Laughing at, not with, Focus 

Focus on the Family, our village's highly respected religious cult, has for many years addressed the important and serious social questions facing humanity such as how long it takes to cure a gay man getting him to stop fussing over the decorative throw pillows and the salad forks and pick up a goddamn chainsaw like a normal guy.

Focus has, by the way, determined the gay-to-straight conversion time is 12 weeks. Unless the start of treatment coincides with a new season of the popular TV fashion show Project Runway. Then, frankly, nothing much gets done.

But now there's been a major shift at Focus away from a serious approach to a more humor-and-joke-based format. Here's a good one that's been going around its offices: Two gays and a lesbian walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and says, "All three of you will burn in the flames of hell for all of eternity just as Jesus Christ our Savior, the son of God, has vowed!"

That one made Focus executive Tom Minnery laugh so hard his next five darts completely missed the Ellen Degeneres-Portia de Rossi wedding photo hanging on his wall.

The transformation of Focus, from an organization completely unaware most people laughed at it to one that now actively seeks laughter, began a few weeks ago. It was kicked off by its evangelical Christian comedian Stuart ("How many Jews does it take to screw in a light bulb? Who cares? They killed Jesus.") Shepard, who recorded a three-minute video in Denver aimed at Focus followers.

(Oops. Hold on. That last two-word phrase set off my computer's redundant alarm.)

Anyway, in the video Shepard suggested all wacky evangelical Christians join him in asking God to drench Barack Obama with rain during his scheduled Democratic nomination speech Aug. 28 at Invesco Field.

(Footnote: I won't get into any political discourse here and will not in any way express my own personal thoughts on the upcoming election. But one apparent meaning of the pray-for-rain tape was that maybe Obama, a great man and our next president, would get wet and cold and maybe sick. This might leave the door open for Republican John McCain, a war hero who has stayed remarkably healthy since being released by his captors after the Kassite invasion of Babylon in 1720 BC.)

Here are a few actual lines from Shepard on the video, explaining why he'll pray for heavy rain during Obama's speech: "Why would I pray for that? Well, I'm still pro-life. And I'm still in favor of marriage being only between one man and one woman. And I'd like the next president, who will select justices for the U.S. Supreme Court, to agree."

The real problem, however, came when Focus loyalists the folks in mobile homes who send the Mothership envelopes with $20 bills so they'll go to heaven failed to get the joke.

Imagine that.

"It's called hyperbole. It's meant to be humorous," Shepard told the Gazette, whose higher-ups laughed so hard they laid off 50 more longtime workers so they could once again pad the offshore bank accounts of their California corporate executives.

But typical Focus devotees were confused by what Shepard called his "mildly humorous" video, and they didn't get the joke. Many actually prayed for heavy rain to soak the presumptive Democratic nominee. Or as Focus people call him, "that crazy negro."

Let's be honest. A lot of these folks wouldn't get a joke even if they were in the bar when the priest, the rabbi, Ted Haggard, Sen. John Edwards' lover and a duck walked in. (I'll send you the punch line to that one for $5.)

Anyway, from Focus on the Family's Minnery, who stopped throwing the lesbian-maiming darts long enough to order the video removed from his cult's Web site: "We are not about confusing people about prayer."

I'm glad Minnery and Focus straightened that out.

Because we sure wouldn't want people laughing at them.


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