Dalton Gang and The Jesus Christ Show

Dalton Gang house, southern Kansas: Double-click to enlarge.

Dalton Gang house, southern Kansas: Double-click to enlarge.

I embarked on my first trip to the Deep South via Kansas and Oklahoma.  My first stop was the Dalton Gang’s old house in southern Kansas.  They were infamous bank robbers and murderers in the old west days.  An escape tunnel runs from the house a few hundred yards down the hill, and it’s end is now surrounded by touristy mockups of old west structures supposedly on the Daltons’ property during their heyday.  The attraction was closed by the time I arrived, which simply meant that I could explore the grounds and buildings without any interference.  No gated areas here.

As I sped through Oklahoma’s vast uninhabited grasslands the following Sunday, my radio found the Jesus Christ Show.  The premise is that listeners call and present their dilemmas to the host, Jesus Christ himself.   I anticipated absurd dialogue, but the host (whoever his true identity) was quite reasonable and sensible in his demeanor and advice.  The callers greeted him with “Hi, Jesus” or something similar, with a degree of sincerity

Trailer Church, Northern Louisiana: Double-click to enlarge.

Trailer Church, Northern Louisiana: Double-click to enlarge.

suggesting they believed he was The One.  The first call was to settle a bible study argument over whether wine or grape juice was served at of the key events shortly before crucifixion.  Jesus assured the caller that it was wine, and explained that grape juice would make no sense given the circumstances.  He spoke in first person, authoritatively recounting his experiences from 2000 years ago.  The next caller wanted to know if eating meat was immoral.  Jesus advised that vegetarians are not morally superior to meat eaters, and if the animals in question are raised and slaughtered humanely that is acceptable.  He suggested the caller follow her diet of choice, as long as it was nutritious.  Next, a young woman wanted to know, in order to explain to a prolific “friend,” why the church frowned on sexual promiscuity.  Jesus discussed how this and similar stands by the church are practically relevant and in one’s best interest in the modern day; and that they are not just relics from archaic times.  And so it went for 45 minutes of radio reception.  The host maintained a kind and patient tone with each caller, and was interesting to hear.  Who do you suppose was truly taking the calls?

Trailer Church, Northern Louisiana: Double-click to enlarge.

Trailer Church, Northern Louisiana: Double-click to enlarge.

The Jesus Christ show was a light warm-up to the strong religious culture throughout Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Kentucky.  I have never seen so many churches.  The majority were in double-wide trailers, with a few having pillar-style fancy structures and large cemeteries.

Church in rural Kentucky: Double-click to enlarge.

Church in rural Kentucky: Double-click to enlarge.

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