An Atheist Attends the Sam Rose Tent Revival

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The Same Rose Revival tent

When I saw the large, sky blue tent with a massive, white cross on it set up at the intersection of Ronald Reagan Parkway and HW 40 in Indianapolis, I knew I’d have to check out the Sam Rose Tent Revival. You just don’t see an “old fashioned” tent revival too often around these parts. Hell, you probably don’t see one too often around any parts. It is not odd for local churches around to have revivals and “camp meetings” a few times a year. But, outdoor tent revivals are few and far between.

It took me a few days to get loose in the evening, but I ended up taking my fourteen year old twin sons along with me to experience the presumably old-school preaching. We left the fundamental Baptist church when they were very young and they have no recollection of that brand of American Christianity. There were no meeting dates in front of the tent, so I did not know how long Preacher Rose would be there. Regardless, I did not want to miss the opportunity to do an article on the travelling revival. I did a bit of internet research on the preacher prior to checking the service out, but I found scant search results for the man. I figured that he is either a true, dyed in the wool, old time revival preacher who thinks that the Internet is “the devil” or that he had warrants out in some places and wanted to stay of the grid as much as possible. Though I joke about the latter, I leaned toward the idea of the former.

As I pulled into the grassy field about five minutes early, I was excited to cover the revival on my blog. I planned just to do a general write-up on the service and Pastor Rose without adding much of my own thoughts on his doctrine or my personal dogmatic convictions. On occasions when I write a critique on a pastor or Christian debater, I usually get a rash of sympathetic Christian readers who say that all do on my blog is ridicule ministers and/or Christianity. Though I actually cover a variety of topics, I wanted to demonstrate that I can write an article on a minister which is void of my own polemics. Good intentions aside, I will not end up succeeding in my initial goal. So, I’ll warn believers at the beginning of this article that due to a lengthy conversation with Rose after the meeting, I must once again include some potentially unwanted editorial thoughts.

We three Daugherty boys sat on metal folding chairs in the front row just as the music took off. It was a lively rendition of, “On that Rock Where Moses Stood,” with Sam and his wife singing loudly, her on keys and him whacking a tambourine in time. I used to love that honky-tonk style revival music. Though I did not synergize with their dogma, I must admit that I would have loved to have jammed on my Fender Strat with them up there. Whether that kind of music is in a church with communion wine or at a bonfire with moonshine, it gets down in your innards and makes you want to move.

After the first song, Rose offered an admonition from Psalms 23 and the 10 Commandments while condemning partying, whiskey, and pot. As familiar as I am with both passages of Scripture, neither sections cover partying, whiskey, and pot. Regardless, Mr. Rose found some room for creative exegeses to warn us from “sins” not mentioned in the text. I rather fancy a good whiskey myself, even at the risk of disappointing the preacher. Several songs later, Rose admonished our temporary congregation of twenty-five saying passionately, “I wish I had me a great big, old mirror to put up so you could look at yourself! I’m up here trying to sing my heart out and you’re just looking at me! You know why I want you to stand up? I want people driving by not to look over and see you looking bored… at least for one song.” In fairness, it can be hard to stoke the coals of a revival. The old timers called it, “fighting a chill on the meeting.” Even a good rap concert needs a hype man. He then cried out, “Now, close your eyes and lift your hands and see if you can get a signal from God! Hallelujah Jesus! I had legs to walk in, and hands to lift! Glory to God!”

