The Rambler

Billy Sunday preaches (postcard 1908)

If you’ve been on SFL for a while you’ve no doubt grown accustomed to the spitting, screaming style of preaching that is favored by some fundamentalists, the kind that consists of of one part loudness and two parts volume with a sprinkling of audience supplied noise. That kind of preaching is generally a younger man’s game, requiring an energy and stamina that is hard to maintain with the passage of time. But as the years pass and preachers “burn out” we find rising from the ashes of those young firebrands emerges an older and slower preacher. He is: The Rambler.

Having never taken the time to actually learn how to exegete nor having gained the wisdom that should come with age, these senior senior pastors rely instead on volume of words instead of volume of voice. They open their Bible to some familiar place but since they have never really gained an understanding of the Gospel so instead They tell poor hackneyed jokes, poke fun at their wives and women in general, and repeat platitudes as if they expect the audience to have never heard them before. They still harbor anger deep within their bosom but being unable to rage against the usual foes of fundamentalism it shows up now as bitter words not boisterous acrobatics. Now lacking the energy to make the display entertaining it just becomes a little sad.

The Rambler tells old tales of days when fundamentalists still reigned supreme and constantly reminds everybody present that the end of the world is nigh in wistful tones that betrays his surprise that the world will almost certainly go on without him when he is gone. Having exhausted his store of truisms he will inevitably fall back on the handful of stories which he loves to tell. Oh, these tales are wondrous living things, planted in the rich soil of yesteryear and well-fertilized with half-remembered details that make up for in creativity what they lack in veracity.

These sermons wander in and out of reality, full of words that sound like they’re about to make some point or share some truth but never quite arriving to the spot where you can quite make it out. If there was some greater purpose there for spending this hour has, perhaps, more to do with giving the preacher some taste of the glory that has departed back when he could still climb the pews and yell to make the rafters ring instead of simply rambling on.

There is no fundy like an old fundy.

67 thoughts on “The Rambler”

    1. Beowulf, are you familiar with the late J. Vernon McGee? His “Through the Bible” series is a staple on our local “CCM-is-of-the-devil” bible radio station.

      I must admit I always found him rather endearing. He managed to go “through the Bible” without talking much about the Bible, but his anecdotes were often entertaining, and his Texas twang kind of grew on me.

      But I couldn’t imagine sitting through a church service consisting of one of his sermons sandwiched between a few fundy hymns. I mean, that’s church?? Is that all there is? Where’s the beef?

      1. I think they do broadcast his “Through-the-Bible” series on our local station, but I haven’t heard one in a long time. I know they still broadcast Oliver B. Greene’s diatribes daily, and he’s been dead for 37 years now. I’m not sure he ever progressed from the “shouting” to the “rambling” stage, though. My next-door neighbor once said Greene had recorded enough sermons for The Gospel Hour daily shows to last decades after he died. I’m sure they must have run out of original material by now. πŸ™‚

        1. Don’t be so sure they’ve run out. After all, Tupac and Jimi Hendrix are still releasing albums. :mrgreen:

      2. CGC–My Dad and I used to listen to his sermons on the radio many years ago. They were very different from his Through The Bible series. As I recall, very good sermons. I’m not sure he could have even been considered a Fundy by our standards. He was a non-denominational pastor, and did not believe in tithing as it is usually taught. He felt that some people really could not afford 10% and that others used it as an excuse not to give more.

      3. I just took a boxful of Oliver B. Greene books from our church library to a Christian bookstore that will buy your used books. He hemmed and hawed over them and finally offered me $10, saying there wasn’t much call for Greene anymore. I said $10 was fine.

  1. IDK where students @ PCC were when I was there who were willing to test the spirits. I don’t think I can count all the times where I cam out of chapel or church wondering “what’s the point of that”, or “how on earth was it ok to preach from the pulpit what he just said”, and all my friends had slept or or didn’t have a critical bone in their body.

