Category Archives: Claudia Kornaros

100th Post! The Greatest Meal of My Life…

100th Post!  What took so damn long?  Oh boy!  I eat the fancy food!  I eat the fancies!  And the pretties! The pretties and the fancies!

To the most logical extreme within the boundaries of my level of supreme over-spending on dining, I’ve eaten some pretty good stuff. It’s much easier to justify that incarnation of a crippling addiction…it’s socially acceptable, delicious, and fun to talk about.  I forget how far from normal I am sometimes with the OCD sourcing, dining, planning and cooking. But the freakishness makes me the go-to guy for people who need a recommendation.  Either I can point you to “the very best of whatever”, or I have resources that can handle whatever I can’t answer. “Your death row meal”….”best bite you’ve ever eaten”….and a thousand other topics that have sparked Penthouse letter level discussions of meals gone by. A topic about restaurant health violations on another blog had me going back and rattling my memory for horror stories, and it made me think of the best meal I’ve ever had. It was not the pretties.  The fancies….about as far from the fancies as a mule pissing on a flat rock and having it splash way down into your shoelaces.  However, what was arguably the best meal I’ve ever eaten in my life was in the spring of 1990, while sitting in a gutter in Tepec, Mexico. I was 20.

This was back during when I was trying to decide what I wanted to do in ministry, and I spent a year in The Masters Commission program in Phoenix, Arizona.  Basically, it’s a ministry school of sorts where the church gets free unlimited labor for a year, and you get to send a TON of timber up to your mansion in heaven.  That was the year my brother died, and upon returning to Phoenix after his funeral and the holidays I was a bit out of sorts.  Filtering the grieving process through God’s will and all of that…an existential crisis that had to be wedged into the confines of black and white redneck theology.  But FANCY redneck theology…this was a superchurch that predated superchurches…Phoenix First Assembly…and I was one of the lucky few chosen for The Masters Commission/We’re Better Than The Mormons program.  If Jesus had a Seal Team 6, we were it.  So anyway, no less than a million stories THERE, but back to Tepec…

A bunch of people in the program got peeled off to go on a missions trip to El Salvador for a couple of months. I was kind of “in jail” because of my attitude and inability to let the Holy Spirit rush me through my grief, so I didn’t get chosen for that.  Two guys were picked to drive a 1973 school bus all the way from Phoenix to San Salvador, as a gift for the children’s missionary who ran the ministry that was hosting the group. Obviously, I wasn’t chosen for that task either. BUT there was no task that was crazier, more dangerous or just “out there” in general…so I had to go for the glory and street-cred and get in on some of that.  I called up Lloyd, our leader, and asked if I could not only go on the missions trip, but also be on the bus….I felt “led” to ask him, and I thought it was something that could give me a much needed boost.  No idea what my real motivation was at the time…glory and popularity chasing mixed with a bit of a deathwish…but long story short, he agreed to it, in part, because “even though you’re not old enough for us to insure as a driver on the bus, you will be good at keeping the other two from killing each other”.

Mark was a great mechanic and Andy knew Spanish.  They could both drive a bus. And someone really may have died if it was just the two of them. As it was, Mark and I had a very serious discussion about whether or not we could muster enough Spanish to get through the borders of Guatemala and El Salvador without Andy. Andy was a total douche who often put us in unnecessary danger, and as we drank two highly-forbidden bottles of Corona we weighed our options and by the slightest, tiniest margin decided NOT to leave him on the side of the road in southernmost Mexico.  Our leader’s instincts were correct…even though I did not drive the bus one foot during the 2000+ mile, eight day trip, my contributions were vital. Nobody died. And that was mostly luck. It wasn’t a big deal playing referee with those two or anything, there are just five million different ways to get killed on a trip like that and we bumped up against twelve thousand of them.  

At this point anyone who knows me has stopped reading because they have suffered through twenty years of the same El Salvador stories and are horrified that I have found a new audience.  I don’t think I’ve abused this particular story that badly, because it’s not as fun to tell as the ones where things were exploding…this was at a time when fierce fighting between govt troops and rebels was just winding down.  But it was like Monte Carlo compared to that goddamn bus.  The way it worked was this: Since you only have a few hundred miles of actual highway as you head down the Pacific coast of Mexico, it takes way, way, way longer to get anywhere.  Especially when you are driving a twenty year old school bus that has been freshly painted bright white with neon red lettering down the sides spelling out a poorly translated slogan “Because The Children Need Jesus”, that happens to be loaded down with a ton of puppets, toys, canned goods, and a bunch of other crap that gets rifled through five times each day by federal troops searching for drugs. A translator with the most broken sense of comedic timing and the assumption that all Mexicans have the same sense of humor tends to lose you some time as well. We’d have to drive from sun up to sun down, between twelve and sixteen hours per day and it still took us about eight days to get to our destination.  At night we’d stop at whatever town was closest, and normally two of us would get a cheap (even by Mexican standards) hotel room and the third guy would sleep on the bus to keep an eye on it. A lot of well meaning, well travelled, upper middle class liberal white people would lead you to believe that there aren’t any dangerous places in the world because bad things can happen anywhere…and it’s inherently bad and downright rude to put labels on anyone or anything.  Well, take it from me when I tell you that if you’re travelling through the entirety of rural western Mexico, when it gets dark you want to be in a well populated area for the night.  Time never moves slower than when your Jesus-beacon bus is broken down between two towns with thirty miles of jungle road separating them, and it is long past dark. It is a worst case scenario that we tried our best to avoid, and is what landed us in Tepec.

We skipped solid food for at least a couple of days based solely on the conditions of the Pemex gas station bathrooms. That, plus the fact that once you get into the more tropical parts of Mexico there aren’t many great places to pull off to the side of the road and walk into the jungle for a dump. The terrain is unpredictable and there is stuff alive out there. And as I mentioned before, towns can be very far apart and twenty miles can turn in to five hours.  The oppressive heat also makes it easier to stick to fluids.  While I never really regretted volunteering for the adventure, it was one of those things you knew would look a hell of a lot better in hindsight.  If I remember correctly, the day leading up to our stop in Tepec was extraordinarily brutal.  The high elevation scenery was not unlike Tony’s arrival in Colombia in the movie Scarface. Very scenic, green, misty, other-worldly. And you’d catch glimpses of that in between shit like staring wide-eyed every time you rounded a bend in the road to see whether or not your lane had been washed down the mountainside. Or the ubiquitous cow in the middle of the fucking road.  Or learning the unwritten Mexican law of the mountain road “if I rear end you and you can still drive your vehicle, I don’t have to stop”.  It was just a bad day, but they were all pretty much like that. And I think our plan was to try and make it to whatever town was past Tepec, and even though we arrived there right as it got dark we probably would have kept going.  But that fucking place just swallowed us up.

Most nights, one of us would be stuck sleeping on the bus. Which was total shit, because the “children who need Jesus” would stop by in droves to see what was up, and those little fuckers are mean…terrorizing you for not throwing open the doors and giving them toys at 3am, beating on the doors, throwing stuff at the windows…and you know as soon as you flip out on one of them you’ll have a whole Mexican village drawing and quartering you.  On a couple of occasions, all three of us were stuck on the bus all night. After trying to navigate through a maze of freakishly narrow streets to either find a hotel or the way out of town, Tepec was just such an occasion. That town sucked. And either we kept circling in the worst neighborhood, or the whole city is just cursed. If you’re one of those annoying people who get all offended and assume any negative comment about another country is spoken by an “ugly American”, go fuck yourself. The ‘hood is the ‘hood, in any language, and I’m quite familiar with the fine line between the types of areas where white people venture in order to get some level of liberal-guilt street cred, and the types of areas where you just do not belong. This particular area was just south of somewhere we did not belong, so we found a parking lot and planned to hole up there until morning.  The rest of Tepec might have gold-paved streets for all I know. We just happened to stumble upon the area where the workers who pave those streets go raping.

I don’t remember what we’d talk about on those nights when we’d all have to sleep on the bus.  Once we were just so wiped I don’t think we said anything at all…until about 3am when a soldier came beating on the door and we realized we’d pulled over to sleep at the entrance of a huge military base. We were pretty big on re-capping anything insane that stuck out in particular from that day. And we talked about food quite a bit. Overall, we were in pretty good spirits…this was all for God and we were looking forward to meeting up with our friends who had already flown into El Salvador.  You’d chit chat until you were ready to pass out though, because there’s no good way to sleep on a school bus. The floor is too filthy and there is zero air movement. The seats are too narrow and short to get a good position.  In the end, the best you can hope for is putting boxes or something in the aisle between the two seats to give your legs someplace to rest. But still, lying across the seats means those little bastard kids can crawl up to the windows and almost be in your face. And it was usually very hot.  Hot enough for me to get over any fear of going shirtless in front of others when it was time to get to sleep.

