So you go to church every Christmas and Easter, do you? Or perhaps you dress up in your Sunday best and tag along with grandma once a month. Maybe you even go every week, although the fact that you're reading Riptide suggests otherwise.
Well, sorry to break it you but your devotion still pales in comparison to that of roughly 1,000 members of Trinity Church in North Miami. These Pentecostals are so pious they are starving themselves for Jesus.
When Riptide visited Trinity last Tuesday evening, the church smelled like a high school locker room: all sweat and perfume. More than a 1,000 young Miamians -- Haitians, Cubans, Venezuelans, African-Americans, and Caucasians -- were packed into a low-slung concert hall for a weekly event called "The Rendezvous," or simply "The Vous."
The scene was straight out of MTV, but without ass cheeks and F-bombs. Christian rock blared from loudspeakers. On stage, a multicultural rainbow of singers jumped up and down to the ever-quickening beat. God only knows where they got the energy: Many of them are hadn't eaten solid food in weeks.
Terrence Wilson, a pastor at Trinity in his late 20s, was one of them. He was a month into a 40-day liquid-only fast in the name of Jesus, but bounding around the stage in a backwards cap like Method Man, high on something supernatural. Beside him, Rabson Senat, who hadn't eaten anything but fruits, vegetables, and Ensure in weeks, was crooning to the rafters like R. Kelly.
"The liquid fast is really tough," said Senat, a handsome, black 26-year-old in a T-shirt and jeans. "I just drink water and a shake at lunch. Sometimes I get headaches for food, but they just remind me to pick up The Book and read."
Trinity pastor Rich Wilkerson Sr. -- a prosperity-gospel televangelist and Ken doll look-alike -- began promoting fasts 12 years ago as a way to deepen church members' relationships with God. Now roughly one third of Trinity's nearly 3,000 members are on some sort of fast, according to Liz Eden, director of communication for Trinity Church.
Many, like fiancées Jason Hodges and Allison Funes, have restricted themselves to consuming only liquids one day per week. Others practice a "Daniel fast," a fruits, vegetables, and nuts-only diet named after the Biblical figure who refused to eat at King Nebuchadnezzar's sumptuous table.
Not surprisingly, fasting for Jesus isn't always healthy. Andre Etienne, a student at Miami Dade College who will sprint the 400-meter dash in next year's Olympics for Haiti, was two weeks into a liquid-only diet when his body basically shut down.
"Everything was out of whack," he said. "My body was cold even though it was hot outside. My joints hurt." Despite getting sick and setting back his Olympic training for at least several months, Etienne said he had no regrets. In fact, he's now on a Daniel fast.
"Although it would seem kind of radical to some people, I didn't want to just play church," he said before going back on stage. "I wanted radical change in my life."
Etienne and his fellow church members stop fasting on February 11.
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SHOW ME HOW
Here's a video of Rich Wilkerson Jr. promoting something called The Vous Conference later this year. Apparently, Trinity Church is bringing ol' JC to SoBe: