Apocalypse Now (But First, a Word From Our Sponsors)

Ask religious broadcasters, from the elfin Pat Robertson to the funky Reverend Ike, and they'll tell you: Doing the Lord's work takes plenty of cash. Precious airtime that could be spent trumpeting the Gospel gets consumed in pleas for tithes, donations, prayer offerings--"the green stuff," as Ike used to call it.

No one understands the struggle better than Bob Larson, the Lakewood evangelist whose radio ministry stretches via satellite across the United States and Canada. Several months ago Larson revamped his controversial, two-hour "Talk Back" show into a daily one-hour program called "Bob Larson Live." Larson continues to hawk his own line of books, videos and audio cassettes that exhort listeners to wage "spiritual warfare" on godless liberals, new-age witches and satanic teens. But his new format also features commercial sponsors seeking to tap into a largely neglected market of true believers.

Larson says he doesn't endorse any of the products advertised on his show, other than the materials offered by his own ministry. Yet he has gone so far as to lend his voice to ads for gold coins and vitamin supplements, explaining why he thinks it's important to diversify your portfolio and to treat your body like a temple. The result is a smorgasbord of the spiritual and the mundane, a barrage of offers to invest in this world and the next--the Home Shopping Network with a distinctly apocalyptic bent. Among recent special offers:

Product: America Spiritually Mapped
Description: Educational video
Price: $100 donation to Bob Larson Ministries
Pitch: "Shows what demons are out to get you and your city."

Product: Gold coins from Swiss America Corp.
Description: Investment for the coming "end times"
Price: Varies

Pitch: Pitchman tells Larson that people should buy gold "because computer chips can be placed in your hand or on your forehead and, Bob, you know what that means."

Product: Biodiversity and Earth Worship
Description: Educational video
Price: $100 donation to Bob Larson Ministries
Pitch: "Find out how goddess worship has taken over the United Nations."

Product: Lifeline
Description: Christian long-distance phone service
Price: Varies--10 percent of your phone bill goes to the sponsoring ministry

Pitch: "You won't have to worry any more about your phone payments going to support abortion, Planned Parenthood or homosexual Olympics."

Product: Curses: What They Are and How to Break Them
Description: Book
Price: $25 donation to Bob Larson Ministries

Pitch: "Learn about territorial curses over nations and cities, and the danger of having cursed objects in your home.

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast