Brother Jed Resistance Reports: Friday, February 20th 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the Resistance does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog.

Brother Jed is an increasingly irrelevant campus evangelical prostylizer and he visited ASU campus today. The Mill Avenue Resistance and the ASU Secular Free Thought Society went out to meet him—they didn’t have to go far. The SFTS have a tent and table set up on the main mall in front of the Memorial Union where Jed preaches so they only had to venture out from their shade to see him.

And he didn’t impress.

Fridays on ASU campus have a weaker contingent of students who are finishing up their last classes for the week and are looking forward to the weekend. They really weren’t biting. Between Brother Jed and Sister Pat’s inflammatory and rude speeches (claiming girls are whores, and boys are rapists) they failed to hook anyone and only faced the SFTS the entire time.

Even the klaxon yells of, “Pervert alert! Pervert alert! Girls close your legs, it’s a fraternity boy!” didn’t garner much of any response from any passerby.

Slow to start up, Jed and Pat were equally slow going, and eventually petered out entirely around lunchtime.

I stopped and talked to him a little while. Where he showed a certain amount of ignorance of my dress aesthetic—which I don’t entirely blame him for, he is a Christian evangelical preacher, and would not fit in on the floor of a Goth dance club. Claimed that I was limiting my influence by dressing the way that I do; although, I attempted to explain that I’m dressed like this for show. He then noticed my nametag that states that I’m an Anthropologist and said, “So you study anthropology. That’s the study of man. Tell me: what is the purpose of man?”

“If my badge said that I was a geologist, would you have actually asked me, ‘What is the purpose of rocks?’”

I knew what I was getting into when I started talking to him. Really, I want to talk to the person not to their religion, but an evangelical Christian out on a campus talking to anyone is essentially working. They’re not being themselves—they’re being their job, and that job is to sell their religion. However, Jed did talk about some real world things in between his farcical carnival act gestures and religious gesticulations.

During our little discussion, over which I did more listening than actual talking but I’m not sure that I can bridge the generation gap between Jed and I, he decided that I was a good candidate to read his book. So, now I have a copy of it. Which he claims is going out of print. I did promise to read it, so I will certainly attempt to do so. After I am done, I am donating it to the SFTS so that they can put it into their library.

After I disentangled myself from him, he took his chair and sat amidst the SFTS and talked to people there. I will have to interview the various members of the group to find out what exactly they talked about because I spent more time instructing other ASU students.

The STFS had a massive turn out of worthwhile people including Kevin, Max (the Jewish guy from last year), Brian, Cale, Kyle, Kazz, Todd – I am probably missing some but people were out in force.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, December 20th 2008

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, December 20th 2008.

A few of the Resistance had already appeared by the time that Kazz showed up with his speaker and microphone. When he started up, Jim was on the mic for the evangelicals (this is Valerie’s Jim) and he stepped down an instant later. To which there was a quip from Kazz, “Yeah, he’s afraid of me.”

Almost instantly a woman with straight, lank dark hair stepped up and started talking to Kazz. Her name, I would learn during my later interview of her, is Diana. I missed a lot of the conversation between her and Kazz, but I think that they discussed some of the ordinary first-day evangelical sound bite memes. (See Agents for Christ section.)

I actually got asked, “So, whose side are you on?” by some of the onlookers who had been drawn into the crosstalk between the Resistance and the evangelicals. With an amused wit, I replied that I’m on the people’s side, really, since I like people.

Also visiting the Resistance tonight were Spyral and Gina. Spy is an actual accredited anthropologist (opposed to my amateur) who joined into a bit of the conversations that were scattered about with her own thoughts. I really should have stayed and recorded her presentation when she spoke with Diana and others because she’s well spoken and comes from a different philosophy of thought than I do.

Bill

A twinkling funhouse of mirror-speak—right down to the vision warping, bent type. He started out the conversation with the obvious starter of asking what I thought was going on. This particular starter has always confused me a little, especially because after I notice that’s what they’re doing it makes the approach feel actually disingenuous—as if the person who is talking to me didn’t care that I was standing there personally and just set off to strike up this script.

He tried very poorly to use a watered down version of Pascal’s Wager asking me how it would go for me if the Christian god happened to be true—asking if I’d agree if it would go badly for me. I have never found this compelling as I generally ask if they actually have asked that question for every god that they’ve discovered? I mean, how would he feel if the Morrigan is actually real, and she’s not happy that he hasn’t been out in the field of glory killing and maiming for her.

If someone wants to play Pascal’s Wager why don’t they wage it with every belief system they meet? Easy answer: because it would take them forever to wager every god ever imagined.

His mirror-speech was just a series of propagandist and conversational tricks. Eventually he did go on to talk to Brian while he stood near the Resistance’s speaker on the stand, but I missed out on most of that conversation.

Diana and Danielle

I spoke with Diana and Danielle, sisters. I could be wrong about Diana’s name, she could be Diane—but I recall thinking of the Italic goddess Diana, Greek Artemis’s likeness as the goddess of the hunt. Danielle wore this lovely little matching woolen sweater and cap, topping off round spectacles and also watched quietly like I normally do.

They haven’t yet visited Mill before, so I welcomed them. And I learned that they are basically a nomadic family who go from place to place evangelizing. Sold all of their worldly possessions and now they live out of an RV. I hope that they had a good time. I gave Diana a copy of my book as well just because.

The Agents for Christ

“I believe he is going to reveal himself to you. I honestly have no hard feelings,” Diana to Kazz.

