Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Meeting the Exorcist - Bob Larson

Here's a fun little article written by someone who attended one of Bob Larson's "Exorcism Workshops" at a Marriott hotel in San Diego in 2006. I believe the article was written by Mark Bunker, a well known foe of Scientology. I've been to several of Bob's meetings, which one critic referred to as "a traveling ectoplasm show," and they are always entertaining. Here's his current schedule.

I came across the article while doing a search to see if Bob had anything timely to say about the current horrorcore brouhaha. I don't see that he has yet, but this Syko Sam thing could provide Bob with years of riffage, now that Sean Sellers is gone.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Teabagging for Jesus

according to the Urban Dictionary : "One who slaps another person in the face with their nad sack."

Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right

I just found out about this book. It came out back in 1999, so things have only gotten worse since then, but it still might be worth the .33 cents you can pick it up for used on Amazon. One reviewer wrote,
"An exhaustively researched and wittily written expose of the American fundamentalism and televangelism. Diamond exposes the crimes and follies of almost every major "Christian" leader, from Pat Robertson to Oral Roberts. Incredible journalism, and a shockingly entertaining read to boot."
I've added it to the Snake Oil Amazon store.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sister Cindy = Best Street Preacher EVER

"You're going to a burning lake of FI-EEEER!!"

Sister Cindy was straight out of a
Flannery O'Connor story. She had been saved in a Krystal Burger in Florida by this traveling evangelist, Brother Jed, and then began her own travels as an itinerant street preacher, bringing the Good News to college campuses all over the country in the late 70s/early 80s. Her testimony was contained in a pamphlet entitled, "From Disco Queen to Gospel Preacher." She never failed to draw a crowd and could always hold her own against the inevitable hecklers. She completely won my heart - if not my soul.

She ended up marrying Brother Jed and having a
million kids. Read her story here (go down to Chapter 7). I have some video of her preaching back in the day - coming soon...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thy Spy - True Confessions of a Gospel Gumshoe

God's not the only one watching you!

Take 250 pounds of Redneck, add one bible, the internet, the latest spy technology, mix up thoroughly, and what do you get?

Mack Stevens is an out of control Christian private eye who has Jesus in his heart and an evil gleam in his eye. Come with Mack as he goes about God's business in the parking lots of seedy motels, the rooftops of sex clubs, and in the suburban bedrooms of backsliding baptists, ferreting out filth and sin at its root. Trespassing? Privacy? Those are man's law. Mack obeys only God's law, and God is telling Mack that it's time to take out the garbage.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Benny Hinn Blew Me

originally published in Snake Oil # 1 (1993)

by Brother Randall

"Pastor Benny, this man's spine was just healed! He could barely move his arms, and the doctors told him he would have to wear a neck brace forever - but just now, he felt a heat go into his back."

"Bring him here!" commanded the swarthy man with the anvil-shaped head.

All eyes were on me, including the swarthy man's, who was now approaching me, hands on his hips, head cocked. Suddenly his hands flew up to the sides of my head and clapped my temples smartly. WHAP! My eyes rolled back, my arms flailed. I ripped the neck brace off with a single motion and flung it to the heavens as I fell backwards. Pastor Benny was yelling, "Ooo Ooo - that's power, people." The auditorium cheered wildly.

Benny winked at the camera and said, "Pick him up." Two of Benny's "catchers" scooped my convulsing body to an upright position. "What are you feeling, man?" Benny was giving me his look of feigned incredulousness. One of the catchers shoved a mike in my face. All I could do was sputter unintelligibly. Finally I managed to gasp, "a h-heat."

"Well, here it comes again, brother." Benny pranced over and blew right in my face. This time the anointing was so powerful that Benny himself stumbled backwards a couple of steps. Meanwhile I'm back on the floor like so much anointed jello.

Or something like that. At least that's how I had it worked out in my mind, but as I came to find out, getting blown by Benny Hinn is not as easy as you might think.

The first time I tuned into one of Benny's crusades I was dumfounded. This mysterious, arrogant little man with olive skin and a big anvil-like hairdo could, with a puff of his breath, send people careening backwards, collapsing into quivering, ecstatic heaps. Ushers would haul these people off the stage and bring up new ones to be blown over in rapid succession by Pastor Benny. One time, Benny himself got so overcome that he started stumbling around, and when the ushers tried to catch him, he freaked out and blew them over and everybody fell down! I've seen Bob Tilton and others go down a line of people, slapping their foreheads and causing them to fall over, but this was madness. How could anyone take this guy seriously? But there they were, packing an arena fuller than a Motley Crue concert.