I wish I could remember the logic we used to get off of the bus in the middle of this neighborhood in the middle of the night in order to go and break a solid-food fast with something that was sure to have us soiling ourselves for days to come.  I think there was some talk of just two of us going, one to still watch the bus and be ready to come pick us up if something started happening…or power in numbers if three of us went.  Whether we all went or not is hard to remember, and what we’d find once we got there was a total pig in a poke. What I do recall is lying there generally pissed off, bored, and a little scared when the smell of cooking meat made its way across the parking lot. Grill smoke is a universal language, and we were starving.  The little cart/stand was about half a block from where we sat, and by this time in the evening it’s not like it was being overrun with people…which made it a little scarier actually. Some elaborate trap to lure us gringos out into the open with the promise of grilled meats.  In reality, we were about fifteen hundred miles away from anyone who cared being able to hear us scream, so if we were dead men we were already dead, so may as well have some food.

The little food stands are just everywhere in Mexican towns.  Tepec was the point at which we went from avoiding them altogether to the OTHER extreme…we started eating anything and everything we could find.  We avoided the bags of juice drinks kids sold because of the water, but other than that we ate a ton of stuff that would be Travel Channel-worthy.  In the ‘hood in Tepec, it was your typical little family food stand where they were selling some and feeding the family at the same time.  If I were the culinary genius back then that I am today I’m sure I’d have some involved descriptions of the food and condiments. Surprisingly, instead of tacos, tamales and things of that nature, we arrived to find…hot dogs and hamburgers.  Well, by Tepec standards perhaps.  The relatively identifiable shapes of the meats and buns were the only things giving them away. The hamburgers were slider-sized and overcooked, with a tiny bun and way too much of a mayo/crema/onion/pepper mixture on top.  The hot dogs were really different….think of a freakishly fat leg stuffed into some kind of spandex, with random slits in the fabric where the fat presses out…and instead of tied/twisted off ends to close the hot dog the casing is just open with some meat coming out.  All I can remember is some kind of green hot sauce with those.

Now, I’m not going to pretend I have some Mexican hot dog poetry planned here…there isn’t some crescendo that surpasses all of the words I’ve dedicated to temples of gastronomy in New York and San Francisco.  I was a twenty year old kid with several days worth of filth on him, hungry and dehydrated, sitting on a curb in Mexico with his feet planted in a nasty gutter, eating deliciously charred mystery meats like his life depended on it.  It’s funny what you can be thankful for when you’re at a place way on down the road you never expected to see, and you find something familiar and comforting in the scariest of surroundings.  We ate with a speed and volume that amused anyone who happened to stop by for a meal, and we downed God knows how many sodas.  Without question, the best meal of my life thus far. It was a turning point that happened in the midst of a much larger turning point that I can look back at now in the comfort of the past twenty years and know in my heart there isn’t a hell of a lot in life as nice as finding something good to eat instead of worrying about whether or not you are approaching the twilight of your existence.

 

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So What’s Up With Crazed Pro-Lifers and Self-Circumcision?

So I guess it’s worth mentioning that Osama Bin Laden was killed, and the rapture didn’t happen. And no, this isn’t the “classic” post you’ve been waiting for….springtime has just killed my angst.

Not a lot of spin I can put on the Bin Laden thing one way or the other….it doesn’t make me  feel like singing “God Bless the USA” nor does it make me squeamish or worried about how we got the intel that led us to him, or the fact that he was unarmed. A lot more people need to die for a hell of a lot less, AK-47 in hand or not. My main thought is that we officially have the baddest motherfuckers on earth available to go and kill people…for better or worse. It was kind of annoying to hear all of the usual tea bagger spins on it. You know, the same people who got all misty eyed when Dubya announced how we’d won in Iraq in his ill fitting flight suit. It must have just shrunk their already small genitalia to nothing when their hearts were so conflicted in those moments before they found a way to completely bypass Obama when handing out credit. But overall. Yay. One small step towards justifying the insanely large defense budget that is our untouched and unquestioned sacred cow.

I know I’d get called on it if I let the Camping rapture prediction pass by without even a mention. The funniest thing to come out of that are all of the church folk who want to distance themselves from him while still scaring you with the threat of the imminent Great Tribulation. (Sort of like the pro-lifers who don’t REEAAALLLLYYY mean it when they say it’s wrong for people like Dr. George Tiller to be gunned down because he provides abortion services.) I’m not a REAL theologian, but I know enough to say that anyone who possesses the ability to truly parse the book of Revelation with proper exegesis and hermeneutics is not going to be in the camp of those who choose to scare people into submission instead of doing what Jesus asked of them. The pre-tribulation rapture theory is something that people who do not know how to read ancient near eastern literature properly use to confound, coerce and generally freak out people who are even dumber than them. It’s a control thing. Can I tell you what it all really means?  No. But I CAN tell you there is no existing evidence that the author can be identified, and that it was just one in a huge list of apocalyptic books (which all sound exactly like it) that were argued and debated before it was included in the existing canon. WHICH by the way is how the Bible was created….by a bunch of guys fighting over what was worth including and what wasn’t over a period of a few hundred years. Lots of bargaining, compromise, intrigue, and of course it needed a “Biiiig FINISH!”….and Revelation fit the bill. Do I believe in the gospel? That the Bible contains the word of God? Yeah, I really do. As crazy as that sounds. But the Bible didn’t magically fall from the sky one day. The actual text was written and re-written over long periods of time, translated from the original languages, and then compiled by church leaders with various motives. The nugget contained therein that makes Christians who and what they are is pretty simple and easily understood….no matter how bad the various translators, scribes or politicians were who cobbled it all together. BUT people like to keep it all mystical and complicate it as much as possible. Again, an ego and control thing. The Bible, for our purposes, is very very simple. Unfortunately,  its main function these days seems to be for people who like to tell other people how to live without actually doing it themselves. But hey, it’s a great failsafe if you lack the drive and determination to actually be a productive member of society. If you lack the motivation, intelligence or skills to hold down a real job with actual health benefits and self-awareness isn’t something you strive for, then maybe a fledgling ministry is for you. Lots of people dumber and weaker than yourself will confuse your profound shamelessness and hypocrisy with charisma, and the people who are already stuck with you are betting against the house again as you march off into yet another very poorly planned and executed scheme to finally be somebody without actually working for it.  

Whiiiiich takes me from a few dozen “pastors” I have known back to Camping….  FIRST OF ALL, if you are a Christian is it a REQUIREMENT for you to believe that every single species of animal and insect that exists on this earth today LITERALLY spent forty days and nights together on a big boat? I know, I know, “well the Bible says it, so I believe it!”. So essentially you don’t HAVE to believe it to be a Christian, you’re just not as GOOD a Christian if you can’t rationalize the entire event with shit like “Just because it doesn’t SAY how God fed all the creatures doesn’t mean he let them starve! Didn’t Jesus feed the multitude?”. And that is literally how those conversations go….OR you get some dipshit who hasn’t heard yet that the answersingenesis website has been utterly refuted and also abandoned by those who wrote much of it, and they try getting all scientific on you. “You know how I know the earth is only 6000 years old? Because I can prove that science isn’t perfect. If Science isn’t PERFECT, and the word of God is perfect…then people walked with dinosaurs and the earth is only 6,000 years old….SO LET PRAYER BACK IN SCHOOLS!”….and yes, that is exactly how those conversations go as well. 

And I only bring the flood thing up to underscore the fact that Camping used THAT as the baseline for his rapture prediction. The flood plus seven thousand years because to God a thousand years is a day and he said he’d destroy the world in seven days EQUALS….one hell of a great moneymaking scheme. And if you’re reading this and you even remotely believed what that idiot was selling (and actually continues to sell….May 21 was just a “silent” judgment), I literally hope child services comes and takes your kids from you. They’d have a brighter future if they were adopted by a big ol’ family of molesters. I’m being literal here. IF you are reading this….and you in any way related to or believed Camping’s scam AND you have children….THOSE CHILDREN (please pause to take a look at them or a picture of them) would have a better chance at leading a productive, happy and normal life if they were ripped from you and placed in a series of foster families; each one a worse child trafficking operation than the last. THAT is how stupid you are. My main point here was to make sure I underscored that well enough to avoid any grey areas. But don’t worry, only slightly smarter than you are the followers of Bill Johnson who think nothing of him skating off to Hawaii for an “extended rest” on their dime. The Bible is a pretty handy thing….you can make it mean anything you want. Not only is the laborer worthy of his hire, the laborer who bases his theology on prosperity can build a theology around “extended rest” and his followers will write him a blank check for a kick-ass vacation on a tropical island. Not a bad payday for a guy who has literally never provided evidence for a single miracle he has claimed to perform. Whoever it was that started the fake “Bill Johnson Quotes” page on Facebook is the one who deserves the vacation, because they are awesome and hilarious. I’m sorry I didn’t get a copy of everything before it got yanked.

But back to my original question before I move on….what IS up with the militant pro-lifers (always men, usually with beards, the majority of the time never married who subscribe to the most misogynistic translation of the New Testament) who have God suddenly speak to them and tell them they need to circumsize themselves?  I’m NOT making that shit up, look into it for yourself. And what about the ones who were already circumsized? How can THEY show how dedicated they are?  Whole other psychosis for a whole other time, but I often wonder what sociopathic activity these guys would partake in if they didn’t channel it into hatred of women disguised by a false rage over babies being killed? Definitely too crazy to be plain ol’ rapists….and the doctor killing has been too overdone so it wouldn’t feed their ego enough…..who the hell knows….I’ll just stick with all of these saucy baby killing whores out here.

