No one knows the day or the hour when the son of man comes.
-Gospel of Matthew
Jesus is coming back and he’s mad as hell.
-Bumper Sticker, 1969
The soul's escaping, through this hole that is gaping
This world is mine for the taking
Make me king, as we move toward a,
new world order
The sawdust would crumble under my feet and get stuck in the grooves underneath my keds tennis shoes. It would be especially heavy around the wooden poles that were holding up the tent. I didn’t like the sawdust because it messed up my Keds. Jonny Quest wore Keds and I thought he was cool. I don’t know why those evangelist guys liked white suits. It seemed strange that evangelists and pimps all wore white suits. His name was David Shipley and his whole thing was deliverance—if you have a problem with drugs or alcohol of debt, there was a good chance an evil spirit was possessing you. I didn’t know much about evil spirits. I just wanted this service to be over so I go home and listen to Vin Scully call the Dodger game.
Five or six people stood in front of the makeshift stage. They had answered the call and wanted Shipley to pray for them. The first man said his name was Mason or something. If there was crack back then, he would have been the poster boy for a crack head. Shipley walked up to him and whispered something in his ear. Mason said something back to him. Shipley stepped away from him and spoke to the crowd.
"Mason says he has been living on the streets in San Franciso for a year. He says that he’s been on heroin. He says that he’d been living at the Greyhournd bus station for the last two days. Today, somebody told him about this service and he walked all the here from downtown. I think Jesus wants Mason delivered. Saints, does Jesus want Mason delivered?"
The crowd screamed back, "Yes!" Mason wasn’t satisfied. "Saints, you’ve got to let the devil hear you. Is Jesus here tonight?"
This time it was much louder. "Yes, yes. He is here."
"Can somebody say, Amen?"
"Amen, Brother Shepley. Amen." It was getting louder and louder."
"Can somebody say, Thank you Jesus!" The organist started playing. It was a simple beat, but the crowd started going. Three rows in front of me, a lady threw her hand back and screamed. "Thank you Jesus…thank you Jesus." The neat rows of folding chairs were now in disarray. All around people were shouting and speaking in tongues. The organist was now standing, working the foot pedals like a ten speed bike. I felt like I should do something, but I just sat there. I was too scared to move.
Shipley brought the microphone close to his lips. "I think Jesus is here tonight. And I think he wants Mason delivered." The shouting stopped. The lady in front of me seemed to have trouble breathing. The lady across from me reached into a pile of sawdust to pick up her hat.
The music became softer as Shipley walked toward Mason. "Do you want to be delivered, son?" He placed the microphone near Mason’s lips.
"Yes," he said.
"Well, Jesus wants to deliver you," said Shipey. "Do you believe that?" Mason nodded—he looked like a bobble head doll or something. Shipley raised his hand and moved it toward Mason’s forehead. The organ music stopped. Two guys in blue suits stepped behind Mason.
"In the name…" Shipley never got the rest of the sentence out. Mason’s body began to convulse like someone in cardiac arrest. The blue-suited guys caught him and gently let him fall to the ground.
Shipley turned to the crowd. "Isn’t Jesus wonderful?" The music returned and the crowd stood and clapped. Shipley turned to the next person in line. As I think back, she looked a lot like Star Jones. She had a funny smirk. It was like she was saying, ‘come on." Shipley looked at her. "What’s your name, sister?"
"Lee Anne," she said quietly.
"Now Lee Anne, you’ve seen the God’s power in operation tonight. And you know that he’s in the business of deliverance. Whatever your need is, he’s gon’ take care of it. What do you need to be delivered of?"
"I’ve got a personal problem. I can’t get enough sex…three, four, five times a day. I just can’t help myself," she said.
Remember, this was 1967 and long before the days of Jerry Springer. The crowd went hush. Shipley, as cool as as Kobe Bryant in the last ten seconds of close ballgame, was unfazed.
"So you’ve got a spirit of lust that’s oppressing you and driving you to do bad things."
Her voice went torch song—creamy, more Sarah Vaughan than Billie Holiday like. "Oh you don’t know how bad.
"Well I know that Jesus can deliver you. Saints, can Jesus deliver Lee Ann from this affliction?" There were a few yes’s, but everybody was riveted on Lee Ann. She unbuttoned the top two buttons of blouse. The top of her breasts popped out. Shipley,who was facing the crowd, didn’t see it. When he turned back around, he eyes immediately fell to her cleavage.
"Sister Lee Ann, what are you doing?" She unbuttoned a third button and took a step toward him. I was on the edge of my seat holding on to the little folding chair in front of me. Shipley stepped toward her.
"You foul spirit, I command you to come our of this sister right now, said Shipley. Lee Ann smirked and said nothing. Shipley kept on.
This time, he was louder: "You spirit of lust oppressing this sister in Christ, I command you to come out of her." Lee Ann smirked again and said nothing. The blue suited guys took a step back. The organist left the bench and slid closer toward the edge of the stage. The only sound I could hear was a car on the distant street.
"Identify yourself to me right now," said Shipley. His gaze was direct. His eyes locked onto hers.