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, February 7th 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 for Saturday, February 7th 2009.

The crowds were pretty sparse tonight. The evangelicals on Mill tonight consisted of a spotty showing from the Way of the Master preachers, Suzanne, her daughter, Al, and Edwin, as well as Jim Coleman. The Resistance brought their contingent with Kazz, Rocco, Joe, and a few others.

The night started at about 9pm, but most of the evangelicals left the Ave at about 9:30 directly leaving only Al. At nine a few were out in front of Urban Outfitters but they moved to the Post Office where Al had already been set up—through the night the Resistance followed Al from the P.O. to in front of Borders then back to the P.O. again.

Kazz recounts some discussions with passersby, one Christian in particular who decided to stop and argue but refused to substantiate his points, falling back on, “You don’t get to quote the Bible,” and “Since you’re not Christian you wouldn’t understand anyway. You can’t read the Bible, it’s like reading someone else’s mail.” This one is an amazingly xenophobic attitude, held mostly only by those who have been so enculted into their religion that they cannot possibly discourse with people outside of their peer group.

Several crowds formed in front of the P.O around the Resistance blockade set up involving discussions with Jim Coleman. He eventually also appeared out amidst the street rats at the drum circle.

The night eventually ended approaching midnight when Al left the Ave and the remainder of the Resistance dwindled from the red bricks.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, January 3rd 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 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, January 3rd 2009.

The night opened out with a blaze of heavy, shrill sound as Shawn3 (whom everyone met at the Art Walk the previous night) took up on a megaphone of some mighty caliber. The decibel range of the amplification was in fact so intense that it felt louder than a rock concert. Conversations were drown out, and I have a feeling that it would have competed with the blues/jazz singer who plays down the street.

The Resistance still managed to converse somewhat even with the extreme decibels but either didn’t have the same power of amplification or chose not to increase theirs to match. At least one person pointed out that not only did Shawn3 have an extremely overloud megaphone but he was shouting into it.

Tonight he was wearing wire-rim spectacles, giving him a particularly aristocratic look.

The extreme volume did attract some attention. Aside from causing numerous passersby to wince or walk on quicker than before a small picket of mounted police arrived to pause and watch. The tree cavaliers arrived at about 9:20pm, pointing their horses perpendicular to the sidewalk. Shortly after their arrival, Shawn3 stepped down and quit his preaching and position.

Minutes of hush came down over the entire area which had moments before been readily described as the “loudest corner on Mill Ave.”

Kazz took up his speaker and apologized that his sign was no longer quite applicable. The whiteboard that the Resistance use to deliver written messages had the words:

Obnoxious liar
Free all night
<–

At this point Jim Coleman took the mike to talk about anti-Evolution premises, mainly the “Saltiness of the Ocean” and “Recession of the Moon” arguments.

Kazz tried to keep off of the mike for most of the night because he had a rather bad sore throat. However, in spite of this, he did try to speak when he could; but as a result of this a lot of other people were taking to the microphone as well. Todd, Mike, and Vince all took turns on the microphone at different times of the night.

In particular, Vince had some fun talking to both Kazz and Todd—and through parts of the night he talked to Al on the evangelical mike. It’s always fun listening to Vince talk; he’s a Big Fish style raconteur, which means that he’s bloody good at holding an audience and producing an entertaining story. His main failings, however, are the same as any big fish storyteller, he makes a lot of exotic and wild claims that either cannot be substantiated or lack compelling evidence. He is also well versed in various Christian doctrines and some of their holy texts so he tends to bring them out when speaking.

A couple interviews with the Resistance shows that they like talking to him because unlike others he’s actually polite and conversational.

As the night’s candle burned on a well-dressed Southern Gentleman who reminded me a lot of the Mark Twain look wandered over and serenaded everyone. His name, he told me, is Pard. A poet by trade, but not a bad singer/songwriter a cappella.

Todd and others also had a chance to talk to two women who appeared to have come along with Shawn3 (not fully substantiated, but it seemed to be the case.) They are another nomadic evangelical group who live out of an RV, come down from Syracuse, New York. The one in particular that Todd spoke too wore a blue and white outfit consisting of an extremely plain-and-simple skirt, blouse, and sweater affair, and they tried to talk about the belief-vs-model misunderstanding of science in the context of evolution.

By in large the discussion wound around through some difficulties of jargon, some gross misunderstandings of what rational thought is, what a model is vs. a belief, and other transference problems that are common with people who attempt to apply supernatural logic to observations of the natural world. At one point, as funny as it is, the young lady said that no scientist had said something in particular—so Todd called Ben, a friend who is an evolutionary biologist, and had him tell her.

Mostly this had to do with some jargon misunderstandings about the scientific use of the words “theory,” “law,” and “fact.” Especially in the context of the Theory/Fact/Law of Evolution. Although there is a certain appeal in the scientific community about the use of the jargon “law” to refer to observed facts and phenomena, generally people will say “fact” instead of “law” nowadays. All phenomena are split up into the facts of their evidence, the theories that explain them, and in some cases the laws that appear to govern their operation (which are actually phenomenological facts, just described in a way that gives them structure, e.g. the Speed of Light, Thermodynamics, Motion, etc.)

This poses a problem to lay people because the lay meaning of “theory” really means “supposition” and sometimes it means the same thing as “hypothesis;” and “law” generally refers to government and civil law. As a result weird miscommunication and silly misunderstandings happen when people discuss these things and often the misunderstanding party simply goes away further confused or wrongly certain.

I am singularly amused that Ben got called.

