Sunday, September 23, 2012

Intro to Comedy (for non Comedians)

Do you like telling jokes?  Would you like to be thought of as funny?  Hilarious even?  Well I can't promise you that I can make you funny.  But if you are often left scratching your head as to why people just don't seem to appreciate your awesome sense of humour I may be able to help you be less not-funny!

If you're the type of person who finds themselves asking "Why is it OK for those guys to tell this joke but if I tell it then I'm a jerk?" or "How come she gets to joke on this topic/he gets to use that word and I can't?"  Then you've come to the right place!

Alright, you may be skeptical about how much I can help.  After all I'm no comedian.  It's true!  I'm not!  But if you read carefully you would have noted that this is an intro to comedy for people who are NOT comedians.  You know, every day folk.  People who do comedy for a living are in their own league, I would no more attempt to explain comedy to them than I would attempt to tell a surgeon how to operate.  No, this is written for people who just like to tell the odd joke around the water cooler or dinner table.  Now if you checked out my "satire" tag you may also have some doubts as to my qualifications there.  I admit, I'm more "funny" than funny.  More MAS* than LOL.  Still, I think I figured something out and I'm happy to share it with you.  Besides, you're the one who asked why you don't get to tell some kinds of jokes!  You asked, I'm answering.  For FREE!  So what will it hurt to just hear me out?

As with just about every skill, if you want to be good at something, you need to understand the fundamentals.  Get your fundamentals right and the sky's the limit.  (Or your level of talent, whichever kicks in first)

The first and most important fundamental you have to grasp is that humour flows UP while cruelty flows DOWN.  When someone at the bottom makes fun of the guy at the top, that's funny.  When the guy at the top makes fun of the guy at the bottom, it's mean.  It's very simple and you would think everyone would grasp this but it seems like a lot of people don't!  Think about it for a second will you.  Guy kicks a tiger in the butt, that's slapstick**.  Guy kicks a kitten that's horror.  One makes you Charlie Chaplin, the other one just makes you a cat killer.  Make sense?  OK, think about this.  Everyone gets together and roasts the boss.  This is funny and even if the jokes get a little risque and personal, everyone has a good laugh.  Now switch out the boss and replace him with the elderly janitor.  Now the whole company banding together to make jokes at his expense is no longer funny, it's cruel.

Please tell me you can see that.

Like I recently tried to explain, laughter, satire and outright mocking can be really healing and empowering.  As The Slacktivist pointed out (by linking to my blog!!***) there is a catch though.  This only applies to the powerless using it against the powerful.  When you don't have any power, when you are disrespected and treated like dirt then humour is really all you have.  Humour can restore your humanity, it can make you feel whole again.  To someone else it may sound like you're just being terribly disrespectful and obscene (which may be true) but it also loosens the hold other people have over you and it armors you against their assaults on your dignity.

For example, years ago in a popular South African family gossip mag there was this article on a guy fighting against "dumb blonde" jokes.  He was up in arms that people dared to make jokes disparaging blondes because in reality blondes are smart and awesome so how very dare we?  I remember the one argument he made was that people wouldn't dare make those same jokes about black women while it was acceptable to make them about blonde women.  And he was completely right.  He also didn't understand this first principle of humour.  See we can all laugh at blonde jokes but that's because they are only jokes.  If you go to the doctor and she's blonde you're not going to doubt her prognosis.  You're never going to fire someone if you meet them and find out they're blonde.  He was right, blonde's are awesome, at least in our culture they are.  They can play ditzes or nuclear physicists in our movies and no one will bat an eye.  We shower them with praise and consider them the pinnacle of physical beauty.  Blondes, in other words, are at the top of the pyramid here.  Black women, not so much.  Especially here in South Africa where until recently they were considered dumb and primitive and just barely not animals.  So changing "dumb blonde" to "dumb black" wouldn't be funny, it would be incredibly hurtful.  I get that his pyramid is subjective and may be different in different cultures but the fact remains that humour goes up, cruelty goes down.  Without exception.

That brings me to the second important fundamental of jokes - in particular jokes made at someone else's expense.  Put-downs shouldn't actually put anyone down.  OK I bet that didn't make much sense now did it.  Consider this.  On this blog I sometimes make fun of certain powerful but rather loony religious figures.  You could even say that I put them down.  But what exactly is down about them after I "put them down"?  Do they have less money?  Less power?  Less followers?  Less influence?  Not at all.  All I get out of it is that I feel a little bit better and I cope a little better with the insanity of living in a world were people like Pat Robertson get to be massively influential.  Or, for a more secular example, consider reality TV stars (for an awesome discussion on this very principle, do yourself a favour and check out this discussion of the ill fated show H8R).  Let's say I let loose with a really vitriolic rant about how Snooki or Honey Boo Boo child or Kim Kardashian is just the worst thing to happen to civilization since the sack of Rome.  What have I really done to them?  They will still be making obscene amounts of money for being generally obscene and people will continue hanging on their every vapid word as though it was worth something.  There, now that I've vented I feel better and they are no worse off.  But let's say I didn't spit all that bile at a famous person.  Let's say you and me are in High School and I'm bigger and stronger and more popular than you and I enjoy telling you what a terrible waste of space you are (amongst other, far worse things).  Now those put downs are actually putting you down.  In this scenario, I'm not just shaking my fist at the "stars" above, I'm making your life a living hell.  I'm a bully and I'm making you feel like shit.  The Kardashians couldn't care less what I think but you would if I was your bully.

Again, please tell me this makes sense to you.  Because if you can't see that you have a very real problem.  See the problem is maybe not that the word is too oversensitive to appreciate your radical humour.  There is a chance that the problem is not that the world has gotten to damn politically correct.  The problem may very well be that you are aiming your humour in the wrong direction.  You may be more of a bully than a comedian.  So, if people are complaining about your jokes and are just not finding them funny at all, here are two "why" questions you should seriously consider asking yourself.

1 - Why are people so offended by what I've said?  No, don't make it about people being oversensitive and PC, think about it.  Please.  Ask this question seriously.  Do these people have a reason?  What is it?  Is it maybe a good reason?  Don't get mad, get curious.  Ask that question and really look for the answer.  If you'd like an example, check out this clip (that I sadly cannot embed) from Louie.  Be warned, it features some very off colour jokes but about 5 minutes in, it makes a sudden U-turn and becomes thought provoking and serious.   I'm not asking you to change.  I'm asking you to think.  I'm asking you to just take a few moments to consider how your hilarious comment may have sounded to that guy who didn't think it was funny at all.  I'm not saying the problem is definitely with you, I'm just asking you to ask "why?".

2 - Why do I need to make this joke?  No, seriously.  That really out there joke you made that got people mad at you, did you have to go there?  Why?  I remember in college we used to love making Holocaust jokes.  No specific reason, we just thought they funny I guess.  None of us were German or Jewish so no one was getting hurt by it and no one asked us to stop.  It's just that one day, seemingly out of the blue this question started to bug me.  No idea why.  But I couldn't shake it.  Why did I need to make Holocaust jokes?  Of all the nearly infinite amount of things in the universe I could make jokes about, why did it have to be that?  So I started asking my friends and they didn't know either.  Eventually we stopped.  Looking back, those jokes weren't really all that funny anyway...

Now I know that last example is going to rub some of you the wrong way.  People get very excitable when you suggest that some topics should be off limit.  That's not what I'm saying though.  I value free speech extremely highly.  I would NEVER tell you that you are not allowed to make a certain type of joke.  I'm not telling you what you can and cannot say.  I'm just asking why you need to say it.  Have you ever bothered asking that question?  Do you have any answer at all for that question?  We can get into a very heated debate about whether rape jokes are funny or whether it should be OK to tell jokes about child/spousal abuse but I'm not trying to tell you what you're supposed to find funny or acceptable.  I'm just asking you why you feel you need those.  Also, I'm asking you to just ask why people are offended by it.  Really ask.  Ask as a real question that you actually want a real answer to.  That is all.