    Had a teacher once that thought it was funny to imagine “what the student body would do if there were heresy preached from the pulpit”, and my immediate (internal) response was “what evidence is there that there hasn’t been or that the students would do anything?”

    1. Good point! Why would we speak up? Many of us were trained to be obedient and submissive (being spanked as a baby will do that to you). Some grew up in churches were loyalty to the man-of-God was unquestioned. Even those though who came from more balanced churches were at Fundy U in an atmosphere of fear. Why would we be expected to suddenly grow a backbone and speak up when we’d been crushed to the earth for questioning anything before (“Dad, why is it OK to go to a video store in public and rent the same movie that I’m not allowed to see in a movie theater?” “Who do you think you are, young lady?”)

      If a speaker were to say that Jesus wasn’t God, I think SOME students would react. But even then, we were so trained to be submissive that I think we’d just sit there thinking, “He didn’t just say that, did he? Surely not. I must’ve heard him wrong.”

      It’s always strange to me how fundamentalists want to raise young people with a backbone who’ll stand for Christ yet their methods often crush people’s spirits.

    2. I was at PCC for two years in the late 90s and personally, chapel was my nap time and/or quiet time. The ONLY quiet time I got all day, between having three other people in my dorm room and being watched every minute by someone, somewhere. If I trained my eyes on the speaker and kept my Bible open on my knee, the chapel monitor was appeased and I could have 45 minutes to myself which was a welcome relief. The speaker could have been reading Letters to Penthouse and quite honestly, I wouldn’t have broken out of my trance long enough to notice.

      When I transferred to a Reformed college for my junior and senior years, chapel was only required 10 times each semester and it was amazing. I was wide awake, challenged and schooled by the time I left those services. That was the first time in a lifetime of Christian education that I’d known chapel to be a participatory experience.

    3. PCC grads who came back to preach in chapel were the worst. Of course, I didn’t realized that until I was on faculty. I had spent a few years at a fundy-lite ministry with solid textually-based sermons then returned to the bubble. After a sermon in which the text was totally abused, I thought, What have I done coming back here? I was so grieved. I truly hadn’t noticed how non-biblical the preaching was during my 4 years as a student.

    1. Mine was a 65 Rambler with a flat head 6…took it to Fundy U in the Spring of 73 after my folks bought a Plymouth Fury…great car and song…listened to it under the cover of darkness after lights out πŸ˜‰ Heard a lot of Ramblin men back in the day πŸ˜€

        1. Those cars were bullet proof! Snuck off campus many a time with my girlfriend (now my wife) in “Old Blue.” 😎

        2. We borrowed a friends Nova for those “alleged excursions”. A Nova with an 8 track that played Dr. Hook’s Greatest Hits. The Rambler came just after I left my first Fundy U after two years. And was the car we drove off on our honeymoon in.

        3. WOW. I must have really left Fundystan behind. I’m discussing my rebellion without guilt while In-a-Gadda-Vida plays in the background of my humble abode. It still has a cool drum solo.

  2. They also name-drop worse than entertainment reporters, telling you how they spent last weekend chatting with Some Famous Preacher and went to college with Some Other Famous Preacher or Prominent Businessman. I also love the “inside joke” that they share with your church’s pastor; they’ll say “Bob knows what I’m talking about” and Pastor Bob will start roaring like the two of them just robbed a bank.

  3. Bob Jones Jr. was a perfect example. He could speak for 45 minutes and not say a damn thing. He usually just skipped the part about opening his bible though.

    1. Exactly. In the late mid 90’s we would have to listen to recordings of Sr. rant about sins (that actually weren’t sins), Jr. ramble about…um …never sure what He was talking about actually. I was just afraid that he was going to die while he was speaking. Then, of course, III would deliver the worst sermons ever, because he didn’t have the passion of Sr. or the “eloquence” of Jr., and as a general rule made even less sense than his predecessors.

