Monday, June 25, 2012

Frank Turk
Frank Turk
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Sunday, May 20, 2012

“What goes around, comes around,” they say.  But usually not like this.

Chuck O’Neal, the Beaverton, Oregon, pastor who has recently gained notoriety for suing a former parishioner for libel, has found himself on the receiving end of a law suit—for the very same reason.   And while the defendants in O’Neal’s law suit have drawn considerable sympathy for being dragged into court by the pastor of a large church—presumably benefitting from the resources and good name of his congregation—O’Neal the defendant faces a significantly more formidable legal foe: The Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI, acting through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,  has filed a $1 million law suit against Pastor O’Neal for defaming the Pontiff, the papacy as an institution, and the Roman Catholic Church as an ecclesiastical organization, in comments he made to his congregation in a series of sermons preached at Beaverton Grace Bible Church in April, 2005, following the death of Pope John Paul II.   Particularly damning (no pun intended) were comments O’Neal made in an e-mail to a group of pastors, elders and layman just prior to these sermons: 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tithe or You're Dead

Though evangelicals generally eschew the euphemistic notion of a departed believer “spinning in his grave,” it’s hard not to imagine the posthumous subterranean pirouettes currently being executed by one Adrian Pierce Rogers, who went to his reward in 2005.  The twice-elected president of the Southern Baptist convention, known to most American evangelicals through his TV and radio ministries, served as senior pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in suburban Memphis, Tennessee, for more than three decades.   And while he was no stranger to theological controversy, Pastor Rogers has been spectacularly eclipsed in that department by his successor, 54-year-old Steve Gaines, whose latest pronouncement on Christian giving has raised a few eyebrows—though apparently, not nearly enough.

Pastor Steve Gaines of Bellevue Baptist Church
may need to call another press conference to explain
why his parishioners have been dropping dead
During Bellevue’s annual “Prove the Tithe Sunday” service, Pastor Gaines preached from Acts 5, a text containing one of the most dramatic incidents of the New Testament church: the judgment and sudden deaths of Ananias and Sapphira.  In a feat of eisegesis worthy of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, however, Steve Gaines, who holds a Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, declared this passage to be about tithing:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cue Theme Music.  Cue Host.

HOST:   And welcome back for the third hour of Radio Free T4G, where we are blogging and podcasting, live, direct from the Kentucky Fried Chicken Center in Louisville, Kentucky.  It doesn’t get any better than this!

(music fades).  I am your humble host—so humble, in fact, that I don’t get invited to any of the big conferences, but don’t get me started—wouldn’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist or anything, would I?   Okay, let’s take our first call.  Hello, you’re on Radio Free T4G.

CALLER:   Hi!  Am I on?

HOST:   Yes, you’re on Radio Free T4G.  Who’s this? 

CALLER:   This is Marilee.

HOST:   Hey, Marilee—what’s up?

CALLER:    I’ll tell you what’s up: Those GoAnimate® videos are brilliant!  Just brilliant!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Federal Vision
was all a Big Joke!

 “It just got out of hand,” says Douglas Wilson

One of the most vigorous in-house controversies within the Reformed theological tradition has taken a bizarre turn.  Pastor Douglas Wilson of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, one of the forefathers (and we do mean fathers) of the Federal Vision, has revealed that it was all an elaborate prank, one which got seriously out of hand over the past decade. Rev. Wilson graciously agreed to an interview with Sergius Martin-George, the Steam Tunnels Editor in Charge of Editing Operations, via Skype™, from his home in Moscow, Idaho.

SERGIUS MARTIN-GEORGE: Douglas Wilson, thank you for joining us at The Steam Tunnel.

DOUG WILSON:  Serge, it’s my pleasure.  I really enjoy your blog.

SMG:  Really?  Because that’s high praise coming from someone who has written a book on satire.

