One time I shared a hotel room with a nice musician from Florida who asked if I knew the Joseph Brothers, two local film composers who'd made millions from producing Christian action movies and behaved exactly like their L.A. counterparts if you substituted Jesus for cocaine. I had not.
It was Sunday morning in south Georgia on the last day of a long continental tour and we had six hours to kill before sound check. Touring is not the breathless parade of interviews, recordings, and celebrity meltdowns you see in French perfume ads. You wake up at 4 a.m., get on the bus at 4:30a.m., are driven for ten hours to the next city, where you immediately go onstage to check microphones, have a little time to change into your concert black and eat a yogurt, play a show, get back on the bus so you can fall into your hotel bed at midnight, and repeat the process the next day every day for weeks.
It was our first free morning. Adventure beckoned.
I had never visited a megachurch. This one was the size of a small college campus, and the first three things I encountered inside the lobby was a flatscreen TV advertising their pregnancy crisis center, two cops who searched me for firearms, and a McDonald's. Baptists are required to disclose their offertory intake and this church, in one of the poorest counties in the state, had already pulled in three million dollars worth of plate money for September. There were no print Bibles. Everyone read Scripture off of tablets. Everyone tithed thru PayPal on their smart phones.
The lead guitarist of the praise band turned out to be an old composer pal who had worked with the Joseph Brothers, and by work that meant he didn't hang up when they called him at three in the morning begging for interstitial music. So far the Brothers had written, produced, and directed five schlocky Christian action movies, all bankrolled by the megachurch.
They weren't good. Christian entertainment was never good, but where Tyler Perry provided slapstick on the chitlin' circuit and Jack Chick gave worried mothers the Dark Dungeons tract, the Joseph Brothers produced ninety-minute self-help infomercials aimed at porn addicts. No crucifixion. No weeping blonde women with runny mascara. Just a twelve-step program for killing your boner.
On the way to sound check I made a brief detour at the county's apocalyptic art garden, an acre of Revelations-inspired murals complete with scripture quotes, burning hell hounds, and lakes of blood. It wasn't good either, but it certainly didn't fuck around.
I knocked on the first trailer door and was directed to a master bedroom where a stately black matron was dressed for evening service. Pearls, stockings, and a stare that stuck two inches out the back of my skull. I should have brought food. Or worn a hat. Or at least presented myself with a fucking business card.
After five minutes she gave me her phone number and insisted I visit the next time I was in town.
"I think we're gonna be best friends."