the word is nigh, even in thy mouth

Here’s something I’ve come to the party a little late on: Pastor Melissa Scott. Many bloggers have already discovered this odd preacher and her dirty not-so-secret — that she used to be a porn star. Here’s a picture; I rescued it because the word on the street is that she’s litigiously removing pictures from her previous life from the internet:

Yay, illegal art!

The most frequent comment about her in the blogosphere seems to be that she is not only hot/slutty, but also carrying on late husband Gene Scott‘s fraudulent/kooky ministry. (Bloggy rumor has it that she was originally one of a number of models Scott hired to sit in the front row of his congregation.) The fact that she’s a former porn star occasions much nasty sniggering and many proposed sexual acts in various parts of the church (and the pastor).

In fact, though, what’s striking about her is how boring she is. Pretty face and magnificent locks notwithstanding, she’s not much of a presence on stage (or, as I saw her, on television). She obviously has a warm relationship with the congregation, but what a nerdy congregation it must be! Scott’s gimmick is that she’s a “natural linguist with command of twenty languages,” and she races around the dais scribbling Greek and Hebrew on three large whiteboards, talking about the “middle voice” and the “genitive case,” looking like a young classics professor straining to be taken seriously. Geek chic has arrived in the evangelical community.

Or maybe it’s been hiding there all along. Nearly every serious Christian I’ve ever met has been a dabbler in Greek, and Christians in the dorky vein are forever telling you how the translations of the Bible (especially that favorite whipping boy, the old King James) fail to convey the true meaning of God’s word. (If only they knew how Muslim they sounded….) Melissa’s late husband Gene Scott introduced this Koine Greek Picture Pages approach, and Pastor Melissa Scott — for some reason it’s a three-word name, like Dr. Laura Schlesinger, or Haley Joel Osmont — is basically doing the same thing here, beefing up her spiritual credibility with a lot of intellectual showmanship.

But so what? This appeals to me more than the shouting and frothing that old-time televangelists indulged in, or the snarky, clubby humor that the younger generation has adopted. Scott is at least interesting — I learned that the Greek word for helmet is “perikephalain,” meaning “around-the-head” — and she actually seems to be making an effort to educate her congregation: she frequently refers to previous sermons, noting in this case that long-time members would recognize the root “dyn-,” for “power,” which she charmingly mnemonizes by associating it with “dynamite.”

And her sermon is remarkably mild — she draws a connection between the sword in Ephesians 17 and the “word” — rima in Greek — which Jesus uses to fend off Satan in the famous exchanges of Matthew 4. She makes the case that rima in the Bible usually refers to the quoted word of God, and then suggests that Christians learn short passages of scripture (she also makes the case that the “sword” of Ephesians is a short sword) in order to fight off Satan. And lest you think she means you to browbeat others with this sword, she specifies that this sword is for fighting temptation, not your neighbor.

This is not barn-burning stuff; this is not going to make anyone pass out in the aisles at the tent revival. But it’s mildly interesting, in the way that C-SPAN book clubs are often mildly interesting — if there’s nothing else on, I’ll spend a few minutes on it.

(Mind you, I can’t take the bland, syrupy praise music on this show any better than I can take it on any other church show — when the guitars come out, I’m switching the channel.)

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