Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 4, 1954

"There's A Sucker Born Every Minute"-- Shades Of P. T. Barnum

Luther W. Martin, Rolla, Missouri

A statement made by Mr. P. T. Barnum a generation or so ago still seems to be the order of the day. Of course, Mr. Barnum was in the circus business. He admitted that his circus sideshows and acts deceived the cash customers. In fact it was Mr. Barnum's philosophy that the American people went to the circus expecting to be hood-winked and would have been disappointed if they had not been trimmed. In any event, the same practice holds true today, both in man-made religions and in much advertising.

The radio stations with which I am affiliated are constantly beset by retailers and advertising agencies, desiring to buy radio time in order to publicize and sell their products. KTTR and KSMO reject this type of advertising, but many stations and other advertising media do not.

Here are some excerpts from "Commercial Advertising Copy" sent to us by one national agency: "Friends, if you take pride in your home, listen closely to one of the most remarkable offers ever made by the_____ Company. Now, for the first time in history, you can have a glorious bedspread decorated with lovely pictures illustrating the Lord's Prayer.... Friends, when you look at this wonderful design you will feel inspiring thoughts of peace and happiness, and the pictures showing the Lord's Prayer will help you understand the true meaning of the great prayer ...." This "commercial" rants and raves on for two minutes with its so-called "Lord's Prayer" tie-in, with the end result in my estimation, that some respectable and decent people are driven away from any further interest in the Bible, due to the "hucksterish" references to a prayer once recorded in the Bible, that Christ taught his disciples to pray before the church was established.

In the same day's mail, we received another "offer" containing this: ". . . . Now folks, as you know, White Bibles of this kind often cost eight to twelve dollars, but if you act now, you can get your White Bible for only $2.98 — and, if you'll mail your order right now, we'll give you free an amazing new moving art key chain that carries a glorious action picture of Christ. When this picture is moved slightly, it suddenly becomes ALIVE! Our Lord's lips move as if in prayer, his eyes open and close and his raised hand motions to heaven while mysterious rays of light flash around him . . . ." You think that the foregoing "commercial copy" is terrible? Well, so do I. But we'll hear that read in its entirety on some of the Mexican stations and some U. S. stations that operate all night. They'll peddle this foolishness to thousands of gullible Americans. Possibly even some members of the church.

If you can stand it, I'll give you one more example. "Neighbors, here's how you can have the most remarkable tablecloth ever made — an amazing new kind of tablecloth that can actually bring spiritual happiness and beauty to your home . . . . On its center appears, in color, a large, wonderfully lifelike copy of the most inspiring picture ever painted — the LORD'S LAST SUPPER, surrounded by a handsome Biblical border.... Its soul-stirring beauty will not only glorify your table, it will also bring inspiring thoughts of peace and happiness to you and your family. Friends, when you look at it, it does something to you — it's so lifelike you feel you are actually present with the Lord and his disciples at the Lord's last Supper." Isn't that nauseating?

Of course it's no worse than some of the stuff that Catholicism tries to palm off on its gullible adherents. Here's a sample: "Imagine praying to our Blessed Mother and actually touching beads containing water from the miraculous spring created at Mary's request. The second, third, and fourth (Hail Mary) beads of this unusual new Rosary actually contain water from the Fountain at Lourdes. You'll feel closer than ever to the Blessed Virgin Mary when you say this Rosary, etc. ..." Catholic publications that are "Official Organs of Such and Such Diocese" carry such advertising to the gullible subscribers.

Yes, P. T. Barnum was right...but the sad thing is, that with Barnum, the gullible public lost only filthy lucre. But with so much of this material that we have illustrated in this article, the soul of the reader or hearer is involved. Just because you see a thing in print does not make it true. Nor, merely because you hear it advertised on the radio, does that make it correct and dependable.

In matters of the spirit, go to the Bible. When it comes to doctrine and practice, go to the New Testament. Don't accept something as the truth, without proving it. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1)