By Chris Roberts
By Joe Eskenazi
By Albert Samaha
By Mike Billings
By Rachel Swan
By Erin Sherbert
By Joe Eskenazi
By Albert Samaha
It's always been a dream of mine to get booked on a Christian talk show posing as a guy who fronts a Christian speed-metal band. Thank Jesus -- my prayers are answered. I come across this:
The showMiracles Today features authentic, cool Christians whose lives have been transformed by the healing and saving power of Jesus Christ. Guests are invited to tell about their testimonies, healings, or miracles with a warm and inviting host. The show aims to glorify our Lord and plant seeds of hope to the viewing audience. Every story of transformation is good news, and yours is too. The only preparation we require is prayer.
Since my acting range extends to "cool Christian," I send an e-mail. Immediately I hear back from the producer of the public-access TV show telling me the next Miracles Today is to be shot on Saturday and asking whether I'm available or not.
You bet your pink ass I am! First I need a ridiculous persona -- so I explain that I play in a Christian metal band. What could be more ridiculous than headbanging for Jesus? It's right there with other such natural fits as "vegetarians for meat" and "Klansmen for big, black booty." Think about it: Rock's the devil's music. That's what makes it fun.
I call the producer, at which time I embellish a tale of rock drug excess inspired by VH1's Behind the Music, most particularly Mötley Crüe and Poison. ("I used to live in the house of whores, then it became the house of horrors!") Impressed, he books me on Miracles Today to tell of my Christian speed-metal transformation.
"Do you want to bring an acoustic guitar and perform one of your songs in the studio?" he asks.
"You know what I would rather do is perform a spoken-word version of some of my Christian speed-metal lyrics," I offer, being I can't play guitar. "That way it gets the message across."
"That sounds great!" he replies.
Excellent! Not only do I get to dress up like a Christian metalhead; I also get to pen asinine, junior high metal lyrics with a Jesus twist.
Large black cross
Studded wristband and belt
Axl Rose-style bandanna
Fake tattoo that reads "Jesus Rocks!"
Christian metal is a world unto itself, spawning bands with names like Armor of God, Bloodgood, Rage of Angels, and Crystavox, not to mention Tykkus. After much consideration, I decide to name my fictional Christian metal band Pray-er (rhymes with Slayer). The reason: It allows me to get indignant when people mispronounce it. ("It's not Prayer, it's Pray-er!")
Under the Christian-metal stage name Chad Sin-no-more, I've recruited Johanna, an actress friend, to portray my speed-metal Christian girlfriend, Destiny. Dressed in slutty metal fashion, she too is wearing a Jesus T-shirt. Back story: Chad and Destiny met in rehab, where they both found Jesus!
Saturday afternoon, we show up at the studio, located in the South Bay, hung-over as hell. Upon entering, we're directed to the green room, which has a large bowl of grapes.
"Are you Chad?" asks the host, a very nice, very smiley, very well-groomed, very Christian lady who enters and is slightly taken aback by our look. "So I didn't get any background at all on you."
I tell about my Christian speed-metal band, pumping my fist in the air a few times. ("Prayer?" "No, it's Pray-er!") The host, as it turns out, not only hosts Miracles Today but also works as a third-grade schoolteacher ....
OK, I feel a little bad about pulling this ruse, but there's no turning back now; so let's turn the knobs up to 11!
"You're pretty much the only guest," the host asks in a third-grade-teacher way (huh?!). "So how do you feel about 27 minutes?"
"Really?!" I reply, mildly shocked. That's a hell of a lot of Christian speed-metal talk. It must be a slow week for cool Christians who've experienced Christ-centered, life-transforming miracles.
I learn the premise of Miracles Today. "It's a show based on stories due to change in people's lives based on one event or multiple events," the host explains. "What your life was like before, how the change occurred, and what your life has been like since."
"So I can talk about my band ('Prayer?' 'No, Pray-er!')?"
"That would be great," she says with a big Christian smile.
"'Cause the producer said to bring in some of my lyrics to recite and stuff. And he told me to compare the positive message in my lyrics to real metal bands."
"OK," she answers with mild apprehension. "Mind you, we air at 6 o'clock on a Tuesday night, so nothing too obscene."
I get defensive. "No, that's the whole point, that my lyrics have a positive message," I say.
