January 7, 2019

every head bowed, every eye closed

I finished Unbroken.  For a non-fiction biography, I found it a captivating read and devoured it in the same fashion as I would fantasy or YA fiction.  That surprised me.

But like a movie with a predictable, incredibly tidy plot twist, I didn't like the way it ended.

It had Billy Graham in it.

Zamperini got "saved" under the auspices of the evangelist, and forgave his captors and found peace.  That part is awesome.  Whatever works.  He deserved that peace a thousand times over after what he endured.

It was the account of Graham's tent revival in Los Angeles that chafed.

I already knew from video tapes I watched while growing up in my Southern Baptist church that he paced back and forth.  I knew the path of his sermon that seldom varied over decades.  I knew the cadence of his voice.

In the book, he then said a phrase that I heard repeated often by preachers and youth ministers and other adults, part of our unwritten liturgy:

"Every head bowed, every eye closed, no one looking ...."

I felt a gentle but tangible skin-crawl.

The phrase was used to induce a sense of ceremony, formality, a social tension made more effective after hypnotic preaching, and often mistaken for the attribution of significance to the words spoken next.  It was a manipulation of a state of the human mind and of emotions, an ersatz intimacy and connection with the speaker.  It was most frequently used on youth.  They weren't yet hardened to and familiar with the experience.

Then they were asked to examine their hearts and decide whether they had truly let Jesus in, repented of their sins and asked for forgiveness and grace.  Still hypnotized and surrounded by peer pressure, many left their pews and walked down to the front of the assembly in response.

Preachers called this a "harvest for the Lord".

I don't think it's fair to use a scythe.


  1. Lille, are my ears deceiving me or do I hear strains of "Just As I Am" as I read this! Boy, does this take me back. Mona