See Spot Ascend

Unreal hunts for ghosts, gets right with God and tails Fido into Heaven.

Ghost Hunters

What's the best thing about God? One word: Heaven Why is this immortal reward so dope? First, it's big — a full 1,500 miles in circumference. Second, it's got plenty of bling: buildings made of gold, crystal, sapphire, emerald, amethyst and pearl. So much for that drab terrestrial life of poverty.

In Heaven global warming is a thing of the past. The old earth is "passed away," its replacement has "no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it."

What? No lighting? What if we want to read at night? In Heaven, we're shit outta luck. Evidently Paradise is sort of like the Arctic in summer: "There shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light."

But reading before bed is the least of Unreal's worries, and the Book of Revelation isn't too clear about what, exactly, we're supposed to do once we get to Heaven. Sure, brand God's name on our forehead and serve Him and the Lamb, yadda yadda. But what are we supposed to do after that, play Halo 3?

Oh wait, in Heaven "there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."

Pinochle it is.

But don't despair! Things are about to get a whole lot more interesting Upstairs. In Will I See Fido in Heaven? Manchester author Mary Buddemeyer-Porter enlightens us that not only do our pets have immortal souls, but also that Heaven, unlike most restaurants, allows animals. She's putting her money where her mouth is, too, by donating 10 percent of book sales to participating animal shelters.

Describing the early days of her research into the souls of beasts, Buddemeyer-Porter writes:

"I found that God included the animals in His covenant with Noah. ... [M]y confidence of seeing my pets in Heaven was growing stronger."

But it was Revelation 5:8-13 that sealed the deal: "I thought that if all the animals will be in Heaven, then surely the apostle John, in his vision of Heaven and the eternal promise God has given us, will also indicate what animals will be in Heaven. Sure enough, in Revelation 5:8-13 all creatures recognize Jesus as the Savior of the world and praise God right along with redeemed men."

But no steak, according to Buddmeyer-Porter: "As we look back on the Book of Genesis before man fell into sin, none of God's creatures ate each other," she writes. "Man brought physical death to all creation when he sinned."

Better bring a doggy bag.

Spooky Dudes
Unreal has heard all the talk about the Lemp Mansion, but in our mind the most haunted place in St. Louis has got to be the stacks of the Central Library downtown. The overhead lights that are never on, the smoky glass floors, the many uninhabited dark corners. There's a reason they make you leave ID at the reference desk before you go in there.

But the Ghost Hunters, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson of the eponymous Sci-Fi Channel series, did not go anywhere near the stacks when they appeared at the library last week. They did not bring their ghost-detection equipment, like their thermal imaging camera or EMF (electromagnetic field) scanner, either. Instead, they came with a very thorough PowerPoint presentation that outlined the ins and outs of ghost-hunting for an enthralled crowd.

Unreal was unaware of the vast number of Ghost Hunters fans in St. Louis. They filled the meeting room where the Ghost Hunters were presenting in person and the reference area where they presented via closed-circuit TV. They cheered loudly and laughed at Hawes and Wilson's jokes. (The young man sitting in front of Unreal threw his head back in laughter so vigorously, we were afraid he would snap his neck.) They ooooohed when the presentation showed video clips of actual ghosts.

Perhaps it was Unreal's natural skepticism regarding the supernatural, but we were very bad at spotting the ghosts. We harrumphed to ourselves when some audience members admitted to spotting ghosts in real life. (We could not make our way through the crowd to ask whether any of these ghosts were in the Central Library stacks.) Nonetheless, we were charmed by Wilson and Hawes, who claimed to be, first and foremost, devoted family men, then simple plumbers from Rhode Island, and, last, detectors of the supernatural.

During the Q&A, Hawes and Wilson answered most of Unreal's questions without us having to ask them. Yes, they still do plumbing jobs. No, they don't get scared. No, they do not recommend the use of Ouija boards. ("You're opening yourself up to the supernatural," Hawes counseled.) Yes, Ghost Hunters will be doing a show in St. Louis this season — at the Lemp Mansion.

One question we had to ask: Why don't the Ghost Hunters have Rhode Island accents? They're not from the part of Rhode Island with the bad accent, Wilson explains. But he's an obliging fellow: "We could do it if you want to, but we don't gots to."

Good-Time Gospel
On November 4, Skyline Community Church in O'Fallon, Illinois, hosts a service at the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Fairview Heights, aiming to answer the fundamental question: "God is funny, so why aren't we?"

Skyline, which is loosely affiliated with the Baptist church, maintains that "God does not have to be a dry, boring process filled with a lot of undesirable nonsense." Unreal spoke to Scott Milford, whose official title at Skyline is "Pastor of Worship Arts." (But he says that sounds "too churchy" and prefers to be known simply as "Music Director.")

Unreal: So this service is going to be led by a comedian/magician/preacher? How does one get that job title?

Scott Milford: Matt Hampel used to do a lot of speaking at church youth events. His delivery style is just kind of manic, crazy, funny — you talk to him for two seconds and you know he's pretty much a nut. He did a traveling circus for most of his childhood, so he developed this presentation of magic and comedy. So he was an obvious fit for the service we're doing.

Those professions do have a lot in common.

[Laughs] Yeah, this whole thing is nuts — it's kind of reflective of the type of church we are. Some churches would advise people never to go to a comedy club. We hold a service there!

How is God funny?

Well, we as Christians believe that He created everything, and humor is something that exists, so somewhat by default He had to have invented it. Anything that is funny, if you use that logic, is going to be traced back to Him.

Like the duck-billed platypus?

Exactly. There's a few instances of creation where you say, "How does that make sense?" There are a few things like that that wouldn't have been created without a certain sense of humor.

What denomination is the least funny, and why?

That depends on the church. It's more which churches are least relevant — that's the key. [So many] churches are not relevant. I mean, who loves to sing hymns? Mostly old Christians.

The most funny, then?

In a literal sense — sincere humor — only churches like Skyline really try to have a sense of humor.

Your church avoids the "undesirable nonsense that usually gets preached in church." What does that mean?

I would say guilt. All the rules that some churches try to put on people — rules about giving money, lifestyle stuff. Don't get me wrong. We're not a church that says, "Live as crazy as you want." But getting back to some of that old-school stuff like drinking, gambling — we're not a church that says, "Don't do those things."


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