Lastly, you just need to remember rule one for non-comedian comedy:  DBaA - Don't Be an Asshole.  See, professional comedians can do that, they are highly trained professionals.  You're not.  In the real world, people don't laugh at assholes, they despise them.  I'm not suggesting you only make the kind of jokes they tell at church camp prayer meetings.  You can get as crazy, off coloured or obscene with it as your audience**** allows, just remember what I said in the beginning about knowing up from down and you should do fine.  You can be mean, mocking or outrageous without being an asshole.  Make a joke about how much the president sucks at everything he does and it's funny.  Make that joke about your wife and you're an asshole.  Simple as that!

*Mildly Amused Smirk.
**Provided this was a free roaming tiger that can now chase the hapless kicker up a tree or something.  If the tiger is in a cage it's the other thing...
***Fred Clark, thank you so much for repeatedly linking to articles on my blog.  You have no idea how much that means to me.  You are probably my favourite blogger of all time so being quoted on your blog is like being blessed by the pope!  Except, you know, meaningful!
****This should go without saying so I didn't even bother to include it but READ THE ROOM!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Rough Guide to Going Off Thyroid Medication

*I'm breaking from my usual blogging subjects to offer (what I hope) are a few helpful medical tips.  However these are super specific to people using thyroid hormone replacement drugs so if you have a fully functioning thyroid this isn't going to mean a whole lot to you! Normal blogging will resume shortly*
**OK from some feedback I got it seems that it wasn't clear that this is about TEMPORARILY going off meds.  This is something you do for a couple of weeks for testing after which you immediately resume taking your meds.  Thyroid hormones are not some kind of crutch, it's not a habit you can kick, not sure why anyone would want to.  If you had your thyroid removed, this is for life.  Trust me, you don't want to be off the stuff for too long, you really do need it to function.  Don't worry though, you'll start feeling better almost immediately after getting back on your meds again.** 

First time I had to go off my thyroid meds I had no idea what I was in for.  I asked my doctors but they said it's no big deal, I'll probably gain some weight but nothing to worry about.  How I wish that were true!  The weight gain is the least of it!  Let me just be up front though, I'm not a doctor, none of this is medical advice and please don't ignore anything your doctor told you.  This is built from my personal experience and yours may vary.  If you have anything helpful to add, please feel free to leave a comment!

So if you found this post via google, I'm guessing you need to go off of your Eltroxin (also known by other brand names, usually some variant of "thyroxine") and you're not sure what to expect.  I've been going through this for a couple of years after having my thyroid removed so I'd like to think I have a pretty good handle on the experience.  Here are the symptoms you can look forward to as well as some tips on how to deal with them.

First, like you have heard, there is the weight gain.  You really need to understand that it's completely inevitable.  You can exercise twice as much and eat half as much as usual and you are still going to gain weight.  This is going to happen to you no matter what you do.  However, you really still should try to get into the habit of eating less and exercising regularly because that way once you get back on your meds you will allready have the weight loss routine going and you'll be back to normal in no time.  Don't worry, you're not going to suddenly turn obese.  You're not going to gain a ton (even though after a month it will feel like you're adding kilos just for looking at food) but some weight gain is going to happen.  So invest in some loose fitting clothing, it's going to come in handy later.

The weight gain is not the really bad part though.  The worst part is not going to be fat related but muscle related.  Something deeply unpleasant will start happening to your muscles.  They will start getting tired really quickly for one thing and for another they will start cramping.  Cramps are THE WORST!  Because trust me when I say "muscles" I mean all of them.  Not just the big leg or arm muscles, you are going to get to know muscles you didn't know existed.  You can get stomach muscle cramps from laughing, face cramps from yawning and jaw cramps from chewing.  This only starts kicking in after you've been off the meds for nearly a month and won't always be that bad but again it's pretty much unavoidable.  You may even start having eye trouble as your eye muscles start acting up.  Like I said, all the muscles are affected here.  After a while you're going to feel like a rusted robot!  If you're off your meds for over a month you're going to get really good at avoiding all stretching!  Here's the counter-intuitive thing though, stretching exercise is the best way to deal with the muscle problems!  Yoga or pilates or just plain old gym class stretching will help a whole lot but you need to start early on.  If you have a daily stretching workout right from day one it's going to make everything go much easier for you in the long run.

So if you're going to pick just one exercise, I can strongly recommend yoga.  It's a good stretch and a good workout.  Doesn't have to be something New Age-y or spiritual, there are completely westernized forms out there that offer you a great workout and nothing more.  Either way, I can't over emphasize exercise.  You're not going to like it but tough, do it anyway.  The medication supplying you with a working metabolism is gone now and exercise can help you keep your metabolism working near normal for a bit longer.

There is also a mental aspect at play here.  You are going to get extremely listless and you're not going to want to do much of anything.  You'll be tired a lot, your energy levels are going to be low most of the day and you're not going to be in the mood for a whole lot of anything.  You're going to get tired quicker, you'll want to go to bed earlier and sleep later.  Here you are just going to have to get tough with yourself.  Just because you're not going to WANT to do anything doesn't mean you CAN'T do anything.  I find that daily to-do lists help a lot here.  Put everything on there, doing the dishes, taking a shower, buying groceries, every single thing you need to get done in a day.  Then work through that list methodically until everything get's done.  You may feel lazy but you don't have to act it.  There is no magic way to insert willpower into you but you need to find it in yourself or nothing is going to get done!  I really do find routine helpful.  You get a routine, you get into it and you stick to it, even if you're eventually going at it like a robot.

The low energy, muscle cramps and weight gain are the 3 major things but there are also a couple of less severe issues that you're also going to have to be aware of.

Cold.  You are going to feel cold a lot easier as your metabolism slows down so rather overestimate how cold a day is going to be than underestimating it.  You can always take something off later if you don't feel that cold.

Constipation.  Yep, going to happen.  Fruits, vegetables and fiber are your friends.  Enjoy them regularly and you'll stay regular too.

Iodine is the enemy.  OK, this may just be me because I've never heard anyone else complain about this but when I'm off my meds I need to stay away from foods high in Iodine.  Things like seafood causes everything from anxiety to full blown panic attacks.  This may not happen to you at all, but still, be careful around seafood and such.

Oh, and you may also find that your dreams get really weird and really vivid.  No idea if that's just me either!

Right, so there you have it.  It's not going to be a fun time but it doesn't have to be terrible either.  You CAN manage this.  Just be aware of what's going to happen and prepare as best you can.  Good luck and I hope your scan results are all clear!

PS.  On the off chance you have a thyroid and you read all this and these symptoms seemed really familiar to you, you may want to have it checked because your thyroid may not be working as it should.  Don't panic, it's a simple test and if it needs treatment, the medication is affordable and won't disrupt your way of life at all.  Don't put it off, go see your doctor!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Crossing the line

If you're not on the Stuff Christian Culture Likes facebook page, you really should be!  It's a fun forum where believers - and non-believers - of all kinds come together to laugh/be horrified by/learn about/mock some of the stranger aspects and characters of Christian Culture.  However not everyone thinks it's a great place.  Ever so often some well meaning soul will drop by to express their disgust or deep disappointment with the tone of the page.  They'll point out that all this mocking is mean and counter productive and that in making fun of guys like Pat Robertson and Mark Driscoll we become as bad as they are.  "Where's your moral high ground?", they ask?  "Aren't you just being a part of the problem here?".   Well, no.

These people, who tend to for the most part be truly well intentioned, do not understand.  I don't think they can.  You have to have been through certain things to understand them.  I thought I understood (and I did, intellectually at least) but my recent foray back into the Pentecostal fold brought me some real gut level understanding.  I get it now.  Maybe, if I explain where I'm coming from with this, those who don't understand will have a better idea where some of us are coming from.