The really interesting thing about Diana is that the holy book she was carrying was only the New Testament. After debriefing Kazz on his encounter with her I am told that she didn’t have a strong cognition of a lot of Old Testament phraseology and so on. I’m not sure what schism of Christianity that they belonged to, but I always thought that the entire Bible held some sort of significance for most of them.

With Diana were a number of younger children, who like children, tended to parrot back sound bites. Even once there was a mention of people being “expelled” for speaking about Creationism, which Kazz took as a mention of Expelled, the badly drawn propaganda movie by Ben Stein. A movie which has been by in large revealed to be a fraud by a number of watchdog organizations and roundly laughed out of the academic circles for citing people who had lost their careers not for Creationism but for being cheats and frauds. (One man in particular was shunned by his peers after he himself resigned because he skipped the process of peer review by reviewing his own work and inserting it into a journal; deliberately bypassing the rules is indeed a good way to get “expelled.”)

Some interesting messages came up which paraphrase down to, “So my son couldn’t stand up in a science class and preach about Creationism?” And really, Kazz replied that there is very little anyone can preach in a science class—in a very straight-up way, no students get to disrupt a classroom by choosing to shout at everyone in the middle of any class. An adult who disrupts a college class certainly would get removed by security and expelled from school; we treat children differently than adults in that we attempt to educate them as to classroom etiquette. If a student stood up during a biology class and started talking only about gravitation, it would create the same sort of disruption as making noises about Creationism, or social studies, or political science, etc ad nauseam.

There is an academic forum for science already.

I have received a card from Diana that I will get scanned and put into this document so that people can see it.

Diana tells me that her brother-in-law is the one who runs their little group. They came out to see the Way of the Master evangelicals because there was some e-mails that had gone out about Mill Avenue. As I said above, they live out of an RV and have a semi-nomadic life. Moving from city to city to evangelize at cultural centers.

Mill Ave is a good place for them to show up, therefore; and that way they’ll get a chance to talk to people like Kazz, Omar, and others who are compassionate and interested in presenting the case for atheism to even the evangelicals and would really like them to know that in spite of propaganda, people like the Resistance and atheists do not wish theists harm.

Hopefully they shall come out to Mill Avenue more often.

Kazz and Jim

Our friend, Jim in his wheelchair, stopped to talk to Kazz about some things.

Mostly it was a conversation about physics, studies, and probably a lot of things that Jim has brought from Answers in Genesis—a profoundly wrong propaganda website that spends a lot of time pretending at science but has never actually succeeded in getting a single article through peer review due to numerous failures in rhetoric, evidence, and process. I could bring up more about AiG (again) but why.

I wasn’t totally privy to the conversation but it is well know to me that Jim spends a lot of time trying to understand the world. It would probably help him some if he got away from AiG or at least looked at the lay descriptions from others in the community as to how AiG is misinforming people.

The most common type of misinformation that AiG delivers is a type of refutation that tends to go: “This is a wrench. It can be used to tighten bolts and it’s good at it; but here’s a screw, the wrench does a terrible job of tightening screws; therefore wrenches are bad tools.” A great deal of the AiG documents about dating methods run this pattern: they take a dating tool, pick a well-known and documented situation where that tool would never be used, and therefore isn’t used—like using a wrench to tighten a screw—and then suggest this means the dating tool is wholly inaccurate and useless.

I don’t see how this sort of abuse of lay people is really useful to anyone. It damages extremely good pursuits of scientists and the knowledge of the public about these tools. These disagreements promulgated by these lay sites about these tools don’t exist in the scientific community because they’ve already been hashed out. Scientists using these dating methods do not grab their wrench when the screwdriver would be required; or either when neither will work. And the reason why is obvious: they would be destroyed by their peers when they went to publish.

Lots of people are fooled by this. Why? Because they’re credulous lay people (who very much want to learn and grow and understand) who don’t live in academia and therefore cannot tell the difference between the wrench and screwdriver.

Vocab Malone and Vince

Vince got himself into a long winded discussion with Vocab Malone and a bunch of the people who hovered around him—also people who were good at the rapping that Vocab does. The discussion sounded pretty interesting, but I missed out on some of it because I don’t have a background in Christian history. I believe it revolved around some sort of theological discussion about the nature of the Christian god, YHVH. Specifically about how it changes through the Old Testament of the Bible into the New Testament.

I should be clear here that this conversation was mostly Vocab attempting to unwind and understand Vince’s concepts, listed below (also see comments) not so much a discussion as Vince elaborating–which is something he often does at extreme length–and Vocab querying. Here I’m trying to frame Vince’s explanations. Hopefully he might comment too at some point.

The premise stretched on about how YHVH is flesh and his holy (where holy means something like complete, mature, finished…) And that YHVH has improved over the journey of the Bible, matured from the entity at the beginning of the Bible to later on. It sounded almost like an interesting character study of the mythological character of YHVH. And Vince did mention part of the Flood myth that I recall where YHVH does promise never to destroy the world again with a flood.

The last part I mention because one of the Jewish scholars that I’ve spoken to about this promise is that it seems that the promise is only not to flood the world again. Not a promise not to murder everyone again with something else. Apparently the appealing inference from that passage seemed to be that YHVH promised not to destroy the world again, when in fact it may not have actually promised that.

Vocab eventually had to leave, but Vince stayed on speaking.

Later that night while the Resistance went on to do Cthulhu carols the group who remained behind from Vince’s discussion started to break out and stop people heading past and going to Borders (which had closed.) One of them attempted to rephrase the Good Person Test using the judge metaphor with a few stopped passersby as I watched and listened.