An excellent piece from Rolling Stone of all places about a sort of turbo-charged alpha course. This is more perceptive about the real dynamic of American evangelicalism than you might dare hope: in particular, he gets right the way in which converts, for the most part fat, sad losers, hope to acquire some of the mana of the preachers, who are all manly, happy winners: it is something like the Roman relationship of clienthood.
But it is also, in parts, extremely funny. Here is an exorcism scene, from the end of the weekend:
“In the name of Jesus Christ,” said Fortenberry, more loudly now, “I cast out the demon of lust!”
And the man began power-puking into his paper baggie. I couldn’t see if any actual vomitus came out, but he made real hurling and retching noises.
Now the women began to pipe in. On the women’s side of the chapel the noises began, and it is not hard to explain what these noises sounded like. If you’ve ever watched The Houston 560 or any other gangbang porn movie, that’s what it sounded like, only the sounds were far more intense.
It was not difficult to figure out where the energy was coming from on that side of the room. Some of the husbands glanced nervously over in the direction of their wives.
“In the name of Jesus Christ, I cast out the demon of cancer!” said Fortenberry.
“Oooh! Unnh! Unnnnnh!” wailed a woman in the front row.
“Bleeech!” puked the bald man behind me.
Within about a minute after that, the whole chapel erupted in pandemonium. About half the men and three-fourths of the women were writhing around and either play-puking or screaming. Not wanting to be a bad sport, I raised my hand for one of the life coaches to see.
“Need . . . a . . . bag,” I said as he came over.
He handed me a bag.
“In the name of Jesus, I cast out the demon of handwriting analysis!” shouted Fortenberry.
Handwriting analysis? I jammed the bag over my mouth and started coughing, then went into a very real convulsion of disbelief as I listened to this astounding list, half-laughing and half-retching.
“In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, I cast out the demon of the intellect!” Fortenberry continued. “In the name of Jesus, I cast out the demon of anal fissures!”
It is necessary to prepare people quite deeply before they can get into this state; and the most frightening part of the piece is the description of the preceding routine, which is worthy of L Ron Hubbard himself — a combination of Evangelicalised (reborn?) Freudianism with strenuous prayer pressure over two or three days until gibbering in tongues seems entirely unavoidable and natural.