By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
By Leif Haven
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Kate Conger
By Brian Rinker
By Rachel Swan
Huge, manly cheers from the men; cheers bigger than for the Messiah, though the angels Dabbs refers to are not in heaven along with Jesus, but on the baseball field in the playoffs. "I'm not messing with the Raiders fans. I got death threats last year." (Death threats are not very Jesus-like.)
"Raiders! Raiders!" I scream, throwing a high-five to a guy wearing a T-shirt that proclaims "Break the Chains."
The game scores are followed by a man who tells of the pain of a life of drugs and alcohol. Finding Jesus caused him to break the chains. To symbolize this, he does some sort of interpretive dance/escape artist act with smoke machines and an array of lights, while wrapped in chains, rolling on the ground, and at one point dramatically putting a gun in his mouth.
"That's pretty wild," remarks the Prayer Team Leader, squeezing my shoulder.
Amongst the testosterone revelry, a lone woman walks through the crowd. What the hell is she doing here? There's nothing here for her -- this is a men-only event. A guy wearing a black T-shirt that simply reads "God" on the back shoots her a strange look.
"There's a Prayer Booth. There's brothers ready to pray for you. They are like dogs ready to attack," the Brother like no other tells the crowd. "If you need someone to pray for you, there's about 10 guys in back who make up the Prayer Team. Give a wave guys."
We the Prayer Team give a wave to the crowd of 10,000 men. I pump my fist in the air, then high-five fellow volunteers.
After a confusing boxing sketch by the Awaken Drama Team, I take a break from the sweaty, pumped-up male-adrenaline arena action to explore some of the booths set up on the concourse. I pass the leather-clad, long-bearded Harley-Davidsons for Christ booth, then encounter two elderly gentlemen who could easily pass for closeted queens.
"Sign our petition?" asks one of the queeny gentlemen under a banner that reads "Values Matter."
"What's this for?" I ask.
"It's to keep marriage between a man and a woman," he explains with a tight upper lip, saying that men shouldn't be with other men -- except in the case of the Promise Keepers, of course.
"It's so scary what could happen," I say, signing the petition with the name Satan's Big Cock. For encouragement, I give a mighty finger snap. "You go, girl!"
He stands there for several seconds until I offer him a manly high-five.
A crusty man in a yellow button-down shirt is running a booth adorned with logos from all the big television networks, endorsing the Media Leader Prayer Calendar. He explains: "You find today's date and you pray for the media leader and the cultural celebrity listed. You pray for the cast and crew of TV programs or for music group members."
"Seriously," I add with bewilderment.
Grabbing their newsletter, I read: "Jennifer Aniston is turning towards faith. Unfortunately the faith is Buddhism. ... Becoming involved in Buddhism isn't going to fill the hole left by Brad Pitt ... or anyone else. Pray for Jennifer Aniston."
"Each of these people are one miracle away from a vital faith in God," the crusty man says without a smile or irony. The deal is that the praying will help the celebrity find his needed relationship with God. Nine different prayers are to be utilized to change Hollywood sinners and persuade them to clean up their act for the betterment of the Christian good. Strangely, a large majority of the names offered are Jewish (heathens). Looking at the list, on this day we are supposed to pray for director M. Night Shyamalan and what's-the-deal-with-airlines comedian Jerry Seinfeld.
"Can you mix and match which celebrities you want to pray for on any given day? Like, could I pray today for the Wayan brothers and, say, Mel Gibson?" The Passion of the Christ director, it's explained, doesn't need praying for. I look at the list again. On tomorrow's plate: Russell Simmons and The Simpsons. Do they know The Simpsons is only a cartoon?
"Does the praying work?" I ask, concerning one of the most asinine things I've ever heard of.
"We've been noticing quite an impact, quite an impact," the crusty man says with unsmiling confidence, stating how they're trying to arrange to meet with such media leaders as über-conservative Rupert Murdoch -- a devout Christian.
"Do you want to get on our mailing list?" asks the crusty man.
Once again I sign "Satan's Big Cock" with the e-mail address email@example.com.
"Who's this?" I ask a woman (yes, a woman) running a booth with such DVDs for sale as Tolerate This and A Christian Unleashed.
"He's a comedian," the woman (not a man) replies with a snicker. "You're going to see him later tonight."
From inside the sweltering arena, the Brother like no other announces, "If you think I'm funny, here's a guy who will rock your world."
Out comes Brad Stine -- a blond, high-energy comedian who slightly resembles Denis Leary. My world isn't necessarily rocked as I watch him perform hack material about the differences between men and woman.