The Devil in 1965
1965 has always been a critical year for students of
Such a historical wreath insufficiently conveys the traumas of that year, the traumas supplied by supremacist fire hoses and Bob Dylan’s electric guitar, traumas caused by Hurricane Betsy and the sight of Hickock and Smith’s hangings In Cold Blood. Whatever histories write of the affirmative aftereffects of LBJ’s immigration gateway, they must also recall how absurd and awful it was if only to imagine, briefly, how all good things come at cost.
I’ve been thinking about 1965 a lot since I read that it was then that Evel Knievel began his daredevil career. “Evel Knievel’s Motorcycle Daredevils” offered a touring show that included riding through fire walls, jumping over mammals and reptiles, and nascent attempts by the show’s eponymous star to cross unbelievable space from atop a bike branded the “American Eagle.”
On December 10 a predicted 20,000 will attend Knievel’s funeral in
Religionists may find a way to work Evel’s 1965 emergence into their narratives. Few men embody better the combination of acrobatic charisma and bumpy biopic so familiar to students of evangelical leadership. He had a resume that was the story of a nation, including (prior to his motorbike hijinks) bank robbery and insurance sales, diamond drilling and alcoholism. Despite much sinful soil, it wasn’t until this year, at the age of 68, that he asked to be baptized at (no less than) Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral. “I rose up in bed and, I was by myself, and I said, ‘Devil, Devil, you bastard you, get away from me. I cast you out of my life.’ I just got on my knees and prayed that God would put his arms around me and never, ever, ever let me go.”
That a daredevil could renounce the Devil (while still engraving his tombstone: “MOTORCYCLIST AND DAREDEVIL”) is no surprise to any of us, anymore. It’s all just the world we live in, a world without