    2. Oh yeah, I remember two Juniorisms from my time there.
      1. “Open your Bibles anywhere, It’s all good…”
      2. “Now I tell the preacher boys to never preach out of context, but I’m going to preach out of context…”

    3. I think Junior ended every “sermon” he ever preached with “Kiss the son lest he be angry.”

      It was apropos of nothing, but it served the valuable function of letting us know that the noise was about to stop.

  4. I remember one time Bob Jones Junior was supposed to do a Scripture reading in Vespers and he went off script by telling the story of Quo Vadis. The reason I know is because my roommate was in one of the choirs performing that Sunday and they were all backstage wondering what on earth he was doing.

    I never liked those yelling preachers. They did nothing but frighten me.

  5. At least the yellers and screamers are entertaining.
    The principal at my old fundy high school was at that crossroads between pulpit-thumping and starting to ramble. We had quite a few “interesting” sermons during those years. πŸ™„

    1. That sounds strangely like the principal at my Fundy High. Often he would have us open to a verse, and it would never be read or even acknowledged during the following ramble on sins real or imagined.

  6. I don’t think anyone could ramble the KJV better than Al Lacy.

    Pastors School 1996 in the International Auditorium rather than at FBC which was was being remodeled and Joe Smith and Al Lacy tried to out ramble each other. Lacy said every other version of the Bible is false and the whole auditorium just hollered louder than the old Chicago Stadium. Then after Lacy’s ramble, Hyles gets up and critiques Maranatha Baptist College and Bob Jones then gets a huge “HAYYMENN” for bashing PCC.

    Funny thing is the next year PCC released a promo VHS and featured a Peter Ruckman sermon where he rebuttaled Hyles by saying Hyles, FBC, and HAC are wrong on the KJV. Pastors School’a 1997 and 1998 Ruckman and PCC were targets of Hyles, Lacy, and the comedian Larry Brown.

  7. While I COMPLETELY sympathize with the writer and those commenting I feel I must take you all to task for criticizing these “windbags” in such a hateful way. It is completely ok to critique and even wholeheartedly disagree with the style and message of others. But to spew the venom on men who have dedicated their lives to the ministry and spread of the gospel in the best way that they understood it was to be done is outright sin. These men were schooled in the accepted teachings and culture of their day. They did not have the instant access to great teaching and thinking that we have today. Many of them attended a college or seminary that they were told to attend by someone they trusted. They were thoroughly trained in the doctrines and personal agendas of those institutions. Others could not attend seminary and were given books by these same educators and were told to not be led astray by unapproved writers. They were a product of bad instruction and training. They did their best with what they had, only to be skewered and roasted by members of supposedly the same calling serving supposedly the same God. Will we be judged as harshly by future generations with the same pride and arrogance that is displayed here? Encourage one another. Build each other up. Pray for one another. How many of you were brought to Christ through the ministries of some of these same men and institutions. I think some of you should repent of this and search your own heart to find where this is coming from.

    1. I may have said this a few hundred times, but I can deal with ignorance in others pretty well, and even with arrogance. It’s ignorance combined with arrogance that I can’t stand.

    2. In my opinion and experience these men are consumed with one thing, building their earthly kingdoms. Jesus told us to pray “your kingdom come your will be done” and not “my kingdom come my will be done”. They preach a gospel of separation and obedience to their rules. If you don’t agree you are at best wrong and at worst a heretic. The BJU library has thousands of books written by the church fathers and the reformers. Their ignorance is founded on their laziness and pursuit of power. If you love Jesus and keep his commandments why does a denomination matter so much to them?

    3. Not quite sure these men have dedicated themselves to the spread of the gospel. The gospel is quite opposed to most of fundyland. I think what they have dedicated themselves to is the spread of their interpretation of the gospel.

    1. At least this would be accepted in an IFB, because bluegrass is at least accepted (partially). They bring out the sacred stringed instruments and haaaayyymeeeeennnnn.