A few songs and a prayer later, Rose began his sermon for the evening in Matthew 14:25. For about thirty minutes, he preached on faith, miracles, and “chased a few rabbits” as preachers say. He concluded the sermon with a pass-the-basket” style offering and mentioned that his wife had some of her CDs available for a love gift of only $5 each. Before some say, “Yup, just out for money like all preachers,” let me defend Mr. Rose a bit. NO ONE is getting rich off $5 CD sales. They probably make a couple bucks each on those CDs depending on where they get them made. Also, to quote the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 5:18, “The labourer is worthy of his reward.” I am fully persuaded after hearing his sermon and speaking with him for about an hour and a half that Sam is a totally sincere guy and in ministry for honest reasons. I don’t agree with any of the reasons or his religious convictions. Yet, there are so many people around who are full of shit that I don’t mind a transparent person even when we sharply disagree. Well, so long as they don’t try to harm me or deprive me of liberty. At the risk of tautology, I would say Preacher Rose just is what he is. I just take him as an old-fashioned, Pentecostal, tambourine banging, 40 year old Eagle bus driving, hates the Internet and loves mailing out mission letters with stamped envelopes, circuit riding (or actually driving), “true believer,” waiting on Jesus to get back style revival preacher. That said I don’t believe he is in it for the money. If he is, based on the offering, he’s probably disappointed. Not to mention that the diesel fuel used driving state to state in that ancient bus doesn’t come cheap.

The Sam Rose Revival bus

The Sam Rose Revival bus

Overall, Rose preached a simple revival message and had a clear altar call at the end. He asked if any present desired salvation. There were no takers. He then inquired if any needed healing or a miracle. One man said that his doctors had potentially found a tumor in his abdomen. They would have to run more tests, but he wanted some preemptive prayer regardless. Rose drew close to him and placed a hand on the man’s stomach. He then cried out to God and claimed the healing of the Holy Ghost on the man’s maybe-tumor, thus concluding the night’s revival service.

Once the service concluded, most of the folks left quickly. A few stuck around to chat a bit with one another or Preacher Rose. I thought I’d straggle a bit in hopes of asking Sam a few questions related to my blog article on the revival. I must admit, I probably was a peculiar site during the service. It wasn’t intentional. In order to keep up with my note taking, I had my laptop on my lap the entire service. I can type a hell of a lot faster than I write, so it just made sense. It would not seem strange in your average, relevant style, multi-media church today to be taking notes or looking up verses on a tablet, phone, or laptop during the service. At the revival, it made me stand out like a proper weirdo though. I think I may have even risked a stoning over it.

Just as the revival started promptly at 7 p.m., it ended promptly at 8. I give Mr. Rose a lot of credit for that. Starting on time is expected out of fundamental preachers. But, a preacher ending on time is as rare an event as seeing a unicorn. When Rose ended after just one hour, I actually reconsidered my lack of belief in supernatural intervention and the miraculous. By 8:10 p.m. most of my fellow stragglers had left, so I approached Mr. Rose for a short chat. He had a kindly demeanor at first. I told him I was doing a blog article on the revival and asked him some general questions about his history and experiences in ministry. Coming from 15 years of ministry myself, I knew what questions to ask. As we conversed for about ten minutes, he kept referring to me as, “brother.” Since I spoke fluent “Christian,” I am sure he assumed me to be a believer as well. For the sake of transparency, I felt the need to let him know that I was not a Christian. It was just a brief mention, but his approach changed quite a bit after that. I instantly felt him trying to preach to me about the Gospel and he started sharing testimonies about changed lives via the revival meetings. A few stories in, Rose was pulling out all the stops. He started in with a story about a man who stumbled into the revival in another city… As the story went, the man was drunk, on drugs, had mental problems, homeless, and was an atheist. As Rose worked through the list of the anonymous man’s spiritual maladies, I thought to myself, “Holy Shit! I bet he was also gay, a Satan worshiper, voted for Obama, and wore women’s clothing!” I thought that (as many evangelists do) Sam may be engaging in the hyperbolic in order to give more glory to Jesus once I heard that the man had been miraculously saved and delivered from all his sinful ills.

