God? Satan? The dead? Those are just a few of the explanations listeners came up with to account for the voices they heard in the early days of radio. The dial was rife with charismatic voices that worked the medium like a revival hall, captivating their far-flung congregations with the magic and mystery of radio. In a piece for PRI's The Next Big Thing, Amanda Aronczyk aired some of those voices one more time.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Religious broadcasting emerged in the same time and the same place as broadcasting of any kind - specifically, Pittsburgh, around 1920. Later in that decade, the newborn networks made their deals with the mainstream faiths, but in those early years, conservative evangelists predominated - charismatic voices that worked the medium like a revival hall, captivating their far-flung congregations with the magic and the mystery of radio. In a piece for the PRI program called The Next Big Thing, Amanda Aronczyk aired some of those voices one more time. Here's a short excerpt of that. [CLIP PLAYS]
AMANDA ARONCZYK: Like most people, you didn't understand how these voices found their way into your home each week, and the voice would all of a sudden disappear - through interference, through static, through atmospheric changes. Maybe it wasn't hard to believe that it was Satan himself destructing the sermons. MALE PREACHER: In Ephesians 2:2, Satan is referred to as the prince of the power of the air.
AMANDA ARONCZYK: The devil lives in the second heaven, which is thought to be the lower, more dense part of the atmosphere. And in radio land, maybe he could block the signals as they traveled heavenward. [RADIO CLIP PLAYS] AMY SEMPLE McPHERSON: Come, come, come. In Genesis: Come! In Matthew: Come! Clear through to the Revelations. The word predominates, rings like bells, sweeps as the tones of a mighty harp, peals like the thunderous notes of a great and a glorious organ.
AMANDA ARONCZYK: Preacher Amy Semple McPherson would actually put her hands on the radio transmitter and believed she could heal through the radio waves. AMY SEMPLE McPHERSON: [SINGING] MY PRECIOUS LORD- CONGREGATION: [SINGING] MY PRECIOUS LORD- AMY SEMPLE McPHERSON: HAS WON MY HEART- CONGREGATION: HAS WON MY HEART- [HYMN CONTINUES UNDER]
AMANDA ARONCZYK: In 1927, when this broadcast was made, Semple McPherson wasn't worrying too much about the laws of radio waves. Her station was transmitting so loud that she would cross into other stations' air space. And she wasn't worrying about it, because she was answering to a higher authority. So when people complained, she blamed it on the minions of Satan, who were trying to contain her and her broadcasts. AMY SEMPLE McPHERSON: MY LORD ANY MORE- CONGREGATION: MY LORD ANY MORE. [MUSIC]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: You can hear the whole story at The Next Big Thing dot org.
BOB GARFIELD: Coming up, why settle for one food pyramid, when you can have twelve, and the man who wants to archive everything online.
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