Needless to say I was beside myself with excitement when Benny announced that he would be bringing his show to the Dallas Convention Center.

Prior to the Dallas crusade I was able to dig up a little background info on Benny. Although many people think Benny is from India because of his clipped English and his hypnotic, Korla Pandit-like quality, he claims to have been born in Israel to Greek and Armenian parents. He moved to Canada at fourteen and became an avid follower of female faith healer Kathryn Kuhlman. By the early eighties Benny had moved to Orlando, married the daughter of a prominent pastor, and started his own church, the Orlando Christian Center. He preaches to a large congregation there, and once a month he takes his act on the road and stages huge crusades all over the country. Highlights from the church services and crusades, together with studio segments, are edited together for thirty minute programs which air several times a day on, among other stations, the Trinity Broadcasting Network (Jan and Paul's channel). At 39 he's considered a "rising star" of the religious television industry. My research turned up one other choice bit of Hinn trivia: in 1986 at an Oklahoma City crusade, an 85yr-old woman sustained fatal injuries when a man "slain in the spirit" fell over on top of her. The woman's family sued, claiming that the ushers delayed calling an ambulance so as not to disrupt the miracle service. The matter was settled out of court.

As the appointed days of the Dallas crusade drew near, a quest was born deep inside my Spirit Man: I wanted to get on that stage and have Benny blow me!

The Dallas sweep consisted of three services - Thursday night, Friday morning, and Friday night. I figured that the Friday night show would be the most crowded and that my best chance of getting on stage would be on Thursday. A neck brace had practically fallen into my lap earlier in the week, and I took that as a sign that my fantasy was going to become a reality. My plan was to get to the Convention Center a couple of hours early (wearing my neck brace), be noticed by an usher who would then screen me and see that I was a good candidate for a televised healing.

The folly of my little scheme became somewhat apparent when I arrived at the Convention Center and saw hundreds of people already crowded by the doors waiting to get in. Although it was cold and pouring rain, nobody was being let in. I tried some side doors and got the attention of a security guy, but he couldn't have cared less that I was cold, wet, and in severe neck pain. I even gestured at the brace. Nothing. So I joined the throng at the front doors. I didn't notice any other neck braces or crutches. Good. Less competition. The crowd was a complete mixed bag of race, age, and other demographic variables. I was prepared for someone to strike up a conversation or at least give me a look of sympathy or encouragement, but nobody even glanced my way.

The doors finally opened, and everyone swarmed in. The Dallas Convention Center is comprised of three levels, and I headed for the ground floor. There I was confronted with a door, a security guard, and a sign that said that the floor level was reserved for people in wheelchairs and one helper each. My neck brace did not qualify.

Back on the second level I was again thwarted. That level was reserved for people who had special postcards, probably people who sent Benny money on a regular basis. Well, there was no way I was going to be banished to the nosebleed section, so I bided my time until I was able to slip past security. The 10,000-person capacity arena was filling up, but I spotted a single unoccupied seat right up at the front of the middle level between a 40ish black woman and a pair of young, well groomed, Christ For The Nations types. There I had an unobstructed view of the ground floor, which was now a teaming mass of crippled, maimed, deformed, and disease-ridden humanity. I felt a twinge in my neck.

A hillbilly family had brought in their young son on a rolling cot hooked up to some kind of ventilator apparatus. Across the aisle in a wheelchair was a guy who must have been in the final stages of AIDS. The choir rehearsed and cameras were being set up.

It's hard to say when the service actually started. All of a sudden I noticed Benny was on stage, albeit somewhat obscured by the camera equipment. A meandering series of prayers, songs, announcements, & guest speakers was underway. We faithful seemed to be there merely as extras for the crowd shots. Unlike Bob Tilton's, Benny's TV shows consist of edited segments, so he doesn't have to worry about putting on a cohesive, dynamic show--just getting the shots he needs.

During one bit Benny acknowledged and thanked God for every local pentecostal mover and shaker in Dallas--all but one. Yep, Big Bob Tilton was conspicuously omitted from Benny's schmoozing, name-dropping, and prayers.

Next, Benny had a group of visiting pastors from South America come up on stage and knocked them over by slinging his jacket at them, a brief break in what was turning into a pretty monotonous evening. More songs, more prayers.

Benny finally seemed to turn his attention away from the cameras and to focus on the crowd. Yes, it was time to tithe. I gotta hand it to Benny. This was the slickest begging for money I've ever witnessed. He started off by apologizing for having to interrupt this beautiful service for even five minutes to take up an offering. He said he knew he didn't even have to tell us how much it cost to put on one of these crusades (he did go on to tell us, though), and he knew he could count on us to do the right thing. At least a $100, he mentioned offhandedly. The lady next to me wrote out a check for $300.

