I know that the deaths of Hunter S. Thompson has aggrieved many of us here, and for good reason. He was one of the great iconoclasts, but more so, he was a cantankerous ol' coot with a healthy dose of outrage at the powerful for their raping of the American Dream. He lashed out, partially through acid-and-booze soaked misadventures that left many perplexed if not furious, but more so through his insightful and delightful writing, which reached millions who laughed for all the right reasons while stoking their own fires of righteousness.
Alas, the very next day, we lost another gem of a curmudgeonly iconoclast--Dr. Gene Scott, the man Spin once called the "Morton Downey, Jr. of televangelists." He was one of the greats--a truly sincere Christian with a foul temper and a fouler mouth, a shaggy head of white hair, a cigar clenched between his teeth, and a lot of righteous anger of his own.
While most televangelists would plead and charm the tithes out of their audience, Dr. Scott would harangue, sometimes singing barbed songs about the tight-fistedness of his devotees, other times storming off camera for hours
while the TV cameras showed his vacated seat with the caption, "Please bring Dr. Scott back on the air--call and pledge now." Most of the time he'd just yell, "GET ON TH' DAMN PHONE!"
One legendary recording has him, in his early days, going off on his entire congregation mid-sermon, starting with calling one congregant a "tight son of a bitch" for putting a quarter in the collection plate, ranting about the need for a sunday school classroom, exposing an affair between the church secretary and another congregant, threatening to quit if the church didn't get their act together, and ending with:
In fact, my sermon
Mr. Woodrow, would you lead us in a closin' prayer...?
...Well, are you gonna do it, or not?!? ...I'm a son-a-bitch! DIS-missed!!!"
Scoffers were generally entertained wth his antics, but there's a part of me that was downright inspired by his crotechiness and his earnest belief in his faith--not to mention the invective he cast at other televangelists. Oh, how he hated what his fellow televangelists were doing--not jealousy, but righteous anger over their brazen, dishonest, wedge-driving ways.
Let me give you the prime example: Remember when Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson blamed People For the American Way, femininists, witches, and queers for 9/11? Dr. Scott had a beautiful response:
Christianity has abused Christians. As though when something wrong goes wrong, or wronger, it's because you sinned. Although there'll be those that will preach, 'Because of America's sin, the judgement of God's on them,' well, go to Hell, you voices of the Devil. [sic]
Perhaps that response lacked charity, but it also demonstrated an insight that few evangelicals have openly expressed. Dr. Scott saw the 9/11 tragedy as an opportunity to unite, and also saw the reaction of Falwell and Robertson as an attempt to divide. But that's the way he usually worked--gruff, rough, prone to using words that aren't necessarily family friendly, but also hoping and expecting the best in human nature to come through in the end.
He was, more so than many others in his field, an honest, "what you see is what you get" kind of televangelist. While other televangelists would evade criticisms towards their spending habits, Dr. Scott would gruffly rebut: "You don't want a stupid preacher, do you?" He was an intense biblical scholar and a bon vivant, offering cigar and wine reviews along with close scrutiny of the Septuagint. He maintained one of the greatest collections of bibles in the world, and generally loved books so greatly that one of his charitable works was in hosting a telethon to save the LA Central Library. He played saxophone for his congregation when he was in an expansive mood, and for all his ability to be unpleasant, he could also be very warm and pleased for the well-being of his flock.
I think he and Hunter Thompson would've gotten along just fine. Dr. Scott and Dr. Thompson would've gathered around scotch and cigars, cussin' a storm about the lizards crawling around the corridors of power, and it wouldn't be until Hunter started chewing the jimson weed that Dr. Scott would be compelled to punch Hunter in the jaw, and both would wander off, calling each other rotten bastards. They would've made great pals. And I will miss them both, goddamn it.