expand consciousness or some ethereal non-measurable purpose. They claim the mansions and luxury lifestyles in which they live are blessed by God, himself.
To read the full post, please click the following link to The Culture Crush.
To read the companion piece by Jerry Gramckow, called Against Interpretation, click here.