When my Grandma lived with us I would take her to church at 7:00 every Saturday night. I liked to sleep in on Sundays and she couldn't get her ninety-plus-year-old body up and moving very fast first thing in the morning when Mom and Dad went. Even at her age with her crippled back and other ailments, she wouldn't dream of missing church.
If you passed by Grandma's room at night she'd invite you in to talk while she poured herself a shot of Rock N' Rye. Then she'd ready herself for bed, rosary in hand with the intent of praying herself to sleep.
During the week she liked to turn the t.v. on and watch the Reverend Ernst Ainsley. Long before Jimmy and Tammy Fae Baker slicked up the production of religion, The Reverend operated a church where tuning in to him and his relationship with The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was the answer to life's weekly woes. Pacing the sanctuary and clutching his Bible, he'd deliver his fire and brimstone preaching and the congregation was spellbound.
So was Grandma. He was the Liberace of televangelists.
If Dad was passing by when this was on he'd mutter under his breath, "She better not be sending money to that horse's ass."
If Grandma heard she never let on.
For all of The Reverend's oratory skills, the show didn't really get started until it was time to heal and/or cast the devil out of the afflicted.
The sickly would line up with their walkers and wheelchairs. Dewy-eyed with the possibility of being healed, they would tremble when it was their turn. Reverend Ainsley would ask them if they renounced the devil. "I do," they'd say. "Louder," he'd bellow. "I DO. I DO. I DO RENOUNCE THE DEVIL." Then the Reverend would smack them in the forehead and say, "HEEEEEEEEEEAL IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST." The smacking was a forceful kind of remedy as some fell back into their wheelchair or needed help steadying themselves, loopy in the head from the healing powers of The Spirit. Then they were quickly shooed away by the church bouncers for the next sufferer. Holy healing powers were on a tight televised time schedule.
Not all that needed Reverend Ainsley's healing powers were physically impaired. There were some that had their problems between the ears and they, too, would line up for some of that miracle that flowed from The Reverend's hand. He would smack them in the forehead and yell, "DEVIL BE OUUUUUT," and pull his hand away really fast.....as if in fear that the devil just might jump from them to him and then this healing gig he'd secured would be over and he'd be back selling Amway door-to-door.
Getting the devil out took a little more doing than healing the infirmed. Sometimes the devilish would start to fall and their kin would surround them and help them to the ground. Other times they would land right on the floor and shake and roll their feisty devils out.
Spent from all that healing at the end of the show, Reverend Ainsley would soften his voice, look into the camera and say, "I need your help to keep this good Christian ministry going. Even the smallest amount will allow me to continue the healing power of the Lord. You saw what happened here. You saw it, didn't you? Jeeeeeeeeeesus did that."
The crowd would nod "Amen" and fan their sweaty faces with their hankies. At home on the couch Grandma would say, "He sure did." Then she'd get up off the couch, grab her cane, hobble back to her room and close the door. Whether it was to get an early start on a shot of whiskey and clicking her rosary beads, or to write the Reverend Ernst Ainsley Ministries a check, her family would never know.
That was between her and God.