See, if you were brought up without religion or with some laid back, non-threatening religion or even with the stiff-and-formal-go-to-church-and-forget-about-it-for-the-week kind of religion then I don't expect you to understand why mocking someone's religious ideas can be such a healing experience.  Me, I had none of that growing up.  When I grew up, I knew there was this great invisible line.  On the one side of the line was me, my family and pretty much everyone.  On the other side of the line was God, His Word, and His Pastor.  Well obviously not just my pastor, all pastors and prophets and evangelists, but you get my drift.  People on my side of the line respected the guys on the other side with a respect bordering on reverence.  What a pastor told you was the truth.  What a visiting evangelist told you was the truth.  It didn't matter if it sounded crazy or completely implausible, if someone from that side of the line said it happened then it happened.  You believed it or else.

Or else what?

I remember this one story our pastor told once.  I was around 10 years old and that story scared me so bad I remember it like he told it yesterday.  Apparently back when the Pentecostal revival hit South Africa (around the 50's I think), these new converts faced a lot of persecution from the mainstream Dutch Reformed churches.  Since those churches practice infant baptism, they took the adult baptism (or re-baptism as they sometimes called it) of the Pentecostals to be bordering on heresy.  So one day this pastor was baptising people in the river when some boys came along with their dog.  They started mocking this pastor by getting into the water and "baptising" the dog, copying his style directly.  The pastor didn't even turn around.  He just looked up and told some of the bystanders to go get the bodies out of the water.  To everyone's shock they saw that all 3 boys were floating there dead.

Stories like that tend to stay with you.  See guys on the other side of the line were on God's side of the line.  They had The Anointing.  You didn't mess with someone with The Anointing, for they had access to great and terrible power.  God took their side in a fight and you didn't want to be fighting against God.  Didn't even matter if the pastor happened to be technically in the wrong, the rule was "touch not God's anointed".  So you did not criticize, you did not mock, you did not question unless you could do so very submissively while walking on eggshells around them.

Look I'm not saying everyone thought crossing the pastor would cause you to actually die.  I'm just saying it wasn't something you did.  If you did, something might happen.  Something bad.  Something unpleasant.  You'd get sick or your car would break or have trouble in your work.  Bad things happened to people who don't keep their blasphemous mouths shut.  So I respected the line and gave my full reverence to everyone on the other side of it.

Now fast forward to this day.  A few weeks ago, I crossed that line for the first time.  Crossed it for real.  Not here on my blog, where it feels safe and I've done it a hundred times.  Not hanging out with like minded friends in real life or online.  No for the first time in my adult life I walked into a church and dared to not respect the line.  Do you have any idea how healing that was for me?

To be able to listen to a sermon, recognize that the story I'm being fed is bullshit and admit it to myself was a huge step.  Being able to look at "God's Anointed" do his act and think "you're an ignorant, self-aggrandizing liar and you should be ashamed of yourself" was immensely freeing!  I don't think there is a word for that feeling you get when years of fear and bad memories just lose their hold on you all at once.  It felt like freedom, it felt like healing, it felt like...

You know what it felt like?  It was like sailing your ship over the horizon and not falling off, after being told all your life that the world ended right over there.  It felt like venturing into that forbidden forest only to find that here be in actual fact no monsters at all.  Pastors have no dread power.  There is no line.

I knew there was no line but I didn't KNOW there was no line right up to the moment I actually went into that church and dared to test it.

Which I guess is my very long winded way of saying that mocking a preacher or a church for being ridiculous or stupid can be incredibly healing.  Like I said, it may not make sense to you if you've never had to deal with any spiritual abuse but if you had, you'll know what I'm talking about.  Crossing that line without any eggshell walking empowers you.  Being able to mock them strips away all their power over you.  It's not just helpful, I think it's kind of necessary.  It's all a bluff but you will never truly know it until you call it.  Once you see them as they really are they won't have a hold on you ever again.

Just FYI, I'm not saying go be a dick to every religious person you meet, I'm just saying that if someone does something laughably stupid you shouldn't feel the obligation to pretend it wasn't funny.  There is no reason to treat people or institutions as inherently worthy of your reverence, especially if they've done nothing to deserve it.  If a pastor (or a church) wants my respect he has to earn it, just like everyone else.  Simple as that.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Things that are and are not cake

Do you love cake?  Silly question, everyone loves cake!  Cake is delicious!  So I'm sure we would all love a world with even more cake in it.  Unfortunately some people love cake just a little too much.  So much in fact that they start seeing things as cake when they're not, kind of like a hungry cartoon character.  Seeing cake where there isn't cake can lead to someone saying making very stupid statements!  So as someone who loves cake but hates stupid statements I'm offering this brief guide to things that are and are not cake.  I hope this helps.

This is a chocolate cake.  Chocolate cake contains cake ingredients (which can differ a lot, trust me) and is almost always delicious.  Chocolate cake is most certainly cake.  Take a moment to look at the cake just to remind yourself what cake is.  OK, now to things that are not cake.

Marriage on the other hand is NOT cake.  I know, it should be obvious but believe me there seems to be some confusion.  Some folks out there are objecting to same sex marriage and claiming it will destroy traditional marriage.  These folks are obviously confusing marriage with cake.  If you have cake and you let someone else have cake then there will be less cake for you.  They may be so hungry that they take it all and then there is no cake left for you.  Marriage is not like that.  You can let other people have all the marriage they want and there will still be marriage left over for you and your children and your children's children!  Marriage, unlike cake, does not run out when you share it.  You can have your delicious marriage and so can everyone else!

Hearts are also not cake.  This can get confusing because you do get heart shaped cakes, I get that.  However the human heart is not cake.  They say you are what you eat but I don't think they mean that literally, so even on an all cake diet your heart will never become cake.  I see many Christian dating advice columns telling young girls not to "give pieces of their heart away" because that will prevent them from committing to their future spouses with their whole hearts.  Clearly this advice is not based on how hearts actually work but was mistakenly based on how cake works.  Cake has pieces and if you give someone a piece you never get it back.  (And if you do then eeuww! )  Hearts are not like this at all!  You can give someone your heart and they can break it into a million pieces and yet somehow you will manage to give that same heart to someone else and it can be amazing like the previous heartbreak(s) never even happened.  Hearts can be healed, cakes cannot.

Love is also not cake.  Cake is finite.  If you give someone most of the cake there is very little cake left to give to someone else.  But not love.  You'd be surprised how much love you can give and still have love left over.  But perhaps the good folks who write these Christian advice columns for young ladies do not have children.  Or parents.  If they did they may have noticed that someone can give one person a LOT of love and still give a LOT of love left over for all their other children, their significant other and pets and even other people outside of the family!  Love can mysteriously be almost bottomless.  Cake, not so much.  I won't lie though, bottomless cake sounds fantastic though!

People are also not like cake.  If you let people partake of your cake then that cake will never be whole again.  People in the Purity Culture seem to think that people are like cake in this way.  That is why they tell young men and women make sure they save the entire cake for someone special otherwise their someone special will not enjoy the cake.  Sadly that may even be true for some people but really it's a giant misunderstanding.  People are not cake!  If you share yourself with someone you will not be less of a person.  There won't be anything missing from you.  You will not be in any way "ruined".  That is how cakes work, but people are not cakes.  I can't stress this enough.

Overdosing on cake can be hilarious though!  Go read Allie's cake story here

Some things are like cake though even though (strictly speaking) they are not cake.  Power for instance.  Power is like cake.  If you let someone else have some of your power then there really will be less of it for you.  Privilege is also like cake.  If you used to have a lot and then someone else takes a piece then your privilege may seem less delicious.  But guys, too much cake is bad for you, no joke.  If you have all the cake all the time you will get bloated and sick and people won't want to be around you.  What is true for cake is also true for things that are like cake, believe it or not!  Having all the power and all the privilege all the time is also very bad for you.  You won't think so because it's also delicious so you will just want more and more but don't do it!  You're better off not having it all.  You are also better off sharing it.  Power and privilege is just like cake in that way too.  If you share it, there will be less for you but people will like you more.

And now if you'll excuse me I'm in the mood for delicious cake!

Monday, September 3, 2012

My Awesome Pentecostal Sunday

This weekend my family celebrated my grandfather's 94th birthday.  This year we decided to forgo the more traditional jello shots at the local strip club and had a spit roasted sheep instead.  But before it was sheep time we all had to join my grandpa for a church service.

OK it occurs to me now that if you're reading my blog there's a 99% chance you've never met me so I should point out that the strippers & shots thing was a joke.  It's a funny joke because my family is for the most part very deeply religious.  And not just any kind of religious either.  The kind of religious that can get me in trouble for making stripper jokes.  But I digress...

Right so I'll be honest, I wasn't really looking forward to the big church service.  I haven't been in a church for a very long time.  Especially not one in the Pentecostal denomination I grew up in.  However by the end of the 2 and a half hour service I was so happy you couldn't wipe the smile off my face with a steel brush!  It was AWESOME!  I seriously considered buying that sermon on CD!  In fact I felt kind of bad about how little money I put in the collection plate!  After the show I got I felt like I owed them a lot more money!  As I'm sitting here I'm seriously reconsidering my churchgoing habits!

How awesome was it you ask?  Well first all my less religious cousins walked out, then all but the most devout left and by the end of the day at least one was having a serious crisis of faith.  THAT good!  Now on the pentecostal zaniness scale the service was only about a 6.  Only one person fell over when prayed for and started screaming in tongues and there was no dancing or prophetic words.  Also no "healings".  But the sermon?  Solid fucking gold!  It was wall to wall bullshit.  But not just any bullshit!  This was absolute, grade A, top class, uncut bullshit!  You don't really find anything this good outside of a Pentecostal church!  I'm going to try to share some of the highlights here but I'm afraid I'm not going to do it any justice.

See the problem is that while I enjoy telling stories, the pastor there was on a whole other level.  I can only dream of being that good at storytelling.  He was a charismatic guy, making self deprecating jokes all the time, while telling story after story about a humble hero (himself) bravely standing up to the forces of darkness.  Not that he's the kind of humble hero who would brag of course, it was mainly just to illustrate how knowing nothing isn't a handicap, it's a blessing.  He just humbly depended on the Holy Spirit to guide him and so time and time again God would use his simple humility to turn him into the mightiest of demon slayers. 

I learned so much listening to this humble man.  For instance did you know that qualifications mean nothing?  Titles mean nothing?  Degrees mean nothing?  Money means nothing?  I'm not paraphrasing btw, those were his exact words!  I'm not sure how that reflected on the Emotional Trauma Course Certificates they handed out right before the sermon started but I'm probably over thinking things again.  Also because money means absolutely nothing he asked God to provide the congregation with a bus free of charge.  They can't buy one and they can't have any debt on it because it must be a gift from heaven and if you owe money for it then it can't be a gift!  This was just during the opening prayer.  This was also the point I knew things were going to fantastic! 

Other things I learned was that:
Some kinds of depressions can't be medically treated because it's caused by demons!  If you do a business deal with the wrong person, you can catch demons from them!  If you were a happy person once but started feeling depressed and unhappy after you got married then it's because you married someone who gave you DEMONS!  Demons also cause children to be rebellious and husbands to cheat on their wives.  Oh wait, if I say it like that it sounds like something that happens over time.  Nooooooo!  See if you move into a flat where people worshiped Satan then that will IMMEDIATELY make your formerly sweet child rebellious and your loving husband will start cheating on you overnight!  Demons!!

The pastor did make it clear though that he's not the silly kind of pastor who sees demons behind everything - unlike some people he could name but totally wouldn't.  You don't need to look for demons, you just have to look for God and the demons will flee!  Except when they don't.  Which is pretty much all the time since the theme of the sermon was how good, saved, baptized, Spirit filled Christians can still have demons oppressing them all the time due to all kinds of things.  It's OK though, you can pray the demons away.  Prayer is all you need.  Prayer and fasting.  Also oil for annointing.  But not salts and holy water and stuff because that's just silly!