After that story, in another attempt at transparency, I let Sam know that I am also an Atheist. I did not go to the revival to get in a debate or argument. Yet, I did not want to be reserved about my beliefs since atheism had come up. Just a few minutes earlier, I had asked Sam if they could leave the tent area now that the service was over. He said, “Sure. We have that van over there that we pull behind the bus. We drive that whenever we want to go somewhere.” Upon hearing my proclamation of atheism, Sam’s countenance fell noticeably. He seemed obviously taken back. His tact in the conversation took another abrupt turn. Before he could completely take off again, I said, “Hey, I’d love to invite you and your wife out to dinner with us. I could ask you a few more questions about your ministry over a meal.” He replied, “We can’t go anywhere. There might be a person show up who God sends our way and wants prayer. I have to stay around here.” I asked, “Didn’t you say just a bit ago that you use the van over there to go places? What if I’m the one God sent for you to talk to tonight?” Sam just denied my invitation one more time. Then, out of nowhere he asked with a visibly irritated look on his face, “So, if I leave for a bit to run to the gas station and you are here alone and a man like the one in my story shows up, what would you even do for him? If some man who is drunk and high or maybe hears voices and wants some spiritual help and prayer comes here, what would you even do? Would you pray for him?” I replied, “Well… no, I would not pray for him. I would do something to actually try and help him in a real way. Maybe I would try to help him sober up, get him some food and water, or sit and listen to him. If he was hearing voices, I may assume that he is having some serious mental health issues or had skipped his meds and try to get him some medical help. But, I wouldn’t pretend to be something I’m not just to make him feel better and say some voodoo over him.” Sam was pissed. That voodoo reference didn’t sit well with him. I was not saying that Sam does voodoo nor did I liken his prayers to a voodoo ritual. I was speaking in generalities about what I would and would not do personally. Sam asked angrily, “VOODOO?! VOODOO?! Are you saying I do voodoo?” I said, “No, I wasn’t speaking about you. I was talking about myself since you asked what I would do.” Sam was not amused. I said, “Look. If someone showed up seeking something spiritual from me, I’m not the one to give it. I would give him what I had, something physical or some real support. What did you give that guy who may have needed some physical healing earlier? You aren’t a doctor. You are a preacher. So, you gave him what you had do give; a prayer. Why does it anger you that I would only sincerely offer a person what I have instead of insincerely giving what I don’t?” After that first abrasive volley, our conversation ran the gamut of ideology, pop culture, epistemology, spiritual warfare, and religious dogma for about an hour and fifteen minutes more.

I do not have any desire to bore you, the reader, with a blow by blow reiteration of the entire interaction. Rather, I’ll just illuminate the “Top Five” takeaway points of interest for me personally from the long, heated conversation. And no, I didn’t forget about my twin sons. They were standing right next to me the whole time as a well-behaved and attentive audience of two. It was a good experience for them to be flies on the wall of my conversation with Sam Rose. I hope the following points may be of some help to any readers who are presently steeped in fundamentalist Christianity. By “fundamentalist” I don’t mean just having a sincere faith and belief in the tenants of Christianity. I mean a brand of Christianity which robs a believer of their individuality, leads them into fear of the world, abandon of pressing matters over promises of the return of Jesus, and sets up authoritarian and dictatorial ministers over them. I really don’t care to de-convert anyone from their faith. I say that with sincerity. BUT, I have personally seen the harm of fundamental belief in particular. I am glad to help any believer to steer toward a less intrusive and smothering version of their faith toward a bit more freedom in life. Had my wife and I not left a highly fundamental version of Christianity when we did, it would have become very damaging to our parenting, marriage, and personal relationships. Please know that as I quote what Sam and I said in the rest of this blog, I do so to the best of my ability from memory. The quotations are the closest paraphrases that I can recollect and not tainted with any intentional slant or bias for the sake of supporting my position. Prior to publishing, I had my sons review all quotes to make sure there were not any gross errors. I wish that I had an audio recording of the entire conversation for comparison.

