This past December 31, the Colorado Springs Gazette published an article that so infuriated local Evangelicals that the paper eventually pulled the article from its archive. You can still find the article in Google's cache, but that will go away eventually, so read it now if you're interested. It's a history of how Ted Haggard had a vision on the side of Pike's Peak that Colorado Springs would become a sort of City of God, and how, for a long time, everything went his way. Haggard's fall made national news, but that's not what irritates a lot of the local Evangelicals. The part that bothers them is this, quoted from the article:
ANOINTED WITH COOKING OIL
In 1984, a nobody pastor named Ted Haggard had what he described as a vision after three days of fasting and praying on the side of Pikes Peak.
Colorado Springs was already a conservative town. But its political coloration was dictated by its large contingent of active and retired military, not its churches.
Haggard saw a city transformed: There was “a huge, lifegiving church” on a hill. Christian organizations poured into the city like crazy, creating “a fountain with young people coming in, having positive spiritual experiences, and going to the darkest places in the world.”
Part of his teachings focused on Colorado Springs being a chosen place that needed to be claimed for the Lord. The New Lifers walked the sidewalks, praying and blessing, block by block, business by business, all over the city.
One evening in the mid-1980s, Haggard found a handful of congregants praying over a 5-gallon bucket of cooking oil. They said God had told them to anoint the city, and so they did, block by block — using a garden sprayer.
“It’s a little unusual,” Haggard wrote of the oil in his book Primary Purpose, “but so is Colorado Springs.”
The Evangelicals complained that the paper was trying to make them look silly. Assuming that this actually happened (and it's taken from Haggard's book, so I suspect it did) the paper wasn't doing any "making." I doubt that "Saturday Night Live" could have come up with a better parody of Evangelical Christianity. Holy canola oil, Batman!
It's actually kind of sad. This is not how sacramental anointing works, any more than you can baptize downtown crowds by hooking a firehose to a tanker of holy water and dousing anybody within reach. It's not about the water, and it's not about the oil. To think otherwise is to descend to a kind of ceremonial magick, and that's what the incident suggests to me—and, ironically, what Evangelicals sometimes accuse Catholics of doing. I've sometimes wondered why the rest of Evangelical America doesn't disown them.
Ah, well. At least those guys are all on the north side of town.