"The set is just a chair with a black background. The point is it's all about stories; it's all about the journey that brought you where you are today. And the positive changes you are making in other's lives due to what you've been through," she explains.
"We like to keep that in mind so that it's a story; not a lie, but a story," she adds.
I nod my head: "Yeah, no lying."
Besides Christian metal musicians, Miracles Today has hosted such guests as a guy who works as a tree trimmer and who was woken up by a voice from God that told him not to stand in a certain spot. Lo and behold, the next day a tree fell right in the very goddamn spot!!! Holy fuck!
Another guest went on a mission to India and was praying over a little deaf/mute girl. The little girl started moving to the music and then uttered the word "Jesus"! Holy, holy fuck!
Both Destiny and I look at each other and exclaim, as if a dove had just been produced from nowhere, "Oh, wow, that's amazing!"
"Can Destiny sit next to me while I'm being interviewed?" I ask, noting that she (along with Jesus, of course) is my pillar of strength.
My pillar-of-strength, second-only-to-Jesus is vetoed. "Destiny, you can watch on the monitor," snips the host. Wow, what a Christian bitch!
"So we'll get you in, we'll hook up the mikes, and we'll pray. Then we'll get rolling!"
Two chairs sit next to each other in a small studio, surrounded by three TV cameras and an assortment of elderly crew members.
"Have you had any other Christian bands on the show?" I ask one of the three elderly cameramen.
"We had a band on last show."
"Oh, really, what band?" I inquire.
He thinks for a moment. "They were singing Christian songs in Spanish," he says.
The third-grade schoolteacher/host situates herself in a chair closely next to me.
"Shall we pray?" she asks as the crew continues to set up.
"Hell, yes," I say. Then I quickly correct myself, excluding the word "hell."
Our heads are bowed, our hands clasped in prayerlike manner as the third-grade schoolteacher asks Jesus for guidance for Chad's sharing of his tale of transformation.
"Please help us to guide our minds, oh Lord ...."
The praying goes on a little longer than I feel comfortable with. And then: "Amen!"
"Amen!" I confirm. This time without profanity.
Praying done, IT'S SHOWTIME!
"Quiet on the set," barks the floor manager.
We both sit staring with blank expressions as the opening credits roll. The combination of the bright lights and my hangover makes me feel like I might pass out. Or is this a test from Jesus?!
Then the host is talking into the camera: "I'm here with Chad, who has a very interesting story to share with you today. Hi, Chad, how are you?"
"I'm doing good, really good!"
"So Chad, tell us what you do."
"I play in a Christian speed-metal band." ("Prayer?" "No, it's Pray-er!") I then add the obvious: "You know, you can be Christian and still crank out some butt-kicking metal!"
"Yeah!" the host says, with a confirming nod of her Christian head; I resist the urge to make the sign of the horns.
"But metal with a positive message!" I clarify, mentioning Pray-er's upcoming CD. "It's called Faster for the Master!"
The host makes a happy face.
"Why don't you tell us how it all got started. What was your life like before?"
I throw out a little heavy metal, meathead philosophy. "When I was little, I didn't go to church. Metal was my religion!" I explain, throwing my fist in the air. "Metal concerts were my church -- except, unlike the other church, I'd drink a 12-pack before attending services!"
As the cameras roll, I share my decadent metal days in my former, non-Christian speed-metal band Skull Fuck! "I gave into all of the devil's temptations. Satan was whispering in my ear." I tell about the exact moment (shortly after doing coke off of a groupie's ass) when the Almighty turned my life around.
"I was in a motel in Bakersfield. I've been up for a few days on crank. When suddenly I felt this tap on my shoulder. I turn around, and this voice said, 'Dude --'"
The third-grade schoolteacher/host interrupts me: "Wait, the Lord called you 'dude'?!"
"Yeah. He called me 'dude,'" I continue. "He said to me, 'Dude, if you keep this up, you're going to end in one of the Three D's: Death, Drug Overdose, or Disease!'" I say, explaining that "disease" refers to a sexually transmitted malady.
The host makes a sympathetic face. "What happened next?"
"I got rid of my guitar and burned all my metal albums."
"Except Guns N' Roses' Appetite for Destruction, because the guitar on that really ROCKS!"
The host's smile somehow expresses that Slash's guitarwork even transcends Christian values. Next I blow my own metal horn. "Then one day God came to me. He told me, 'You have a gift. Go use your gift in order to spread the word of the Lord!' So I picked up a guitar again, and that's how I started my Christian speed-metal band." ("Prayer?" "No Pray-er!")