Oh, and I’ll play golf!  Going on nearly 2 years of sobriety and the best I can give you now is……golf. That just has to sound shitty from where you’re sitting, but it’s like crack to me.  Golf and all of the seasonal cooking.  The weekly haul from our CSA and eating out on the newly renovated deck like a gay.  But I guess I’ve put in my time with alcohol, drugs and ultra-violence…so I’m still a man!  I’m just some Under Armour clad fag stalking deals on kitchenware on Amazon, but I’ve seen and done enough darkness to really not give a shit.  Dress me in a nice summer dress and put me on the back of a unicorn while I twirl a lacey umbrella and I’ve still got enough street credibility to piss on a few dozen of these little oxycontin chewing pussies who go off and die from a damn fentanyl sucker or getting shot ONCE!  Whatever happened to people being able to handle their shit?  You need to wait until you get WAY too good at something like I did before you give it up altogether and go learn to play an old man’s sport. I didn’t stop drinking because it was going to kill me, I did it just to leave at least SOMETHING for future generations to work towards! From what I’ve seen all these kids today can do better than everyone else is be ugly! Seriously, these little bastards need a grungy teen anthem called “Smells Like Thalidomide”.

Man, that Smells Like Thalidomide thing is a keeper…..people are going to get sick of me recycling that joke in the extremely near future.  It has spit-take potential when I sneak that fucker into a conversation. I know it’s obvious enough already, but this blog is kind of a place where I just keep rambling until I get some kind of nugget of wisdom, crass humor, or human horror…..and Smells Like Thalidomide is what I was shooting for without even knowing it. But you can feel free to use it as well, just honor it….timing is everything. 

Coming up on two 2-year anniversaries here actually….wedding and sobriety.  And however it happened, spring has become my favorite season…it used to be fall. This is a great time of year for a road trip….we’ll be heading up to Deadwood soon. But I won’t say any more about that because it will eat in to the no-brainer post I could drum up shortly afterwards.  I’ll do my best to get some pictures of our female dog hump-raping our new one-eyed female cat…it happens about ten times per day.  I’m just going to leave now and let that sink in….

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Those Who Can’t DO, Preach…


I’m collecting stuff for an upcoming post that has the potential to be one of my “classics”, but I wanted to at least get something written just to get my brain moving a bit. Slowly but surely, my writing is coming back around without the need for a complete derangement of emotion. It’s kind of like recovering from a stroke…bit by bit the pieces come back to life, but it takes time and a lot of work. I like the voice that I have here, and that’s what I want to achieve again minus the mood altering highs and lows that used to drive it. I see glimpses of it, but it’s missing the flow.

The Saturday 8am meeting this week revolved around “anger”. Anger is something I very good at….it can drive me like a glass pipe full of crystal, zeroing me in with focus and purpose that is all-encompassing and more than likely damaging. At the meeting I said “I have to treat anger like that first drink…whether my mouth is opening to take a drink or to speak the brilliantly poisonous words I’ve crafted, it has the potential to be the end of all things”. And it’s totally true. I still get explosively angry at stupid, stupid little things like trying to put together patio furniture, but that energy is very short lived. If you’re not in “grenade range” of me during those few seconds, there is no danger. What I’m talking about is the big stuff….religious hypocrisy, my federal team lead trying to get me fired without cause, Tea Party dipshits…..I can dance around with all of that stuff, but if left to my own devices it can go completely off the rails. The amount that I used to drink is equal to how angry I can get. I used to be able to drink a lot. If you’re an alcoholic, you know what I’m talking about….our “a lot” comes from a completely different equation. My wife and I were watching the documentary on Lemmy from Motorhead this weekend, and it didn’t gloss over the way he drinks or does dope. As it went on, I said somewhat proudly yet still sadly…”I partied like Lemmy”. Anyone who has witnessed it would have to agree. I’m not bragging, it’s the definition of total insanity, it’s absolutely fucked up….but yeah, I partied like Lemmy. Not just the amount or frequency, but “the way he does it”. Exact same style, mentality, persona and self-loathing. Ozzy and Alice Cooper both chimed in and gave props to the way Lemmy could party….praise from Caesar to the nth degree….so I guess all I can say is I’m pretty happy to be alive. But I took it to the wall, man. There’s a whole lot I’ve shared in this blog, but there’s a whole other chapter I might get to the point where I can share someday, and it’s kind of like one of my oldest friends used to say….”If you say you can drink me or Jerry under the table, what you are really saying is you need to check in somewhere and get help”. The irony in that statement is pretty hilarious considering how I got to where I’m at now, but I say all of that to say…..I can get that angry too. Some of the things I’ve said and done out of anger are just horrific. It makes me sad that I can get to that point, just like it makes me sad to remember what it was like right before I left for rehab.

Everything about anger mirrors the mood-altering aspects of drinking…..the deliciousness, the temptation, that initial rush as your bloodstream adapts, and especially the hangover…the regret, the embarassment. So NOW I work on saving myself the humiliation….I just don’t go there. And with the way I think, and write, and my knack for dissecting someone’s soul…it is not always easy. Quite simply, you have to take “the things I cannot control” to heart. Overall, anyone who knows me now would say I’m pretty low-key…obsessive and focused on some stuff…but generally no huge displays of emotion or anger.  BUT I do have situations that could kick off an extinction level event if I were to let it go to its logical conclusion. My co-worker/former team lead…someone who has only ever worked for the government in the same place, in the same role, no drive for upward mobility, for 25 years…exactly what you think of when you picture a stereotypical government employee. Long story short, I don’t know how many times I went under the bus whenever she’d be under pressure to do actual work. Her lack of productivity was somehow caused by my imcompetence and laziness. Everyone all the way up the chain of command knew she was lying, but I’m a contractor and she’s a fed with enough years of service to be “untouchable”….so thankfully I got moved to another project. She would have kept going and going until I finally lost my job over absolutely nothing…..good example of something I could waste days and days of my LIFE being angry about, much less the energy that would go into getting even. But when it comes down to it…I love my life, and she hates her life (something she vocalizes regularly). If I got fired, I have mad skills that would eventually get me another job….she would never be able to find a job outside of the government with her resume. I have family that I love, she’s on her fourth marriage, her oldest daughter has disowned her and her younger daughter is a criminal. I mean….there are so many levels of things I have no control over when it comes to her defense and coping mechanisms in the office that at MOST it would be like kicking a crippled person if I went after her. The joy of leaving work and not having to think about it until I come back the next day, and the things I get to enjoy in my personal life make me far beyond lucky…..and I could destroy all of that with anger just as pathetically and needlessly as I could with alcohol.

In addition to people who generally display all of the same fear and control-based dysfunctions as an alcoholic minus the alcohol, I do my best to avoid the black hole that is the American Hyper-Charismatic movement….Bethel Redding, IHOP, Vineyard…any of the places just north of the Assemblies of God. Oh, and the Assemblies of God. I did spend an inordinate amount of time chronicling the fake resurrection stories that came out of Bethel, and it was HARD not to keep going on that….especially since I literally mapped out the way the entire story would unfold just hours after the initial reports. It’s kind of like the old definition of insanity- doing the same thing and expecting different results. I knew in my gut that when an evangelical organization is caught in a lie, they defend the lie by making the whole thing about something else. That’s what Bethel did, and no matter how angry I got towards the end….I finally had to realize that no matter how right I was they’re going to do what they’re going to do. All you can do is be wary of those types of people and situations.

The very specific types of lip service, all-for-show Christians are a bigger hurdle, because they are everywhere. I think my next post will be a good one to help exercise the muscle that deals with all of THAT without being damaging…it took a while to get there. Again, the things I can’t control.  After doing a lot of reflection and witnessing enough really horrible examples, I got some level of disturbing comfort from the fact that I’ve never known one solitary “Christian” individual who puts an inordinate amount of focus into their hell and punishment theology and also comes close to living up to the standards they are preaching. Back to my old “fat preachers too stupid to recognize their hypocrisy w/the gay thing”. They allow themselves the luxury of some glaring, sinful inconsistencies, and somehow think people either won’t notice or they’ll do enough good works to make up for living a lie. And I can either focus on taking their inventory every moment of every day, or just let it go. Chances are nearly 100% that the more a person downplays grace in favor of fear, hell and/or punishment, the less likely it is that they are living a life beyond reproach….not just beyond, but even close to it. And when they say they are doing it out of love for someone, or out of concern….they are lying. If not to you, then to themselves…because that “love and concern for your soul” is what they use to allow themselves to judge you while still holding on to their own secret, and sometimes not so secret, sins. They have no concept of forgiveness and channel that unresolved anger into their obsession with proving their theology is correct simply because it is a stricter interpretation (of cherry-picked phrases). The more scripture they have to use to defend their point, the less they have let the gospel work in their own life. In my experience, this is without exception. It’s not an excuse to write off the whole thing and fly into libertinism, it’s simply recognizing that the type of control they are after is an illusion. Every time I bring this up with someone, the response usually has something to do with “but if you let people think they can do whatever they want….etc., etc.”. If THAT is your biggest concern, it is because you have failed horribly at providing a viable example of what a Christian should be. You have never been an example of love or understanding and have never been someone a “non-believer” feels like they can trust. You make it all about YOU. In secret, you know all of the ways you are abusing God’s grace, but you can hide it well enough to pretend you are a good enough example to either be an authority or have authority. Or in some cases you can’t hide it, and you don’t realize what a complete fool you look like to those who aren’t in the insulated clique that is comprised of people who are either weaker than you and admire you, or others who have given themselves over to the same arrogant disease. Your life is a distillation of “the pot calling the kettle black” in its purest form. That is why I don’t think you should pay these people a salary. Ever. You get way too many who are “called”, who come to that conclusion by default because they are either unable or unwilling to take responsibility and make a real living….they can’t manage their own life, so why not give them HUNDREDS of lives to shepherd over?!?!?! Church is their last shot at realizing a Republican Jesus American Dream…being too short on smarts and/or ambition to make the MONEY, they go for the next best thing….STATUS (coated with a thick layer of false humility, of course)! I’ve seen it all, for years and years, no exceptions, and those people you are not going to change….they always have an answer and they always surround themselves with enough likeminded fools who feed their rationalization. They interpret their emotional childish whims and flights of anger and joy as “the voice of God” or a “word from the Holy Spirit”. Porn, prostitution, infidelity, financial fraud, thievery, swingers, wife beaters, drugs and alcohol…I can’t even estimate the instances I’ve witnessed or known about that were “swept under the rug” by the same men and women who seem to pick and choose where grace, kindness, discretion or love are applicable. It’s a monstrous machine. Beautiful in its frightening, broken yet airtight logic. And if I want to write off all of the joy and all of the reflection I have coming to me in the next hours and days…all I have to do is keep yammering on about it. As fun as it is to put myself on auto-pilot and outline inconsistencies that are probably already obvious to everyone, it’s more fun to NOT process all of that emotion and focus on pretty much anything else…from golfing to 12th Step work.

