But yet money speaks loud at times (like the Pentecostals of Alexandria), and I was commissioned by this pastor to attend a couple of camp services..... And on top of attending said services, the author was to report on what he encountered in a manner he felt comfortable with. In short, he was to do a piece of non-fiction journalism covering the meetings. Yours truly agreed to the job, because, who wouldn't? The other, relevant piece of information, was that yrs. truly agreed to do the job on condition of the employer’s anonymity. In turn, the author demanded that the state which hosted these meetings be left unnamed along with the names of the preachers and attendees he encountered during the visit. While my employer was hesitant to concede such a demand, he eventually conceded. Likewise, names have been changed to protect the identities of the innocent, which according to the cross, is everyone.
The motivations of the potential employer of this project were never inquired about, but if the author were to speculate, the intentions were not pure, nor informative, but most likely seditious. Yrs. truly can speculate on this based on the disappointment expressed by the potential-employer once the piece (included below in it’s entirety) was sent to him. Also, advice, it helped....
Frankly, the author’s employer was probably expecting an article full of sinister cynicism about the whole charade yours truly encountered at the camp meetings. This would also explain why yrs. truly was commissioned to write the piece, since it was he of minor and past Apostolic fame, who wrote extensively and cynically for an unnamed blog lambasting Apostolic culture proper (in the past). However, the employer did not know that yrs. truly had grown bored and weary of the whole blog at the time of the job, and was particularly dismayed at the whole cynical attitude which fueled the blog in the first place. The author did however, disclose his change of heart to his supposed employer, and is truly apologetic for whatever frustrations this caused his potential employer, but would also like to remind him that he is truly grateful for the initial subtle nudge to do this piece. Even though it ended up being funded by myself.
The author would also like to disclose to the reader that just because he is not as cynical as he once was about things in the UPC, this does not mean he is cool with the UPC either. In fact, he is more frenzied than ever about the amount of rhetorical garbage that is spoken of as truth within the organization, and if he had one motivational message to the preachers of the org., it would be to “get your crap together.” Also, he would like to thank God above all else, his "potential" employer for permitting the publishing of the article here, and his mother for putting up with his angry rants at the dinner table. Also the author would like to tell you that he too is sick to death of talking about himself in the third person….
I have seen water balloons slingshot hundreds of feet into the air. Miraculous water bombs. I have seen one water balloon slingshot like a canon taking out an unassuming bystander’s face. Literally, her face was destroyed. She was twelve yours old. The ambulance came. Never heard from her again. Nor the settlement (presuming there is one).
I have seen gentrification within the UPC itself and it's splintering. Splintering politely... until another org develops.
I have seen poop left in the shower without proper health inspections after being reported.
I have seen a preacher man lay his hand on a Holy Ghost seeker’s forehead in prayer in such a forceful fury, that the seeker’s knees collapsed under the weight of the hand causing him to “fold” to the ground which in turn, caused the man with the hand to fall on top of the folded body he was praying for.
I have seen a trailer dragged out of the camp real quick, because said trailer was making "hostile sex noises," Turns out the trailer contained a married couple.
I have seen a teenage girl and even one pastor’s wife have bathroom stints as long as forty minutes at a time during church service.
I have seen the fear of God in three different teenage boys’ faces, just after they were caught in the woods “getting fancy” with the girl of their dreams. One pastor talked to me about "like, hey now... My son... he's going through some kind of time in his life and let me tell you, our church is fasting.... so just like, hey now.....we're good right? We're cool? (fist pump)...."
I have seen a youth president unclog a broken toilet at 2 A.M . And by unclog, I mean the dude literally put on a plastic glove and stick his hand down the toilet drain, whereupon he pulled out a particularly large piece of fecal matter which, happened to be the culprit of the clogged toilet. The youth president with his eyes closed and his face turned, lifted the hand that was holding up the culprit poop for all those gathered to behold, proclaiming the poop as being “eerily dense,” and further declared that “it feels like there’s a matchbox truck in here!" This really happened. No Joke.
I have seen seen two youth pastors vomit in succession on a bathroom floor. This vomit parade directly initiated by one of the youth pastors viewing the aforementioned “culprit” poop as it was being held in the air by the youth president. This caused youth pastor 1 to vomit. The “culprit” poop, now famous, also caused youth pastor 2 to start gagging. Once youth pastor 1 vomited, partially on the shoes of youth pastor 2, youth pastor 2’s gagging immediately gave way to a full on vomit. As for yours truly, I would have probably vomited too, but luckily I was making a mental note about the how the whole “unclogging” incident spoke contrary to the popular notion that all the youth presidents “got it made” in terms of preaching invitations and pretty wives, and being revered by all young preachers-in-training.
As for the camp: It was like watching an addictive TV show that's available on Netflix/On Demand. The drama keeps you hooked, but it ends up a blur real quick... and all you got is "Hey I like that one mystery drama on Netflix...." And hope that a girl falls in love over common interest......
And yet, I'm here. And no way is anyone here watching House of Cards.
Topics / Titles of sermons, preachers names and service content has been omitted at the request of my sponsor so as to avoid any potential litigation.
