I have a secret to confess: I sometimes can't resist watching programs on the religious channels--EWTN (Catholic) and TBN (Evangelical).
Why do I do this? Because I am both horrified and fascinated by the madness that these mountebanks fabricate, dispense and, most astonishing of all, manage to "sell" (both literally and figuratively) to the credulous salvation-seekers of the world.
And there's some real catharsis (or, perhaps, kenosis) involved, too. Watching one of these shows is what I call a "sauna" experience. After an hour spent with Kenneth Copeland, for example, in his TBN sweatbox, I am prostrate, limp, withered up--completely emptied of all pride in human reason, all delight in human creativity, all optimism about human thought--what Bertrand Russell once called (silly git) the "chief glory of man."
Nothing, nothing, nothing to hang on to. All just dehumanizing and dehydrating theological twaddle. And so embarrassing. Makes me want to jump into a cold river and not come out.
But still I subject myself to these sauna ordeals--because, as I said before, I am masochistically curious--and also because, after I emerge from the intellectual flogging, I find that very few other lunatics (Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter) have much effect on me. Like the moron who hit himself on the head with a hammer because it felt so good when he stopped. Thanks to the pain, I seem to acquire (at least temporarily) a kind of immunity to inanity.
So, let me tell you about today's metaphysical flagellation. Rev. Copeland (who cain't pronounce "can't") was denouncing the moral and spiritual depravity which has descended, like a great plague, upon America and which has resulted--the wages of sin--in a national affliction (verily, verily of absolutely Biblical proportions) of...excessive belly fat.
Belly fat. Yes, friends, there it is! Did you know that fully 60% of all Americans have too much belly fat? Gospel truth. And this fat is the direct result of perverted eating which, in turn, is the sinful behavior engendered by a nonexistent or improper relationship with Jesus Christ. Don't you see?
It's really very simple. Get right with Jesus and the fat will melt away!
That, at least, was the implication of the little presentation made by Rev. Copeland's bespectacled guest, a certain Dr. Don Colbert, author of a number of books, all apparently ghost-written by Jesus himself, and all entitled The Bible Cure for Something or Other (fill in the blank: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Yeast Infections, etc.). Today, Dr. Don was holding forth about The Bible Cure for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain.
Though at first I was puzzled about why, exactly, "weight loss" needed to be cured, I soon realized that what the good doctor really meant was something like this: "how to use Holy Scriptures in order to lose weight."
Of course, there was also an actual "diet" involved (i.e., lettuce, bran flakes, cottage cheese--nothing particularly unusual). But, asserted the doctor, none of these conventional cures for belly fat would actually "work" unless the dieter had devoutly read the scriptures and, ipso facto / sine qua non, been born again into a right relationship with Jesus.
Positively ingenious scheme, Dr. Colbert!!!! The would-be dieter buys your book (you win); then, he tries out the diet and either--a) it works (you win and so does he), or b) it doesn't work (his belly fat persists--but, and this is the best part, YOU STILL WIN. Because the dieter's failure has nothing to do with you or with the diet--rather, the fault lies with the dieter himself--and, most especially, with the inadequacy of his spiritual development.)
This, then, appears to be the Belly Fat Doctrine: the fatter you are, the more wicked you are. Jesus loves thin people. Satan rules the fatties. So I guess Wallis Simpson had it right (albeit backwards). You can never be too thin or (I'm sure Rev. Copeland and Dr. Colbert would agree) too rich!
P.S. But what about the Rev. John Hagee? Or the Rev. Rick Warren? Aren't they both a little on the chubby side? Just asking...