1. Sam, like most fundamentalist preachers, has mislead, preconceived notions about modern culture:

-Many times, when an evil sinner “gets saved” and then called to preach, you can time stamp them culturally at that moment. They leave the “world” and immerse themselves in the local church. If that is a fundamental congregation, they stop watching movies over a PG rating (or at least admit to it), any TV shows with gay characters, and don’t listen to any music other than Christian. (And no, not Christian Rock which isn’t Christian anyway and is only a tool of the devil to draw God’s people into worldliness. But, Christian honky-tonk music is fine…) The first two anecdotes that Rose used in his sermon were about Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart. I thought to myself at the time, “Yup, dude got saved in the late 70’s.” As Rose and I were rapping, he jumped around topic to topic. He spoke of how all rock musicians are Devil worshipers and Satanists. I said, “Um… no they’re not. I’m a musician and know a TON of rock musicians. They are mostly NOT Satanists.” Rose interjected, “Have you ever heard of Marilyn Manson? He is a devil worshipper!” I replied, “Sure. I don’t know that he is a devil worshiper though. But, even if he was, you can’t generalize one rock musician’s convictions onto every rock musician. That’s just like stupid racial stereotypes.” Sam gave no credibility to what I said. He KNEW all rock musicians are ALL Satanists. No changing his mind. There can be plenty of things wrong with pop culture, but heaping a large scoop of spooky bullshit on top doesn’t help anything. Planet Earth becomes for such ministers, as Carl Sagan called it, “A demon haunted world.” Such ministers, scared of the world themselves, terrify their congregants about it as well. That is not a healthy outlook on life and destructive in the long run.

 2. The thought that a non-Christian person could be good, let ALONE an atheist, was utterly ridiculous to him:

 -I don’t put that on Mr. Rose specifically. Such is the stuff of classical, Christian doctrine. Sam did not invent it. He just preaches it. We are fallen, evil sinners who deserve to roast in the fiery furnace of hell. Add on top of that the assertion, “The fool says in his heart there is no God,” per the book of Proverbs and you have a perfect storm of evil. I think it surprised Sam that I wasn’t stirring a large witch’s cauldron or drinking a goblet of blood while we were conversing. At one point, he was talking about atheists really being Satanists. I laughingly replied, “WHAT?! Do you understand that atheists do NOT believe in the supernatural at all? If I don’t believe in a god, I don’t believe in the devil, demons, angels, etc.” He seemed to think that even though atheists don’t believe in Jehovah, they still embraced Satan. I don’t think Sam has ever had an actual conversation with a lucid atheist in his entire life prior to ours. Perhaps not even a non-lucid one. He seemed very biased toward not wanting to let go of his misinformed preconceptions about rock stars, atheists, or anything else we covered.

 3. Fundamentalist Christianity breeds a spite and trepidation toward broader learning:

-As Sam and I went back and forth, I just spoke as I normally do. I didn’t dumb down my speech or shoot for the pedantic. In conversation, I use some small words, some big words, and some medium words. While I was fleshing out the notion that the primary and foundational difference between us was an issue of epistemology (his being an epistemology of “faith” and mine based on evidence, reason, and logic) he cut me off mid-sentence. He said with a self-assured look, “You know what? You have a spirit of college.” I asked, “What? What is a ‘spirit of college’ supposed to mean?” He asserted, “I can tell you’ve been to college and have that spirit.” I replied, “I only went to college for one semester other than a few online courses.” Adjusting his assertion, “Well… you have a spirit of education.” I said, “I do greatly value learning and expanding one’s understanding and experience. But, I’ve never even heard of a ‘spirit of college’ or a ‘spirit of education’ even when in church for years.” In Sam’s estimation, the regular use of multisyllabic words was some kind of offense against his God. Even in my many years in fundamental ministry, I never ran across such a disdain for the use of “smart words.” Yet I understand his fear. A broader scope of learning would surely kill a person’s scared and reactive perceptions to a degree. In the days of slavery, as Frederick Douglass testified, it was the business of slave masters to keep their slaves ignorant and illiterate lest they gain a hunger for freedom. In these days when nearly all can read, it is the business of hyper-fundamentalist preachers to make their literate congregants terrified to study or read anything from “the world” as it may steal their souls away. I told Mr. Rose that he should be more bold if he was a servant of the True God and not so afraid of everything outside of his tent.