The final leg of the service began with upbeat singing which gradually degenerated into new-agey chant-singing of "hallelujah" over and over. After about 15 minutes of this a large portion of the audience had broken down and were softly sobbing. Against this backdrop Benny announced that the miracles were starting to happen. He recited a laundry list of miracles, and finally asked for those who had just received a miracle to come to the stage. Notice that Benny doesn't even have to perform the miracles one-on-one. People are asked to come up after they're already healed. Benny just takes the bows (and knocks people over for good measure).

I ripped off my brace and made a dash for the ground floor, but long lines were already snaking off either side of the stage. I watched as a guy in a full body apparatus took the stage and stripped off his braces. A fat lady who had been crippled with arthritis jogged up and down the stage. Benny milked these people for a long time while the rest of us had to wait. It was getting close to 11'o'clock, and my dreams of getting on stage were fading fast. I retreated to the back of the ground floor and just watched for a minute. The AIDS-ravaged guy I had noticed earlier was struggling to take a couple of steps.

I'd had about enough.

So in the end, no, I didn't get blown by Mr. Anvil-Head and I left with a bad taste in my mouth. Benny Hinn is no Bob Tilton. Bob pumps you up, kicks you in the butt. Benny, on the other hand, lulls you into a submissive, emotional stupor. He's a wimp. He's Liberace to Bob Tilton's Elvis.

Comparisons to Bob aside, I am glad I went, but I would recommend a Benny Hinn crusade only to the hardcore false followers among you. Benny's much better digested in his thirty minute programs of edited highlights.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Syko Sam - The Voices

AP story here. Good recap.

Sam's YouTube channel, including Sam's room and Sam's dad's band.

The Websleuths are all over it

Nothing worse than being mugged by teenagers dressed as gansta clowns

Since reading about the Syko Sam murders (latest update here) I've been doing a little research about the Insane Clown Posse phenomenon.

I imagine that Syko and SickTanicK and the rest of the "HorrorCore" people would probably make a big deal about the differences between HorrorCore and ICP, but at this point it seems to me that they are more or less a splinter faction of ICP.

I was vaguely aware of ICP, but it looked to me like just another rock music gimmick, like an updated KISS or something. Then I heard a local cop give a talk on gangs and he mentioned ICP in the same breath as Crips, Bloods, and MS13. Even in the aftermath of Syko Sam, I think that's giving them way too much credit, but it's an understandable concern for a cop who has to deal more with disenfranchised suburban kids than inner city gangs. It's a mash-up of A Clockwork Orange and Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

Here are a couple of articles on ICP I found interesting:

Misogynist Clowns Wreck Havoc in Heartland

Then I came across the following post in the Rigorous Intuition forum by a guy in Detroit who was apparently mugged by some clown gangstas. I think he puts it in good perspective, and as goes Detroit, so goes the rest of the country:

These people are remarkably dangerous, not least because they have no idea themselves what it is they represent.

Here in Detroit we've been having Clown problems since before anyone else had heard of a Juggalo.

At least the other gangs want to sell you crack or something...

The ICP phenomena has been boiling here for probably more than ten years. They just took awhile to start selling their albums elsewhere.

Some of these imbeciles seem to be involved in violence for its own sake, or perhaps to stave off boredom.

Nothing worse than being mugged by teenagers dressed as gansta clowns. The Hatchet Man is the logo of their record label, and is ubiquitous in the poorer urban [whiteish] areas here. They're so sad it makes you feel bad to even defend yourself against these retards.

Altough I've heard ICP's music [if you wanna call it that] and I don't consider it to be inherently different than the shitty torture/rape horror movie culture that seems to have massively increased in size over the last few years. Of course horror movies don't have organized gangs. Not yet, anyway.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

When I did the post about Christian Haunted Houses,

House of Judgement and Hell House, here, I decided against posting this picture of Alex Cassar aka Abortion Girl. Just wanted to point out that this blog does have standards.

Speaking of which, 'tis the season of Christian Haunted Houses. I don't think I'm up to the ordeal of Hell House again, and it doesn't look like it's happening this year anyway, but I'm always on the lookout for new and offbeat ones.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Testimony of the Shaky Girl

This clip freaks me out every time... especially when Alison says, "There's not much more time!" then collapses. Makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. And the howling in the audience. This is from what was known as the Brownsville Outpouring in 1995.

