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Friday, 10 October 2008

Morris Cerullo

It was a meat and potato pasty, two pints of beer, rainy day. A Swansea day. And we were walking past a barely visible Brangwyn Hall. Strange, I thought. All these coaches, all these cars, what’s going on? We drifted up the steps, much like the rain, and found ourselves in an alternative universe. It was Morris Cerullo and a brand of charismatic evangelism I’d never come across before. His sunny face beamed down upon us as an irresistible current of the converted pushed us along into the main hall.

We sat at the back.

Behind us sat a three generation family from the valleys: grandparents, parents and two children eating crisps and chewing gum. They were relaxed, expectant, happy. We wondered what we were doing.

A swelling of chords brought almost immediate silence. A little man, plump and dressed in a blue suit, strode on stage and seized a microphone. He looked like Napoleon and spoke with a Brooklyn accent. Like a gangster from God.

The technique however was exhilarating and mind-blowing. His trick was to speak earnestly in a low, intimate but amplified whisper, gradually building up in volume and repetition to a roaring and passionate frenzy. He spoke for two and a half hours orchestrating emotion like some celestial alchemist. He was no longer funny.

My friends I have seen the devil in a woman’s ankle, the curve of her knee.
I have seen the devil in a woman’s thighs, her hips.
I have seen the devil in a woman’s smile, the lascivious glint in an eye.
The devil is amongst us my friends, waiting his chance…waiting his chance.
Are you with Satan, or are you with Jesus?
Are you with Satan, or are you with Jesus?
Are you with Satan, or are you with Jesus?

The auditorium crackled in his screaming and an entire mass stood up thrusting their arms into the air: Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!

It was like a Nuremburg rally. The children behind us were also shrieking the Lord’s name…and so were we - bemused - wondering at what might happen if we didn’t.

Prove you love Jesus!
How much do you love Jesus?
The devil is in a man’s wallet my friends
He’s in there telling you all the things you can buy with that money.
Do you love Jesus?

Audience response: Jesus…Jesus…Jesus…
Well prove it, prove it my friends. Prove you love Jesus.
Cast Satan behind you. Now! Cast Satan behind you!

Cue men with baskets at the front of the stage.
Cue men and women, capering down with notes in their hands,
Cue us slipping out the back.

Time for one last pint.

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