A little while ago I confessed that I have a tendency, probably genetic, to approach a tale widdershins, and I can tell right away that this will be no exception. In my defense I’d like to say that I’ve always enjoyed the journey as much as the destination, or did, until I flew for the first time in one of those jet-propelled drainpipes posing as modern passenger aircraft. Fortunately for those of you still with me, that has no part in this tale. I just mention it as one of those things that lead my wife to repeatedly accuse me – possibly fairly – of being able to gripe about almost anything.

I’ve been re-reading America and the Americans, that wonderful collection of Steinbeck oddments, to make sure I’d remembered aright what first sparked my interest in, and admiration for, this country, its institutions and its peoples. Among this collection are articles he wrote about living conditions in the camps of displaced Americans, forced during the Great Depression to scrabble for an existence among the unimaginable wealth that was California’s horticultural industry.

Then on Thursday morning I found Mike Williams’ touching piece on Haiti, bringing experience, knowledge and humanity as a contrast to the horrors of the Tv reports. Mike’s story led me to Paul Raushenbush, who guided me to Pat Robertson one of that remarkable breed of moneygrubbers, the fabulously wealthy neoreligious who cause me, a non-Christian (non-anything really), to speculate about the particular version of the Gospels on which they seem to have based their business plans.

Robertson in turn led me to The Grapes of Wrath and Steinbeck’s Christ figure, Jim Casey. From Jim my mind wandered to Woody Guthrie’s Tom Joad and the origins of the Wobblies, from where, given my half-century-plus love affair with America’s southern folk music, it was just a short step to Joe Hill and the Wobblies’ Little Red Songbook.

And so I come back to Pat Robertson and the Righteous Right. In the midst of the horror that reduced me – along with millions of others –  to tears, a Kentucky sect whose work apparently consists of building churches in Haiti worries for the cameras about its missionaries and Robertson spouts the sort of tripe that I thought disappeared soon after witch-burning was outlawed.

Pat, perhaps you and others like you should take a bit of a decko at the Wobblies’ book of  “songs to fan the flames of discontent.” Joe Hill penned one that might have been written for you and your soulless, sin-sniffing ilk and I’d like to put part of it down here. Sung to that beautiful old tune, In the Sweet By and By, I’ve changed the first two lines very slightly to suit the times.

Wealthy preachers on TV every night,
Like to tell us what’s wrong and what’s right;
When you ask them for something to eat,
They will answer in voices so sweet:

You will eat, by and by;
In that glorious land in the sky;
Hope and pray, live on hay;
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.

There you go, readers, I got here at last. Oh! and Pat – sorry, I’d almost forgotten about you. I found the comments about your business interests written in response to the Raushenbush piece most enlightening, but if you and your band of Sin-Finders are entitled to a place in heaven, then I’m bloody glad I’m not a Christian.

Cutline for illustration: Sin-Finder General can be a profitable occupation (Povah collection)

Frank Povah

Frank Povah

Arriving in the USA in late 2008, Frank Povah moved to Stamping Ground, Kentucky in mid 2009. Passionate about the written and spoken word and constantly bewildered by non-verbs and neo-nouns, Frank trained as a typesetter - though he has worked at many things - and later branched out into proofreading, writing and editing. For many years he has been copy editor, consultant and columnist with a prestigious Australian quarterly along with running his own editorial and typesetting business. His other interests are many and include traditional music, especially that of the south, folklore, natural history, and pigeons.

  1. Cliff Green

    Don’t give up so soon, Frank. Pat Robertson and his ilk are representative of nothing important I can think of.
    Read Ron Taylor’s piece on those groups trying to help Haitians no questioned asked. Looks like a bunch of Christians to me.

  2. Frank Povah

    Hey Cliff – I’m not picking on them, some of my best friends here in Kentucky are probably Christians, it’s the megaChristians that get up my nose; your Billy Grahams, your Pat Robertsons, your Bakkers, et.al. I’ve read Ron’s piece and am touched by the efforts of all who want to help. It’s just the direction that Christianity has taken that frightens me.

  3. Christians AND non-Christians have been helping people in Haiti since long before this disaster. Folks of all faiths from around the world have dropped everything to heed the latest call from Haiti to the international community: “Can you hear me now?”

    Their woes aren’t new, just ever more spectacular. And for the likes of Pat Robertson to pile on, no matter how the Christian Broadcasting Network tries to soothe and spin, is beyond the pale. They need to retire that man. Will free him up to be a correspondent on FOX.

  4. Frank would you like to hear what your statement to Cliff sounds like –“Some of my best friends are black. Its just radicals like Jessi Jackson and Al Sharpton that get up my nose”.
    The diversity in the USA is not only racial. I am by no means defending the likes of Pat Robertson but he has the same freedom of speach we all do that live in the USA.

  5. Of course Robertson has the “same freedom of speach” but that doesn’t mean the Christian Broadcasting Network is required to keep giving him the platform to share it.

  6. Frank Povah

    C Smith – it was a joke, further proof that the US national sense of humor is different from Australia’s. However, some of my Kentucky friends are indeed Christians because they’ve told me so and others probably are, but it’s never bothered me enough to ask. I’m just careful not to speak too much like an Australian when I’m around them in case I do offend them. Radicals of any ilk (if they are indeed radicals in THAT sense) get up my nose.

  7. Meg “you are welcome” for the idea of your first comment. Mike Williams” Saddist Place Just Got Sadder comments.

    Frank if I had made that statement I said you sounded like do you believe it would have been accepted as a joke? The people of the south invented the joke dodge. If all else fails make a joke out of the situation.

    As in New Orleans (Katrina), Indoneisa (tsunami), and now Haiti’s earthquake there is nothing to joke about.

  8. Frank Povah

    CS Smith: Now you’ve lost me – sorry, it’s late and I’m probably a bit thick. Can you try rewording it and I’ll have another look in the morning.
    But sometimes life is so horrible that if you didn’t joke about it you’d cry and perhaps even go mad. Australians (and others) learned that a very long time ago.

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