9.05.2005

'Wait, the Lord Called You Dude?'

Headbanging for Jesus!

from SF Weekly

An edited excerpt from"Infiltrator Gets Booked on a Christian Talk Show," the latest installement of Harmon Leon's ongoing Infiltrator column at SF Weekly:

It's always been a dream of mine to get booked on a Christian talk show posing as a guy who fronts a Christian speed-metal band. Thank Jesus - my prayers are answered. I come across this:

The show Miracles Today features authentic, cool Christians whose lives have been transformed by the healing and saving power of Jesus Christ. Guests are invited to tell about their testimonies, healings, or miracles with a warm and inviting host. The show aims to glorify our Lord and plant seeds of hope to the viewing audience. Every story of transformation is good news, and yours is too. The only preparation we require is prayer.

Since my acting range extends to "cool Christian," I send an e-mail. Immediately I hear back from the producer of the public-access TV show telling me the next Miracles Today is to be shot on Saturday and asking whether I'm available or not.

You bet your pink ass I am! First I need a ridiculous persona - so I explain that I play in a Christian metal band. What could be more ridiculous than headbanging for Jesus? It's right there with other such natural fits as "vegetarians for meat" and "Klansmen for big, black booty." Think about it: Rock's the devil's music. That's what makes it fun.

I call the producer, at which time I embellish a tale of rock drug excess inspired by VH1's Behind the Music, most particularly Mötley Crüe and Poison. ("I used to live in the house of whores, then it became the house of horrors!") Impressed, he books me on Miracles Today to tell of my Christian speed-metal transformation.

"Do you want to bring an acoustic guitar and perform one of your songs in the studio?" he asks.

"You know what I would rather do is perform a spoken-word version of some of my Christian speed-metal lyrics," I offer, being I can't play guitar. "That way it gets the message across."

"That sounds great!" he replies.

Excellent! Not only do I get to dress up like a Christian metalhead; I also get to pen asinine, junior high metal lyrics with a Jesus twist.

Christian metal is a world unto itself, spawning bands with names like Armor of God, Bloodgood, Rage of Angels, and Crystavox, not to mention Tykkus. After much consideration, I decide to name my fictional Christian metal band Pray-er (rhymes with Slayer). The reason: It allows me to get indignant when people mispronounce it. ("It's not Prayer, it's Pray-er!")

Under the Christian-metal stage name Chad Sin-no-more, I've recruited Johanna, an actress friend, to portray my speed-metal Christian girlfriend, Destiny, dressed in slutty metal fashion and a Jesus T-shirt. Back story: Chad and Destiny met in rehab, where they both found Jesus!


On the Highway to Jesus!

Saturday afternoon, we show up at the studio, located in the South Bay, hung-over as hell. Upon entering, we're directed to the green room, which has a large bowl of grapes.

"Are you Chad?" asks the host, a very nice, very smiley, very well-groomed, very Christian lady who enters and is slightly taken aback by our look. "So I didn't get any background at all on you."

I tell about my Christian speed-metal band, pumping my fist in the air a few times. ("Prayer?" "No, it's Pray-er!") The host, as it turns out, not only hosts Miracles Today but also works as a third-grade schoolteacher.

OK, I feel a little bad about pulling this ruse, but there's no turning back now; so let's turn the knobs up to 11!

"You're pretty much the only guest," the host asks in a third-grade-teacher way (huh?!). "So how do you feel about 27 minutes?"

"Really?!" I reply, mildly shocked. That's a hell of a lot of Christian speed-metal talk. It must be a slow week for cool Christians who've experienced Christ-centered, life-transforming miracles.

"So I can talk about my band?"

"That would be great," she says with a big Christian smile.

"'Cause the producer said to bring in some of my lyrics to recite and stuff."

"OK," she answers with mild apprehension. "Mind you, we air at 6 o'clock on a Tuesday night, so nothing too obscene."

I get defensive. "No, that's the whole point, that my lyrics have a positive message," I say.

"The point is it's all about stories; it's all about the journey that brought you where you are today. And the positive changes you are making in other's lives due to what you've been through," she explains.

"Uh-huh."

"We like to keep that in mind so that it's a story; not a lie, but a story," she adds.

I nod my head: "Yeah, no lying."