So while my journalistic integrity has already been compromised by my employer.... I will say the following: Apostolic camps are becoming obsessively narcissistic and tribal. The sermons that get the biggest praises are the sermons "based" on scripture, but more-so a telling the crowd about who we are. And that's scary. Because from my angle, those were the most boring and self-indulgent sermons I witnessed. The one inspiring service I witnessed was from an allegedly subversive "ragamuffin" (as one preacher described him)... in the afternoon. All the subversive preacher did was delve into scripture. And it wasn't incredible or anything, but it's like the dude was studying... so it's sad when that dude could barely raise an alter call for 5 minutes. Outside of the aforementioned sermon, everything else was self-obsessive, cranky, jumpy, contrived, and ultimately banal. If this camp was anything symptomatic of the UPC, it was just this: Adorable (jumping & screaming compensating for thoughtful preaching), comical (the exaggerated dancing is either a) appalling or b) trying to hide your face while you laugh real hard), and beyond those entertaining aspects....beyond the huffing and puffing and threats of blowing the house/enemy down (never happened), the sermons were simply: dull.
Outside of the generalities I was permitted to describe... I can say nothing else...
Two of the tables at this particular diner are full of teenagers and one under 13 boy who appears to be the table’s mascot in that he dresses as fasionably as the teens, and is even more outgoing than some of the teens. However his childish face make it very clear that he is definitely not one of the teens, no matter how much he would like to think so. To the teens he is a novelty act. These teens look like me with the bags under their eyes and the fatigue in their face. Except the guys have their hair done and the girls have the mascara in their eyes on the slight. The biggest difference between them and me is they are smiling. Not like smiling in the way one smiles when they are having the time of their lives, but more like the way a boy smiles nostalgically when his mother asks him if he had fun after a long day at Disney World. I also notice this is the first time the teenagers look unkempt in their attire. Previously, it was very clear the teenagers at camp paid a particular amount of attention to their own appearance. The females always appearing festive, bulbous and shiny by night, while the boys looked uncomfortably sharp and dapper. Their daytime appearances were in the similar vain of the night services, but in a way that was more restrained. The teenage boys, paid particular attention to their daytime get-up by trying to dress like they didn’t care what they were wearing, but everyone really knows that even the dudes who tuck in their t-shirts into their blue jeans have thought long and hard about the particular t-shirt message they are displaying. The least popular and slightly creepy boys wearing “Crazy 4 Jesus” or “yo quiero God” t-shirts or other similarly themed shirts that were designed in such a way to appear “cool” and “hip” in that they either satirize a pop-culture phrase or mainstream brand logos in an ironic way by substituting a Christian allusion/pun in the place of the well known pop-culture phrase/logo. The point is today, after camp is officially closed, the clothes are now in a disordered way, and no one seems to mind. These Apostolic teens are tired, but they aren't deterred in the least.
The other noticeable table with Apostolic customers is the long table at the other side of the restaurant full of Pastors and their wives. I am jealous of their faces. Because they look how I want to feel. Everyone there is rested and laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Other than being a little more tan or burnt, these Apostolics appear to have been preserved perfectly through the week without the least sign of ware or tare from the gauntlet that is camp. God bless them for it, because I am certainly not.
This is only the end. And my mind is still spiraling downward in near madness. Trying to make sense of what has happened. I'm here eating alone... and only now does my presence bring a hangover-like reaction. Before now, I've hung out with the hipster counselors who don't know me and are also down to witness to dudes with strange beardage. Sure I've noticed a couple elbow-nudges and attempts at "INTIMIDATING STARE +5 Hit points" from youth pastors... which is was flattering... But nothing beyond that.
Maybe they're learning to accept the enemy in their camps perhaps? Otherwise, from the rightside of right, the old days would'a rebuked me to Satan's infirmary two days past.
'Cept now,.. there's a couple pastor/youth pastor types in line to pay bill and me on my cream o'wheat.... and one leans in to me at the table and says "Hey brother," (we shake hands). Make eye contact. He says "So what's your deal?"
-(spit out the cream o' wheat)... (find eye contact again)
-He: "You know exactly what i mean."
(second pastor exits line and stands over me. Arms crossed, and breathing through his nostrils so much so, that you can hear it.)
-Me (to the interrogator): "Yeah, I have a deal."
-Him:"So what is it?... What do you have against us?"
(The second preacher, the non-speaking one is breathing heavier through his nose and then looks back, and I kid you not, looks back to the table where he, his fellow pastor, and two wives were eating....and gives a silent nod to the two ladies remaining at the table.... Because, he's got everything all under control here)
That's where I chuckle. Then breathe... then just start laughing real hard. Like awkwardly drawing attention to a 10:30 AM situation which would'a been more appropriate for a 2 AM conversation.....
And a midst my laughter and the pastoral looks of "hey, getta load of this guy," all I can think to say to myself is "calm down now" and after a few seconds of straight-face, I say aloud, "praying for you guys."
And after they walked away, and pay their bills... you give a real quick & silent "Thank God," and head for the long route home.... wondering what it means when your denomination has become a mob of dancers and prancers and loud screamers.... and between the services, they're playing the politics of a 1920s gang.
Oh for Apostolic Identity in the 21st century.