Right, Wrong, and Religion – 3


I stuck my foot in religious waters a few more times before finally acknowledging church attendance didn’t work for me. One of the most memorable and frightening encounters that helped clinch my decision happened at a tent revival when I was about fourteen years old. As I mentioned in an earlier writing, I was coaxed by my neighbor’s same-age daughter into attending a Pentecostal healing tent revival at the nearby community of Linda. I hadn’t yet learned how to say no to invitations from friends, so I squeezed into their station wagon with the other five kids and we took off.


The parking lot had filled, and nearly all five hundred folding metal chairs held a warm body, but we managed to find vacant seats in the back row of the big billowing tent. A choir on an elevated stage in front led the audience in a soul stirring rendition of “Are You Washed in the Blood”. Directly in front of the choir a large pulpit or ambo awaited the night’s reigning star, reverend Jack Coe Sr. Banners and posters plastered along one side of the tent featured touched-up, close-ups of the preacher and his lovely wife. They promised hope for those who had none, and cures for the incurable, if only you believed. A clothesline of crutches lined the other side of the tent. Another song, fast and lively brought the preacher on stage and the audience to their feet with a round of applause a chorus of hallelujahs. The reverend delivered his fiery sermon pacing back and forth, fist-pounding, shouting, sweating, threatening, and promising. The crowd came to their feet with a profusion of clapping, arm-raising, swaying, and more hallelujahs, but that was just a warm-up for the main attraction—faith healing.

revival heal


A little old lady rolled up to the preacher in her wheel chair. He asked her to describe her symptoms, then laid his hands on her head and told her to stand up and walk. She did and the crowd swooned. More halleluiahs and praise Jesus’s came from the crowd. The preacher strutted like a cocky bandy rooster. The crowd came to their feet, preacher Coe placed his hands on another woman, almost like a push. She fell over backwards in a swoon. Some people began talking in tongues, others dancing, raising their arms toward Jesus. A long succession of infirmities made their way to the pulpit, wanting that miracle, believing. “Do you feel any more pain?” Coe asked an arthritic old man. The man flexed his shoulders, wiggled his fingers, raised his arms. “Not now,” he said. “Praise Jesus.”

The evening continued, more miraculous healings, more hymns, and finally, with a rousing crescendo, the plate was passed around. The crowd donated generously, but at fourteen I had already become a skeptic, a doubting Thomas, and not only because my last name was Thomas. I held onto my two dollars and left the revival vowing to stay as far away from places like this as I could, though I liked some of the music. I felt terrified I would become a victim of this mass hysteria and couldn’t wait to get back home.


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Sandra Bolton

Sandra Bolton is the author of two novels: A Cipher in the Sand and Key Witness, A Southwest Mystery. She lives in Raton, New Mexico with her big black dog, Sam and fat cat, Fidel. Writing is her passion, along with hiking, gardening, cooking, eating and laughing whenever possible. Her goal in life is to do no harm to any living thing or to our beautiful earth.

3 thoughts on “Right, Wrong, and Religion – 3”

  1. Thank you, Sandra, for sharing this. I am what some would call a “born again Christian,” but even so, I too share a lot of the skepticism you have shared concerning some of our modern “Christian” worship practices. I, too, have sat in numerous such services as you described, and have never felt entirely at ease with a lot of it. I have seen just as many folks turned off and turned away by this approach as those who would embrace it. I consider myself a follower of Jesus Christ, as illuminated in the Bible; and as such, the Jesus I see there points clearly to a daily, intimate, loving relationship with God the father; a relationship that can, at times, be exciting, but is most often lived in the day to day routine of life, devoid of explosive and emotional circus acrobatics. At the end of the day, my God is still real and involved in my day to day cares, not just in the occasional carnival tent. And that God does not utilize pressure tactics on or through me to build up the numbers of His followers. And I probably would’ve kept my $2, also…I like to give to worthwhile ministries…but only if I feel God is doing something “real” with the money…feeding someone hungry…or clothing them. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    1. Thanks for sharing your perspective with me, Rick. I agree with you on many issues here. My idea of a true Christian is someone who follows the teachings of Christ, which sadly many of our mega-churches and religions seem to have veered away from. At any rate, I know there is something out there that is good, whatever we want to call it.

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