4. If you don’t share Sam’s specific religious convictions, you are a tacit enemy:

-Fundamentalist dogma only allows for two distinctions to be made in humanity. You are either a “sheep” or a “goat,” on God’s side or the devil’s, a saint or a sinner, saved or hell bound, good (only if saved) or bad. That is the extent of it. Once Sam knew I was not a Christian, I became an instant enemy. He threatened me with hell on several occasions. At each instance, I would remark with something to the effect of, “I just want you to know that your spooky proclamations that I will be tortured forever in your Dad’s imaginary dungeon have zero effect on me.” He eventually replied, “If you don’t believe in hell, then you shouldn’t be afraid!” I said, “You misunderstand. I am not afraid or intimidated in any way. I just want you to know that your attempts to manipulate me with unfounded threats of eternal torture in imaginary places are fruitless. Unlike your congregation, I actually require evidence to believe in things. Thus, your ranting about a place in the belly of the earth won’t work on me.” I then asserted, “It is very telling of your character that when a person merely disagrees with you on religion, your response it to make assertions that they should be tortured in fire for eternity.” He asked, “What do you expect that I would say to a person that says they don’t believe in God?” I then answered with my own question in hopes of compelling his mind to a rudimentary level of moral reasoning, “So what you’re telling me is that any person who comes to your tent revival and does not agree with your specific convictions should just EXPECT to be threatened with being tortured forever? Does that seem appropriate to you?” I did not get a direct answer to those questions. He just told me how that when I came in, he knew that I didn’t have the Spirit of God. He could feel it. I think by that point in the conversation, he had forgotten about calling me “brother” at the first. Sour grapes make for a handy snack.

5. At the end of the day, demonstrable evidence does not really matter:

-For the fundamentalist believer, my former self included, nothing and I mean NOTHING trumps the Bible for facts. Until a fundamentalist admits that there is the minute possibility that the Bible (or at the very least their interpretation of it) is wrong, they will never change their mind on anything they hold true. Not only that, but they will tend to gravitate toward any anecdote, testimony, “evidence,” or argument that supports their position, no matter how flawed. We must all have an appropriate level of epistemological humility. An intellectually honest person must go where reason, logic, and demonstrable evidence leads. Sam made several assertions which were demonstrably wrong. Anytime I made an attempt to show that, he would try to talk over me or jump topics. After he told me about the evil of my heart, how Jesus needs to be in it, and why my heart thinks evil, I asked, “You do know that your heart is actually just an organ that pumps blood through your body right? Your brain does the thinking, feeling, and cognitive processes.” He said, “Oh, so you don’t think that your heart does anything other than just pump blood? So that’s all it does, huh?” I said, “Yes, that is all it does. That is just basic, high-school level physiology. I don’t mind the idiomatic use of the word ‘heart’ to mean the emotional aspect of cognition. But, it is important that you know your heart doesn’t really think and feel emotions in the way that you are saying.” He replied with agitation, “So, you just worship your brain don’t you? All that matters is the muscle tissue in your brain I guess?” I said, “There are no muscle tissues in your brain. It isn’t a muscle.” My physiology lesson was of no profit. At the very last, Sam said, “I don’t even trust you anymore! I’m not talking to you! I don’t know what you were typing about us over there the whole time I was preaching! You only came here to slander us in your article!” I said, “Sam. That is 100% not true and I can prove it.” I then grabbed my laptop and turned it on. I said, “Here Sam, you can read every note I wrote about you during the sermon. None of it is slanderous and most of it is positive and complimentary.” He totally refused to even look at the notes. He would not allow the opportunity for me to demonstrate his fallacy in any way. After that he sternly said, “I want you to leave my tent. I am not talking to you anymore.” Trying to salvage some level of civility between us, I replied, “Sam, I just came here to write a story about your revival for my blog. You have taken what started as a nice conversation and turned it into an argument.” He just said again, “I’m gently asking you to leave.” I only replied, “Well, just make sure you keep your request gentle. It is your tent. I’ll be heading out.”

As Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter.” It can be a strange thing when ideological worlds collide. I thrive on Socratic discussion and sharing contrasting ideas. I don’t mind debate, but I prefer a discussion. Hell, you may even change my mind. If you do, I’ll thank you for it. So, to Sam, if you ever find your way onto the Interwebs someday and see this blog, I hope you share your thoughts in the comment section. I really would have enjoyed taking you and your wife to dinner to break bread while discoursing in a constructive way. But, you wouldn’t have it. Perhaps we can do it another time. If I see your tent back in Naptown someday, I’ll stop by and say, “Hello.” Perhaps we can build a bridge before you kick me back out from ‘neath your sacred tent into the spooky and fallen world. Either way, it was good chatting with you…

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Why I’m More Happy Than Sad Thinking About Robin Williams Today

robin williams (My favorite picture of Mr. Williams)

In complete transparency, I must admit, I had not specifically thought of Robin Williams in some time prior to last night. I came home after taking my teenage sons out to a late dinner and jumped on Facebook to see all the posts about Mr. Williams’ death and suspected suicide. There are so many fake celebrity death stories that I do not believe them at first anymore as a general rule. I wait until I see the story on several credible news outlets before accepting any celebrity’s death as having actually happened. Morgan Freeman has died too many times for me to do otherwise.

So, when I saw that Robin had really died and apparently committed suicide, I was very saddened about the news and remain so at this moment. I then started considering when the last time I had thought about him was. I concluded that it was a little over a month ago when I watched, “The Final Cut,” with my family. That is one of my favorites out of his many films. I suppose if I had to pic a “Top 5” in order, they would be: 1. Dead Poets Society 2. One Hour Photo 3. The Final Cut 4. World’s Greatest Dad 5. (Damn, this is a hard one because there are twenty movies that rival for this spot as I force myself to choose) Awakenings.

When I consider Robin’s death today, I take no thought for being perceived as on any bandwagon for talking about him just because he died. It is only human for us to consider the lives of people after they have died more than when they were alive. The sudden punctuation at the end of their life’s sentence provokes us to thoughts of the brevity of life and the utter value of what we leave behind as our legacy. We then reflect on the now deceased person’s legacy as well and their impact on us.

I will only speak of his death in brief. The word at the moment is that he committed suicide due to a life-long battle with alcoholism and depression. Whether he took his own life is his business. Since I have not suffered the grip of depression in my own life personally, I cannot speak on depression with any authority and would only be talking out of my ass. I have no personal experience to offer. I am grateful for that and say it with humility. I have deep empathy for my friends who deal with depression and hope to be of some service to them. Had I dealt with the difficulties Robin had, I would likely not have dealt with them as well as he did nor for as long. I may well have given into the despair and killed myself way before the age of 63 for all I know. If he did in fact take his life, I regret that being the case and wish it would not have been. Though, my wishes do no actual good in retrograde. For any readers dealing with depression presently, I can only say that you are inherently valuable and please seek help from those who love you or capable professionals who care. If you need to talk to someone and are in the U.S., PLEASE call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

That said, my present sadness over Robin’s death is overshadowed by an overwhelming joy and personal thankfulness when contemplating his life. Not only was he an amazing, rare, capable, insightful, and staggeringly talented actor, a man who gave his whole self to his art, a man who cheered up our service men and women abroad, a husband to several women, and father to several children; he had a specific and direct impact on me personally.

I am a poet and a writer. From the time I was a child, I wrote. When I was in high school, I had one teacher who I felt “got me.” He was my literature teacher, Mr. Wilson. As part of our literature class one semester, Mr. Wilson had us all watch, “Dead Poets Society,” over several class periods. I was hypnotized by the story and the characters. Robin Williams’ character as the amazing teacher spoke right to me as though he was in the room before my own school desk. The challenges, insights, and inspiration of Robin’s character in that movie, an extension of his own self, impacted me in an irreversible way as a teenager and young writer. The ripples of that impact are still rolling through me in untold ways. They are part of who I am as a writer and a human today and cannot be understated.