  8. To their credit, I’ve heard non IFB ministers ramble. There comes a time when one must realize it is time to stop delivering sermons because age can make it harder to concentrate, remember, and put together a decent outline.

    I think this stems from a misunderstanding of “the call” to “preach.” Preach means to proclaim, which we are all supposed to do. In that sense, you can continue to preach until you die. That doesn’t necesarily mean you should afford yourself the luxury of rambling from a pulpit for an hour just because there is still breath in you.

    By the way, I’m not knocking elderly ministers. The Bible says a lot about what older people have to offer and teach younger people in the faith. That’s why I hate a whole lot of age segregation within churches.

  9. We had ramblers in our mog’s church (it was not God’s, it was his) and it was terrible. Mostly they went off on some story that by the time they got to the end, I was more confused than anything. Then of course there were the guys shouting “haymen..” urging him on. I usually tuned out , checked out the girls and daydreamed about riding my dirt bike and snowmobile…

  10. I went to a fundy high school. So one day they announce to our A.C.E. upper classmen that we are going to the other even MORE Fundy high school down the road to listen to Evangelist Dick Seaton. He was on the cusp of old so he did both. He screamed AND rambled. I guess he scrambled. Anyway. old Dick goes on after two hymns…around 9:15 AM. We spanned the globe more than Wide World of Sports. Somehow he landed the plane around 11:30!…but wait there’s more. He didn’t actually land the plane, he just buzzed the tower and went into a holding pattern because we then proceeded to endure a 1 hour and 15 minute ALTAR CALL! We didn’t finally board the buses until 1:15. The entire day was shot. They had to save us from the salvation. Dick Seaton…Scrambler

  11. My relatives help keep the godly voice of Perry F. Rockwood on the air. I guess that good old Rev. Perry counts as a rambler because he was never a shouter but he dispensed the same kool aid. His legacy was always limited on the ground (the church runs 35 on a good day in Halifax, NS) will expire when my uncle can’t oversee the operation.

  12. Darrell, have you been visiting New Jersey and listening to my father in-law’s sermons? He’s in his eighties, and hit the “rambler” stage over fifteen years ago when I first met him. The only thing you forgot to mention was the Christian urban legends that get forwarded to him by the more gullible members of the congregation, which he then repeats as honest-to-goodness truth from the pulpit.

    “And then, when the people in the [unnamed] village got to the [unnamed] church to put out the fire, they found the congregation inside worshiping The Lord! What everyone thought was flames was actually the Holy Spirit manifesting itself over that church!”

    Can I get an amen? πŸ™„

    Blech. I’m so glad I haven’t had to listen to that nonsense for almost a year now.

  13. I remember a ramble that something like this:
    God owns the world >> We are ambassadors >> we should go soul winning >> Theses days are easier than ever for soul winning >> people are down and out >> economy is bad >> gas used to be $1 >> people losing jobs >> food stamps look like credit cards now >> people are lazy >> they have everything given to them >> not interested in spiritual things >> therefore soul winning is more important than ever. πŸ˜• non sequitur much?

  14. Boy did THIS post hit the nail right on the thumb! A “Rambler” I know hasn’t learned anything new in decades. He’s not capable of interaction with others, and uses all topics and conversations to turn the attention back to himself. In the pulpit, he is an inchoerent, intarticulate babbler who can’t utter one sentence without being hopelessly convoluted. This is odd since he’s able to carry on discussions with others. But put him in the pulpit, and he sounds like an imbecile. I shudder to think that the Bible doesn’t warrant at least a few seconds of thought prior to opening up his mouth to butcher it mercilessly. And yet, he has a following. I can’t muster the shame or conviction to think that, after attending this small group, I’ve wasted my time. When he’s stuttering, stumbling, and stammering, I listen intently to try to discern a sensible line of thought, and come up empty each time. This post hit home, to say the least.

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