Beating up the Power Team

The Power Team is one of many evangelical circus shows—they specialize in doing energetic school assemblies where they rip telephone books in half and breaking bricks, all with the intent of getting people to attend their tent revival shows where they somehow argue that all the machismo makes them better Christians. In a beautiful example of fighting meat with mind, though, John Foust has an excellent page of information on their evangelical intent that he has successfully used to shut down their shows in public schools. If your local schools start advertising one of these meathead shows, that’s a resource you’ll find useful.

The PowerTeam web page is just sad. For instance, their senior member has been doing this act for 20 years:

John has blown up over 2,000 hot water bottles, and has literally crushed countless tons of ice and concrete with his fist, forearm, and head.

Put that on his epitaph someday. I was also dazzled with the background of the “smart one” of the group:

Jonathan can also bench press over 400 pounds and has a strong mind, holding two degrees in Sports Medicine and Christian Education.

Sure, they can bend rebar with their bare hands, but I get the impression that if their combined IQ were a temperature, it would scarcely suffice to make a tepid soup.

(via Austin Atheist


  1. says

    Wow! That post of mine is really making the rounds. Thanks for the link, PZ. Pehaps we could start a traveling circus. You could rip volumes of creationist literature in half, and I’ll break the 10 Commandments with my face. Sound good?

  2. Dahan says

    Sport Medicine and Christian Education? OK, I’m not gonna take anything away from all you Kinesthetics folks but come on! It isn’t the sort of degree you throw around to impress people with how brilliant you are…any more than my Masters of Fine Arts. And Christian Education…perhaps the most obvious oxymoron I’ve heard.

  3. says

    if their combined IQ were a temperature,

    Meausured in Celcius or Farenheit?

    Posted by: Dianne | June 11, 2007 10:22 AM

    I say make it Kelvin. The number will be higher and feed their egos, but still won’t make tepid soup.

  4. Fox1 says

    Bob (a.k.a. AustinAtheist): I’ll break the 10 Commandments with my face.

    Hee hee, depending how you interpret this sentence, it’s a pretty amusing mental image.
    I can see taking the lord’s name in vain, adultery and even murder, but how can you break the commandment to remember the sabbath and keep it holy…. with your face?

  5. J-Dog says

    Thanks for the link… another threat to watch out for. I wonder how mcuh they would charge to demonstrate their fantastic powers at a certain museam-like structure in KY?

  6. AEB says

    As a junior in high school (about 15 years ago), I was subjected to these clowns in the form of a mandatory all school assembly. If I had it to do over today, I would walk up on stage in the middle of it and invite my fellow classmates to walk out with me. The whole show was clearly one long commercial to get us to come to their weekend church shows. They didn’t make any attempt to hide it either, preaching religion to us in from of, and with the blessing of, the teachers and administration. I can’t believe this freak show is still in business.

  7. Richard Clayton says

    Hey, I think these guys came to my high school in the last quarter of my senior year. Whoever they were, they did pretty much the same list of stunts– ripping phone books in half, breaking handcuffs, et cetera. I personally wasn’t impressed; you’d get more intellectual content watching half an hour of WWF X-TREEM SMACKDOWN.

    Afterward, the school principal told the students that he had expected an anti-drug message, not gospel-preaching.

  8. mjfgates says

    I’ve always found that the phone book works better if you *read* it, rather than tearing it into pieces.

  9. J Daley says

    Sports Medicine and Xian Education? That’s like negative half a degree.

    Child: How was Jesus resurrected on the third day?

    Sports Medicine + Xian Education Degree Holder: God told him to walk it off.

  10. Firemancarl says

    Well, let see. I’m 6’2″ and I weigh 235 pounds and I bench press 300 pounds and most important I say “Jesus Christ!” a lot.

    Am I on the team?????

  11. JasonG says

    This gives us a pretty good idea of how much (or little) these folks respect books.

  12. HP says

    I seem to remember reading or seeing something years ago about those strongman tricks: Apparently, they’re just that: tricks. A bit of physics, some showmanship, practice, and a little sleight-of-hand, and anyone can rip a phone book in half, burst a hot-water bottle, or bend rebar. As Marshall Brodine used to say, “Magic is easy — once you know the secret.”

    I believe the debunker was James Randi, but my Google-fu is failing to turn up anything concrete on the web.

  13. Richard Clayton says

    So #16, here’s the real question: Are these self-described “Christian” groups simply lying to school administrators when they describe the content of their performances?

    Or are the school administrators complicit, and trying to cover themselves afterward by saying “Gee, I didn’t KNOW they’d do that!”