Robin Williams made more people laugh, cry, and think deeply than I can ever hope to in my lifetime I believe. Yet, his path was his and mine is mine. I can only stand in awe of who he was and the incredibly vast and deep body of work he left behind. That is why I am infinitely more happy than sad today when contemplating him. Whether he died yesterday or twenty years from now, like every other human being, death was imminent for him. But, what he did with his life across the years was not destiny. Robin lived in an effectual way and left it all on the table. He chose to open a vain and bleed for us via the amazing characters he played over the decades. He left us in tears of laughter through his unique stand-up comedy. He did not just write a verse with his life, he wrote volumes. I happily behold them, thank Robin for his impact on me and this world, while admiring him as much as I could any actor, comedian, or artist. If he did take his life, I do not condemn him for it. He dealt with struggles that I have not. I cherish him for how he lived his life up to that point. I hope myself to write a verse worth reading with my own life and will take the weighty question of teacher, John Keating, in, “Dead Poets Society,” to heart… “What will your verse be?”

A Prank Too Far- When Does a Prank Stop Being Funny?

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An interesting phenomenon has developed over the last several years via the reach of youtube- the rise of independent, “professional” pranksters. These are creative people who started out small, and due to their consistent and well-filmed prank videos, have reached a certain level of internet fame. For some, that fame and the ad revenue it produces even makes for a full time personal income allowing them more time to focus on their art of creating prank videos.

If you are into the prank videos on youtube, you may know some of the primary pranksters well. Many of their videos go so viral that even if you aren’t into watching the pranks, you will see the links posted on various social media sites. Other videos become so popular that they are referenced in major news stories nationally and internationally. A few of the “kings” of youtube prank channels are Jack Vale (the Pooter guy), edbassmaster, Roman Atwood, Vitaly at VitalyzdTV, Tom Mabe at MabeInAmerica, PrankvsPrank, The Scary Snowman, Dennis Roady, MagicofRahat, and others. Some of these pranksters have also learned the trick to being one of the “popular kids” as it were. That is, you team up and tell the populace that the other person is cool too. So, some popular pranksters often team-up to do videos and pranks together. It is brilliant cross marketing and pools their creative resources as well.

These viral pranks range greatly in their nature, style of execution, and subject matter. Some are just goofy “fart” pranks pulled off in public spots, stores, or elevators. See Jack Vale’s video’s for the best examples of these.

Others are also very simplistic in nature, but always have a great payoff, such as the Scary Snowman videos.

Hey, fake farts and people getting startled have always been and will always be funny. Video pranks will vary from those simple and relatively harmless versions all the way to some very potentially dangerous ones. Some pranksters have also made a real effort to use some of their pranks to benefit others or have done social experiments to raise awareness of some important issues. I applaud the noble efforts of such pranksters to use their art form in the service of helping others to whatever degree they can.

But, there are two other categories of prank videos that I would like to address. Actually, the two have some overlap. That is, pranks that can potentially (or likely) cause harm to the public and pranks that waste the resources of emergency or police services. I was inspired to address this issue after seeing several of those types of videos being discussed by people on Facebook in the last few weeks. It seems that there is a one-upmanship battle going on between the royalty of youtube pranksters. The nature of some of these pranks is getting more ridiculous and/or dangerous. Please know, I am not a “fuddy-duddy” that doesn’t get a kick out of a ton of the pranks I see. Yet, in day to day life, I am not a prankster myself. Since I don’t like being messed with personally, I don’t dish it out either. But, due to the rise of the “professional prankster” some of them think that saying, “IT’S JUST A PRANK!” after doing something crazy in public somehow puts them “on base” from any repercussions.

As a disclaimer and qualifier, I do not condone violence against another person merely over words or insult. I do support defending one’s self when you believe that you are in immediate danger, are being actively and physically intimidated, actually attacked, or are defending another person who is in one of those situations. I would assert that some of these pranksters are going too far and becoming reckless in a way that is dangerous to themselves and others with some recent pranks.

