A Miracle in Colonel Sanders' Colon (The PTL Club, 1979)


Colonel Sanders

by Justin E. H. Smith

What an amazing historical document. I had not intended to watch the whole thing, but I did, with rapt attention. It recalls deep, vague, long-forgotten memories in me. Perhaps I saw this very episode in 1979, when I was seven; perhaps it is just that Col. Sanders speaks exactly like the elderly people in my American childhood used to speak. I knew Americans from the 19th century, worshipful Americans with their very own pastors who spoke with regional accents uncorrupted by mass media. It’s hard to believe now, but I did.

There is so much here! Jim Bakker’s sidekick’s awful doggerel in praise of the Colonel (19’38”); the delightful finale with the giddy KFC regional managers distributing chicken to the PTL crowd, as the Colonel himself enjoys a wing; the squirm-inducing story of the polyp in Col. Sanders’ colon and the ‘plunk’ sound he heard in the commode after his post-op enema (8’40”); Col. Sanders’s own creepy pastor who denounces the ‘Jewish attorney’ (sic) who performed the operation on the Colonel and failed, in his Jewishness, to realize that God himself had already begun his own operation on the chicken-magnate’s colon (9’47”).

What is most stunning, of course, is the way this epitomizes so vividly the conspiracy of religion and entrepreneurship in American history. Col. Sanders is ‘saved’ not nearly so much when his pastor first prays for him, as when the Colonel forks over his first tithe. The simple-minded money-maker and the crafty man of God make a perfect pair. The whole history of the place is a history of duplicity, unctuousness, and unremitting hustling. I miss it.

Piece crossposted with Justin E. H. Smith’s website