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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hey Mister Preacher Man

Knoville UT Crazy PreacherOkay, so you've all probably figured out by now that I'm no real fan of radical preachers. I've been a little gun-shy of them ever since Fred "bat-poo crazy" Phelps first showed up on the UW campus protesting the Russell Henderson trial, and my distaste of them has only increased in recent years as I've seen others like them start to spring up.  Ironically, just two weeks after I did a series on WBC protests and the counter-protesters who mock them on my blog, we had this show up on our campus: three guys walking right out of Protestant nineteenth century America to hold a scream-off with a bunch of postmodern college students.  Damn.  

These three fellas showed up last week on campus, too.  Their main preacher was a walking anachronism, dressed up like an antebellum carnival barker, down to the striped shirt, vest and flat-topped straw hat.  I kept waiting for the nightmare to end so he'd just go back to hocking boiled peanuts and cotton candy like a guy in his outfit was supposed to be doing.  Instead, he preached for hours, in unconnected ideas for the most part, about sexual sin, disobedience to God, and turning to Jesus for salvation-- and a lot about Hell.  There was not a whit about God's love or having a relationship with Jesus that exists beyond just our fear of hell to something deeper and more satisfying.  There was a lot about God as taskmaster, disciplinarian and judge without any hint of God as pursuing lover, bridegroom or loving father.  That's not even half of the message, folks.

Knoville UT Crazy Preacher
I was standing out in the heat this afternoon taking pictures of these two when I found myself surrounded by six lesbians and a bi-curious male of my acquaintance while they chatted about the preachers and their "sodomite" condemning sign.  It was weird, to be honest; they were all chill and accepting of their presence, just ignoring the message and poking fun of the messenger, and I was the one getting bent out of shape.  I told one of them, "for me it's like having that lunatic uncle who shows up to every family reunion, gets wasted, makes a total fool out of themselves and totally embarrasses you.  You know what I mean?"  She just laughed and told me I needed to relax.  What I really wanted to do was apologize to them each personally for the yahoos holding the yellow sign. 

But, seriously, Mister Preacher Man, what exactly is it you think you're accomplishing by trotting into an environment you know nothing about and spewing your condemnation upon it?   This is not Old Testament Mesopotamia and you sure as heck are no Ezekiel.   You know nothing of these people, their individual lives, their needs or fears.  And since you can't speak to their needs in love, all that leaves you with is condemnation because you can't love a stranger, but you can judge them. 
Knoville UT Crazy Preacher

Actually, you don't care about this campus.  If you love people enough to want to see them saved, like you kept claiming to the passersby, then why aren't you getting to know the names of some of these "sodomites" and "fornicators" and learn their stories?  Why won't you shut your traps long enough to actually listen to what they have to tell you?  Jesus, if you take a peek at the New Testament you have memorized, spent a lot less time preaching at the sinners than he did eating with them.  Actually, he preached against the religious primarily, not the sinners.  If you really want to get through to this campus, put down the damn yellow sign, buy lunch for a few "fornicators" and let them do the talking.  Learn their names, at least.  Talk about how you've let down God and how he's forgiven you-- not them.  They don't need a voice of condemnation; the Epistle to the Romans says they have the law written on their hearts already.  What they need is a common point of sympathy with you enough to find a reason to want the Lord in their lives.  

That sign above is the only thing I saw them accomplish all afternoon: they gave people a good reason to reject the gospel and assume that God doesn't exist.  And now they're going to eventually leave campus and leave the actual Christian community here to clean up their mess and try to undo the damage they've caused.  And that's just a freaking shame, man.

They're coming back in a week, and it sounds like a lot of people decided to plan ahead for a counter-protest.  So, I guess I'll see you next week with some pictures from the counter-protest and see how people react...


  1. There was one of those on our campus. Honestly, a lot of these guys do it as a con game -- they try to incite people to hit them and then sue.

  2. Souris Optique, I know exactly what you're talking about!

    With these fellows, however, I'm not sure they fit the type. At least two of these guys have been showing up on campus at the same time of year for three years running. And they're outfitted with stuff from a fairly serious street preaching outfit, even though they might be completely unaffiliated with them. They strike me as being funded as missionaries.

    There's a trend among street preachers for what's often called "shock evangelism" that aims to surprise and upset so-called "sinners" enough to make them stop and listen. They think that the screaming and name-calling is actually part of a serious attempt at evangelism-- or condemnation for the reprobate. Either way, they think they're doing God's work.

    I think their model are the old prophets like Ezekiel who simultaneously drew in the faithful Israelites and cursed the unfaithful with the same message.

    It's very disheartening, really, especially when you stop to think that Jesus' most forceful and abusive condemnations were reserved for the religious, not sinners. Instead, he ate with those outcasts-- and he taught them as well.