God never said let there be light but no light bill. : God Jess Hal

God is back in the news.

He has apparently instructed Southern Baptist Jess Moody not to move his 10,000-member church into an exclusive Chatsworth neighborhood in order to avoid a confrontation with its upper-income residents.

So doing, God yields to the wishes of an unemployed newscaster and a wealthy grocery store owner to keep religion out of their corner of the Christian-Judeo world.

Christine Lund and Bernard Gelson, among others, successfully lobbied against the church by claiming that its construction would harm the environment and clog the streets with traffic.


They may burn in Hell for it later, but meanwhile their property values stay high. First things first.

Personally, I was a little disappointed in God, not so much for knuckling under to the rich, but for making City Councilman Hal Bernson look good along the way.

I figured anyone with the good taste to create fettucine alfredo, dry martinis and Morgan Fairchild would not enhance the political fortunes of a former T-shirt salesman from Northridge.

But no one’s perfect. I don’t think.


For those who avoid God stories, he has been in the news a good deal lately for a variety of reasons, not the least of them affecting us right here in our own gloomy corner of the world.

First, radio evangelist Pat Robertson claimed that God had urged him to seek the Republican presidential nomination, which, by the way, God later denied.

Then Jess Moody announced that God had told him to move his church into Chatsworth’s Monteria Estates, where the atmosphere seemed more, well, ecumenical than Van Nuys.

And finally, Oral Roberts announced that God was not going to let him live past March unless followers of the evangelist pumped $4.5 million in “quick money” into his till.


Well, I’m not going to spend a lot of time thinking about Pat and Oral.

Robertson hasn’t got a chance in Hell of being President, and frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with Roberts trying to make a few secular shekels to keep his empire in order. God never said let there be light but no light bill.

Those who have already sent almost $2 million to old Oral probably would have just squandered it on food and health care anyhow.


The Chatsworth Question, however, is something else, since it questions God’s credibility as a power broker.

The sequence of events goes something like this:

1--God tells Jess Moody to move his church to Chatsworth’s exclusive Monteria Estates to keep the West San Fernando Valley “free from Satan’s grip.”

2--God’s good friend Hal Bernson, in whose councilmanic district Chatsworth falls, says if the move is OK with the Big Guy, it is OK with him.

3--The wealthy residents of Monteria Estates, however, warn the Holy Trinity (God, Jess & Hal) that they’ll fight any effort to build a church in their backyard.

4--Bernson, also a friend of the rich, fires back with well, uh, um, I never said, that is, if the people, er, don’t, well, I, that is we . . .

5--Jess Moody announces that they will probably not locate in Chatsworth.

It appeared that God had suddenly withdrawn support for the Chatsworth move and I wanted to know why, so I tried to call him, as I have in the past.


Unfortunately, however, his press secretary, a Catholic with Jesuit tendencies and a bad drinking problem, would not put me through.

Our brief conversation follows:

Question: How can God not be in? I’ll bet if I were Barbara Walters, he’d be in.

Answer: No comment.

Q: Can you confirm that God ordered Hal Bernson to withdraw support for Jess Moody to move his church from Van Nuys to Chatsworth?

A: Bernson said that?

Q: Well, not exactly, but . . .

A: Can we go not-for-attribution on this one?

Q: What the hell.

A: God came to Hal last Tuesday.

Q: In a vision?

A: In a Mercedes.

Q: Of course.

A: It was suggested at the time that Hal could back off on the Chatsworth thing if he wanted to.

Q: Why?

A: Well, he’d been bombarding the Boss with prayers for two months saying he was desperate for guidance on whether to finally back or oppose the church move. It was driving everyone crazy.

Q: That surprises me. He was trying to do the right thing?

A: Not exactly. He just didn’t know whose side it would ultimately benefit him to be on, the rich or the religious.

Q: And he chose the rich?

A: Churches don’t buy campaigns.

Q: The hell they don’t.

A: No comment.

Q: Did God tell him specifically to go where the money is?

A: Didn’t have to. Hal found the answer in literature.

Q: The Bible?

A: The Greeks. Euripides said it: “Money is the wise man’s religion.”

Q: I’ll be damned.

A: Probably.