DW: Well, you guys have done some really funny stuff.  Loved the pieces on Rick Warren, by the way. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

When Harold Camping made his statement of repentance earlier this year and promised that he would make no more end-of-days predictions, a little voice told me this was going to be big.   It was my wife, Jasmine’s.  “Woody,” she said, “This is going to be big.  You just watch—You’ll see.”

Jasmine was right.  It may be pure coincidence, but it seems to the untrained observer that Camping’s actions have occasioned a “season of repentance” in contemporary evangelicalism.  The statements have come one after the other in rapid succession; some of us can hardly believe their content—let alone who has been making them.  Here’s the story:

Saturday, March 31, 2012

 Have you checked your Facebook page today? Chances are you’ve been “Timelined.”  The space for that cute little profile picture has now been expanded to a huge headline-sized swath of your Facebook home page profile.  In newspaper terms, it’s almost half of what’s “above the fold.”  What might seem a mild inconvenience to some technophobes (many dragged kicking and screaming into using Facebook in the first place) may be, according to some prophecy experts, the first step in the not-so-long march toward the Apocalypse.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Very Bad Prank
Pennsylvania Youth Pastor Alarms Congregation with “Unconscionable Stunt”
Like many Evangelical youth pastors, Paul Craw thought his young charges needed a little shaking up.  So at a recent mid-week service at The Runway Christian Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the 27-year-old minister tried something a little off the beaten path.  But instead of shaking things up, he ended up with a group of hysterical teenagers.  And irate parents.

“He should be fired immediately,” said Tara Spivak of nearby Hummelstown, whose daughter, Justa, 15, has been attending Runway’s Youth Group for the past three years.   “How could he even think that something like this would be okay?”

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pat Robertson Breaks His Silence

by  Leo Sánchez  

Televangelist Pat Robertson has been in overdrive of late.  A generous cluster of verbal gaffes has been keeping late-night comedians and the Huffington Post richly equipped with fodder for mockery and social commentary for some time now. From God’s judgment of the Denver Broncos by re-injuring newly-acquired quarterback Peyton Manning, to oral sex and legalizing marijuana, the hits just keep coming.

It now transpires that Robertson’s verbal effluvium is actually much more prolific and robust than was previously known. A CBN employee, speaking off the record, revealed that a recently-implemented production policy has actually prevented a number of Robertson’s colorful mispronouncements from reaching the public.  That’s right—there’s even more.  Much more.

Monday, March 19, 2012

“We are a simple people, don’t you know.”  

So says Amos Levengood as we zip along New Holland Pike in his horse-drawn buggy. He says it so sternly that putting a question mark after his words would seem impertinent. 

Actually “zipping” would not be an accurate description of the pace of this journey. Nonetheless, we are en route to the Shady Maple Smorgasbord, a local landmark with a buffet the size of a football field, located just east of Blue Ball on Route 23, about 12 miles from Levengood’s home in Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania.  The trip should take about four hours. 

The buggy, a GNL-940, was custom-manufactured for Amos and his family by the Great Northern Livery Company, Inc., of Greenville, Wisconsin. This is about as far a trip as Amos Levengood ever makes.  He has never been more than 100 miles from the house in which he was born. I, by comparison, am a world travel.  But I might as well be a space alien as far as Amos is concerned.  Despite having parents born within the community and having a distinctly Pennsylvania German name, I’m still an “English” to the likes of Amos. My parents left the Amish community in the late 1960s after a botched attempt to establish a break-away community in Delaware.  Our family resettled in Birdsboro, a small, economically depressed “English” town in neighboring Berks County, where we started using electricity, driving automobiles, and shaving.  We also stopped constructing sentences such as “Throw your father down the stairs his hat” (indirect objects wreak havoc in the Pennsylvania German dialect). Amos reminds me of

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Saddleback-Haters to Hold Conference

“You’re right, Rick,” say
conference organizers:
We just don’t like you.”

by Sergius Martin-George

The Ad Hominem Center, Buffalo's brand new
convention facility, will host Saddlebash I.

 Things are tough for Rick Warren.  These days, America’s pastor can’t seem to catch a break.  For years, a standing army of detractors has been on high alert, waiting to pounce on one doctrinal misstep after another, ultimately prompting the Southern California mega-pastor to quip about “Saddleback-haters,” a term he’s used several times in responding to the recent Kingsway controversy. 

Now a group has come forward to confirm that Warren is being neither hyperbolic nor paranoid in his reference to “Saddleback haters”:  They’re here. They’re angry.  And next month, they’re meeting in Buffalo.  However, unlike some groups who oppose Warren purely out of doctrinal concern, the PASS organization—Pastors Against Saddleback Shenanigans—freely admits that its primary motivation is jealousy and personal animus toward America’s pastor.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

When you “spring ahead” tonight (in the United States—March 25 in the U.K.; April 1 in ANZ), will you be compromising your Christian faith?

Think carefully before answering. 

Many Christian believers bristle at the thought of changing their clocks twice a year, even if they can’t quite articulate why.  Perhaps its written on our hearts: If the God of the Universe created time, who are we to fiddle with it—if only semi-annually?  There’s just something....“unright” about the whole thing.

While some historically-minded readers will have immediately thought they have identified the culprit in the form of that saucy Enlightenment deist, Ben Franklin, the roots of the ungodly desire to manipulate time long predate our Philly-based founding father, who advocated as early as 1784 for a form of Daylight Savings Time.

First Easter, now this? Ancient pagan deity
Inana, a.k.a. Ishtar.  Most publicly-available
images of this figure cannot be shown on a
Christian-oriented web site
“If Adam and Eve had clocks in the Garden of Eden, they would have been scrambling to set them back within minutes of eating the forbidden fruit,” says Kent Hovind, a 59-year-old young-Earth creationist, King James–only activist, and entrepreneur-gone-wild, who has had a lot of time to think about time as he is currently doing time in a federal prison in Colorado for tax evasion. “It’s just unnatural, and it speaks to the depravity of man: the urge to change one’s clocks is essentially an idolatrous one.”

Though clocks were not to be found in Eden, it wasn’t long out of the box that conniving potentates were eyeing sun dials and other primitive time-keeping devices with nefarious purposes in mind.  In the Ancient Near East, King Nabunasir of Mesopotamia gained fame and power for solving a vexing problem: the sliding of the calendar due to inconsistencies between the solar year and the lunar calendar then in use.  Nabunasir’s brain child was the addition of seven “intercalary” months within every cycle of 19 years, thus rectifying the problem. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Rick Warren Reaches Out to Extraterrestrials

“We all worship the same God,” says Purpose-Driven Pastor

by Pat Shanks

In what many are claiming is a transparent effort to deflect attention from a recent controversy over his cozying-up to the Muslim community, Purpose-Driven Pastor Rick Warren has come forward to announce that his ministry horizons are far wider than anyone could have ever imagined.

     “Psalm 8 says that the Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” said Warren in a video message addressed to supporters. “I am here to proclaim to you today that the fullness spoken of in the Psalter is about to take on unprecedented meaning.”
     Unveiling an ambitious program to extend the hand of fellowship well beyond the Van Allen radiation belts, “America’s pastor” has revealed that he has been in contact with extraterrestrial intelligence in an effort to spread the Gospel. 
     “I think the big lesson here is: it’s not all about your galaxy,” said Warren.  Accordingly, the mega-pastor’s well-known Global Peace Plan, or “Peace Plan 3.0,”  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

    The second annual Justice Conference took place last weekend in Portland, Oregon, sponsored by World Relief and Kilns College. Speakers included Walter Brueggemann, Shane Claiborne, Miroslav Volf, John Perkins, Rachel Lloyd, and Francis Chan. More than four thousand individuals attended the conference, including blogger and activist Maven Crisp. She recently spoke with ST associate editor Kitty Carlisle-Sánchez via Skype™. 

