Normally I don’t do a lot of public dissection of the individual actions of preachers I run into, but I decided it was time to write one when Amerist’s mild post elicited the following response from one of the preachers it talked about:
Thanks guys for all the compliments in your writings. Very weak journalism. Sad, your articles are not accurate at all. Fun to read though. I still love you guys! God bless- Jeff
Our articles are “not accurate at all?” I’ll assume he’s specifically referring to the one he commented on, but still that is a ridiculous claim. I was there, and I heard and saw many of the same things. If anything actually is wrong, Jeff, please point it out to us. If we believe it is actually a mistake then we will correct it.
For now though, I want to discuss what these kind and loving guys have been doing for the last several weeks while they have been here.
Local Amp Note
Just a note to the local preachers who may get ideas from this, although we do not want to get into a war of amplification, if megaphones of this volume continue to be brought out then we will be forced to follow suit, and the result will not be pretty.
The first time I saw any of them, it was when Shawn Holes showed up at the First Friday art walk in downtown Phoenix. Being a visitor from out of state, he came in acting like the preachers here used to. Essentially he tried to ignore us and yell almost non-stop into his megaphone. Unfortunately for us, the combination of his megaphone and his already loud yelling were actually physically painful directly in front of him, and he was often successful in drowning us out, at least enough that he could ignore us.
In the subsequent weeks we got to talk a little more to him, and especially to his woefully uneducated son. I feel particularly bad for the kid because he is being brought up to distrust both science and the vast majority of people in the world. He has been thoroughly indoctrinated to believe that the stories in the Bible are literally true, including the creation story, that evolution is a lie, and that all people are inherently evil.
This sick view of the world can easily breed a paranoid martyr complex and a significant disconnection from reality, and can ultimately lead to the disturbingly twisted views of right and wrong espoused by so many of the preachers, some of which will be discussed below.
After Shawn showed up, he was joined by Jeff Rose (an American who lives and preaches in Scotland) and his South African friend Vincent Piater.
Worse than Shawn who just tried to ignore us, Jeff and Vincent were relatively hostile, although Jeff generally tried to maintain a conciliatory tone while he needled us and said things like “I love you guys” which sound very disingenuous to me.
When Shawn wasn’t around, Jeff did most of the preaching. He didn’t seem to mind the challenge too much, but I don’t think he handled it particularly well. Not only did he fail to adequately respond to the issues we brought up, his tactics frequently devolved into childish word games and name calling.
“This is the Atheist Singles Club, none of them have girlfriends.” Jeff pulled that one out several times, despite the fact that many of us are in relationships and we told him so. “They just don’t want to come out here with you because you make them look bad.” He said something along those lines once he gave up on the Atheist Singles Club. I wonder where his wife was? Throwing stones in a glass house, huh Jeff?
Jeff was also fond of calling random people perverts and talking about their “depravity” and other nonsense like that. How can you say those things about people you don’t know anything about? You just have to believe that everyone is pure evil, which he seems to believe, and then you can spew any insults and unfounded judgements you want. Nice.
One member of our group, Joe, was explaining how DNA from two people of the same sex could be combined in a laboratory and grown into a baby, and Jeff decided that was enough to accuse Joe of being a homosexual and to go off on the all-too-common tangent along the lines of “you’re only doing this because you love your sin and you want to deny God so you can continue in your depravity.”
Joe posted a minor clarification in a comment below.
Essentially he would take any chance he could find to ignore the substance of our arguments and turn the conversation into an unfounded attack on one or more of us. As with so many preachers, he seems to like nothing more than tearing people down and making them feel like garbage.
This approach does have its drawbacks though. On Friday night, when I wasn’t there, I’ve been told that Jeff made a very offensive comment to a girl and one of her friends pulled out a knife and threatened to cut the cord on his megaphone, and then even threatened him.
The comment seems to have been something about her dead babies being in Hell, but Jeff flatly denied it on Saturday. Since another of the girl’s friends who was there told us what Jeff had said, and because it seems very much in character for him, I’m inclined to believe that he did say something pretty cruel. Sadly this type of event plays right into the martyr complex, and probably made Jeff feel good about what he’s doing, but it shouldn’t. The guy with the knife was way out of line, but it sounds like Jeff was too.
Overall these loud, obnoxious, insulting preachers seem to create a more hostile and potentially violent atmosphere. Before these guys showed up we hadn’t had any serious threats of violence against us or the local preachers (as far as I know) since Halloween when some of the thugs from The Door church tried to start something with us. On Saturday though, a group of “brodogs” who agreed with Jeff lined up on his side and kept insulting and threatening people.
To his credit Jeff did actually ask them (and us for no apparent reason) not to get violent, and strangely he asked them not to make personal attacks on us when he had been doing it too. Maybe he just wanted to reserve that privilege for himself?
Either way, those and other incidents testify to the hostility that they breed on both sides. We much prefer calm, civil debate, and I am convinced that it is better in many ways for both sides and for everyone else around us. I hope that preachers who read this will keep that in mind in the future.
Vincent didn’t talk as much, but he did manage to make some pretty offensive comments too. The worst one I remember from him was about whether or not it was right for God to decide not to reveal himself to people and then send them to Hell for not believing in him. “So what!?” Vincent yelled, expressing the common belief among the preachers that God made us and we can’t judge anything he decides to do even if it is by our standards profoundly immoral.
This is a very disturbing idea to me. If you can convince yourself that anything done by God is acceptable, it is not much of a stretch to say that anything done for God is acceptable. They already show by their antisocial evangelization tactics that they believe it’s okay to go well beyond what a normal person would say to strangers if you’re doing it for God. If it’s okay to malign anyone and anything that disagrees with their interpretation of the Bible, and to automatically reject any idea that doesn’t fit with their beliefs, what might people like this do if they can be convinced that they’re doing God’s work? Maybe the better question is what wouldn’t they do?
I do believe that they have all convinced themselves that their methods of evangelization are just fine. They may not even think that they’re being malicious, but they are. They denigrate every person in the world, with particular animosity reserved for those who oppose them. Animosity in love’s clothing is still animosity.
I am perfectly willing to be civil with these people, and I am not a violent person, but I do not “respect their beliefs”. I respect their rights to hold bizarre and unfounded beliefs in bronze age mythology, and even the extremely outdated creation story that comes with it, but I openly scoff at the content of those beliefs. An intelligent and thoughtful child can see through them, and the only things that keep these inane beliefs alive are the twin abominations of faith and indoctrination.
I have tried to be nice, but the continued lies and abuse hurled by these “servants of God” against my friends and me, all while calling us liars, has provoked me to respond with more venom than I normally direct at preachers.
So why didn’t I respond directly to these people individually in private rather than calling them out here? I don’t think that there is just one single reason, but there is an appropriate Proverb that I learned from a Christian friend which sums it up pretty well.
Open rebuke is better than secret love. – Proverbs 27:5
If they want the secret love then they’ll have to go tap their feet in public bathroom stalls like the all-too-prevalent homophobic-homosexual preachers and government officials.