Strange Christians: Michael P. Vigilante III, the Dancing Saint

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I love odd things.  I also have a healthy affinity for Christian culture.  When the two streams are crossed I generally enjoy the results.  Perhaps not surprisingly, I frequently reference Carman, who is surely the patron saint of Christian oddity.  I enjoy him both ironically and unironically.  Is he ridiculous? You bet he is! Should he be ridiculed? Well, why?  In the history of CCM there has probably never been anyone more ambitious or unafraid.  If Carman failed, he was failing big, and I enjoyed every audacious moment of it.

Enter Michael P. Vigilante III.

Michael achieved YouTube fame several years ago as videos of his song-and-dance worship performances got passed around the Christian blogosphere.  There was a certain Tommy Wiseau-esque quality to Vigilante; here was someone creating art that was utterly strange, and it was not immediately clear if he was in on the joke or not.

Luckily, we can always count on the evangelical community for a measured, graceful response, keeping things in perspective and oh no here they come

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To recap: not just any sewer, and not just any crossroads–a sewer at an isolated crossroads.

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So thankful to be reminded that worship must be talented.

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Cool! Thanks, Jim!

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Hey, speaking of David, how cool is it that his wife Michal left a comment?

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The Tommy Wiseau comparison falls apart the deeper we get.  After Wiseau’s bizzarre movie The Room became a cult classic due to its comedic value, Wiseau infamously pivoted, claiming that he had intended the movie to be a dark comedy all along.  Vigilante could have done something similar–he could have sidestepped the criticism by claiming to be a comedian or a performance artist.  Perhaps he could have even become more popular this way.

But he didn’t.  Immediately following the notoriety from the videos of his coffeehouse performance, Vigilante doubled down on his authenticity.  Perhaps stung by criticism, his next upload was an original song he wrote and performed for his wife.  No video, no dancing, just a simple song on the piano.  It wasn’t going to win a Dove Award, but it was better than what I would have sounded like.

…but it was too late.  The internet wolves already had his scent.

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And here is where we meet another player in the saga: as I culled every blog post I could find on Vigilante, I noticed a recurring visitor: His wife Caroline, the woman in the above video, responding to her husband’s mockery by posting comments of her own.  While not confrontational, she persistently defended her husband across the internet, all the while filling in the gaps and providing bits of context.  Tracking her replies over different web sites spanning several years, we can piece together a back story:

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Caroline’s responses paint a difficult picture.  Even if you do not believe her accounts, her mere presence does reinforce the notion that Vigilante–both Vigilantes–are real people with real feelings. And the evangelicals who were so offended by Michael’s flashy suits and hair gel-flinging spin moves? Their criticisms reeked of elitism.  Get back in line, they seemed to harrumph, clutching their pearls in one hand and fanning themselves with the other.

Look, Michael Vigilante is a goober.  His wife all but admits as much.  He is all over the place with his metallic jackets and pompadour hair and quasi-Thriller moves.  And you and I are not required to like his ministry or even validate it. After all, he’s strange.  He doesn’t fit.

But is this what we want?  Do we want a Church where the weirdos don’t have a voice?  What is the endgame for being sanitized and proper? Is that who Jesus surrounded himself with?

Caveat: of course the Church has to take out the trash.  Sometimes there are genuinely harmful people in the body of Christ and being weird is the smoke that can lead us to the fire.  But just because someone is weird does not make them wrong.  Bilking your church for $60m to buy a private plane is wrong.  Creating fake sins out of thin air and tripping people up with legalism is wrong.

So, then, is Michael P. Vigilante III wrong, or is he just odd?  I suspect I have researched him as much as anyone has, and I hesitate to say his heart is wrong.  I’m still going to smile and laugh at his videos, but it will be a good laugh, because he genuinely makes me happy.  The outfits are kind of crazy though.

I guess I’m about 20% Joy and 80% Caitlin:

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