Part 18: My Friend the Devil
Dancing with the devil had some lighter moments. Going with Cleaver to the PTL Club (praise the Lord) was one such occasion. It was a mind blower to arrive in Charlotte, NC and get picked up by a white limo driver. It almost made me paranoid. Where is he taking us, to a lynching and are we the ones to be lynched? How did the descendant of slaves get to be driven by the slave master's son? A friend's mother would say because we deserve it, had long ago paid for it and we must enjoy it, if not for ourselves, then for our ancestors.
We were driven onto the plantation of Jim and Tammy Baker, two Born Again superstars who eventually fell from grace for stealing from the Lord. But while it lasted, PTL had a great time, living high on the hog. When we got to the house that was the television studio there was no doubt the White Man's Heaven is a Black Man's Hell. The place was lavishly laid out, the carpet so soft one could hardly walk, gold trimmings and ornaments everywhere, especially the bathroom. Of course Tammy was decked with thick makeup, looking more like Dolly Pardon than Dolly. But we noticed that these Christian women wore long dresses like Muslims. And when the men hugged, it was Muslim style, on both sides of the face. Jim's sideman grabbed me with a hug that lifted me off the ground as he was a big fellow and I was a small guy at the time. I saw Cleaver crack up and he never let me forget how that big white man hugged me. Cleaver gave his "moon shot" or "golden shower," which ever you prefer, Cleaver preferred the later to describe his testimony. Of course only EC would title his testimony the "golden shower."
After the show we retired to the big house for the meal, laid out as only Southerners can do. And the food was so good they had to introduce us to the cook. You know she was Mama Africa.
And then Cleaver was ushered into another room. Of course I accompanied him as per his request. In the other room a man stepped forward and introduced himself. He said he was a former FBI agent who was there in Oakland the night of the shootout in which Lil Bobby Hutton was murdered and Cleaver wounded. He said he had found the Lord and didn't hate black people anymore. He and Cleaver embraced. And the crowd shouted PTL
or Praise the Lord.
During my time with the devil, there were many occasions when former or current law officers confessed their previous hatred of black people but said since being born again they no longer hated. We were told this in Sacramento at a luncheon with Christian businessmen. A man stood up to tell Eldridge he was all over the world tailing Eldridge, in every country EC visited he was there observing his movement. But he found the Lord and no longer hated. There were police officers in the Bay Area who confessed they had murder squads killing Panthers in particular and black people in general. Supposedly, these officers found the Lord and Cleaver embraced them.
What I observed was that there were other white Christians who said they could still hate after receiving the grace of Jesus Christ. As long as they were born again they could do almost anything, even murder. Perhaps this is the majority of Christians. And perhaps this is the reason Rev. James Cone told Bill Moyers all Christians must come to an understanding of the cross and the lynching tree. Obviously white Christians felt they could lynch black people and still be righteous Christians.