Friday, January 14, 2011

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St. Peter “the rock” is Actually a Man from Lebanon Called Simon!

Two days ago, I published a post criticizing the Lebanese Broadcasting Channel (LBC) because they featured a charlatan who claims to be a clairvoyant. Today, however, I would like to praise them.

Ahmar bil Khat Al AreedEvery Thursday night, LBC airs a very controversial program titled “Ahmar Bil Khat Al Aareed” (which translates literally to “Red in Bold”). Each week, a different theme is examined on the show; the topics range from social and personal situations to bizarre phenomena taking place in Lebanon and the Arab World. During each episode, the host—Malek Maktabi, whom I believe is the perfect host for this show because of his boldness and probing character—welcomes individuals who have come to the show to tell their story. Those people sit on one side of the stage, surrounded by a live audience. On the opposite side, a team of professionals in fields depending on the theme of the episode are invited to take part in the discussion and to give their opinion on the different cases being investigated. A bold red line painted on the floor of the stage—as suggested by the title of the show—divides it in two. This symbolizes that the topic being explored is one that crosses the line of the Lebanese social norms(or that of the countries in the surrounding region).

Ahmar bil Khat Al Areed 2I’ve always enjoyed watching this program because of its controversial nature, as well as the freedom of speech it encourages—the majority of the Lebanese media is rather conservative. The show has handled a lot of interesting topics. But yesterday’s theme was one that got me glued to my couch, and made me think, right away, of writing this blog post. This week’s episode was discussing a new Christian sect—or more precisely a cult—being practiced in Lebanon.

I wasn’t able to find any information online on this specific episode nor any videos. In case anything surfaces in the next couple days I will append them to this post. As for now, I will rely upon my memory of watching the show.

Simon, or St. Peter as he prefers to be called, is a middle aged man born and living in Lebanon. Dressed in a tuxedo, and with a very serious tone, he started to explain his story. Holding a big wooden cross, with which he was doing the sign of the cross and chiming blessings—he told Makatabi (the host) and the audience how it all started. He said god spoke to him and told him that he is St. Peter “the rock”, and that from now on he has a mission: to preach His word and lead a sort of rehabilitation or reformation of the church “from the inside and outside”. Proud of the holy weight placed upon him, he established a locale and named it “the attic”. Inside he setup a mini church, where he leads personalized sermons in the presence of his five followers—or disciples as they like to be address—and other folks who believe in him. However, during these sermons it is not Simon who preaches; it is St. Peter inside the body of Peter. According to one of his lady disciples—who was also on the show, when St. Peter possesses Simon, his voice changes and he becomes a mere messenger, through whom god delivers his word.
After reciting his story, a documentary was played, in which one of his Sermons was filmed inside “the attic”.

Ahmar bil Khat Al Areed 3The short preview of Simon’s “act”, was one of the funniest clips I’ve ever seen. Dr. Walid Sarkis, a clinical psychologist lurking on the opposite side of St. Peter, was given the queue by Maktabi to comment on what has been said and seen so far. Despite being very blunt and outspoken—in my opinion not a bad thing when dealing with someone like Simon—his response was priceless. I wish there were any transcriptions of this episode to quote from; but I will have to do with what I remember. Dr. Sarkis, started his short speech, by telling Makatabi that he has been trying to “find god” throughout his life—but couldn’t—and now unexpectedly, in the studio, he is face to face with god, St. Peter and Mary(he was referring to another of the show’s guests; a Muslim woman who claims she was visited by the virgin Mary, who told her she will a son, and she should call him “Issa” the Arabic-Muslim name of Jesus). So Dr. Sarkis was sarcastically thanking the host for giving him this opportunity. From sarcasm he then moved to the more serious and academic talk. He told Simon that he suffers from clinical delusion; he took out drug tablets from his pocket and flashed them in front of St. Peter, the audience and the camera; he told Simon that he hopes he would take this medical advice and that he is willing to give him, and his “disciples”, the tablets for free.
After this dramatic display, Simon replied aggressively; and a series of back-and-forth inaudible shouting followed.

During the following segment, a nun also sitting on the professionals bench, was given the word. She was strict in claiming that this phenomenon is heretical; and similarly to what Dr. Sarkis said, Simon and his followers must be stopped using any means required. However, the reason I started this post by expressing a praisal for LBC, is because Maktabi—who is usually objective and tries not to take any side—had probably realized the seriousness of the issue, and for this reason he displayed a strict condemnation of the case. This is, in my opinion, the right approach to handle this phenomenon. They showed how disturbing and serious the case of Simon is; the media should never be in a position reinforcing a such dangerous case.

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