The OCeeker: Harvest 2012 and the Bald Man at the Big A

If your ramblin' rabbi seems off his game this week, blame it on the fairer sex. That's right, ye heathen, the OCeeker got himself a godly gal, so you beer-goggle saints and born-again whores will have to wait your turn at the altar call of love. Le sigh.

Speaking of altar calls, is there a better place for the prophet of poon to pitch woo than a church service? Especially if it features a world-famous preacher leading the lost back into the light, before tens of thousands of believers?

And that's exactly what the OCeeker did Saturday when he took a sanctified dame to Harvest 2012 at Angel Stadium.

By way of strategy so as to avoid the Jesus-is-my-boyfriend songs, the OCeeker arrived a little before 7 p.m. Reminded that Christ isn't too keen on turning his Father's house into a den of thieves, he ambled past the merchandise stands, where sweatshirts could be purchased for $30.

The place was packed, so he took his maiden's hand and hiked to the upper deck on the first base side, by the foul pole, and wondered whatever happened to Claudell Washington. There were Mexis everywhere, and the OCeeker considered that the Catholics clearly are losing market share in Orange County. They looked illegal, but they loved the Lord, so the evangelicals of the peckerwood kind didn't seem to mind. Still, the OCeeker swears he saw a couple of glancing looks that seemed to say, "What part of illegal don't you understand, brother?" 

Timed just right, the only band the OCeeker had to hear was Third Day, and they're pretty dang good. Ain't no Marshall Tucker Band, for Christian music, the band's gospel-fried Southern rock hit fairly hard, and frontman Mac Powell delivered catchy hooks that set the saints to steppin'. And there's nothing like the sound of 40,000 believers who can't clap in rhythm. When Powell sang "you make beautiful things," holy hands were lifted. One was placed on a half-Latina's leg.

After the set, a short video on the mega-screens featured the star of the night (yeah, the OCeeker knows, Jesus was the star), Greg Laurie, an evangelist extraordinaire, who recently hatched an escape plan out of Riverside, and planted a church right here in our fair county. While the video, which showed actors playing a young Greg enduring a broken home and battles with booze and drugs, attempted to highlight Jesus rescuing him from a world of sin, the short came off as a sorta notice that our Lord and Savior has become and an AA sponsor. And the last shot of Greg riding off on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle left a strange taste in the OCeeker's mouth. Give your life to God, and you may get a Harley. Bought and paid for by tithes and offerings. The gospel have been good to me.

Still, Greg is a an example to believers young and old. Now an aging Baby Boomer, he remains faithful to his calling, which happens to be preaching the straight gospel to thousands, even if 99 percent of them are believers already, taking in a sermon and rocking out to Jesus tunes. Really, ye sheeple, the point is to reach the lost, not rally the troops. Next time, bring a heathen, will ya? And don't think the OCeeker didn't notice the unholy marriage of piety and patriotism. The Harvest logo featured stars and stripes. Why not the United Nations colors? For God so loved the world, amen?

Greg, still bald, gave a by-the-book message, saying the Bible is "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth." Sin and the pursuit of stuff doesn't satisfy, yada, yada, yada. Speaking of yada, yada, yada, Greg may need to update his material. Pop culture references to Freddy Mercury and "Whatchu talkin' 'bout Willis?" were two of many that fell flat. But the universal truth of the vanity of life cut quick to the heart, as Greg told a story out of Matthew 19, where a man asks Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life.

Having informed Jesus that he kept all the commandments, Jesus tells him to sell all that he has, give it to the poor and follow him. Oh snap! Social gospel?! Helping the poor as a mark of discipleship? WTF? 

"When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth."

Thankfully, we're Americans. Jesus just asks that we give 10 percent to the church, receive it back in tax write-offs, and God bless the USA.

Greg said the young man's god was stuff, and asked us who our god is. Well, the OCeeker started with the man in the mirror. And he ain't asking him to make a change. 

Greg finally hit the altar call, and throngs hit the field to...God knows what. Many appeared to be post-service guidance counselors; others seemed to be prodigals casually coming home. In looking for the emotional converts who had heard the good news of free salvation, the OCeeker couldn't find one. But, as the basic instructions before leaving Earth tells us, a handsome man looks on the outside, God looks at the heart.

Harvest at once represents so much of what is right and wrong about American Christianity. The masses treat a holy moment like mere entertainment, while watching one man demonstrate how to stay to true to a calling. Christ, preached as the Messiah who called his disciples to a life of self-denial, is featured on swag and offered as Bondo on a broken life. Whatever. People got saved. 

The OCeeker gave Harvest four out of five New Believer Bibles. Welcome to the family of God, ye heathen. You're called to love your brethren, but as the OCeeker learned again, you don't have to like them.

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