Dark-Sided for real (The Syko Sam Murders)

Authorities say a 20-year-old man suspected of killing four people in a Virginia college town has been arrested at an airport where he apparently was waiting to catch a flight to his home state of California.

Richard Alden Samuel McCroskey III of Castro Valley was arrested by police at Richmond International Airport who found him asleep in the baggage claim area. Farmville police Capt. Wade Stimpson said McCroskey faces charges of first-degree murder, grand larceny of an automobile and robbery.

In rap ciricles, McCroskey called himself Syko Sam and rapped about "the best feeling" derived from killing people slowly, watching their last breaths.

McCroskey is accused of killing a Virginia pastor, with authorities saying Sunday they expect to charge him in three more slayings at the home of a college professor. Police charged McCroskey with murder, robbery and stealing the automobile of Mark Niederbrock, a pastor at Walker's Presbyterian Church in Appomattox County.

McCroskey, of Castro Valley, Calif., was scheduled to appear before a judge Monday to determine if he needs a court-appointed attorney.

Niederbrock has been tentatively identified as one of four people discovered Saturday in Farmville, about 50 miles west of Richmond, at the home of Longwood University professor Debra Kelley. Niederbrock and Kelley were separated, said Farmville police Capt. Wade Stimpson. He said the state medical examiner's office would not officially identify any of the victims until at least Monday.

McCroskey recorded horrorcore music, which sets violent lyrics to hip-hop beats, and his songs spoke of death, murder and mutilation. His MySpace Web page said he has only been rapping for a few months but has been a fan for years of the genre.

"You're not the first, just to let you know. I've killed many people and I kill them real slow. It's the best feeling, watching their last breath. Stabbing and stabbing till there's nothing left," McCroskey sings in "My Dark Side."

McCroskey will be formally charged with the other three killings once the bodies are identified, Stimpson said. He said "there are a number of factors relating to why" police couldn't identify the victims. He would not say how they were killed.

Police went to Kelley's home Thursday after a West Virginia woman called to say that it had been days since she heard from her teen daughter, who was staying with Kelley and Niederbrock's daughter, Emma, Stimpson said.

Investigators went to the home, where a man matching McCroskey's description told them the girls had gone to the movies. When the mother still didn't hear from her daughter Friday, police went to the home and found the bodies.

Stimpson said messages posted online led police to believe McCroskey knew Emma Niederbrock and that he may have been visiting her.

On McCroskey's MySpace page, someone who goes by Ragdoll, which friends identified as Emma Niederbrock, wrote several messages to McCroskey. In a post dated Sept. 7, Niederbrock says she is excited for McCroskey's visit to her house.

"The next time you check your myspace, YOULL BE AT MY HOUSE!" the post reads.

A friend said McCroskey, Emma and her friend were brought together by horrorcore music.

Andres Shrim, who owns the small, independent horrorcore music label Serial Killin Records in New Mexico and performs under the name SickTanicK, said he saw all three Sept. 12 at an all-day music festival in Southgate, Mich.

Shrim said despite the morbid music he and his friends loved, they were not violent people.

"You look at the music we do and it's kind of harsh and somewhat brutal at times, but there's a different side of life that people aren't normally accustomed to, and being an artist, I think it's important to see both sides of life," he said.

Shrim asked others not to judge McCroskey by the lyrics to his songs or his disturbing Web pages.

"This is not something from the Sam I know," he said. "This is not something that I would ever, ever in a million years envision him doing."

Stimpson called McCroskey's songs and writings "a little disturbing," and said police were looking into that.

A phone message left Sunday at McCroskey's California home was not immediately returned.

More here and here and don't miss this

marginally related: Rap and the Occult on NPR

Update: "chilling new details" and more here

Sunday, September 20, 2009

R U Ready 4 the Rapture?

pssst - this last one, called, simply, The Rapture, was painted by Charles Anderson. It's my long-standing favorite Rapture depiction. Click on it and check out the details - little white dots being raptured out of the airplane, people coming out of graves, car wrecks and mayhem... plus it's the old Dallas skyline as seen driving north into town on I-35. So much to love about this picture. And it looks like you can still get a huge 22 x 28 print of it and lots of other End Time and Tribulation materials from the Bible Believer's Evangelistic Association in Sherman, Texas. Here's their website, although it's hard to imagine that they're still around. I used to see them set up at area flea markets back in the 1980s, and they seemed ancient then. So I would write or email first before sending payment. And I don't see it on their list, but you might inquire if they still sell the nice laminated placemats of The Rapture which are a great witnessing tool when you have friends over for a meal, or maybe just something to contemplate over a solitary Hungry Man TV dinner.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The man who changed Glenn Beck's life

Salon has a nice piece on the crazy, radical Mormon "historian" Cleon Skousen who informs so much of Glenn Beck's thinking.

