Gene Scott, RIP
UPDATED after the jump with links to other blog reminiscences of Gene Scott. And don't miss my multimedia homage to Doc's fundraising style.
Another UPDATE 11/29/2005: The Wittenburg Door, a Christian satire magazine, has a short video of Gene Scott in one of his fundraising rants. My parody of him was extremely mild in comparison to reality.
It was the summer of 1986. I had just graduated from MIT and came back to Tulsa to look for a job, either here or in northwest Arkansas near my girlfriend. Dad had been laid off the previous September after 20 years with Cities Service and had taken a job in Abilene, Texas. Mom planned to move down there in a few months. My sister was back home after her freshman year at OU, and I had moved back home.
Since I didn't have to be up mornings, Mom and sister and I would tune in every night to watch KSHB out of Kansas City -- Uncle Ed Muscari's "All Night Live". I'd make a pan of Orville Redenbacher, and we'd watch "Twilight Zone", "Alfred Hitchcock Presents", and the Three Stooges, interspersed with Uncle Ed talking on the banana phone, his cat Caffeina snoozing in front of him on the desk. At midnight we'd switch over and catch Letterman.
When Letterman went off at 1, if I wasn't ready to crash, I'd surf over and watch Dr. Gene Scott. I don't remember if he was on KSHB, or some other channel. He was strange, but strangely compelling, this preacher smoking a cigar, wearing one funny hat or another, shouting at his pledge-takers, showing the same ancient video of the Statesmen singing "I Want to Know" over and over and over again until he raised as much money as he felt was necessary before he continued his teaching. Another tune that got heavy rotation was "The P*ssant Song," a ditty devoted to all the carpers and complainers who criticized Scott's teaching and style.
Where was the money going? You didn't need to know. Gifts were payable to Dr. Gene Scott himself -- not a tax-exempt ministry. He could and would do with them as he pleased. He might buy expensive clothes, cigars, saddlebred horses. In his view, you didn't give for specific projects; you gave in appreciation for his teaching. The man lived large, but he also is said to have given generously.
As a lover of downtowns and historic buildings, I was fascinated when he set out to buy the old Church of the Open Door in downtown L.A., topped by the "JESUS SAVES" neon sign, to turn it into his University Cathedral. That deal fell through and the building came down, but he salvaged the "JESUS SAVES" sign, then bought and restored the United Artists Theatre, a Spanish Gothic structure built in the 1927.
When he finally got around to teaching, he might talk about the pyramids, the Davidic heritage of British royalty, or UFOs. Or he might actually open the Scriptures.
When he actually taught, the focus was always on faith. He didn't preach on morality, he didn't call on his congregation to change themselves, but taught that as you start practicing faith, God would change you in spite of yourself. In some ways, he was sound, albeit unbalanced. He was right to teach that being a Christian wasn't about following a list of dos and don'ts, but wrong to ignore the call on Christians to obey Christ as our Lord and Master. (You can find RealAudio files of some of his sermons here.)
The one teaching that really stuck with me was his teaching on the Lord's Supper. For years I had been taught that I Corinthians 11:27 means that I should only participate in the Lord's Supper if I was worthy of participating. How many people, crushed in spirit by the knowledge of their own pervasive sinfulness, have stayed away from the very means that Christ gave to remind us of his sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins and the restoration of our relationship with God? Dr. Gene pointed out that the word in that verse is "unworthily" not "unworthy" -- an adverb, not an adjective -- it's about whether I approach the Lord's Table with a proper reverence and understanding of its significance. I can never be worthy, except in Christ's righteousness alone. (I think Doc went too far in teaching that we could take communion on our own, using Cheezits and Pepsi instead of bread and wine.)
If you want to read more about Gene Scott, here's a profile from about 10 years ago. And here's another Gene Scott profile from the Orange County Weekly. If you already know him and just want to reminisce, check out the Daffy Net, where I found the images and audio for the previous entry.
Other blogging on Dr. Gene Scott:
- The Owner's Manual: "The first time I saw Gene Scott, he was wearing a Patton-style combat helmet, kilt, and smoking a Cigar, not to be confused with a cigar. He was lying back in a lounger recounting biblical archeology, weaving disparate threads into ropes for holding down some major thesis. It was the religion of gruff bluster delivered with hypnotic self-confidence by a cross between pre-Coca-Cola Santa Claus and Richard Nixon."
- More Things: "What he preached FOR was a staunch belief in the Resurrection, and the power of believing in Jesus Christ of Nazareth. That, and the therapeutic power of screwing with bureaucrats."
- ZuDfunck: "His Bible lessons interspersed with long segments of equestrian footage could become downright surreal at three in the morning!"
- Chardman Land: "He often did cool lectures on UFOs, Nikola Tesla, the Bermuda Triangle and The Spear of Destiny. Do you think Pat and Jan Crouch would do that for you?"
- The Muse at Sunset: Features a photo of Doc in his "hangover hider" glasses
- Franklin Avenue: "Get on the telephone!"
- Brad Boydston: "What are bored seminary students going to watch for entertainment now that he's gone?"
- Torrent of Consciousness: "It was like a carnival freakshow- we couldnt take our eyes off of him. And sometimes he stared right back at us- without saying a word for like 2 or 3 minutes." (This blogger is evidently another Okie, and Orthodox as well. He's got a link to Scott's cigar recommendations.)
- Edifying Spectacle: "Someone had just given Jimmy Swaggart a gold Rolex watch.... Dr. Scott wasn't outraged at the waste of money. He was p*ssed because no one had given him an expensive watch. He was inviting a believing soul to understand God's will and give him a gold Rolex.... I can't remember if it was this telecast or another where he exploded that people could "go down the slimy chute to Hell" if they didn't give him money. " (The entry features responses from a couple of Scott's followers.)
- Thomas Hawk: "He would say the most outrageous things in his bully like demands for people to give up their money. You were definitely going to hell if you didn't give and your place in heaven was largely a determination of how much you gave.... 'A skinflint may get to Heaven, but what awaits him are a rusty old halo, a skinny old cloud, and a robe so worn it scratches. First-class salvation costs money.'"
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Link: Shaggy-haired, cigar-smoking televangelist Gene Scott dies at age 75. When I read that, comparisons leapt to mind like starving fleas too long without a dog; a Vesuvius of similies involving Hunter S Thompson and Gene Scott, both now Read More