Did I already mention I had a sponsee?  Can’t recall if that came up already or not. Yeah, poor bastard. I’ll error on the side of saying almost nothing about him other than to mention I got a pretty easy first pigeon….smart, well educated, damagingly introspective, boiling judgmentalism, loves bourbon…lots of similarities between us, and he definitely does as much for me as I do for him. Now I realize that since all AA does is tell you that you can pray to a door knob, we’re just fooling ourselves….it’s all about being a self-improving secular humanist with absolutely no room for anything outside of doorknob worship, but somehow we soldier through. To be completely honest, I find that I’m at my best when I force myself to be a meeting leader for a quarter. Saturday morning is great, but if I lead a meeting then I’ll generally make it to at least one more, and I’m good. I’m really trying to bring a lot of the principles into my physical health…I haven’t totally ballooned weightwise, but I DID start this blog as a gastric bypass reporting tool, and as anyone with a few years under their belt knows, it’s easy to slowly gain weight. As long as I get off of my ass and avoid too many carbs, I do okay, but 12 stepping it to some degree will be a big help. As cheesy as it sounds, and as unlikely a person as I am to champion something like it, the 12 steps really are a program for living your life and would fall well within the parameters of what hyper-charismatic freaks would consider “kosher”. Biggest problem is that status, power, fame, control, ego and money don’t play a big enough part for it to be considered church-worthy, heh heh.

Soooo…our deck is repaired and refinished, I’m in the middle of putting the patio furniture together, work on the yard will begin this week as will the yearly planting of the herbs.  Cookouts and dinners will begin at the house soon, and we’ll hopefully be taking out the one kitchen wall in order to make more space. Going to see Jay and Silent Bob Get Old at the Midland here pretty quick, and we’re going to celebrate our 2nd anniversary with a roadtrip to Deadwood. Christina Hendricks needs to just get naked as a gift to the planet, if you’re poor but still so Republican that you think higher taxes for rich people is bad because you trust them to pass the wealth on to you you’re one loopy cunt, I’m going to start cooking more authentic Mexican food and will pioneer a Vietnamese coffee ice cream recipe, I think it would be funny if hypocritical single-issue right to life voters realized how much of the money they spent on the goods and services they are too selfish and lazy to live without went towards funding abortions, The Rieger Hotel Grill and Exchange is our favorite new restaurant, my favorite new Google search that landed someone in my blog is “unshaved pits and piss porn” and I’m getting a Sous Vide Supreme machine as an early bday gift. Golf, nature trails, all sorts of shit…..looking forward to a great spring and summer.

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To Touch The Hem of Bill Johnson’s Garment…

Man, I’ve been reading back through a lot of my old posts and I totally forgot I was supposed to do one where I spoofed the annoying restaurant photo takers by taking photos of the dumps I take AFTER eating an exquisite meal and posting THOSE along with the review. I’ll be back in DC starting next weekend, and you know how I roll when it comes to the dining….so this may happen, I “shit” you not! Get it? I’m a card.

I have been getting a LOT of new traffic here on the blog due to all of the buzz about the 16 people who WERE NOT RESURRECTED FROM THE DEAD IN BRAZIL. I wish more of you would chime in with some pearls of wisdom about your beloved millionaire faith healer/coward, but it is good to know SOMEBODY is reading…I know the right tags to include for the Google searching and have added them accordingly. That’s what got me back in to some old posts.

So for the benefit of anyone who has favorited this blog and is praying for my salvation, or just whomever….WELCOME….but here is how this shit works:

I take too long between posts, and the content varies. Sometimes you get some gut-level honest talk from me about my battle with alcoholism- A Searching Moral Inventory. Or if you dig around (especially back to when I was still drunk as SHIT) you will find literal BONUS posts where I was just lit and rambling about how I’d rewrite a yogurt commercial- Bonus Post!.  And it’s a family affair…even my damn fundamentalist DOG chimes in… There IS Hope for the Unsaved! .

So this thing goes deep. It is my actual life and various thought processes with plenty of sarcasm and offensive imagery thrown in. If you’re a pentecostal well versed in “creative miracle” subculture jargon, you will be inflamed by my claims to be a person of true New Testament faith. If you’re some random hipster or friend of mine who just likes to see some rowdiness here, the faith thing will probably bug you too. Because I’m a pretty smart motherfucker (oh, and I cuss..a LOT), MENSA smart and clinging to something like a connection to an imaginary God via history’s most famous human sacrifice proves I’m a little defective. I recognize you people and these dynamics, but I do not give a shit about any of that…I write for the exercise of writing. I am practicing my communication. This is all for me, not an audience. Don’t get me wrong, I am deeply grateful for the regular readers who “get it”, that means a lot to me. I just don’t really consider an audience or try to get more readers by focusing on one thing or getting schticky….I’m fine with being one more self-centered anonymous blog among a hundred million others.

(So that was the setup/intro ramble I usually do before really connecting with the title or general subject of the post. In this instance I made the title something semi-Christian sounding, opened with the whole shit-picture thing to throw you off, gave you enough “maybe he’s a good guy” and “maybe he’s a lunatic/loser” info via the links to be non-committal one way or the other…it’s representative of a see-saw method of writing that attempts to bring out a love it or hate it response. And I obviously AM writing for my imaginary audience, COMPLETELY, despite what I claim above…which you would discover for yourself if you keep reading and then you could decide if you think I’m just full of shit, or just flawed ENOUGH to be barely interesting.)

Sooooo….going back through some of the old posts that new readers have been checking out did prompt me to do a little reflecting and wonder exactly what has gotten me to a point in my life where I’m picking one little lie out of a mountain of lies, that faith healers like Bill Johnson, Benny Hinn, etc. tell people in order to promote themselves and make tons and tons of tax-free cash for their empires. And I use the term “lie” on purpose because they lie, whether by omission of the whole story or their complete inability and unwillingness to have one single solitary “miracle” validated by an independent source. I am calling them liars, I am calling them false prophets, I am calling them cowards, so if that bothers you please know it does not get any easier on them from this point forward. They get rich on miracles that are never proven. They make money off of the emotion created by everyone agreeing to pretend that a miracle has taken place. I think that about covers my stance, and yes, I know you have some cousin whose eye grew back, or their flat feet got healed, or the sugar diabetes went away….MAYBE you do, I have no idea, but probably, in the cold light of day, that thing you describe didn’t actually happen. I’m not here to say that miracles CANNOT happen. I believe in the same God that you do. I am here to say THIS- men like Bill Johnson are the moneychangers Jesus threw from the temple. And if you can stand behind someone like Mr. Johnson and make fun of someone like lukewarm ol’ Dave Ramsey, I am speaking to you and you specifically when I say you are a hypocritical fucking moron. They both take money from the same gullible fanbase. One just proclaims something flashier than the other. Have I ever witnessed a true miracle with my own eyes? No. Did I spend half my life repeating stories about modern day miracles as if they were true because someone told me they were true, even though I had no way of knowing? Yes.

