Arthur W. Atkinson, Jr.

It pays never to underestimate the gullibility or ignorance of the American people. Thousands of people get rich every year pursuing a business that is dependent upon the naivete of millions of people.

A case in point was an ABC television program titled "Pray TV." Actor John Ritter played the role of an evangelist in the fictional presentation. As incredible as it may seem some 22,000 people called local television stations wanting to pledge financial contributions to Ritter's program. These figures were verified by various telephone companies who had monitored and logged the incoming calls. Just after a scene in which the actor-evangelist had said, "We need your prayers," a fictitious toll-free number was flashed on the screen and many viewers around the country tried to phone the number.

Characters in soap operas are many times confused with the role they play. In 1968 Leslie Nielsen played a brutal sheriff in a film, SHADOW OVER ELVIRON, and received two hundred hate letters from women about his brutality. Some of them were shockingly vulgar.

Even "Spuds MacKensie," the dog on some beer commercials receives an average of five thousand letters a month. It is not his trainer nor his sponsor but the dog himself who receives the mail.

There are a lot of people who will just follow about anything. They will tag along with just about anybody. Even after the person is shown to be a fraud and a crook, people will stick with him and supply him money.

And, it seems that the worse the character or the situation, the more people will go along and accept it. Winston Churchill was once congratulated for the size of a crowd which had turned out to hear him speak. He said the crowd would be twice as large if he were being hung.

In Matthew 16:13-20, Jesus asked his disciples who people were saying that he was. I'm not too sure that Jesus was really interested in what people were thinking about Him. He was more interested in what His disciples thought.

The people were fickle. They followed Jesus for loaves and fishes but turned away when he began to teach them about the real issues of life (John 6:60-70). These people were looking only for those things that satisfied the physical. The spiritual matters were unimportant to them. The fact that they could sit at the feet of the greatest teacher of all time, the Son of God, was not important. They could only think of their material welfare. It is sad to think that today's society is similar to this.

One of the things that appeals to people today in the messages they hear on television is the benefits that will come to them as a result of their support of some religion or religious person. It is a form of selfishness or greed. Since this is the motivating factor and since many can see no further than this, they do not look with any depth into the message that is being brought to them. Nor, do they look at the life-style of the person delivering the message. This is a foolish frame of mind and one which causes the person to be soon separated from his money to support the lifestyle of crooked evangelists. And some of these life-styles are really quite bad or evil. I really don't need to mention any names for you to know who and what I am talking about. The people of America, by the hundreds of thousands, have been swindled by TV evangelists. All of this has given Christianity a bad name. If Jesus were to ask today what people were saying about Him He would receive an answer that was not so good.

Many of the TV evangelists do not represent Christ. They represent only themselves and are out to fleece the dumb sheep that are gullible. The scriptures say, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1John 4:1). People need to be careful where they send or spend their money.