Gathering the Flock:

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Fundamentalism in America began its rise in the period between the wars, with the publication of The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, edited by R.A. Torrey. This book encouraged its readers to go back to the Bible, ignoring all of the learned but academically bibulous commentaries that had been written in favor of the Divinely inspired Book itself. After all, if they couldn't trust in the Word of God, what could they trust? Everything else, from the glosses of the Gnostics to the encyclicals of Pius XI, was just the word of man.

Pastor Daniel Bernhardt made his name building a sizable congregation from the dregs of Dustbowl immigrant camps, where he met Aimee Semple MacPherson, herself a successful preacher drawing on the same Southern California stew-bums and itinerants for her own large congregation. The two began a campaign against the evolutionists working round the clock at the La Brea Tar Pits, just down the street from Sister Aimee's Angelus Temple, as a way of taking a stand and, just possibly, growing their flock. The scientists in charge of the pits argued that the incredible age of the fossils they were pulling up proved that the Earth was much older than the Bible said it was. This, in turn, made the theory of evolution possible, because it meant that there was plenty of time for monkeys to somehow turn themselves into men. Sister Aimee and Pastor Daniel disagreed.

They began shepherding their flock down to the tar pits, heckling face-afflicted foreman Robert Z'Dar and his fellow scientists, even lofting bananas at them. The newspapers called it "Sister Aimee Battles the Gorilla of Evolution." Appalled, Z'Dar wrote an angry editorial responding to his most visible antagonists: he simply could not believe that people were being fooled into giving over their hard-earned money to scoundrels like Sister Aimee and Pastor Daniel, but he would try to ignore them and concentrate on his work at the pits, for the public good.

As he worked, sweat from the steaming, stinking cauldron of the pits beading his ample mentum, Z'Dar's fevered cranium was set concocting a plan, a way to shear these scofflaw-shepherded sheep. He would show them—-show them all! Show them that he was right. With so many Bibles in sight, he thought of the verses he knew, thought of Paul's letter to the Corinthians, which says, "God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God." To the shamed and set-upon Robert Z'Dar, it seemed that there was nothing so low and despised in the world as he. Even though he couldn't believe in the literal truth of the Bible, he had taken comfort in its words as palliatives, parables and models of behavior. But if these rubes and reactionaries couldn't see that it wasn't meant to be taken literally, then maybe he could turn their literal-mindedness against them.

He began to think, yes, there was something still lower and more despised than himself in the eyes of these Evangelicals--the dinosaur! And in that moment, he had conceived his villainous vengeance.