Our Miracles Today host asks how the members of my old speed-metal band, Skull Fuck! (not in those words), reacted to my spiritual transformation.
"They kind of don't understand it when I call them up and tell them to shield the dark forces and follow the path of Jesus," I say, adding, "Yeah, they kind of freak out."
"They still got the devil whispering in their ear."
I elaborate the heights (or depths) to which I've gone to spread the Word! "I went to Ozzfest and assembled this large wooden cross and tied it to my back, in order to warn people about the evils going on inside. Those bands sing about fornication, drug use, how great it is to wake up lying in their own vomit," I explain as the host nods encouragingly. "Almost everybody looked at me like I was crazy. But a few people stopped and listened. One kid even ripped up his concert ticket. If I can reach just one kid, then it's worth it."
I make a proud face.
"That's very brave of you," the third-grade schoolteacher/host confirms.
But there was a price for my bravery. "Yeah, um, but I actually ended up getting arrested, 'cause with my cross, someone thought I was part of the Klan," I add. "But if I could save one person, then going to jail was worth it!"
Changing the subject, the host asks, "What Christian metal bands out there do you like?"
Being I don't really know any Christian speed-metal bands, I use a little something I call "improvisation." I say, "There's a great metal band out of Portland called Him/Hymn." I spell the name for the host to understand my clever wordplay, then throw out the name of my other favorite Christian metal band: "Burning Bush."
"What is your goal with all this?"
"Pray-er just wants to reach kids with a positive, Christ-centered message."
"Also, it would be wicked to have a No. 1 CD!" I exclaim, explaining how easily mainstream metal bands could change their lyrics to expound a Christian message. As an example, I use Judas Priest's "Breaking the Law."
"The lyrics give off a really negative message (law-breaking). All you have to do is change one aspect and it's a positive message."
To demonstrate, I maniacally screech out in a heavy voice my altered chorus:
I was praying to God!
Praying to God!
Praying to God, again!
Two more times the chorus is repeated. While I'm doing this, the host is making a sort of headbanging motion, in a posed, Christian lady kind of way.
"Do you want to recite some of your original lyrics?" she asks.
"I sure do!"
I pull out a piece of paper and begin reciting, in classic Dio tradition, the genre of metal that's all Dungeons & Dragons-y and full of juvenile, execrable junior high school poetry. It's my original Christian-metal composition, "Crush Satan's Skull!":
And the sin goblins come,
And I smite them down
With the magical saber of Christ.
And he delivers me to salvation,
As we ride together on the back of a beautiful winged horse
Give your soul to the master!
Smite the evildoers. Smite them. Smite them.
Crush the skull of Satan! Crush it! Crush it!
The host has a fixed smile on her face; she looks mildly confused. I clarify my presentation: "Now picture those lyrics backed by a grinding, headbanging, speed-metal guitar."
"Then, can you even hear the lyrics?" she asks.
I pause. In a perfect Spinal Tap moment of self-realization, I reply, "Um, well, not really. No."
Quickly, I elaborate. Even though audiences don't usually understand the lyrics, I still can use speed metal as my ministry. "I always give a little sermon right after we play "Crush Satan's Skull!"
"It's usually really uplifting."
The host seems to be running out of questions; it's toward the end of a long 27 minutes. I ask her about what led to her own spiritual transformation. She seems momentarily flustered.
"Nothing really bad happened to me. I've been through a divorce," she explains, "but I was never addicted to drugs or abused or anything like that as a kid."
We momentarily grow silent. To keep some momentum in the show, I offer some more original lyrics, written to the tune of AC/DC's "Highway to Hell":
Gay marriage, it's a sin.
After all you have to answer to him.
Prayer in school will do a charm,
The Bible in the classroom could do no harm.
I'm on a highway to Jesus!
I'm on a highway to Jesus!
I'm on a highway to Jesus!
I'm on a highway to Jesus!
On completion, the polite Christian host says with a positive glow, "It sounds like you really turned your life around!"
"I guess I have."
"We need to keep talking because this is where the credits would roll," she remarks. We both sit in place with fixed smiles, and I'm certain I'll go to hell for this. But that's OK.
Because rock is, and always should be, the devil's music!