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03-07-2009, 07:01 AM
Jesus, Marx, and Spiritual Economics

Jonathan Phillips

Thousands of people poured through the exit gates of Flushing Meadows. I kept staring through the fence at those 70,000 fold-out chairs glistening under the massive house lights and flanked by two enormous video screens. Why had I come here? I wondered, looking out at all those seats. What did I think I could possibly find at Billy Graham’s Last Crusade? The ailing preacher had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and he had come to New York City, media capital of the world, to kick off his last evangelical tour.

I had recently undergone some unexpected mystical openings of my own, ones that surprisingly involved Jesus. So I wanted to see if these Christians knew something that I didn’t, and also what might be behind America’s rising fundamentalism that was now preventing gays from getting married in various states. Billy spoke in a weak, but graceful baritone voice, giving a brief sermon on the well-known tale of Nicodemus and the need to be “born again.” The speech lacked a certain depth and passion and glancing at the massive infrastructure in front of me, it just didn’t seem worth the $6.8 million needed to put the whole thing on. As uniformed men packed up the evening’s offerings into armored trucks, I wondered what would have happened if those funds had been spent on issues Jesus actually cared about, like feeding the poor and healing the sick.

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