    In my case, I’d be willing to suspect the principal; he had a painting of Jesus hanging in the hall outside his office. (A fair-skinned, blonde, blue-eyed Jesus. You’d think that would be a rather unlikely combination in the Middle East of 2,000 years ago, but hey…)

  14. says

    Child: How was Jesus resurrected on the third day?

    Sports Medicine + Xian Education Degree Holder: God told him to walk it off.< ,blockquote>

    No pain, no gain.

  15. says


    I dunno about the others, but I used to be pretty good with the telephone book trick. You fold the pages (think geosyncline) so that you’re effectively tearing only one page at a time. The only difficult part is getting the tear straight, so you tear the book in two instead of just ripping off one corner.

  16. Greg Peterson says

    I think the whole thing is a wink-wink affair, in which the groups are CLEARLY lying about their nature and intent, and school administrators go along with it. In this respect, it’s just like the intelligent design publicity movement. The Discovery Institute pretends they’ve cooked up some science, and some school boards pretend to believe that it’s science. Dover proved this. Perhaps secularisms greatest hope is that all of this religious garbage, from “crisis pregnancy centers” to historical revisionism to faux cosmology and biology will eventually collapse under the burden of its own lies. Despite the way they have been cynically and cruelly expoited by (to use Hitchens’ great phrase) “Chaucerian frauds,” people do wake up. Even in the Dark Ages, with little information available and an iron-fisted church monopoly, there had to be thousands of people who saw the transparent absurdity of what they were being commanded to believe.

  17. RamblinDude says

    I can’t help but be reminded of something I read once. This James Randi type guy was checking out one of these groups who did karate demonstrations by breaking boards for Jesus. They would let audience members come up and break a few boards and ‘feel the power of the Lord’.

    So this guy went to the lumber yard to buy some of the boards. The man selling them said, “Oh ya, I sell a lot of these boards to that Christian group. Be careful how you stack them in you car because if you go over a big bump they’ll break.” Praise the Lord!

  18. says

    I actually had a book when I was a kid that taught you how to do stuff like ripping a phone book in half. It was called “1001 Sneaky Feats,” if you’re interested.

    The trick for the phone book was actually baking it in a low-temp oven for a half-hour or so. If you remove the cover first, and slip it on later, nobody will see the brittle pages– and it does rip quite impressively!

  19. says

    We should get some video of that phone-book-ripping trickery and post it on teh intarwebs. Anybody have a phone book they’d be willing to donate to science?

    (Can you believe that neither “teh” nor “intarweb” is in Firefox’s spelling dictionary? For shame.)

    The Power Team — and gosh, that name sounds like a satire of itself — came to my middle school. We had a mandatory school-wide assembly in the gym, at which we received an anti-drug talk but not, as I recall, any evangelizing. (I have a dim memory that one of the rebar-benders announced they’d be having another, longer demonstration at one of the local churches that weekend.) I was a New Atheist before the New Atheism was new, and even in middle school I was fairly prickly about the authoritarian theism in which the principal and company were steeped, so I think I would remember any outright evangelical shenanigans.

    After the assembly, a goodly number of us students talked about how the tricks could be faked.

    Suddenly, I’m reminded of another episode in our schools’ ceaseless effort to keep us children away from Teh Drugs. In seventh or eighth grade, the local D.A.R.E. people tried to organize a balloon release. The idea was that each student who took the “Proud to be Drug Free” pledge would get a red balloon (and possibly a pin to wear, too, I forget) and one day, we would congregate on the recess field and release our balloons in a great plastic paroxysm of pledge-fueled pride.

    The event was canceled due to lack of student interest.

  20. Peter McGrath says

    Why rip phone books in two? They’re useful. They could demonstrate their strength by ripping a thick, geniunely useless book i half. The Bible.

  21. Greg Peterson says

    Jehovah has front-loaded Bibles with starfish genes so that if you rip then in half, each half just becomes a new Bible. Hey, Christians–try it for yourself!

  22. Anonomouse says

    LOL, looks like their “Power Site” folded to a few hundred web hits.

    I wish all supernatural crapola folded up as eaisly.

  23. Colugo says

    On the subject of Christian machismo…

    Chuck Norris:

    “I was wondering the other day, if I ran for president, what would be my campaign promises? …

    If I’m elected president, I will …

    Tattoo an American flag with the words, “In God we trust,” on the forehead of every atheist.”


    Just say no to atheism – hail the tentacled Satan.

  24. Wolfhound says

    Holy crap (no pun intended)! There was a television commercial for these guys on local television for a “performance” being held at a high school in the next redneck county over from MY redneck county in Central Florida back in January or so. If I’d known the truth about them then I’d have complained. Really, the commercial was like one of those for the monster truck jamborees that are so popular among the Southern Baptist, NASCAR watching, Moon Pie eating, wife beating for Jesus crowd. Guess they know their target audience, eh?

