7/29/09 – ADG: SWEET TEA: The Gospel of whom, Mr. Alamo?

Arkansas Democrat Gazette
July 28, 2009
By Jay Grelen

SWEET TEA: The Gospel of whom, Mr. Alamo?

For which gospel exactly is Tony Alamo headed to the hoosegow?

Bernie Lazar Hoffman, who years ago took the stage name Tony Alamo, claimed, again, that the government is persecuting him for his religion, although the federal jurors considered only evidence of Mr. Alamo’s acts with children before they convicted him of crimes last week.

“I’m just another one of the prophets,” Mr. Alamo said, “that went to jail for the Gospel.”

Which gospel does Tony Alamo proclaim? That of Larry Flynt, whose high priest is Chester the Molester?

Given that his crime involved wanton destruction of innocence and untold damage to young souls, those words from his mouth linking himself to such a high calling are another assault.

For want of any safer descriptions, reporters refer to Mr. Alamo as an evangelist and to his gathering of humanity as a church, which is a slight to those for whom evangelism is a true and high calling.

I grew up Southern Baptist, and I know many a pastor and evangelist whose hearts and motivations are as pure as a human heart can be. Mr.

Alamo’s words, spoken after his conviction, struck me as wrong. He has no right to that claim. Whatever Mr. Alamo is or isn’t, he isn’t one of them.

The other line from the story that stayed with me was the crowd’s chant as Mr. Alamo left the courthouse: “Bye bye, Bernie.”

They were calling him by his given name. They reminded him of who he really is, and it’s not Tony and it’s not an evangelist or prophet, at least not in any holy sense.

Those were his created identities.

Mr. Alamo’s stories, like the stories of Elmer Gantrys from time immemorial, are long on boasts, riddled with contradictions and short on verifiable facts.

Starting with his stage name, and stage name is the perfect description:

“I took the name of Tony Alamo … as a professional singer,” he wrote in the story of his conversion. “The Italians were all making it as crooners at that time.”

That explains the Tony part. But alamo is Spanish and before Alamo became famous as the Catholic mission in Texas, alamo was the word for a poplar tree, specifically, according to Webster’s New College Dictionary, a cottonwood.

His choice of Alamo raises another question: Why would a man whose theology includes hatred of the pope and all things Catholic, stagename himself after a Catholic mission?

Bernie, who says David Koresh was misguided in his Christianity, considers himself quite the comedian. “If the craze would have been for Oriental singers,” he wrote, “my name would probably be Yak Sukiyaki.”

And so he exits the stage one more time, blaming his problems on others, denying truth that was plain enough for the jurors to see.

Instead of complaining of persecution, Mr. Alamo might thank the jurors for protecting him from himself. They gave him the gift of time in a place where he can seek forgiveness without the distraction of 8-year-old girls.

Here at the end, knowing he likely will spend the rest of his days in prison, Mr. Alamo might consider a different farewell. While he still has the time, he might bid Tony bye bye and give Bernie a chance for redemption.

In: 2009 - (Trial year), Editorials

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