Tammeus, for example, recently announced that a new version of St. Paul might change the world. (When did we miss the Bible rewrite, we wondered?) Reconsidering Paul, apparently, is supposed to bring together faiths -- Jews and Christians might even realize they're just part of the same big church, Tammeus suggested.
Yeah, that's gonna happen.
In the Strip's experience, Bill and Vern are way off. Religious people actually hate each other's guts. Too many of them figure they have all the mysteries of the universe solved, and anyone who disagrees is going straight to hell. In the meantime, they figure that salvation is a matter of attracting as many tithe-making suckers into their big tent before the end times.
But when you've been telling essentially the same tale for a couple of millennia -- hey, our dude rose from the dead; believe in him and you'll live forever! -- you gotta get creative to bring in the new, uh, meat. And this rib-eye finds it endlessly entertaining watching Christians, in particular, try to dream up new pitches for their old, old story.
One of the most intriguing has been a series of ads on local alternative radio that hype hip-hop nights at one of the area's megachurches -- Lenexa Christian Center -- making them sound more like cool nightlife happenings than typical church membership come-ons.
This curious cutlet decided to find out what all the fuss was about.
Lenexa Christian Center's youth programs -- called "The Link" for young adults and "One Eighty" for teens, are both run by Jon Purkey, son of the megachurch's lead pastors, Mike and Mary Purkey.
Naturally, the hip, young pastor has a Web site. There's a photo of him in casual attire, and in an accompanying audio clip, he describes his bona fides for the skateboarding set: He enjoys reading Tolkien, loved the movie Biker Boyz, digs riding his motorcycle and four-wheeling in his Honda EX, has a passion for "hardcore" music and can't get enough Japanese food. Check out how real Jon is: "I really don't need anybody around to have a good time. As long as I have a DVD player and some movies and my dog, I'm usually pretty content."
Jon's obviously a sensitive guy, the natural choice for leading young people to the right path. We couldn't wait to see him in action.
Lenexa Christian Center's youth chapel looks like a spaceship, with a black, round top coming to a point, ready to lift off into salvation. Inside, we were directed into a classroom, where about forty folks in their early twenties were being entertained by a Christian rock band, its lyrics projected on a large screen.
He touched me, he touched me, and something happened ...
For a moment, the Strip wondered if this was a subtle slam on the Catholic priest scandal, and we were ready to give the band points for creativity. But then it turned out to be a song about how big God is -- he's really, really large, apparently -- and after a while, the repetition of the same three chords bouncing off the concrete walls started to make this tenderloin queasy.
Before the event's main attraction hit the stage, a call for cash went out, and a metal bucket was passed around the room. But Pastor Jon himself proved to be pretty generous, raffling off two $50 bills and several gift certificates to local shops. Hey, we started to think, maybe this guy's all right after all.
Then came the sermon.
After some mild media bashing and a few jingoistic war references, Purkey cut to the chase -- all those other religions are bogus, apparently, and there's only one way to heaven.
"Some people pray to Mohammed," he said, and yodeled "Allah" a dozen times in a bewildering imitation of what Purkey must imagine a typical Muslim sounds like, waving his arms over his head.
"Mohammed was nothing but a gigolo who slept with a bunch of women," he said, and his audience giggled. "People get down on a mat three times a day, thinking they're going to float away like a genie or something," he continued, apparently referring to the Islamic tradition of praying five times a day on a mat while facing in the direction of the holy city of Mecca. "And the women are dumber than the men! These people are stooped," he said, and this meat patty had to be sure it understood what the intolerant little rector had said. "They're not just stooped -- they're stupid!"
After watching Purkey for a while, we realized that he's an equal-opportunity sadist. During another service, he called a member of the congregation a "faggot," and he abused others for being fat.
We couldn't wait to learn the secret of his charm. On another visit, Purkey told the Strip that he makes no apologies for his characterizations of Muslims and doesn't fear reprisals. "And nothing is going to change the way I preach," he added.
In fact, Purkey says his goal is to build the world's biggest youth ministry.