Since I have enjoyed watching youtube pranks for years, I have tried to hold back on being too judgmental on some “iffy” pranks that I have seen online. But, the first one I saw from a major prankster, in this case Roman Atwood, that I think definitely crossed the line is the one below:

The “Drive-by Shooting Prank” is just reckless, stupid, and dangerous. If you noticed, one person actually shot back at Atwood’s vehicle toward the end of the video. Atwood is lucky that the shooter was a poor shot and no one else had a car handy to chase his SUV down in to return real fire. Here are my main points of contention about that prank:
1. Going to a potentially high-crime neighborhood where people are already on edge and making random people think they are really being shot at is just negligent, unthinking, and lacks compassion. I would like Atwood or any other prankster who thinks such a prank is funny to consider what it would be like to walk out your front door, your small child in tow, to what you think is a real drive-by shooting pointed in your direction. Would that just be “ha-ha” funny? Would that just be all good after your and your child were terrified? I know there was not a small child apparent in the video, but I appeal to Atwood’s sensibilities (if he sees this blog) knowing his is a father.
2. The prankster his or herself could actually be injured.
3. The people who believe they are being shot at may assume that they know who is shooting at them: a neighboring gang, a person who they have had trouble with before, etc. and take revenge. Or, they may just go looking for a person who was driving the same kind of vehicle as the supposed shooter to get back at them. That is the type of thing that can happen in the real world.
4. Likely, police or emergency services are called because of such a situation. That wastes resources paid for by taxpayers at large for ridiculous reasons. It also can create a potential investigation that could falsely implicate an innocent person.

The recently posted video just below, “Killer Clown Scare Prank,” inspired a lengthy discussion on Facebook last week between quite a few people. (Graphic scenes)

That Killer Clown video is another example of a prank gone too far in my opinion. Many of the comments on Facebook had to do with the assertion that the person commenting would have reacted violently or shot the “clown.” Some of that may have been hyperbole, but I would say the majority of the people commenting were being literal. I myself live in a state, Indiana, which has a substantial amount of people who carry a concealed pistol, myself included. It would be reasonable in my opinion, especially in a city like Indianapolis with a crazy murder rate, to fire at a person who you believe is trying to attack you with a hammer, ax, knife, etc. It is inevitable that one of these pranksters engaging in highly irresponsible pranks will eventually be seriously hurt or killed. With so many real tweakers and violent people out there, as an individual on the street, you can’t just not act in a situation because there is a 1% chance you may be the target of a prank. Several pranksters have even been punched or slammed to the ground after doing a prank when they faked stealing a person’s property or said something highly offensive. Again, I don’t condone a violent reaction to words. But, you can’t expect to say crazy things to random people in public and not get hit eventually. Of course, it makes for great video and lots of “clicks,” so getting hit may be worth it to some pranksters. See the following for an example: (language warning)

Last, I would mention pranks that demean people. Even if done under the label of “helping” these pranks are in poor taste. Sure, people can do whatever they want for the most part and should be able to in making videos. But, I can also share my thoughts. In the following video, helping needy people is done in a way that is demeaning at the same time. If you’re going to give homeless folks money, do it in a way that doesn’t involve apparently blowing money out of your ass guys. Just because the homeless will take the money any way they can get it, does’t mean you should force them to grovel for money from your butt (of course, it isn’t really, but that isn’t the point)

In Atwood’s defense, he has fed the homeless and given money on several occasions in previous videos in much more tasteful ways (see the link below). And, he and his team have made tons of great prank videos as well. He is actually one of the best all-around pranksters online. Though, the push to get more and more sensational has to hit a wall at some point.

It is my hope that responsible pranking will continue. But, I implore youtube pranksters to mix in a bit of common sense and refrain from doing obviously dangerous pranks and/or pranks that waste police and emergency services. To my surprise, Roman Atwood, the prankster from the “Drive by Shooting” prank recently discovered a prank that was too much for even him. But hey, stealing gas when it’s over $4 a gallon could get you killed anywhere…

Thanks for reading and sharing! For a bit of comic relief, enjoy this classic SNL skit that relates to this blog perfectly 🙂

SNL Prankster Skit with Christopher Walken