Just because someone wears Magic Temple Underwear and believes that God lives on a star near the planet Kolob does not mean that we should not take them as a serious threat. I used to laugh at people like this. Not anymore.

Welcome All Dark-Sided Readers!

Marguerite Perrin from Trading Spouses has spawned impersonators!

and a remix:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nailin' It To the Church

A couple of years ago Canadian filmmaker Murray Stiller was in Dallas working on a documentary about religious satire. I think Murray shot enough footage for several documentaries as he traveled around the United States. The first project he has released is called Nailin' It to the Church, and it focuses almost exclusively on the Wittenburg Door magazine. Although my only connection with the Door is as a subscriber, I still managed to get my 50 seconds of fame in at least the festival screening edition of the dvd. Maybe I've since been edited out. But here,for your enjoyment and edification, is my bit talking about the role satire played in running Robert Tilton out of Dallas.
(I haven't figured out how to fix Blogger so it doesn't chop off the right edge of the videos...)

Namin' It and Claimin' It: Sister Donna, Brother Randall at Word of Faith in better days.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Where's Kenny Boy?

I just bought a $5 piece of the action for a future Max Keiser film, Where's Kenny Boy? which posits that Enron crook Ken Lay is alive and living in Paraguay.

When Kenneth Lay's death by heart attack was reported just three months before he was to be sentenced, my initial reaction was that of the four possible scenarios - natural death, suicide, murder, faked death - a natural death was the least likely of the four. And legally, because he died prior to exhausting his appeals, his conviction was abated, which goes a long way toward protecting his estate from claims by the government. He was worth much more "dead" than alive.

I am also intrigued by Max Keiser's PirateMyFilm concept. Check it out; there are a number of interesting projects under development.

Kenneth Lay, the son of a Baptist preacher, is a different kind of snake oil salesman than the ones we typically cover on this blog, but a snake oil salesman nonetheless.

Some Thrift Store Gospel For Your Tuesday

more great gospel lp covers here

Monday, September 14, 2009

Speaking of Serpent Handlers

a few random thoughts...

First, the artist who shot the mindbending footage in the previous post, below, is Anthony Feyer, who also did a series of paintings and photographs of the same subject matter. When I contacted Feyer in early 2008 inquiring about his footage, he told me that while he shot several hours of footage, his primary motivation was to have it as a reference for his painting, not to release it as any kind of documentary. He referred me to Karen Kramer's hour long film from 1977, "The Jolo Serpent Handlers."

Secondly, if you are interested in this subject, be sure to check out the Snake Oil Amazon page for the book, The Persecuted Prophets, which is the best thing I've ever seen on the subject. It's long out of print, but last I checked on Amazon, there were a couple of used copies at very reasonable prices, like under $20.

Third, be on the lookout for a documentary called Heaven Come Down which ran on the Sundance Channel a couple of years ago but has never been released on dvd. I thought it was very well done and certainly threw the viewer a couple of curve balls.

Some Folks Like Water, Some Folks Like Wine

But I like the taste of straight strychnine!

Thank You, Sister Al

Wasn't yesterday's special Sunday post a blessing? Didn't it get your faith stirred up? It did mine. I'm ready to jump in a car and head up to Akron, if only I had a willing accomplice! (C'mon, Dallas to Akron, blasting bad white gospel music the whole way!?! We could swing through Tulsa and see Oral Roberts' famous prayer tower...)

Well, if we can't visit Akron, reading "Friday Night Blood Stripes" is the next best thing! Thank you, Sister Al Hoff, a supporter of and contributor to the old Snake Oil fanzine and the world renowned creator of the Thrift Score zine and book. These days Al pounds the keyboard at the Pittsburgh City Paper.

In the not too distant future I plan to post Sister Al's "America's Holy Land Tour," which appeared in the fourth issue of Snake Oil back in 1995 and has never been available on the internet.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Friday Night Blood Stripes

by Sister Al Hoff

I. Angley's Miracle Service

“The blood, the blood! Blood stripes! The blood!” Rev. Ernest Angley
has hit the stage for his Friday Night Miracle Service, and the
several hundred folks scattered about the 5,400-seat church clap and
stomp their feet. “Stomp out Satan, stomp him out,” Angley exhorts.

