This article originally appeared on VICE Alps
The nonprofit organization Soulsaver is basically Austria's cool version of Jehova's Witnesses. You'll usually find its members at various Austrian music festivals, walking around the campsite distributing booklets that promise to preserve the drunken crowd from a fall into hell. I've always really loved the books, especially because my friends and I would read them out loud to each other while drunk in our tents. (The American analogue here is probably the Jack Chick cartoon tracts.)
One of my personal favorites is called Rock im Sarg ("Rock in the Coffin") and it tells the life stories of rockstars who died young due to their excessive lifestyle, like Elvis and Sid Vicious. "Many of them were gifted—they were young, beautiful, rich, and famous, but also addicted..." begins the book. Another classic—which you can download on the Soulsaver website—is Smoke Weed, Snort Coke, Drink, Rock and Die, which also deals with dead celebrities. One chapter of that book is titled "Heath Ledger—from Golden Boy to Murderous Psychopath." (I can only assume the good folks at Soulsaver believe that The Dark Knight was a documentary.)
Soulsaver bills itself as a platform that promotes the Christian faith, bringing young people closer to Jesus Christ. It doesn't just deal with social issues like addiction, but also with current issues. Apparently, Robin Williams battled with depression and killed himself because "he was only half of a believer," while Apple CEO Tim Cook is probably confused and "under the influence of the homosexual agenda."
Soulsaver basically covers the same topics as VICE—drugs, sexuality, politics—only every story comes with a fairly fundamentalist Christian moral: Drugs are bad, gays are abnormal, and technology is evil. When you see Soulsaver members wandering around distributing these pamphlets your first reaction is to smirk to yourself, or maybe admire them a bit for believing so much in something and trying to get young people to get off of drugs and onto Jesus. But when you realize that they're trying to convince you that gays are evil and deserve to die, their silly little booklets seem a lot less funny.
Follow Verena Bogner on Twitter.