And it is a combination of personality, twisted theology, and the ability to get people talking about miracles that never happened as though they did, that makes Bill Johnson the ultimate direct-marketing pyramid scam evangelist. Please keep in mind as I write this, despite all of the awesomely cool and hardcore named organizations like his School of Supernatural Ministry, NightStrike Evangelism, and his Dead Raising Teams….in the entire history of his ministry, among many claims of people literally being raised from the dead, there has not been one single solitary independently confirmed case where a human being was literally stone cold, rigor mortis dead and brought back to life. Oh there are TONS of stories and eyewitness testimonies (all from people connected directly to Bethel or their anonymous sources), but when the stories come under the slightest scrutiny they fall apart. But good old Bill, the smooth talking conman that he is, can simply chalk that all up to things like the liberal media and non-believers NEVER having enough evidence to convince them….so why even try? Why take time away from doing all these MIRACLES!?!?!? Watch him in interviews or videos, this is one smug prick. But the sweet thing is….if you get involved with Bethel, you get to do some incredibly cool shit! No lie, you can even join a dead raising team that goes to accident and crash sites to try and raise the victims! I can’t make this stuff up! But nobody is in this for the hype or the glory! No sir, just humble servants of Christ up in heeah!

And that is the basis for the pyramid scheme named Bethel Church in Redding California…one guy who can claim some miracles that can never be validated, gets a few other people invested in this little organization. They tithe, the building can get a little larger, the music a little better….must be God’s doing, right? All of those people get some more people to come see the miracles that can never, even one time, be verified, they get caught up in the hyper-emotion, they tithe, and on it goes. The growing size of the ministry and the stories of miracles are proof enough to people that this whole thing is 100% valid….and they are intensely invested and defensive of this organization. The theology that they are taught draws a very big line between THEM and the SECULAR/NON-MIRACLE BELIEVING world, so they are also insulated and isolated to some degree. They create their own language and culture…not realizing what complete and total patronizing douchebags they come across as to those they say they want to save. They are emotionally fed by Bill Johnson and intenseley admiring and loyal to him. Invested in the ministry, invested in the culture, invested in the teachings of celebrity evangelist Bill Johnson….but not invested in an actual belief and relationship with God, because that isn’t radical enough. Or impressive. Even THAT critical piece of the process is learned secondhand because it’s more about making your testimony sound good than actually having one. Getting that testimony out there….making it marketable….making it remarkable (remarkable, that is, to people who already think and speak exactly the same way you do). And what is more remarkable than a miracle? More specifically, what is more remarkable than a miracle involving sixteen flood victims being raised from the dead in Brazil? Now, I have no idea what was going through the minds of people like Claudia Kornaros or Lynne Wimmer when this hoax was cooked up, or Bethel staff like testimony writer Pam Spinosi who defended the crap out of this story on Bethel’s website….I can only guess since not one single person will come forward with anything other than super-correct sounding “statements” from Bethel and Healing Herald. So much has come forward to debunk this thing that it is actually funny people are still defending it….but I mean, they don’t defend it because they really think it happened. They defend it because nobody outside of the organization is worthy of questioning Bethel or Bill Johnson. Because in order understand all of this or to ask questions you already have to think like they do and believe like they do….and if you believe and think like they do, you know not to go asking too many questions because it shows a HUGE lack of faith and dedication on your part. Yooouuuu didn’t really think all of these miracles and wonders were meant to minister to a lost and dying world, did you? You big silly!

This Bethel place is one onion you cannot start peeling back. Seriously. It all goes back to the pyramid scheme. You might peel off that first layer of Bethel groupies…but the farther into the center you get, the more desperate people are to defend a complete and total lie. Aallll the way out to all points of the pyramid, people are willing to say “that article was fake”. You go in a little deeper and the story is that the article was fake but the story was true. A little farther in, the story was true but nobody can come forward because they are in danger. A little farther in and you’ve got folks like Claudia and her famous “anonymous sources”….and for whatever reason the powers that be consider these folks infallible. You don’t get much farther in than that because nobody can explain why anyone was in danger, and nobody can address ANY direct questions about the story itself. Oh, and they are treating the Brazilian missionaries who are actually IN the disaster zone like idiots….it is pathetic. Emails and phone calls go unanswered and the plan becomes to just let this thing go away (buuuuttttt, it’s not, this is still the honeymoon phase, trust me). Fortunately for Bill he has people who can write the statements for him, all he has to do is come off like a patronizing asshole on his Facebook page in his one mention of this debacle. It’s good to be at the top of the pyramid! Other than that you’ve got the released statement Bethel uses as the basis to never talk about this again, and of course you’ve got the doofus patrol over at Healing Herald who are playing martyr for being some of the only people to stand behind the gutless, yet infallible, unnamed source…despite the fact that this story is a COMPLETE AND TOTAL LIE CREATED BY MINISTRY STUDENTS IN ORDER TO COMPETE WITH ALL OF THE OTHER COOL SOUNDING BUT FALSE STORIES COMING OUT OF BETHEL. It is hilarious, and also sad, to see Bethel and Healing Herald’s Facebook pages all but shut down with the constant questions about this hoax. Hilarious because you know it’s just grinding on them, and sad because you have people who actually live in Brazil and mean well (people very unlike ME) getting completely ignored. But maybe the saddest thing, and you can see it on Bethel’s Facebook page right now, is some guy asking people to believe with him for a “creative miracle” or for the funds to get some medical treatment….to which one girl answers “Set up a paypal account and ask everyone for a dollar”. And she’s dead serious. You teach your people well, Mr. Johnson.

Down at the core of this whole thing, you’ve got people who are genuinely pissed that anyone would waste their time harping on this issue and “judging your brethren” or “causing division”. These are the idiots who jump your ass and completely abuse scripture, never speaking about Bethel’s lying directly, just everything that is wrong with you. Well, you know what causes division? A huge ministry advertising a lie and then standing behind that lie because they know there are enough idiots like you out there who will swallow every word they say because you have invested so much of your life in THEM….not in the God you claim you love.

Can anybody name me a couple of millionaire preachers who God ever called away from making that kind of money in a huge ministry, in order to do something smaller and humbler? Anybody besides the guys like Ted Haggard or Todd Bentley who lie and lie and lie and lie before FINALLY getting busted enough to just go away? Once you get the money and popularity, for some strange reason God ALWAYS wants you to hang on to that. And once you start raising people from the dead, well, you can only keep doing bigger and better things, whether God is involved or he’s not. Guys like Bill Johnson, they use misdirection and omission and they create dependency on their organization for membership and loyalty to it….but they make it sound good. Are there a ton of good Christian people at Bethel? Of COURSE there are, but they exist despite charlatans like Bill, not because of him. Am I coming across as too harsh? Too bad. Guys like him and the bozos at Healing Herald (where you can claim ANYTHING as a miracle and they will post it…several folks are in the process of proving that fact right now, or maybe they already have…or at least that’s what I’ve heard) just come across as so patronizing and scummy….politically, they are safe in saying the newspaper article is fake, but then all they’ll say is they stand behind their source, who says the miracles themselves happen. And then they offer up nothing else….which is infuriating, but also smart….they don’t say WHY they believe their source, because that would raise more questions. They don’t NAME their source, so they are showing loyalty and grace. They share in everyone’s pain in all of this, so they get martyr points. Then, all they have to do is sit back and let this whole thing die down….and either people will get tired of talking about it or some other “independent source” will come forward and provide about the same amount of proof as is required, that would be ZERO, and then case closed….the pyramid is safe again.

Here is my pledge to you all- I’m NOT going to keep torturing my friends with these longwinded diatribes about something they could give less of a shit about. In fact, your loyalty will be rewarded with some old school “LIVE! From DC!” writings beginning next weekend.

As for the liars and defenders of liars at Bethel and Healing Herald…up to this point I’ve played pretty nice because the ONE good thing I’ve gotten out of all of this is the knowledge that there really are some godly people who care about Brazil….and unfortunately you are not them. Some of them have had to get back to their ministries, as they should, the rest you can just keep writing off as rabblerousers on Facebook. Even though I speak nicely to them, I respect them, and have nothing but good to say about them….do not confuse me with them, and don’t let my coarse language or attitude in any way be associated with them. They are way better people than me. What you need to do is stop going halfway with this and admit that this entire story is a hoax, not just the newspaper article. If not, it’s going to be a year from now and this story is STILL going to dog you. If you live for that kind of annoyance, so be it. And Healing Herald….if I were you I’d seriously take a closer look at your sources when new stuff is posted to your Facebook or published on your site. Seriously. As in, even since this Brazil story broke….because there may have already been some shenanigans at your expense. Or so I’ve heard. Oh, and guys, don’t take any of this as I’m sailing off into the sunset….I’m just not going to take up my blog space with it unless there are big developments. You absolutely have my full attention on YOUR blogs and websites. It takes like fifteen seconds to just give this thing a beating.

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Filed under 16 Raised From Dead, Addiction, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bariatric Surgery, Bethel Church, Bill Johnson, Blogroll, Christianity, Claudia Kornaros, culture, dating, Dead Raising Teams, Evangelical Christianity, Food, General Thoughts, Healing Herald, Healing Rooms, Health, Healthy Eating, howard stern, Jesus Culture, Lynne Wimmer, Pam Spinosi, Recovery, religion, Religious Hypocrisy, School of Supernatural Ministry, Tent Revival, Teresopolis, Weight Loss, weight loss surgery

16 Flood Victims Raised from Dead in Brazil!!! (DEBUNKED)

***********Update  07/29/2011*********

Let me just say prior to the rest of the update- the following is 100%, absolute proof that Bill Johnson is a liar whose first priority is to protect his own image.  Bill Johnson himself stated on more than one occasion that HE and/or members of his organization had PERSONALLY SPOKEN TO the people who performed the Brazil resurrections, but could offer no more explanation for reasons they would not share.  Bill Johnson is on record, on HIS OWN FACEBOOK PAGE stating this, and as you will see below….he is absolutely, positively a liar.  If you hate him, if you love him, read on…because no matter how you feel about him, you cannot say he handled this story with any level of honesty or integrity. 