Akron, Ohio-based Angley is among the last of the weirdly entertaining
televangelists still soldiering on since the Glory Days before the
Fall of Bakker. Nor has modern science kept him from faith-healing;
he’ll lay hands on you in person, through the TV (“place your hand on
the screen”) and now, over the Internet at his Web site.

You can catch up with Angley on Sunday mornings – check local listings.
It’s stunningly low-budget, but you can catch “miracles” in action if you
can peel your eyes away from Angley’s astonishing wig. But for the
full-immersion experience, a day-trip to the home church is recommended.

Rex Humbard’s former Cathedral of Tomorrow is Ernest Angley’s Church
of Today. (Angley’s former Grace Cathedral in southwestern Akron now
houses his Bible college.) Built in 1958, it’s a totally cool round
domed structure. The circular auditorium-style worship area takes up most of the interior, with various offices ringed around the
perimeter. Inside, the domed roof is masked in black, primarily to
highlight the gigantic inset white-and-red cross set in the ceiling
and ingenuously constructed from transculent lighting panels.

There’s an enormous stage, draped in the widest gold curtain I’ve ever
seen; above the stage, suspended against a twilight-blue wall and
flanked by gilt columns floats an ornate red velvet and gold crown. It
looks, frankly, like the world’s largest car air-freshener.

This evening, Angley just has a few words early on – he reports that
on his recent trip to Africa “the fishing was good” (the catch of the
day being souls), he reminds folks about their tithe and still later,
“the bills go on.” Please – the pipe organ begins to play softly – can
we get out the best check, the best cash, and make a praise offering.

But most of the first hour is taken up with singing, first from a
large choir with a full band, and then from a trio with cheesy backing
tracks. The three sing a selection of interminable upbeat songs,
finishing up with a couple numbers in African languages that the Holy
Spirit helped them learn. The tepid African rhythms are more
toe-tapping, and let’s be honest: There’s not many places were you can
see a portly white guy who looks like the weekend weatherman for Des
Moines ActionNews enthusiastically sing in Zulu.

Angley retakes the stage to explain that he’s jetlagged and that he
fell asleep while driving earlier (God spared him and others), so, he
apologizes, tonight’s service will be short. He commences to speak
uninterrupted for over an hour, a low-key folksy ramble in a Southern
cadence about the upcoming Sunday service, the buffet next door and a
series of anecdotes about the miraculous regeneration of hearts, lungs
and ear drums to the afflicted. (Angley wears the most astonishing
wig; can’t the Lord intercede with some miracle hair?)

But it’s Africa, “the Kingdom of Satan,” that dominates his musings.
He delivers a lesson in the various “devils that vex the darkness”:
witchcraft, voodoo, wizards; the success of “demonology night” that
saw “wads of defeated devils”; and how “prayed up” you have to be just
to enter “the devil’s territories.”

And, a quantifiable scourge, AIDS. Rev. Angley says it can be cured
miraculously , and he has documented proof. But he and several other
Western evangelists have recently (and rightly) come under fire in
South Africa and other nations for publicizing such claims.

But here at the Cathedral, there won’t be any dissent or even
skepticism. Angley is preaching not just to the converted, but to
those who will soon line up for healing service.

Once again, Angley cautions he’s weary, but the indefatigable
86-year-old spends the next 75 minutes laying hands on, and extracting
demons from, the 100 or so folks who take the stage. A stick mic lets
us share in the litany of complaints -- from the horrifying (“the
doctor says my bone cancer is back”) to the prosaic (“I’ve got a boil
on my shoulder”) to the tricky (“I brought my brother up because he’s
a drunk”).

Angley performs his ablution – the waving of hands, the thumping of
afflicted’s forehead, the caressing of the diseased areas – while
calling on God, calling out demons, muttering in tongues and
delivering his patented “uh-HEEL-yuh!” Most congregants drop to the
floor, soak in the spirit for a few minutes, then return to their
seats. It’s a little sad, and possibly exploitive, but the unremoved
devil in me admits, also captivating.

I see no genuine miracles. A young man with crutches discards them,
then limps a few steps. Angley pronounces him healed, then returns the
crutches, telling him to “use them ‘til you don’t need to anymore.”
Well, duh.

