So, hello. Been off the blog for a while. Happy to report that my hiatus is over; regular posts will now resume.
The reason for the absence was that I was working on a Kindle release. If you’ve been reading me for a while you might know that I try to put out one Kindle release a year. (In 2014 it was Homeschool Sex Machine; in 2015 JV Superstar) A couple of reasons for this: first, it lets me do bigger ideas that wouldn’t fit in a blog post. It also changes things up and keeps me creative. And also, on a basic level, putting things out on Kindle for a few bucks helps me pay bills.
So, without further ado, allow me to introduce Naked Side Hugs:
It is a ridiculous book that should not be read by anyone, let alone Christians with good taste. It is full of inappropriate and #problematic things, such as:
- nude evangelism
- “homemade communion moonshine”
- WWJD lightsabers
- punching sharks in the face
- a wiener
- time-traveling Noah, stealing stuff
- The Prayer of Jabez
- breaking into a Hobby Lobby
However, because I know my audience largely consists of repressed seminary students and degenerate Christian culture junkies, some of you will invariably feel the need to check it out. So here are a couple of excerpts. If you like what you see, the Amazon link is at the bottom, too.
Get in the Car
So it was about three in the morning and I was walking along a Florida highway with the woman who ran Proverbs 32 Ministries and the guy from the most famous Christian band in America, and all three of us were naked.
The Cadillac came around the bend and pulled in front of us, screeching to a halt in the middle of the road. The driver leaned over and threw the passenger door open.
“Get in the car!” the man yelled in the darkness.
It was Malachi Jefferson, the Florida Senator who some people said was going to run for president in the next election. He was also the only black Republican in the entire Senate. He liked to tell people that God had raised him up so he could baptize America, and I think he meant just the people, because a baptism of the entire country would be a flood, but whatever.
We were on a mission to save Christianity. This was after Skyler had punched the shark but before we broke into the Hobby Lobby. In our defense, though, that was just a real weird night.
Finally, we had arrived. A sprawling megachurch nestled in the Atlanta suburbs. We rolled in just as the sun was setting over the hills, casting a hazy amber glow over the pristine grounds. The marquee facing the road confirmed that we were in the right place: JUNIA CONFERENCE, it read. And then, in smaller letters: MANY WOMEN, ONE BODY. Okay then.
I guided the minivan into the procession of cars entering the parking lot. The line slowed to a crawl as each car stopped to check in with the traffic attendants. Presently it was our turn, and I rolled the window down to speak to the gatekeepers.
They were a group of elderly men wearing neon vests—the cheap kind, the ones with a single piece of Velcro fastening the fronts together. They all had walkie-talkies but it was unclear why, as they all seemed to be here in this one place. It was as if they had agreed to stand in this spot and not go any farther towards the church, which had been overrun by women. As such, they were very confused why this van of men wanted to proceed.
The man at the window stared me down, narrowed his eyes and opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He pointed at me and looked back at his friends, leaving his finger hovering in the air like a place marker.
“These guys…” he said to the posse.
“What?” replied one of his deputies.
“I guess they want to go in.”
“Why?” said his deputy.
He turned back to the van window.
I told him I was there to cover the conference. Told him I was writing for Christianity Now and that it was the biggest Christian site on the web. At the mention of “the web,” he waved us through in a huff, as if The Web was an expanse full of things he would never understand and he wasn’t about to waste his time trying.
I rolled the window back up and eased the van toward one of the massive parking lots. Beside me, Skyler bobbed his head up and down in approval.
“Right on,” he whispered, as if a perilous stage of our mission had been completed.
As I parked the van, Skyler was staring out the window, admiring the church’s architecture.
“Praise the Lord,” he said quietly.
We reached the sanctuary just as the evening session began. It was the classic Christian conference arrangement: a corporate session with the keynote speaker, then various smaller breakout sessions with other speakers. Meanwhile, the gymnasium had been converted into a bazaar of vendor tables and booths.
We weren’t real sure where to begin, so for a while we wandered the concourse that wrapped around the huge sanctuary. On one end there was a Starbucks that had more or less been built into the back of the sanctuary so it could serve coffee to people both inside and outside in the concourse. There was no one around, so Skyler and I slid over the front counter and tiptoed through the dark back room. In the back of the Starbucks there were serving windows that faced the sanctuary stage and gave us a clear view of the Junia Conference. Standing safely in the shadows of the sanctified Starbucks, we watched intently.
The cavernous sanctuary had multiple levels stacked atop one another in a stadium design, but the church had scaled the sanctuary for the conference. It looked like the upper levels had been closed and everyone was in the horseshoe seating around the stage. There was probably about a thousand women on the floor level. Maybe closer to two thousand; it was hard to tell from our vantage point.
Announcements flashed across the projection screens above the stage. We learned that every night the conference had featured a different opening act. We had missed the Christian comedian and the praise and worship band, but we were just in time for tonight’s opener.
The lights in the sanctuary dimmed, bringing the crowd to silence. Two smoke machines at the back of the stage began to rumble and spit out clouds of white fog. When the smoke had grown sufficiently thick, someone turned on laser machines. Beams of pink and green light cut through the fog and danced back and forth over the heads of the audience members. Now a woman’s voice was being played over the church speakers, in a pre-recorded message set to the opening beats of a synthed-up jock jam:
INTRODUCING…THE POWERESS TEAM!
As the bumping synth music blared, a quartet of athletic-looking women in colorful spandex jumped out of the fog and began prancing around the stage and working the crowd.
What’s a ‘poweress?’ I whispered.
We watched as the women worked through a series of stunts. First they split into two groups of two and took turns ripping stacks of church bulletins apart with their bare hands. This produced a smattering of applause. Next they bent metal rods, pausing intermittently to coax the audience to make noise. Again, a polite round of applause.
“I think when they split from one of the other strength teams they had to change their name,” Skyler whispered suddenly. “I think they were called The Powerettes at one point but someone thought that was offensive.”
So what is a ‘poweress?’ I asked again, but Skyler just shrugged.