On the fringes of Christianity, cults and hucksters leap from the shadows to entice wandering souls with sleight of hand. Whether it be Joshua Mills covering himself in glitter, David Taylor pretending to raise people from the dead with Facebook messages, or Jim Bakker doing Jim Bakker things, there is no shortage to the absurdity.
This is nothing new. It is also a dangerous thing to obsess over, as sometimes you end up becoming the very thing you hate. There remains a sad reality: ministries–even the ones that hurt people–are usually autonomous, and the tools to rein them in are few. We can issue warnings, but we can’t stop people from joining them.
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A Mighty Wind Ministries is by no means the worst of the errant ministries, but it is certainly one of the strangest. Their web page is an assault on the senses, a garish arrangement of graphics and GIFs:
There appears to be little in the way of an actual credo of AMWM. They exist in a kind of perpetual state of antagonism, always attacking their critics, always reassuring themselves of their own divine appointment. However, as groups like this are inherently cloistered and insular, they lack the awareness that what they are uploading is bizarre:
When they do retreat from the parapets, it is not to study Scripture, but to pore over new missives and prophecies handed down from their leader Elisabeth Elijah (apparently also known as Sharon Sobczak, Elisabeth Nikomia, and other names). The ministry is bathed in a sort of hazy fixation on the end times, polished to a shiny finish with Hebrew words that lend an air of theology.
At one point the ministry was located in Oregon, but now it is seems to be headquartered in New Zealand. Elisabeth Elijah continues to generate content, but many of the YouTube accounts of her vocal followers have gone silent in recent years. Hopefully this means that some of these people have found their way out.
Rebecca St. James
The intersection of trans issues and theology is a fascinating, fertile ground that is ripe for discussion. A topic that begs further scholarly debate.
This is not that.
This is an 8-minute rant that questions whether Christian singer Rebecca St. James is a man in disguise, sent from the Illuminati:
The woman behind this video is the Apostle Laura Lee, AKA Laura Lee Dykstra, and she operates something called the Church of Philadelphia through her website Grace Explosion. Her primary content flow is through her YouTube channel, where she produces and uploads videos like these at a prodigious clip.
Exploring her channel is exhausting. I did, and I will summarize it for you: She claims that Kenneth Copeland might be Tom Hanks, and that Obama is both Stephen Colbert and also a woman.
But seriously. Tighten those conspiracies up, girl. Either he’s a white dude or a lady. One or the other.
In the mid-00s, someone named Andrea registered and began squatting on the domain carmanlicciardello.blogspot.com.
This is, of course, the name of Christian singer Carman, whose music videos are unlike anything Christian music has seen (or likely will ever see). For an artist who spent the 90s as a larger-than-life figure, Carman has become something of an enigma in recent years. The CCM industry has a way of discarding most of its artists at the first sign of grey hairs, and even at the peak of his popularity, Carman always seemed to be an outsider. Now in middle age, he certainly wasn’t going to be afforded the occasional radio single a la Phillips, Craig and Dean.
So it stood to reason that he might be receptive to any free publicity. But when I tried to interview Carman this year, I could not make it through his circle of handlers. I found his reclusiveness odd at first, but then I ran across this site. Then I understood why he might want to hide.
There are only two posts on the blog, but both quickly became overrun with legions of Carman seekers. The comment sections cratered into an endless stream of madness, a portal to a strange, insular community of Carman fans, spurned lovers, stalkers, and character assassins. Rumors flew fast and furious: Carman promised to marry me. Carman faked having cancer. Carman has a secret adult daughter.
On other sites and other blog posts, I found the same characters (and others like the above picture who were using multiple names) recycling the same accusations and stories. I became so fascinated that I took out some paper and began diagramming the names and rumors, so that I could write a post about it. My wife eventually wandered by the computer and pulled me out of the black hole. (Otherwise I still might be diagramming.)
The premise is simple, kind of: take a block of text from the Bible, eliminate the spaces, and look for messages, word search-style. Except I’m not sure that that would actually produce anything, so filter it through some computer program that skips certain letters from certain passages…or something?
I’ve looked over this page several times and I still cannot fully grasp how the author arrives at his findings. Make of that what you will. Either I’m not smart enough, or the plan is to keep everything hazy enough to confuse would-be analysis. Why God would put hidden messages in Scripture instead of plainly explaining them is sort of beside the point, I guess.
The man behind the site bills himself as T. Chase. Alongside some of his matrices he posts accompanying youtube videos, which you can check out if you are so inclined, but some of them drag on for a bit. As for the zombie matrix, there’s not really a lot in the way of application. The point seems to be “hey, I found the word “zombies” spelled out diagonally. Cool, huh?” Then it’s on to something else, always something else, such as UFOs towing New Jerusalem:
As with many of the sites on this list, the possibility exists that it might not be authentic. Is it an elaborate troll job? Is it extremely dedicated performance art? I was leaning toward it being authentic, but then I ran across a video of T. Chase screaming at a cloud to change its shape and now I’m not sure:
This is my Holy Grail of Christian web oddities. Nestled away on an old Earthlink site that can only be navigated with a search engine, this post is the work of someone who bills himself as Endtime Prophet Michael Hands.
The post is ostensibly an exegesis of Song of Solomon, but quickly gives way to disjointed and feverish ramblings. The author seems tormented, either by his own desires, his failures, or something we cannot see. It is not clear. He explains female sexuality with the sort of skewed, faraway longing of a middle school boy telling tales in the locker room. His conclusions are by turns inappropriate and alarming:
So who is R. Michael Hands? In 2003, Catholic priest Michael Hands of New York was convicted of sexually abusing a boy in his parish and was sentenced to two years in prison. In a bid to solicit donations, the R. Michael Hands of this post lists his address as in California. It is not immediately clear if the two men are the same person.
Admittedly, this list is only scratching the surface. I could write an entire post about Jesus-is-Savior alone.
Sometimes Christian culture can be funny, but sometimes it is not. And when it’s disturbing, what do we do about it? Instead of ignoring all the weird stuff that goes on in Christ’s name, I think sometimes the best thing we can do is shine a light on it. At the very least, it’s showing that there’s a separation between those of us who hold to the Gospel and those of us who distort it.