So back to the things I learned!  Did you know that cigarettes lead to marijuana and then to heroin and then to devil worship and death?  Did you know that everyone involved with the occult lives in constant fear and depression?  Did you now that all the Hollywood stars all have "spirit guides" (aka demons) and that is why they are all on drugs and unhappy and committing suicide?  I sure didn't!  Also prayer is powerful against demons but when someone has a magic medicine bag on them (filled with hair and nails and herbs and Lord knows what else) then prayer becomes powerless?

There was one story in particular that was just too good not to share.  I'm going to do my best to retell it but like I said, I'm not nearly in his league so I probably won't do it justice.

So the pastor gets called over to a house because mysterious things are happening there.  He doesn't know what they are - they're mysterious - but he goes anyway, taking 2 elders for backup.  As soon as he gets there an old photograph on the wall catches his eye.  It's an old black & white photograph from the very early 1900's of a stern looking old man.  So he asks the lady of the house who that is in the photo and she immediately exclaims that the man in the photograph is the reason he was called over!  Turns out that every time their young son leaves the house to go to school or to go to the cafe (because apparently there are still cafe's and kids still walk there) this old man follows him around!  Also sometimes the boy wakes up in the middle of the night and then this man is in his room!  Except this is her grandfather and he's been dead for decades!!!  So the pastor just starts walking around, not knowing what to do.  Of course this is great for him because when a man knows nothing, that is when God can really use his humble ass.  Anyway, so he walks around the house just praying but not really knowing what to pray while feeling the gaze of the elders on him (they didn't know what to do either and were looking to him for guidance).  As he walks through the house he notices that one room is closed and locked.  So he tells the mother that he needs to go in there but she doesn't want to let him.  He insisted though, telling her that God told him that the solution to whatever was going on was in that room.  So the mom goes in and he just hears a girl's voice in there sounding very unfriendly.  Mom comes out and says that no, they can't go in there.  The pastor wasn't going to let it go though so he insisted and forced his way in there.  In the room he finds a girl (their daughter I assume, he never said) with black hair, black nails (*congregation murmurs*) and Iron Maiden posters on the wall!!  (*congregation gasps!*)  This girl yells at him to get out because she doesn't need him or his God, she has her own god!  So he asks her who her god is and she answers defiantly that her god is Lucifer!  (*huge gasp from the congregation*)  Pastor Briel, being the man of God that he is, wasn't going to leave it at that so he immediately starts praying for her right there and then suddenly her mom starts screaming in the living room!  They run over and find her frantically pointing at the old photograph.  He looked and what did he see?  The old man's cheeks were glowing bright red!  And two red stripes ran down the edges!  (Was it blood?  He didn't say.  I like to imagine it was)  Red!  On a black & white photograph!  Turns out the old man was a fortune teller and now with this devil worshiping girl in the house the demons have come out to play!  They went back into that girl's room and cast out those demons and from that day on that house knew rest again!

Like I said, that sermon was the best!

There were many stories like that.  The common thread was that demons will fuck your shit up but a humble, heroic pastor can totally save you.  Oh and also women suck.  No seriously that was a running theme in the sermon.  Women were always terrible.  Except his wife I guess but she got a ton of those little joking jabs that some men love to aim at their wives where they criticize and demean them but not really because it's just a joke ha ha!  But no, all the girls in the stories were devil worshipers and all the mothers were hysterical.  Sometimes they were hysterical AND part of the demonic problem!  Like that one time he was praying for this little girl with a lazy eye and he commanded that eye to go straight and it totally did but then as soon as her (hysterical) mother touched her, that eye would go off to the side again.  Every time he prayed it got fixed and every time her mother came near her the healing came undone.  Also that other time he prayed for a little spastic boy who was all crippled and couldn't raise his arm and the kid started getting healed and then his mother started screaming (hysterically) and then he went spastic again so he had to have the mother removed so he could get the boy all healed.

I can haz souvenirs!!

See why I want to get the sermon CD?  That is solid gold bullshit right there!  Seriously, if you ever get the chance to go to the Apostolic Faith Mission Church in Centurion - go!  It's fantastic!