Angley generally ducks the lawfulness of claiming miraculous healing
by asserting that he’s not the healer, God is. Then why not take it
directly to the Upper Room? But perhaps as one might hire an account
for preparing one’s taxes, it’s useful to have a third-party expert on

As far as I can see, the truly odd thing about Angley’s service is how
it obviously validates both sides. If you believe in miraculous
healing or even just the power of its suggestion, step on up. But if
you think this is a racket designed to separate gullible desperate
people from their money and common sense, here’s a big dome full of

Services held EVERY WEEKEND as follows:
Friday Night Miracle Service - 7PM
Sunday Morning Worship Service - 10AM

II. Life of Christ Dioramas

Something extraordinary often happens at the intersection of
self-taught artist and religious fervor: works of art whose
earnestness can trump our normally rigid assessments of skill and

And so it is with the Life of Christ display, billed as “a
three-dimensional experience for the whole family,” created by the
late Paul Cunningham, who never even attended high school.

Located in the basement beneath the Cathedral Buffet, the exhibit
consists of 13 exquisitely detailed dioramas and a handful of
black-velvet paintings depicting scenes from “the earthly life of our
Lord.” Included are such popular life events as Meeting the Pharisees,
the Last Supper, Bearing the Cross and the Resurrection.

Similar to old-fashioned museum displays, a viewer pokes his head into
a dark cubbyhole and gazes nose-to-glass. The simple effect is to fill
your own field of vision with the scene.

The walls of the dioramas have been painted to mimic depth, but even
more extraordinarily, Cunningham has packed the scenes with
ever-shrinking people, structures and vegetation all the way to the
rear, a distance of a few feet. The sensation of three-dimensional
perspective is fantastic.

The primary figures – sculpted in clay, re-cast in plastic, then
hand-carved – aren’t much bigger than Barbies, yet are meticulously
garbed. A variety of simple materials – broom corn, aluminum wire,
rice paper -- has been transformed into the dense landscape of rocks
and plants. (The handout said Cunningham used real fingernails, but
honestly, you’d need a magnifying glass to know for sure.)
Cunningham’s dioramas clearly represent an astonishing amount of work
and dedication; each apparently took a year to build.

Truly, one could spend a lot of time marveling over these scenes,
finding the odd details at the edges, like a bumblebee or a woman
breastfeeding at the Sermon on the Mount. And intense study is
recommended: I was assured by the attendant that there was nothing
quite like gazing at the dioramas “to block the devil when you’re
trying to pray.”

Sadly, the diroramas have a vague patina of dust and perhaps benign
neglect from lack of visitors. Though I arrived well within posted
visiting hours, the display was locked and somebody had to be summoned
to let me in. I pleasantly killed time in the vaguely jungle-themed
anteroom which houses an assortment of African handicrafts, all
souvenirs and gifts from Angley’s overseas missions.

Other than a large selection of Rev. Angley’s tracts, the small gift
shop upstairs offers mostly generic knickknacks and jewelry. However,
the Lord, it is said, works in mysterious ways, and I found set of
drinking glasses depicting scenes from the Life of Christ exhibit at
the Goodwill across the street.

2690 State Road, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

III. Cathedral Buffet

Nourish the soul; stuff the gullet: The third feature of Angley’s site
is the buffet. While it’s free of any religious trappings and
functions as a stand-alone eatery, it’s an integral part of the
complex. The restaurant is accessed through the gift shop, and one
wrong turn will have you breaching Angley’s TV studio.

Nothing fancy at the buffet: It looks much like a hotel banquet room
(and, in fact, is available for private party rentals). On a Friday
night, I joined a few dozen other diners scattered about the cavernous
space. Some, like me, may have been en route to that night’s miracle
service; others may have simply dropped in for an inexpensive meal
(dinner is $9.10).

Perhaps befitting Angley’s North Carolina roots, the fare here is pure
Southern comfort, and cardiologists beware. Among the offerings: fried
catfish, black-eyed peas, potatoes soaking in cheese sauce, broasted
chicken, biscuits with honey-butter, sweet-potato casserole, two kinds
of gravy, bread pudding, several fruit cobblers and red velvet cake.

It’s all you can eat, natch, but I was glad to see several polite
admonitions posted throughout: “Take all you want but eat all you

2690 State Road, Cuyahoga Falls. Tue.-Fri. 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m; Sat., 10
a.m.-2;30 p.m.; Tue.-Sat. 4:30-8 p.m.; Sun. noon-5 p.m.

pssst - more buffet discussion here!

A shorter version of this story appeared in the Pittsburgh City Paper
as part of Sister Al's "Searching for Salvation ...and Other Roadside Attractions"
It's SO worth your click:


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Follow W.V. Grant on Twitter!

Oh no!

W.V. blocked me on Twitter! My first blockage. His account is not private, so I can still check it, but I just can't get the posts automatically. Oh well, no hard feelings. I still love ya, brother.

Here's where W.V. tweets if anyone else wants to follow along.