Besides Christian metal musicians, Miracles Today has hosted such guests as a guy who works as a tree trimmer and who was woken up by a voice from God that told him not to stand in a certain spot. Lo and behold, the next day a tree fell right in the very goddamn spot!!! Holy fuck!

Another guest went on a mission to India and was praying over a little deaf/mute girl. The little girl started moving to the music and then uttered the word "Jesus"! Holy, holy fuck!

Both Destiny and I look at each other and exclaim, as if a dove had just been produced from nowhere, "Oh, wow, that's amazing!"

"Can Destiny sit next to me while I'm being interviewed?" I ask, noting that she (along with Jesus, of course) is my pillar of strength.

My pillar of strength, second-only-to-Jesus is vetoed. "Destiny, you can watch on the monitor," snips the host. Wow, what a Christian bitch!

"So we'll get you in, we'll hook up the mikes, and we'll pray. Then we'll get rolling!"


For Those About to Rock, Jesus Salutes You!

Two chairs sit next to each other in a small studio, surrounded by three TV cameras and an assortment of elderly crew members. The third-grade schoolteacher/host situates herself in a chair closely next to me.

"Shall we pray?" she asks as the crew continues to set up.

"Hell, yes," I say. Then I quickly correct myself, excluding the word "hell."

Our heads are bowed, our hands clasped in prayerlike manner as the third-grade schoolteacher asks Jesus for guidance for Chad's sharing of his tale of transformation.

"Please help us to guide our minds, or Lord..."

The praying goes on a little longer than I feel comfortable with. And then: "Amen!"

"Amen!" I confirm, this time without profanity.

"Quiet on the set," barks the floor manager.

We both sit staring with blank expressions as the opening credits roll. The combination of the bright lights and my hangover makes me feel like I might pass out. Or is this a test from Jesus?!

Then the host is talking into the camera: "I'm here with Chad, who has a very interesting story to share with you today. Hi, Chad, how are you?"

"I'm doing good, really good!"

"So Chad, tell us what you do."

"I play in a Christian speed-metal band." ("Prayer?" "No, it's Pray-er!") I then add the obvious: "You know, you can be Christian and still crank out some butt-kicking metal!"

"Yeah!" the host says, with a confirming nod of her Christian head; I resist the urge to make the sign of the horns.

"But metal with a positive message!" I clarify, mentioning Pray-er's upcoming CD. "It's called Faster for the Master!"

The host makes a happy face.

"Why don't you tell us how it all got started. What was your life like before?"

I throw out a little heavy metal, meathead philosophy. "When I was little, I didn't go to church. Metal was my religion!" I explain, throwing my fist in the air. "Metal concerts were my church - except, unlike the other church, I'd drink a 12-pack before attending services!"

As the cameras roll, I share my decadent metal days in my former, non-Christian speed-metal band Skull Fuck! "I gave into all of the devil's temptations. Satan was whispering in my ear." I tell about the exact moment (shortly after doing coke off of a groupie's ass) when the Almighty turned my life around.

"I was in a motel in Bakersfield. I've been up for a few days on crank. When suddenly I felt this tap on my shoulder. I turn around, and this voice said, 'Dude-'"

The third-grade schoolteacher/host interrupts me: "Wait, the Lord called you 'dude'?!"...



Does the Infiltrator's web of lies unravel? Does guilt push him to confession? Or does he pull it off? Does the host see through his facade? Does she slap him? Or blurt out the f-word and burst into tears? Exactly how does Judas Priest come in to play? And, most importantly, did the Lord, in fact, call him "dude"? These tantalizing questions are answered in the conclusion of this harrowing tale of socio-religious espionage, a tale punctuated with such heartwarming moments as...

* The host has a fixed smile on her face; she looks mildly confused.
* While I'm doing this, the host is making a sort of headbanging motion, in a posed, Christian lady kind of way.
* "Yeah, um, but I actually ended up getting arrested, 'cause with my cross, someone thought I was part of the Klan."
* Fake tattoo that reads "Jesus Rocks!"
* The host's smile somehow expresses that Slash's guitarwork even transcends Christian values.
* She seems momentarily flustered.
* "We need to keep talking because this is where the credits would roll," she remarks. We both sit in place with fixed smiles.

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