    My apologies to any of you out there who actually watch NASCAR, BTW. ;)

  25. James says

    If he has two undergraduate degrees in sports science, would that mean he’s so thick he had to do it twice?

  26. wrpd4 says

    I always used to wonder why god hated hot water bottles so much. When my sons were young, we would watch these guys on TBN. Their comment was WTF? I saw one of the beefier guys talking to the show’s host one night and he said he was going to build a mighty army of brick-bashing, board-breaking, waterbottle-bursting Jocks for Jesus. He said the group would be called Integrity. They dropped that name because, I think, someone told them that Integrity was the name used by a group of gay and lesbian Episcopalians. Personally I would really be converted by a group of Contortionists for Christ.

  27. mikmik says

    Y’know, I saw them guys up here in Canada 30 years ago when I was 15 yrs old and in grade ten, and they made so much sense that I converted to their church. I’m still in grade ten! And my mom won’t let me use the phone books!
    I am, however, very good at inflating inner tubes at the beach, balloons at parties, ya know – a fantistic source of air ;)

    Man, can I yell ‘PRAISE THE LORD, GOD DAMMIT’ loud, too, snnniiifff!!

  28. says

    When I was poor I went to the local skid-row church after drinking at the local dive because you could get free hot-dogs and pop while they harangued you about the usual bullshit. There I saw the female member of the crew (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) and she did her bits, which were HILARIOUS.

    Anyway, the best bit was the summary of her act in which she told a story about Jesus from the Christian apocrypha, which riled the locals who started yelling “NO HE DIDN’T!” She yelled back “YES HE DID!” and won the argument, as people who break ice-blocks with their foreheads often do. Good times.

  29. says

    On the subject of Christian machismo…

    Chuck Norris:

    “I was wondering the other day, if I ran for president, what would be my campaign promises? …

    If I’m elected president, I will …

    Tattoo an American flag with the words, “In God we trust,” on the forehead of every atheist.”

    I wonder if Norris has considered that there was another regime noted for its compulsory tattooing. Perhaps Norris is on the same wavelength, considering that the other regime thought that it had “Gott mit uns”.

  30. Casey says

    Oh man, these guys came to my high school twice and even at that tender young age I could see through that bullshit. I remember in our gymnasium, we had a volleyball net up. They informed us that the holes in condoms were so large, that the AIDS virus could fly through the net and he demonstrated by throwing a small ball through the large net. Therefore, we should be abstinent. It is funny, that is a powerful memory from my youth that hasn’t faded with age.

  31. Uber says


    Funny you mention the AIDS/condom virus idea. It’s so true of course that African nations want to encourage theiruse to slow the spread of the disease. I heard it this year on mylocal HS campus from someone representing this group as well.

    He spewed a myriad of bogus items and frankly few bought what he was selling.

  32. says

    I’m the fellow who made that site.

    How does it happen? Yes, I think principals aren’t told of the evening tent shows. I think many of them don’t research the groups, either. I think they rely on advice from other teachers or principals, some of whom could be church members eager to promote. My site explains their exploitation of the “negative option,” too. If they’re NOT told to NOT do something, they’ll do it. So if they’re not prohibited from handing out literature, they’ll do it. I think they carefully assess how much they can get away with.

    Fortunately, I think there are enough parents and enough school board members who will wisely cast a skeptical eye towards these groups, if they are told of their true promotional nature. There is plenty of opposition to proselytization across the spectrum of believers and non-believers.

  33. K says

    Considering how many body builders are on ‘roids, are we suppose to believe that these guys are all natural? Or is that not important? The pictures look suspect, they have that swollen-organ look about them and women shouldn’t have square lantern-jaws. My point is, only morons take steroids, the stereotype exists that jocks are dumb, and we know fundies are idiots. So who’s going to take a bunch of moronic dumbbell idiots seriously? It’s amusing that they, “think,” this showmanship will add to their church coffers.

  34. says

    No need for name-calling!

    The Power Team members insist they themselves lead a drug-free life and do not use steroids. However, I have never heard that they’ve ever offered any results from any medical test that might provide a bit of evidence towards that claim. I think we’ll just have to take it on faith. :-)

    Has there been any ‘roid-rage? In 2003, the original founder of the Power Team was charged with assault for beating up a former employee who went to work for a rival “strength ministry”. About the same time, the evangelical community seemed much more upset when he divorced his wife, went bankrupt, remarried, then annulled the second marriage, too.