The classic polaroid picture of W.V. on the right was found ripped in half in the Grants' trash and published in the Wittenburg Door.

This internet image does not do it justice. I remember when I first got the print edition of the Door and saw that... I swear I'm still traumatized.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Huge Mega Ultra Groovy Post Coming This Sunday!

I am extreeeeeeeemely excited about a post which will "go live," as we say in the business, this Sunday. You will not want to miss out or be the last in your Sunday School class to know about this one.

I'll tell you this much. I didn't write it. It's not about Robert Tilton. It is about one of the true legends of the TV Preacher universe. One of the big names. One of the greats. Maybe somebody you haven't thought about in a while. Maybe somebody you figured was dead...

I think I'm going to stop right here before I give it away.

See you Sunday!

Follow Snake Oil on Twitter!

Here's my link

Follow Ted Haggard on Twitter!

Ted's Tweets

I think it's really him, and he appears to answer those who talk shit about him. I'm a total Twitter neophyte, but I think if you put a "@" before someone's twitter handle in something you post, then they can see what you said about them.

Ted has inspired me to go set up a Snake Oil twitter right now...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Robert Tilton: A History in Flatulence

No matter what else Robert Tilton does in his life, he will go down in history as The Farting Preacher. No matter the scandals, no matter the miracles, Robert Tilton is the Farting Preacher. Google “farting preacher” with “Tilton” and you get over 78,000 hits.

I can’t imagine that anyone visiting this site is not familiar with the video clips of Robert Tilton with farting noises dubbed in. Simple and crude and basic as that. Why Bob? Why farts? Why so popular and enduring? These are the questions occupying my mind this morning.

Although a bona fide YouTube sensation these days, the footage first began its journey as a humble video tape. Around 1990 I acquired my first copy. I had two edits of what I called “The Fart Tape” – a shorter color version, and a longer, slicker black and white one. I honestly cannot remember how I came by them initially. I recall trying diligently to track down the tape’s origin in an effort to upgrade my copy. Such was the task of an obsessive collector of weird video clips in those days. After I got to know Harry at the Trinity Foundation, I pestered him about it, but he steadfastly denied all knowledge.

In the second issue of my Robert Tilton Fan Club Newsletter in October of 1991, I wrote a “review” the tape. Then a couple of months later on December 11, 1991, Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow did an article about the fan club and mentioned my review of the “gassy Tilton tape that has been making the rounds.” He also helpfully pointed out that my newsletter was available at a certain record store on lower Greenville, and shortly thereafter the shop was overwhelmed with people asking for the tape, gratefully paying $20 a pop.

During the rest of the 90s and into the early part of this century, the footage, known variously as Joyful Noise (our title), Heaven Only Knows, and the Farting Preacher, stayed alive by becoming incorporated into the on-air shtick of radio jocks such as Mark and Brian. It was also hosted on a number of websites, pre-YouTube. A website, not active currently, popped up claiming to be the original source and selling dvds of it. The website was and if memory serves, the story was that the guy who made it worked for one of the hundreds of television affiliates in the 1980s which showed Tilton’s Success N Life infomercial. This story makes sense – the guy would have had access to the shows and also access to professional video editing equipment, and if anything, the original tape was a pro job.

These days Robert Tilton is a YouTube phenomenon with dozens of variations of the theme posted at any given time. This is despite the fact that Tilton has apparently hired someone to constantly monitor YouTube and issue take-down requests. So the clips come and go. Some are extremely well done and some are so stupid they’re funny and some are just plain dumb and awful. I’ve even seen little kids miming the fart tape in front of their webcam. I’m not posting links to any particular examples because they have such a short lifespan. If you happen to see one you like, I recommend snagging it with something like this.

Some of the YouTube fart-slingers (fart jockeys?) take their craft very seriously. The ones who use classic Success N Life clips from the 80s get more props than the ones who mine their clips from the current programs of the grayer and more sedate Bob airing in the wee hours on BET. Of course, the trick is to time the farts with Tilton’s face-sqruntching, or pounding on the desk and yelling ‘woo-hoo’, or those dramatic pauses of his where he is being washed (or ‘warshed,’ as Bob would say) in the Holy Spirit. Extra points if he’s talking about a sound or a smell, or says something like, ‘Oh, yes, there it is.’

I imagine the same thing attracts this new generation to Bob that attracted me back in the day. The wackiness, the lunacy, the seemingly blatant con and insincerity, dare I say… the Evil? Watching Bob demands some kind of response. Some people respond with a vow of faith of $1,000. Some people fire up the editing software.