(I preface everything with that partially because it is irrefutable, but also because it will get people to “refute it” by saying…..”Well, what PROOF do YOU have that the email is REAL?!?!?!”   Or, “pretty convenient isn’t it that Bill went and deleted all the comments you are saying he posted!  Where is YOUR PROOF!?!?”…because those are the types of things that people who worship liars instead of God tell themselves in order to sleep at night. And hey, works for Bill, you idiots just paid for him to take a three month vacation in Hawaii that he justified with his usual brand of horribly inaccurate theology.)

Sooo…for anyone who continues to follow this, the story has been officially recanted by the very people who began this whole debacle. I’ll post the text from the full email below, but long story short, the “nurse” who went with the imaginary team to Brazil and performed the imaginary resurrections, was….GASP!!!!!….making the whole thing up!  It only took six months for the braintrust who swore and swore and swore, and defended, and watched this whole thing turn into a circus, to realize their friend was an insane liar.  Now, that is the story they are telling….I would bet anything on this planet that Claudia and David are lying about many, if not ALL, of the details.  They have known this was total BS for quite some time so they got their story straight once even more video came out proving these resurrections never could have happened.  How do I know this?  Same gut instinct that literally called every single twist and turn in this story since it was first posted, with zero error.  The simplest answer is usually the truth, and the simplest answer HERE isn’t that a single person created an elaborate ruse that fooled so many people for so many months.  This is simply a way for those two to deflect blame so they can get on with their lives, play the victims, boo-hoo for a bit and keep going Bethel-wild.  Do I have proof?  No. But before you hammer me too hard for calling them massive lying liars, make sure you weren’t one of the idiots who needed a lot LESS proof to believe sixteen people were raised from the dead despite the fact that Bethel-friendly missionaries visited the impacted area and talked to residents and officials and came to the conclusion that this was one huge hoax.

I think this whole thing is symptomatic of the addiction that followers of Bethel, IHOP, Vineyard, etc. have to the fantastical.  For the most part, the American contingent is hugely self-serving and they have more in common with a political party than a Christian movement.  To doubt the resurrections when they were first reported was nearly heresy, as was asking for proof or questioning the character of the insanely hypocritical garbage-speaking egomaniac Bill Johnson.  Even if THIS instance wasn’t true, a million other reports (of which, ZERO have ever been verified) of miracles WERE true, so this was a one-off, yada yada yada….long story short, what was the BIG DEAL if this specific one wasn’t true?  To cast doubt on Bethel and Bill Johnson is to question an idol that people have invested far, far too much time, money and emotion into to ever let it be tarnished.  If you don’t believe me, try this….go over to any of Bill or Bethel’s Facebooks and see how long any question about this retraction lasts on their wall. Not only will they delete it, they will block you from ever posting there again.  I dare you to prove me wrong.  It was mighty big of Healing Herald to post a tiny retraction buried way down on the website and not allow any comments or questions to be posted.  Not nearly as bad as Bill, but the Healing Herald people truly are self-serving assholes.  The only thing that gets more time an energy than the “ministry” of posting hundreds of miracle claims that cannot possibly be validated (giving them plausible deniability), is the time and energy that goes into making sure the actual truth never, ever sees the light of day….and if it does, it is controlled with the same kind of spin-tactics as any political movement.  They equate “truth” with whatever continues to make them and Bethel look good, and they work backwards from that assumption.  Then you trickle all the way down to the jobless, prosperity doctrine mouthbreathers like the dude who says he actually SPOKE TO the Brazil team leader and VERIFIED that the miracles happened….. http://dasparling.blogspot.com/  .  You seriously need to read this asshole’s writing….he is the ultimate case of what can happen to you when you become so insulated in self-serving, hypocritical heresy that reality totally disappears.  First, (and I’m sure he’ll end up either deleting the comment on his most recent post OR saying HE was a victim just like Claudia and David) this dude shot down all doubters by saying that he literally met the Brazilian team leader.  Humongous, absolute, LIE. No such person even exists.  Second, he has no real job outside of begging money for missions trips, but his obsession with money over Christ or anything else is proven by the fact that he talks about it most of all…dude has every dollar for every day accounted for and how God granted it to him…including the time he had zero money but felt God would want him to take a date to an extremely expensive restaurant. And sure enough, he had enough money by the end of the day and instead of doing anything responsible like paying rent so he didn’t dick his roommate over AGAIN and force THEM to pay the whole thing, he went on a date!  But that’s okay, because this is all God doing it!  Not having a job, begging for money and then squandering that money is at the heart of Bethel theology!  I kid you not, and this guy is just one out of a million “I wanna be famous…for JESUS!” assholes who forsake all that is even remotely Christian in order to follow Bill Johnson.  And every one of them has at least four places where you can send them cash. 

Anyway, couldn’t just post the following suspicious-sounding retraction without taking the opportunity to talk some smack….totally true, 100% accurate smack, but smack the same. Oh, and for any of you who think I’m heartless in my approach since these fine people finally came forward….too little too late.  They’ve hidden like roaches since this whole thing blew up, letting other people take the heat for them and fight their battle, and after all of that they take the same cockroach way out.  Oh, they want the truth out there….as long as it in no way inconveniences them or costs them anything.  They know that Papa Bill and Bethel have enough egg on their face to guarantee they won’t let a word of this be uttered on their websites or in their building. 

Friends and loved ones,

You are free to send the body of this email to anyone you’d like. In fact, we encourage you to send it to everyone who may have been previously informed about this story because we want the truth to be released. We simply ask that our email addresses remain confidential (which you can accomplish by copying everything below this paragraph and pasting into a new message). Please do NOT forward this email because our email addresses will remain in the header.

Back in January, we released a story about a nurse friend of ours who was part of a team that traveled to Brazil on a medical missions trip and raised 16 people from the dead. At the time, we had every reason to believe the story was true because (like many of you) we are actively involved in a culture where the supernatural activities of God are a normal part of everyday life. Furthermore, we had been her pastors in San Francisco for over 10 years, had begun to interact over Facebook with other members of “the team”, and asked some of her other friends and pastors in SF for character references (which simply seemed like a wise thing to do given the nature of the story).
In releasing the story, we had every intention of bringing glory to God while protecting the anonymity of the team (who, we were told, were fearful that their medical licenses would be jeopardized should their names be associated with such a fantastic miracle story). It all made sense to us at the time. We are still going to protect the identity of our nurse friend (however, now for very different reasons…read on).

Late last week, we discovered some troubling information about her that casts a huge shadow of doubt over the Brazil dead raising story and everything she’s shared with us since we met her 12 years ago. This news came as a shock to us and to our friends in San Francisco who thought they knew her well. Essentially she has been lying to us about a great many things (her job, her credentials, her travels and missions work, her association with prominent world leaders, etc). She created fake Facebook profiles for all the members of “the Brazil team” and was personally managing them (fake check ins, wall posts, photoshopped pics and other pics downloaded from the internet and fake stories written about them). She had given each “person” a different role on “the team” and distinct personalities and managed them so well that they came to life for us. For months we have been interacting daily with many members of the team over email and FB (encouraging them, praying for them, giving them prophetic words), thinking all along that they were unique individuals with whom we had become very close. The deception was elaborate, and we’ve been deeply wounded by this revelation. Earlier this week, all those profiles were deactivated/disabled at the same time (presumably by her).

We have amassed a great deal of evidence that we’ve made available to Bethel Church leaders since our nurse friend had personally met with several of them and since Bethel’s name was linked to the original story. We also released this evidence to a small group of friends from San Francisco who are in the best position to help her. We are NOT planning to release this information to the general public as it would only serve to defame our friend, and that is not our intention.

Why has she done this? we aren’t completely sure. We think it’s in response to a painful break up she experienced last Christmas or possibly something much deeper.

We’ve confronted her in love with the guidance of a licensed Christian psychologist and assembled a small team of her close friends in SF to support and encourage her to receive professional help. Unfortunately, at this time, she’s not admitting to any lies/deception, and she’s cut us off. We still love her very much, want to see her whole, and continue to reach out to her. Given her current condition and need for healing, we will not be releasing her name. There was so much controversy regarding the initial release of the story that revealing her name would draw attention that would undermine every effort to see her whole. We hope someday, when she’s ready, that she will choose to take responsibility for her actions and publicly apologize.

Please accept our humblest apologies for our involvement in this story. We are so deeply sorry for the people that have been led astray or hurt. We have learned a very valuable lesson……Believe in the supernatural, trust your friends, but still do adequate due diligence (i.e. fact checking) when a story seems too good to be true.

We believe in a great God who does amazing miracles, even if this one was a fabrication.

