The ravers who get high on God
The ravers who get high on God
By DAVID LOWE
Published: 21 Jan 2010
WILD-EYED and out of control, the clubbers flail wildly to a booming beat.
With sweaty clothes clinging to their backs, some people even pass out.
While this could easily be mistaken for a dodgy booze and drug-fuelled party, there is something very different about Sloshfest.
The revellers are party loving Christians who don’t drink or take drugs — but say their euphoria is down to the power of God and their seeming drunkenness due to “God-ka” and the “yum rum of Heaven”.
Last weekend around 600 people attended the annual rave-like event — where no alcohol or drugs are available — at the dowdy Dolphin Club in Barry Island, South Wales. Now in its fourth year, it attracts visitors from alternative churches around the UK.
Sloshfest organiser David Vaughan invited me along to experience the religious revolution first-hand.
The 38-year-old from nearby Pontypool is a former drug-user who makes no apologies for painting God as a party animal who wants to win over youngsters with supernatural highs.
Bizarrely, David greets me at the door wearing a monk outfit — he is joined by dozens of dancing pirates, an Abraham Lincoln, a unicorn, winged fairy and a court jester draped in Christmas lights.
After leading me to a quiet room away from the madness, David says: “This behaviour and message is bringing liberation to a world that doesn’t want Christianity as it has been.
“People are looking for something relevant to them. If you like to party, drink and take drugs, our advice is, ‘Don’t drink Vodka, drink God-ka’.
“There is no greater high than the Most High. When you come into God’s presence there is an intoxication that is overwhelming.
“It is filled with life and brings you to another level of joy unspeakable, liberating you from fears and inhibitions you find in the world. It is a blissful sense of liberty.
“This isn’t offensive to the Lord, but it is to the religious folk who attend a dead organisation.
“Heaven is going to be wild. God will show up and be the life of the party. We want to see fun coming back into the Church.”
Christians who claim to get high on the Holy Spirit and drunk on Heaven’s wine have caused outrage in the USA.
Dozens of complaints about blasphemy have been posted on YouTube videos of the movement’s best-known advocate, John Crowder.
The former alcoholic, whose fans are dubbed “Crowderites”, is at Sloshfest and typically slurs through sermons about “smoking the Baby Jesus”, being “whacked out” and “tokin’ on the Holy Ghost”.
Event organiser David reveals God guided him to establish Emerge Wales, the group behind Sloshfest, which calls itself “A rising supernatural movement in the UK who are burning for Jesus”.
He says: “From around the age of 18 I got into drink and drugs. I’d take speed, acid, amphetamine and smoke cannabis every day.
“Three years later I went to a church in Newport with a friend who’d reformed and I realised Jesus had plans for my life. I gave myself to him and that ripped out the desire for drugs and alcohol.
“I began praying and studying God’s word and remortgaged my house to devote myself even more.
“We set up Emerge Wales four years ago because, globally, spiritual eyes and ears are opening. God wants us to enjoy his wine and embrace the spiritual realm.
“Jesus changed my life dramatically and now I work for him to spread his message and love.”
Back in the main room the party is pumping, with dry ice, airhorns and dazzling disco lights adding to the debauched atmosphere.
A middle-aged woman calling herself Pinky Pirate dashes to the front and grabs a microphone.
The crowd screams with delight as she shakes uncontrollably and bellows: “It is such a wild fire. It is a fierce wild fire. It is untamable and undomesticated.”
Even bigger cheers are reserved for talented American singer Ben Dunn who takes the stage for a set of high-octane Christian tunes.
Amid the chaos a woman dressed as a pirate queen crawls past muttering. Strangely, despite no sign of alcohol or drugs being consumed, she and many other worshippers look spaced out, with red, puffy eyes and a vacant stare. Standing up, she shakes my hand and slurs: “I’m Mrs Jesus. I love my husband.
“He makes me so happy. I love him but I’m a bit drunk.”
At a lunch break I make a beeline for the woman, who now appears sober as she helps herself to the salad buffet.
Jesse Reid is a singer and actress from Maidenhead, Berks, who admits she once found this worship distasteful.
The 30-year-old says: “Five years ago this would have been so offensive to me. It can seem shocking if you’re not used to it.
“I had an operation which went wrong, followed by three years of ill health because my system was smashed. During that time I got really close to God — I felt him dwelling in me in an almost physical sense.
“When I’m worshipping I know I look absolutely insane, but that’s how I’m affected by my heavenly daddy.
“The pirate costume shows I’m involved in stealing back his treasure. We’ve been robbed of lots of good stuff and it’s time to take it back for God.
“All over the world there are Christians dressing as pirates to show he is their compass, Jesus is their captain and the Holy Spirit is the wind in their sails.
“Of course we all like to drink the yum rum of heaven, too.”
In 2005, John Crowder wrote The New Mystics, a religious book promoting Sloshfest-style ecstatic worship and mystical Christianity.
His ideas appealed to people like David Vaughan around the world and a second volume, The Ecstasy Of Loving God, followed last year. While John holds no official position within the movement, his influence is undeniable — both books are selling at the Sloshfest memorabilia stall.
John will feature in a fascinating new documentary called The YouTube Prophet, on Current TV at 10pm on February 22.
Before addressing the lively Welsh crowd, the 6ft 5in David Blaine lookalike tells me he became a Christian after a Godly experience on LSD.
John, 33, from California, says: “I was a party guy at college and became an alcoholic within the first year, sometimes downing up to 36 beers in a single day. I also did recreational drugs and during an LSD trip in a bar I had a profound encounter with God. I knew that if I went to sleep that night without changing my ways, I would surely die.
“When I sobered up I stopped doing drugs and became devoted to Jesus.
“Now I want people to see that church isn’t dour and dreary. It is an awareness of the mystical, fun and joyful nature of God.”
Moments later John is on the stage encouraging the crowd to enjoy the “love fest” and drink their fill of God’s wine.
Outside, a curious passer-by peers through a steamed-up window. Chuckling, he shakes his head and says: “Looks like one hell of a party.”