Kitty Carlisle-Sánchez: Maven, you were live-blogging this event for your own web site,, and one of our readers tipped us off that you would be a good person to speak to about the conference, since we didn’t have sufficient funds to send one of our staff there.  Thanks for joining us today via Skype.
Maven Crisp: So, I’m delighted I could help out.  This is my contribution to social justice for the day (chuckle).        
Kitty Carlisle-Sánchez: As we are indeed delighted to have you. Well give us your overall impressions of the conference.
Maven Crisp: So, it was amazing.  All the speakers were excellent, both in the plenary sessions and in the break-outs.
Kitty: Break-outs, huh?  Well given the apparent left-leaning orientation of the conference, were there any Brechtian break-outs?
Maven: Excuse me?         
KCS: Like people breaking out into song? Spontaneously?
MC: Oh, totally.  Even some of the mimes.  They couldn’t resist.  The Spirit was really moving, I’ll tell you.   
KCS: They had mimes?
MC: Oh, mimes are very important in social justice circles.     
KCS: A lot of evangelical Christians—particularly the more conservative, traditional ones—don’t seem to get this concept of social justice.  Can you help us out, here?  What is social justice anyway?  

Theologian Walter Brueggemann (left) speaks passionately about
the injustice of having one's name constantly mispronounced.
MC: So, justice is a garment, a billion threads, interwoven, interlocked, knit together with strength and integrity. Pull one thread from the fabric and the garment begins to fray….
KCS: Wait, … “Pull ten million threads and justice unravels into injustice?“  Is that it?
MC: Exactly!  So you do get it, Kitty!  How did you know?       
KCS: Because I’m reading from the same pre-packaged conference material you seem to be reading from.  It’s right off the web site.
MC: Oh.  
KCS: Can we just, you know, put aside the talking points for

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It comes only once every four years.  For that reason—and because we weren’t yet online last New Year’s Eve—our crack staff has compiled the following list of predictions we feel will be vindicated by February 29, 2016.

 1  Purpose-Driven pastor Rick Warren will revert to doctrinal orthodoxy.

Following the failure of Warren’s new chat show, The Surah-Hundred Club, a joint venture between TBN and Al Jazeera, Warren hits rock bottom.  He humbly repents, steps down from public ministry for two years, puts himself under the discipleship of a team of godly men (dubbed “The Warren Commission” by cynics), and issues a thoroughly orthodox statement of faith and an accompanying philosophy of ministry.

Of course, we don’t really expect this to happen.  However, Mr. Warren has left no room for any useful satirical speculation.  He’s gone so far off the chart, one can only hope that, by some bizarre theological physics, he will circle back from the other direction and land back on the chart. Lord help us.  Lord help Rick Warren.  

 2   Pastor James MacDonald will announce that the Elephant Room 3 conference, scheduled for February, 2013, will be replaced by a new conference series, Albatross 1. The focus of A1 will be the casting off of the inconvenient truths of biblical Christianity.

Hey HatersIt's time for breakfast.
   3   Digital photographic images of Elevation Church pastor and evangelical wunderkind Steven Furtick will be found to have healing prop- erties; as a second-wave to this phenomenon, people—mostly women, since they are easier to deceive—will begin to discover Furtick’s image baked into French toast and other savory items.  Expect another hagiopic from Elevation's film ministry. 

   Zondervan will introduce the Harry Potter Study Bible.  Come on, you knew this had to be coming.  And you thought TNIV-2010 was something?

 5    5 Pastor Ed Young, Jr., will have a promotion that does not involve rapping or being on a roof. 

It’s got to happen some time.  Just the law of averages.

    6TThe American Civil Liberties Union will come to the aid of street preachers as the 9th circuit—among other courts—declares street preaching to be a hate crime, making it illegal in most of America’s larger cities. When things are so messed up that you pray a Psalm 121 prayer and help comes from the Left, you know things are really messed up.