Blessings,

David and Claudia

***********Update 03/15/2011**********

For anyone who is still following the story or looking for updates, one of the many blogs to initially report this is now claiming in their comments section that this story is absolutely true, and that the leader of the team who went to Brazil (despite the fact that the possibility of any foreign teams being in the area at that time has been completely debunked by Brazilian officials) was just at Bethel. Well, isn’t it weird how only people who are closely tied to Bethel have the honor of knowing who these powerful, magical people are who performed the greatest miracle in modern history…..and are too lacking in integrity and honesty to come forward with a shred of proof or testimony? “Trust us, this really happened?”. Yeah, you degenerates are really following the example of Christ….seriously how do you even sleep at night knowing how deeply in denial you have to be to continue defending lies just to satisfy your own misdirected pride?

Anyway, here is one more person who PROMISES they know a person who was THERE to witness the miracle….and even though their identify or the details cannot be discussed, they know that the source is solid!

Really! I Swear The Miracle Happened!

The claim is down in the comments, but I’ll copy it here for the inevitable time when the comment is deleted once it starts to see some traffic and people ask too many questions…

“Alright, I’ve looked into it – the story is totally true, the leader of the team was at Bethel this last week. The article however has been formally de-bunked, and the link you provided makes that quite clear. The fake article was created by an interpreter, and his motives aren’t exactly clear. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that it was his attempt at a creative expression for memories sake, but it was definitely not supposed to be presented as a real article, and somewhere along the line it got presented as that. I’ve removed the article’s contents from my post. The story, as it’s presented, is acurate. Thank you for your concern.”

The Brazil resurrections aside….have any of the “resurrections” claimed by Bethel been independently verified? I’m not talking about the friends of friends of cousins giving a testimony, or the myriad YouTube video testimonies from unknown people, or the words of someone who was way over in some foreign country, or the reports from the Dead Raising Teams who “resurrected” someone who happened to be having a heart attack in a restaurant and never really died….I’m talking about this- someone stone cold, rigor mortis dead for hours, resurrected through prayer. Pronounced dead by a doctor hours earlier, indpependently verified with any sort of medical record….and then brought back to life? You see, that is why all of these supposed miracle stories fall apart and only serve people who are already willing to believe them…..REAL miracles do not require a leap of faith to believe they happened, and they don’t require you to already be deep in the bosom of a charlatan like Bill Johnson….by their very nature they speak for themselves.
***********Update 02/07/2011**********

I’ll be writing another post soon since this one is pretty much a jumble of information now…..but long story short as things stand now- Bill Johnson and Bethel church have admitted that the newspaper article with the story about the resurrections in Brazil is a hoax. Sadly, despite an amazing amount of evidence to the contrary, provided by missionaries on the ground in Brazil, they are sticking to the lie that the story is REAL….BUT the identities of those involved must be protected for their own safety.  Go back and review some of the blog links below for the forensic details, but basically….Bill Johnson is an amazing liar, and his ministry students and staff that created the fake article and have now run and hidden, and are depending on the good graces of the people in Brazil they have hurt not to out them to the world.   Claudia and team jumped out of their rabbit holes long enough to delete their Facebook accounts and tell people they had “no honor” for including their names in their blog posts…but then they just ran away. What wonderful examples of Christian love and truth…..but I guess it could be worse, they could be the Bethel ministry students who got drunk, let their friend fall off a cliff, and then let him lie crippled for six hours before calling for help a couple of years ago….because they didn’t want to get in trouble for breaking the “no drinking clause” in their contract.

Again, will follow this up with another blog post, but there are plenty of people who aren’t going to ever let this just go away.  It will continue to be like Chinese Water Torture…the question “but why do you still claim the resurrections happen?” is easy to copy and paste over, and over, and over. The arrogance and hypocrisy of “Christians” like Bill Johnson who rely on the co-dependency of their followers in order to ignore huge lies like this one…is just unreal.  They apologize for putting out a fake article, but stick to the lie that the story in the fake article DID happen, NEVER, EVER, NOT ONE TIME acknowledge the tragedy in Brazil and call for prayer, and then treat people who expect an explanation like faithless idiots….including those who are doing actual relief work in Brazil and are witnessing the impact of this massive lie.  Hundreds dead, thousands homeless, entire neighborhoods destroyed….but I guess the important thing here is that Bethel’s image remains intact so that they can sell more books to people who think that faith means never having to question whatever is spoken by leaders at Bethel.  Oh, and jam to some Jesus Culture!  WHEEE!!!

There’s still discussion going on at the following Facebook locations for Bethel, Healing Herald, and Bill Johnson.  A lot gets deleted, but the Bill-worship and misplaced anger at the Brazilians who want an answer is entertaining, and also extremely sad, to watch-

http://www.facebook.com/bethel.church.redding?ref=ts

http://www.facebook.com/healingherald?ref=ts

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bill-Johnson/54557413386?ref=ts

Much of what Bethel and the people directly involved with the hoax have stated online has been either edited or deleted, but thanks to wonders like Google Cache and Google Reader, little gems continue to pop up, like Bethel’s insistence that the story is still true:

From testimony writer Pam, who still firmly stands behind the friend of a friend of a friend of a friend, but refuses to answer any questions…
“This testimony was sent to us by someone we know and trust and it was given to her by someone she knows and trusts. I cannot answer any more e-mails requesting more information. The medical people involved wish to remain private. I have removed the attached article that seems to bother so many of the readers. However, I do believe that all the details are correct and factual or I would not have posted this testimony. Thank you for your understanding.”

(Side note- it has been confirmed by missionaries in the area, medical personnel, relief workers and government officials that NO foreign medical team of any kind was EVER onsite.)

Oh, and you can read the very lawyerly and non-commital statement that FINALLY came out of Bethel….basically they say the miracles really happened but the story was false, and they are sorry and no matter what they find out in their “investigation” of the matter they will never, ever speak of this again.  Partially because Bill Johnson is on record in a podcast and on his Facebook stating the miracles happened….but the doctors who witnessed it could lose their jobs if their names came out…so do you REALLY think there is any chance of him coming clean?

http://www.ibethel.org/site/testimonies/2011/02/02/statement-about-brazil-miracles

*********************end of update**********************************

First, if you would like to read a forensic account of this entire thing that is handled with far more patience and grace than I could ever muster, this is pretty fantastic-   www.paulcull.org/blog/

I wanted to throw my hat into the ring so that Google has one more blog linking to this story.  In short, there is a completely unsubstantiated report of 16 people being raised from the dead by a Christian missions team in Brazil last week.  There’s a photo of the front page of a Brazilian newspaper that in no way matches the actual newspaper….the website for the newspaper makes no mention of the story….there are no names associated with the story whatsoever. Basically it is 100% hearsay but it has people going wild with joy.

It’s important that I posted this right now, because this story will be dead  soon….never to be resurrected.  When REAL questions are asked of those who insist it is true, they are met with misdirection, masked hostility, “oh it figures that a non-believer doesn’t get this”, mentions of anti-Christian bias in the media, scripture quotations, and last but not least……”well I know someone PERSONALLY who was raised from the dead, so I know this can happen!”.  What you get is everything except any real explanation of the story….there is no proof.  There is no proof because these stories are usually only meant to be seen by those who are ready to believe anything that comes from someone who already thinks like they do…..when an outsider gets ahold of it, they get defensive, then they go silent, and the story that was never substantiated becomes an urban legend that will be referred to in sermons for generations to come.

Do I believe miracles can happen? Sure.  Why am I hurriedly focusing on this one example?  I’ve been obsessed with it since last night, and I wanted to give you at least a peek into a culture with which I am all to familiar.  Here are a couple of the better sources…..

http://upsidedownbethlehem.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/16-people-raised-from-the-dead-in-brazil-yes/

http://www.ibethel.org/site/testimonies/2011/01/21/sixteen-flood-victims-raised-from-the-dead-in-brazil  (link is dead as of the evening of 01/24/2011…shortly after evidence of the REAL newspaper article for that day came to light….what a wonderful and responsible ministry!  When caught in a lie….just sweep it under the rug!

If anyone can find anything….any name, picture, documentation, article, news footage….just one single thing that validates this story, here is the place to do it.  I know people will see this post, because basically the ONLY places you can find a reference for this tale is on blogs via Google.

More on this later, sorry for such a quick and cheap post, but this cultural phenonemon fascinates me. People who are so specifically socialized into one way of thinking that they are willing to accept anything at face value as long as it matches up with what they already believe…..and any skepticism is met with a retreat back to the hive, where they can immediately be reassured that they are right (even if the story they report to be true is a lie).  Whether this specific story is true doesn’t really matter to them, because when met with doubt they can always point to ANOTHER instance where it DEFINITELY happened, or throw out a scriptural reference that proves it CAN happen.  

Anyway, I’ll be back once the Theraflu is out of my system….all is well in the household, and I have more than enough on my mind to hand out some more four thousand word rambles…..

*************UPDATE 01/24/2011***********

Clearly I’m overly obsessed with this story, and for whatever reason have a laser-like focus on one in a million similar tales that constantly creep across the blogs. The more I dig into the website of Bethel Church that I have linked above, the more I understand it….hocus-pocus culture for hocus pocus believers with attention deficit disorder. When you are hawking prosperity doctrine books that claim “supernatural and prophetic” methods on the front page of your website…..I don’t really need to read any further. And THIS site is where the aforementioned miracle was reported…..and actually, the ONLY site as of this writing.

