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Friday, April 23, 2010

Jackrabbit vs. the Street Preacher

Being a Day in the Life of a Conservative, Straight, Evangelical Fledgling LGBT Activist, 
Part 3

A NOTE TO LINKBACKS:  It has recently come to my attention that a blog for fundamentalist street preachers has linked to this post, for which I commend them (especially because no one yet has scribbled their anathemas in the Comment box).  However, if you want to understand why I have such serious reservations about this form of spreading the Gospel message, you really should read the post linked here, not just the one below. The choice is naturally yours, but I hope you find your experience here both convicting and spiritually edifying nonetheless...


Knoville UT Crazy Preacher
Well, better late than never, I guess...  Our "friends" (pictured at right,) the fundamentalist, cultish street preachers finally showed up on campus again this week, so my "Protest in a Box" riding around in the back of my car finally got used.  I was heading out for lunch from our library at about eleven thirty when I saw their big, ugly yellow sign cresting over the top of the amphitheater hill, and my heart sank all the way down to the toes of my clogs.  Damn, I thought, I'm actually going to have to do this after all.  I ran for a quick bite of food so I wouldn't pass out before four o'clock, threw the rest in the fridge at my job, and ran off to the far side of campus to cart 120 LOVE signs and paraphernalia back to the quad.  By the time I got back, the hate preachers were in full force, and I suddenly went from wet-my-pants terrified to extremely determined, which was totally a God thing.  I started by working the crowd with my big yellow signs, handing them out to anybody who wanted one, and then stood on the top of the amphitheater in the middle of the quad with a huge LOVE poster.  After about twenty minutes, I started getting in reinforcements from two equally wonderful and equally supportive groups: the LGBTA and the Christian ministry community.  They both offered me a lot of support, one of them offered me an iced mocha coffee (for which I am eternally grateful, dude!) and they all grabbed signs and stood in resistance to these guys' bad press for Jesus.  Man, I can't begin to explain how much I love both of these communities.  Now if I can just get them to talk to each other...

One thing I wanted to do as a part of my personal protest was to wear a yellow arm-band.  Since I'm a little bit chicken-livered in the face of conflict, I wanted a reminder to myself why I had to do this, so my reminder was my friend James (the one who committed suicide back in 2006, which I've talked about before.)  That was my personal kick in the butt to realize how important it was to speak back to these guys' hate, especially because they were singling out gays and lesbians for particular abuse.  A few people asked me about it during the afternoon, so I was able to share with them about James' story and why I felt speaking up against a legalistic concept of God was so important.  One of the girls I ran into was herself a depression survivor, and she had a beautiful story about being led out of despair through the kind of loving intervention that I wish James had found.  (And, if you've never heard of "To Write Love on Her Arms," you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to check them out.)   

Anyhow, I stood out in the Appalachian sun for two and a half hours holding my big sign, passing out LOVE signs to other people, and just chatting with others about what they were saying and what we felt about it.  The protest generated a lot of conversation-- and very positive, open conversation-- between people of all sorts of faiths, politics and cultural communities.  That's what I felt like was the biggest success of the whole thing.  By the end of the afternoon, I had handed out all but about twenty of the 100 signs I had printed, and I only got back three of the fifteen yellow board signs I had painted-- and those had passed through several sets of hands over the course of the afternoon. 

The preachers, of course, were rather pissed about the whole thing, but, the more I think about it, when a reasonable, loving Christian tried to dialogue with these guys, one the preachers told him he was the "Spawn of Satan," so who cares what they think?  One guy kept trying to interfere with us by stationing himself next to my sign-station with a pile of tracts, but I just moved it on him, and one of the campus ministers stood by to fend him off.  Then the banner guy (pictured above) started wandering the crowds next to my little LOVElies trying to get something stirred up.  He did one thing that really pissed me off though: when a girl in a very short plaid skirt bent over to talk to her friends, he pulled out a camera and basically up-skirted her.  He did all this while wearing a "no porn" button on his shirt.  I found this very interesting for a man who claimed that he had stopped sinning the moment he accepted Jesus...  grrrr.  This is exactly what God meant in Ezekiel when He says that he'll judge the religious by their own standards of righteousness, which will be more than enough send them straight to perdition. 
The strangest thing was that the first of the three preachers tried so hard to incorporate our signs into his sermon and preach on love.  But, having never spent any real time with the Bible studying the nature of God's love, he just absolutely hashed the whole thing up and didn't make any sense.  For him, God is some sort of ultimate taskmaster whom we can only please by good behavior; loving God for His goodness, and Him loving us out of His goodness, seems to never have occurred to him.  That may have been the most powerful message anybody got out of the whole protest-- that he didn't know what love was.
"YOUR love is just a glandular feeling," he shouted at us.  "It's not real love.  Your kind of love will send you to HELL!"  At that point, an co-ed on the quad pulled a wry face. 
"What does that mean, a 'glandular feeling'?" She asked me incredulously.  I couldn't help myself.
"I think that it's sort of a squishing sensation,"  I replied back, scrunching my fingers together to illustrate.  She roared with laughter.  Then I went around handing out a few more signs. 
So, what did I learn?  I discovered that there are a LOT of Christians on campus who want to speak up and give a more loving response to the world than what creeps like this are up to, but they're scared.  All they need is a little gumption and somebody to tell them it's okay to do it.   I think we get so freaked out about protecting our "witness" that we forget to witness.  I lost count of the number of Christians who came up to me to tell me how badly they had wanted to do this.  Oh, and those two ministers I was so unsure about on Monday?.... as it turns out, I was totally wrong about them.  They showed up and held signs.  And they didn't care a whit who was straight, who was gay, or who was atheist.  They came as Christians who wanted to support the campus community, and I was so proud of them.  I think I owe those two fellas a huge apology sometime. 

I also learned, for the upteenth time, how loving, supportive, and open the GLBT community can be in the face of oppression.  My favorite part of the protest was about thirty minutes in, when a much beloved professor of my acquaintance (and herself a member of the GLBT community) came bounding up the hill just to get a sign with this look of pure joy on her face.  She had seen me holding my sign from her office window.  She couldn't stay for the protest, but since her office was directly in sight of the protest area, she hung the sign out of her office window in support of all of us.  

Every time the preachers would yell something that made me wince, I'd look up to the fifth floor of the Humanities building, see that yellow LOVE sign glowing in the afternoon sunlight on her window, and I'd smile.  So, until next time:

"If I have a faith that can move mountains and have not love,
I am nothing." 
--the apostle Paul, 1 Cor. 13:2

1 comment:

  1. Wow, good for you!!! You organized a successful (and peaceful) counter-protest. Woo hoo!! Way to go you! Well done, girl. You can't see it, but I'm waving a big yellow LOVE sign in the air!