What is wrong with this man?
 7   Mark Driscoll will experience a very public fall from grace.  Though we can’t disclose the exact nature of the faux hawk pas, we can tell you that Freudians will have a field day with “what-did-we-tell-you”–type declarations.  Non-Freudians are shocked as well.  Quips the nouthetic Jay Adams, “I take back what I said about being competent to counsel. See you later.” 

A brief, redemptive epilogue follows.  Pastor Mark is then approached by the cable network Cinemax about

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ed Young to Hold Fashion Show on Church Roof

by Jude Phakiki Roosevelt

The Texas pastor known variously as a sex therapist, rap artist, deep-sea rescuer, aviation industry booster—almost anything but a preacher of the Gospel—has jumped head-long into his next venture: helping his fellow clergymen look sharp.

The same rooftop that gave us Sexperiment will
play host to Pastorista 2012, a fashion show for
preachers, April 7 in Grapevine, Texas. 
 “Pastors aren’t typically known for their fashion. Most people don’t think of the runway leading up to the pulpit. But why not?!” asks Pastor Ed Young, Jr. “Why can’t the men and women of God set the standard for the rest of the world in fashion as well as faith? That’s why we’re launching We want to set the trends.” To promote awareness of his new web site,,

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In our inaugural SideBar feature, ST looks at the Southern Baptist Convention’s recent nominal angst.   

A blue ribbon  panel for the denomination finally made its recommendation Monday.  And after all that hand-wringing, “Great Commission Baptists” is what we get.  And it’s not even a legal name change.   It’s an “add-on.” Perhaps next time we’ll get a plug-in. 

Monday’s tepid recommendation ends months of speculation that America’s largest single protestant denomination would at long last jettison “southern” from its handle and come up with something cool.

According to an AP report, the panel “rejected a complete name change, citing the legal costs and difficulties like the thousands of will and trusts naming the SBC.”

Apparently, though, it wasn’t from lack of trying. “Convention President Bryant Wright and other church leaders are concerned that the Southern Baptist name is too regional and impedes the evangelistic faith’s efforts to spread the Gospel worldwide.”

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cheetos and Christian Bloggers

A Goliath of U.S. commerce is becoming unnerved by a hoard of pesky Davids. 
     Frito-Lay, a subsidiary of PepsiCo and the largest globally distributed snack food company in the world, has grown tired of the image associated with one of its most successful products.  Created in 1948 by Charles Elmer Doolin, Cheetos has created billions of loyal snackers over the last six decades, and perhaps trillions of orange, cheese-stained fingers and hands.  And therein lies the problem: orange digits and the digital age do not play well together.
     “Cheetos used to be associated with wholesome good fun, and was one of the first comfort foods—an essential component of American culture during the Cold War,” says Robert J. Thompson of Syracuse University, an expert in popular cutlure.  “But now too many people hear ‘Cheetos’ and think ‘middle-aged man blogging in his mom’s basement in a profoundly casual state of attire.’”

Friday, February 17, 2012

Chris Rosebrough attends conference against his will

Rosebrough Abducted
Blogger attends conference against his will

Leo Sánchez
The Steam Tunnel

Blogger and podcaster Chris Rosebrough, host of Fighting for the Faith, the most listened-to Christian podcast in the world, disappeared during a self-imposed ministry hiatus last week.
    Taking some time out after a grueling stretch of programs and conferences, which included being ejected from James MacDonald’s Elephant Room under threat of arrest, the gadfly of the post-Evangelical blogosphere returned to his native Southern California to recharge his batteries and to “put the pirate ship in dry dock for a few days.”
Kidnapped in paradise.  A pirate captain
finds himself landlocked on Tiburón Island
   Thursday afternoon, at approximately 1:45 local time, Rosebrough told friends that he was going to take a long, non-contemplative walk along the beach at San Clemente. He never returned.
  What transpired thereafter was stranger than some of the “guests” on Rosebrough’s daily program.
    Still groggy from an agave-inspired natural sedative, Chris awakened 15 hours later in a one-window room, locked from the outside, overlooking the Gulf of California.  He had a “VIP” identification tag hanging around his neck.