Right now, the only sites that are repeating this story are those that are pretty closely aligned with Bethel-style culture, and to sum things up- it is clear that people are ready to believe ANYTHING that is reported from a familiar source despite any shred of evidence, and when any doubts are raised they are ready to believe it even MORE.

Basically:

One anonymous source reports this testimony on Bethel’s website.

As related blogs begin to copy and paste it, a .pdf of a newspaper page reporting this story suddenly appears. The authenticity is sketchy at best, it is not in line with how the real Teresopolis paper is formatted, and there is no mention of this story on the newspaper’s website despite the fact that they have links to prior stories for the past several months.

Someone from one of the blogs supposedly emails a pastor at Bethel, who confirms not that the story is true, but that they trust the person who reported it. BUUUUUUTTTT…for reasons unknown the person wants their identity protected.

Similarly, alleged communications from people still in the field report that the only way they were able to provide as much information as they have has been with the promise that no identities of those resurrected, nor the identities of any doctors, nurses, organizations or facilities were named in the retelling of the story.

I’ll compile a “best of” list of whacked-out retorts later, but people who are defending this story pretty much admit that even if THIS story ends up not being true, there is no denying that more and more of these types of miracles are happening these days and THAT fact can’t be disputed (because they can either cite some book or a friend of a friend or distant cousin who knows one of these stories is true).

So basically, if you’re like me and are calling bullshit on this story, it’s because your heart is hard and there would be no convincing you even if you saw it for yourself!  Because, and I quote, IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE IT WHEN YOU HEAR IT, YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT WHEN YOU SEE IT! The secular anti-Christian media is so biased they would never report this through their channels, etc, etc, etc……to doubt this story is to doubt God, and if you can’t trust a believer to be telling the truth about this, who can you trust?

And yes, that is the kind of insane logic with which I am all too familiar….I was that guy once upon a time.

I’m not going to keep rambling about this or do an old school tear-down like I would have a couple of year ago. I just have a simple question.  And disclaimer alert, it is based on the fact that my basic belief is of the generic Judeo-Christian variety, and as someone gullible enough to believe a spaghetti monster may very well have at least kicked off the big bang….I say, sure- if God felt like raising some people from the dead, he could do it. And I would not be rude enough afterwards to question what was so special about those 16 people vs. the 584 that were left to rot.

With all of that said, my question is this- who or what was the reporting of this (still unfounded) miracle really meant to serve?

At face value it looks like it was never really meant to see the light of day, and was meant to serve as a basic little shot in the arm for those who would never question its authenticity.  Then for whatever reason, out of a gazillion similar stories, it got out on the blogs and did not even pass a simple smoke test.

The only people who were meant to get anything from this story are the people who need it the least. They are the folks already so tightly insulated within this belief and its full-body-cast culture, that they hear similar things every single day. They already believe, are already seeing miracles…they are basically God’s Delta Force. BUT for whatever reason, a miracle so massive in its implication, that if proven with even the most basic evidence….one doctor, one photo, a family member, any first hand account whatsoever, could shake the foundations of even the crankiest agnostic….is purposefully and willingly being hidden from view by the very people who could provide evidence. How selfish of a hypocrite do you have to be to do that? And why?

In my opinion, it is because evangelical/charismatic/pentecostal/fundamentalist culture has safeguards in place to make sure it remains a closed culture. Jesus said “come unto me”….and that’s basically the whole story. Love God with all your heart, your neighbor as yourself. The End. What we have here is a modern church that will totally agree with that statement, but as soon as you DO believe it, and you want to remain (happily) in THEIR church….there is a WHOLE lot of shit you’re going to have to just take for granted as being true if you want to climb the ranks of the sanctified. It’s a process of enculturation and socialization that becomes so specific yet so complicated that all reality begins to be processed through that filter. The biggies are simple….stuff like porn, drinking and being gay are obviously OUT. But once one reaches a level of scriptural sophistication and comparative sanctification…you know, able to eat at the cool kid’s table…then THAT is where all ties with the regular world are, at worst severed completely, and at best turned in to one of those beaded curtains so that they can stick their head out and give plenty of unsolicited, condescending, and often just plain hurtful platitudes. Their lives basically become a game of philosophizing with other likeminded believers over the finer points of scripture as they pertain to exactly what things in this modern world are TOO secular…. you know, stuff like “are you really a Christian if you watch movies like ‘The Hangover’?”.  The guy who says NO, well HE is the alpha Christian right then….so everyone tries to be more like him, even if they have to pretend or make stuff up. Secretly they hate his ass. What they don’t realize is THAT dude has the first anniversary edition of The Hangover on Blu-Ray.

So anyway, why can’t the miracle of the resurrected 16 flood victims be shared with any authenticity beyond those who are going to believe it no matter what….

It’s basically this- in order for you to be able to rejoice in this story, you already have to be as deeply invested in the culture as the person or people who are reporting it as the truth.

It’s kind of a continuum….starting with:

Person A (they are reporting the miracle)

Person A encounters Person B (who has not heard about this miracle)

Person B’s reaction can be anything from hugs of joy to punching person A in the mouth, and for every one of those reactions, Person A (you know, the HANGOVER IS BAD guy) has a fitting response that never, EVER budges one millimeter from their little comfort zone. Person B, upon hearing the news, might call for high-fives all around….”YOU HEAR STORIES LIKE THIS EVERY DAY BUDDY, THESE ARE DEFINITELY THE END TIMES THIS TIME!!!”.  Then the reactions begin to gravitate out farther, from statements like “How wonderful this is if it’s confirmed!” to “You mean there is no first hand account?” all the way to “BUUUULLLLSHHEEEEIIIIIIITTTT!!!!”.  The farther out the reaction goes, the more defensive and earnest person A has to become….because at this point they are way too invested in this thing. Bring the internet into the picture, and the farther out the reaction goes, the more people there are to throw into the argument….and then it’s all about coalition protection, and at the end of it all the MOST you will get the Hangover guy to concede is “Even if this isn’t totally proven, this sort of thing is happening all the time, all over the place!”.  As if by magic, God loves to use blatant lies for his glory! Then the stories of the cousins, Benny Hinn’s books, etc., begin, and the culture remains closed…..because unless you already believed the story as much as Person A, you aren’t going to get any type of confirmation or proof beyond what already fits within the safe confines of their distinct language and culture. If you don’t already think and believe like they do, poor you, you don’t really count. What a shame.

That’s how it plays out pretty much every time, and pretty much every time, the story itself gets totally lost and becomes irrelevent. Those who believe already believe, and those who don’t believe (the people who could benefit the MOST) would have to swallow every particle of the culture in order to be invested enough to be able to believe it.

So again, who is the testimony really meant for?  Pentecostals claim to want to be like that first century church….but in all of my education and research I can’t find any examples of simple belief and service being so full of complications and intrigue as this most recent report of an alleged miracle. Corporate Megastructures in the shape of gigantic churches are constructed, television channels, radio stations and websites are integrated into society. People have never worked harder to take advantage of the technology available to them in order to get the word out, BUT when anyone asks for simple confirmation via one of these mediums, it’s “WHOOOAAAA Buddy, whoaa, whoaaa, whoaa…..you are going to have to suspend your level of disbelief in order to understand why this miracle has happened!”.

“There will always be doubters, no matter HOW much proof you have”….. and that is absolutely true. So are the miracles only there for the entertainment and edification of the believers?  Is that the way Jesus, the apostles and the first century church operated? 

Lastly, I really believe that this story, as it stands now, is either the ultimate example of selfishness or the the ultimate example of pride. Selfishness because someone is out there who supposedly has the proof, but they remain silent despite what it could mean to non-believers. Or pride, because those who are pushing this tale know that it is not true, and they are too prideful to admit they are wrong.  When in doubt, protect the organization….protect the culture, no matter how badly it goes against the most fundamental basics of the great commission. Be ashamed, be very ashamed….unless you can either come clean that you are using stories of miracles for your own agenda, or you can provide something more than the horribly lacking evidence being scattered on the web.

I know, I know, I’m way too sermon-y lately and as long winded as always……sobriety has ruined me!  Oh well, I’m great at entertaining myself.

Seriously though, I’m going to keep following this story because SUPPOSEDLY there are people trying to confirm with the Brazilian newspaper whether they ran it.

*****update, not long after the first update******

Well, this didn’t take long-

Debunked.

http://thejourneyproject.org/missions/digging-for-the-truth-in-teresopolis.html

The actual O Diario article for the 16th compared to the one from Healing Herald, and also a link to what looks like a pretty perturbed Brazilian article taking issue with the aforementioned website.  Unless of course, this very rational sounding person who actually lives in Brazil, speaks Portuguese, has what seems to be a faith based website, and has the resources to disprove this story is wasting their time adding to the conspiracy against the faithful.

And OF COURSE, the original story has been removed from the bethel.org site, and the wonderful folks at Healing Herald who provided everyone with the fake .pdf are blocking all comments to their site, and not responding on Facebook.  I have an email out to both, and will post any responses here.

THIS ladies and gentleman, is why I obsess over these little things……these megafaith megachurch megalomaniacs act in every way just like any other political machine…..when confronted with their own lies they either make a fancy spin on it, or they bury it.

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