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It's a hot day on Indiantown's Brady Ranch. And pastor Doug Giles has his hands on a gun. A wiry man in fatigues and a crumpled cowboy hat, he crouches between two fat oak trees. Then he locks his sight on a 500-pound nilgai antelope and pulls the trigger.
The bullet hits with a force so fierce that the animal sails four feet into the air. Then for a moment it regains its footing and tries to scramble away. But a shattered front leg flops like a jelly-filled sack. When the minister fires again, the antelope tumbles to the ground.
Giles sells a video of the hunt after Sunday services at his Aventura Clash Christian Church, along with his new book, The Bull Dog Attitude: Get It or Get Left Behind a treatise on muscular Christianity. In Giles's view, the church has grown soft and lazy. And its traditions have become increasingly effeminate. As a result, men have fled the pews, America has lost its moral bearings, and secular forces are "hacking away at our religious roots like Paul Bunyan on crystal meth." Giles aims to fix the problem by injecting testosterone back into the church. And his message is as brash and politically incorrect as it is macho.
He regularly bashes Muslims, undocumented immigrants, feminists, metrosexuals, and liberals of all stripes. And this approach has earned him a modest measure of fame. Each month, he says, more than 300,000 people tune to his Internet show, Clash Radio, where guests have included conservative luminaries like Ann Coulter, Oliver North, and Katherine Harris. He also has a syndicated column on Townhall.com. Three million people visit the site each day, and it publishes screeds from dozens of conservative icons, among them Michelle Malkin and William F. Buckley.
Giles, now 43 years old, has always been something of a rabble-rouser. The Lubbock, Texas native says he began smoking pot at age twelve. During his teens, he stole, dealt drugs, and spent almost as much time in the principal's office as in class. His college years weren't much better. He flunked out and then drifted for a while. "His rebelliousness took its toll on the family," says his sister, Paula Winger. "All those nights they stayed up worrying really aged my parents."
Then at age 21, Giles found Christ, and his life changed. He enrolled in Texas Tech University and graduated. Then, after dabbling in business for a while, he launched a church called Covenant Christian Fellowship in his hometown.
In some ways, though, he remained the same. "He never lost that radical streak," explains Winger. "He doesn't worry what the fallout is going to be, who he's going to offend. He has a fierce, no-compromise attitude."
Giles moved to Miami in 1996, along with wife Mary Margaret and daughters Regis and Hannah. New Times has requested interviews with him four times since October 2005, but each time he declined. He did provide some basic information via e-mail, including the reason he chose Miami. "Great place for ministry," he wrote. "Wild and multicultural."
Four years after arriving in the Magic City, Giles launched Clash Christian Church (originally called His People Christian Church). Around the same time, he founded Clash Radio. Initially it aired on Miami's WMCU-FM (89.7) and a Texas transmitter. The program had a number of dedicated fans, but it also drew droves of complaints. And eventually WMCU dropped it.
It's not difficult to understand why some believers might object to Giles's message. During a recent service, he told parishioners: "You couldn't drag me into most churches even if you used meat hooks and wild horses." In his columns, he dismisses most Christian music as "saccharine-laced slush" and calls for an "end to the preaching by whiny, quiche-eating, preening nancy boys."
Some liberal groups have taken issue with Giles's approach. "He uses ridiculous hyperbole," says Paul Waldman, senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a watchdog organization that monitors Giles's column. "This kind of talk isn't about convincing anybody. It's about defining who the enemy is and shutting down reasoned dialogue. And that's dangerous."
But Giles's unvarnished style has also opened doors for him. Each episode of Clash Radio begins with a blast of heavy metal followed by a Giles monologue and an interview with a prominent conservative. Jonathan Garthwaite was among the guests on the show in February 2004. Before his interview, he caught one of Giles's rants. It railed against the "media elite," a.k.a. the "wannabe-Euro-socialist-talking-heads that carp, fart, and blather anti-American sentiments."
Garthwaite liked what he heard. "Doug discusses cultural and religious issues in a way that appeals to the common person," he explains. "And he never minces words." He asked Giles to submit a version of his anti-media screed as a sample column for Townhall. It ranked third among all columns on the site the week it appeared, according to Giles.
Garthwaite wouldn't confirm this claim. "I'm not in the business of ranking," he says. But the experiment was successful enough that he offered Giles a permanent spot. And today he notes, "Doug's column is consistently among the top ones on the site."