     Following a brief meet-and-greet session, Rosebrough’s captors informed him that he had left the U.S. and was now attending the “Circle the Wagons Conference” put together by a group called “Avengers for the Gospel.”  In fact, he was scheduled as the keynote speaker. 

Mexican federal police in Kino Nuevo prepare
to confront Avengers on Tiburon Island 
     A polyglot consortium of theologically confused men from 33 nations, the A4G contingent had rented out convention facilities on Tiburón Island, opposite the Baja coast.  Unfortunately, none of the aforementioned glots included English. “I first sensed that language might be a barrier when I asked them about the island,” Rosebrough told ST in an exclusive interview.  He noticed that there were no cars or trucks on the island, prompting him to wonder why ferries were incapable of crossing the strait, even though the mainland was clearly visible.  “In somewhat broken English they told me that they had all divested themselves of cars and trucks.”  However, Rosebrough claims, it was not vigorous environmentalism that convinced these guys to take to the streets on foot.  “They told me that they didn’t want to have anything to do with the Motorist Heresy, and that this was one of the reasons they were so eager to have me come down and talk to them.”
   From that point things deteriorated quickly.  “They wanted me to lecture on the Sun-Stand-Still prayer: Normally, I’d have been happy to do so, but these guys were under the impression that I was promoting Sun Stand Still.  They told me they wanted to learn how to do it, reasoning that even a few extra minutes of daylight per 24-hour period could significantly increase tourism in their communities in the off-season winter months.”   

The tipping point came when the group leader, “Céro”—the closest thing Rosebrough ever got to a name while he was in captivity—explained to him that the opening plenary session would be conducted by Dr. Dan Allender, who, by the way, speaks perfect Spanish. 
   “That’s when I knew it was do-or-die for me,” he said.  “The thought of him coming down here and translating words like ‘bruta-ful’ into another language was more than I could bear.  It was bad enough in English.” 
    Despairing even of his life—or at least his sanity—the 43-year-old apologist, who was a varsity swimmer in high school, took to the waves.  Just under two hours later, he had traversed the 1.4-km strait and arrived on the beach at Kino Nuevo, where he was greeted by off-duty agents of the Federales the Mexican Federal Police, who were in the area investigating claims that a young boy had seen something “great and white” moving in the water.  
Rosebrough arrives at U.S. border checkpoint
in Douglas, Arizona, accompanied by Irrigation
and Customs Engagement (ICE) agents.
    Storming the island three hours later, the Federales arrested eight men, including “Céro,” later identified as 34-year-old Paco Warsavian,  whose mixed Mestizo-Slavic family tree is not untainted by international intrigue: a retired Lucha Libre wrestler, Warsavian’s great-grandfather had introduced an ice pick to the “head region” of one Leon Trotsky in Mexico City in 1940.

  An exhausted Chris Rosebrough was escorted by Mexican customs officials to the U.S. border entry at Douglas, Arizona, where he arrived at 5:18 a.m. Mountain Standard Time on Sunday morning.  At an impromptu press conference, Chris reflected on the treatment he received at Circle-the-Wagons.  “Nice guys, for the most part,” he said, explaining that he was taunted at one point by a security guard, who had asked him, “So, how does it feel to be ‘boarded,’ pirate man?”
      “The facilities were actually top-notch.  They even had a gym where I could work out.  And even though this was Mexico, there was always a copy of USAToday outside my door when they came to get me in the morning. The food was good, too. Mexican, mostly. Lots of combo plates—and not one was missing a taco! I don’t know who our chef was, because I never saw him. Whoever he was, though, that man could make a chili relleno like nobody’s business.”