More than one person approached me to ask if I knew Omar Call—a sometime visitor to Mill Ave who also involves himself in protesting the street preachers. One in particular wanted him to know that he had, “Inspired me to be more open about my atheism and I’m glad there are people out there like him.” And another—Keith, a Mick Jagger lookalike with a leather cap, and a black guitar—wanted to speak with him about his hallucinogenic revelations and walks with Jesus, to discuss the mysteries of religion with him as a believer and an atheist. By in large all the messages to Omar about the article have been positive.

Although, I say this wondering if people would actually approach someone on the street with a negative message and expect it to be delivered.

Why O’Reilly is sometimes worth watching (the mistakes of others inform us.)

Of course, O’Reilly is totally incorrect about the law. The decorum of the capital building was violated exactly the same by the atheist sign as the creche. The establishment clause of the 1st amendment requires that any speech being permitted by the State in the capital building needs to be vetted under a premise other than religion.

This is exactly what should have happened: the only rational way to uphold the establishment clause is to prevent all religious speech promoted by the State. Why? Because there are BILLIONS of religious viewpoints and not enough room to hold them.

This is exactly what happened here.

Poor Megyn Kelly. O’Reilly set her up disrespectfully by calling her misguided, and in a previous encounter he called her a “cookie” or something. He has been misinformed by whomever he got his information from; but it’s important to keep in mind that the State shouldn’t be respecting any establisment of religion over any other. That means all or nothing.

All is reliably impossible.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, December 13th 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 13th 2008.

As promised I went around and tried to ask as many people as I could about Temple at the Center of Time. Insofar, nobody in the Way of the Master group know what it is. I am thinking that Kazz and others will just have to read it as per Ross’s suggestion to know what it is. I am going to expand my search for critiques to tell everyone what it’s about, but I find it doubtful that many know. It seems to be an extremely fringe philosophical treatise.

The Resistance arrived on Mill at about 7pm, but I didn’t get there to observe until around 8:50pm.

JustStopAndThink.com

This group set up in front of the entrance to the Mill Ave Drum Circle again tonight between the Valley Art Theater and My Big Fat Greek Restaurant. Informally known as “Jesus Water” in the vulgar argot of the street rats, they interact with the public by offering free water to the masses.

I believe that Joe stopped and talked to Rob-roy and the retelling of his experience went something along the lines of. “He was cordial, but that stiffened rather after he learned that I was an atheist.” Although, I don’t know how much of that was transference; I don’t doubt that the conversation was readily friendly. Rob-roy is a contributor to the StreetFishing blog on Blogspot.

They manage their evangelism by talking to people who squeeze between them to reach the drum circle and also those walking past on the street. Especially those they invite in to receive the free water. Also, the water bottles contain tracts on their labels. The street rats tend to take them and then shred the labels off, meaning that I’ve never gotten one of my own from them yet—also as I never really need water I don’t feel the need to countenance taking one and then not using it.

I don’t end up talking to them very often, but they definitely have a presence on Mill Ave.

Marcus and Tish

(I hope that I am spelling everyone’s names correctly here.)

Also standing with the JustStopAndThink people handing out water were two others whom I’m sure that the Resistance have met before as they created a YouTUBE video involving them.

Didn’t have much time to talk to them, they were mostly handing out tracts. Our conversation did get interrupted a few times by a brand new drum circle visitor who is having a little bit of trouble integrating herself into the community. Mostly I just chatted to get my observations down.

The Way of the Master Evangelicals

The Resistance arrived in front of Borders. Saw Suzanne, her daughter, Erin, Al, Edwin, and others; the group ended up dismantling far earlier than usual; but there were some highlights here and there with the sound system setup. They caroled for a little while in front of Borders and then the Resistance set up their speaker and played some Edward Current videos.

There was some commentary about music vs. music playing. Al had set his speaker to play some sort of music, but then Kazz started playing something else, but seemingly louder (from where I was standing.) Creating a bit of a dissonance. However, that whole thing resolved rather quickly.

Then a few moved away from Borders to the Post Office—Edwin and Brian—but the moment the Resistance decided to move to the Post Office they left, with the words, “Oh it’s you guys.” Pretty much they managed to speak for a while, found at least one really drunk guy, who they tried to get to do the Good Person Test but he was a bit … drunk.

The night wrapped itself up in front of Urban Outfitters with mostly Al speaking on the microphone. He managed to stick the entire night out until the Resistance packed up near 1am.

We also had the weird experience of receiving some Pop-it microexplosives from a newcomer. And I must admit, it was me who distributed them to people because they are an awesome little device and a lot of fun. I did not do it to disrupt Al and his preaching, but at the time that I handed them out he wasn’t really speaking to people except in small groups.

Hanna, who gave me the Pop-its, said to Kazz that she had her respect for humanity restored when she found people resistance the preachers and had visited the STFS table at ASU a few times. I, for one, enjoy the presence of fun wackiness for Mill Ave.

There was also some strange shouting and shrieking from the Resistance when someone yelled “The power of Christ compels you!” at Kazz and the response was … interesting. I hadn’t known that he could produce such a lifelike impression of those TV evangelist preachers who tend to shout, in a drawling voice, pretty much the same thing.

I guess that they are just easy to parody.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Friday, December 12th 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 Friday, December 12th 2008.

The STFS filtered through the book stacks at Borders on Mill Ave slurping up deals—the store, now a landmark of Mill for almost a decade, is set to be closed January 31st of 2009. Most of the books are at a 20% discount and gift shopping is in for the holiday season.

When they finally exited and spilled into the Ave, the Resistance proper fell into formation, grabbed their equipment and made their way to the Post Office.

Tonight was punctuated by the lack of any Mill Ave evangelicals.

“That’s a problem of thinking you’re made out of sugar,” Vince quipped. “You don’t want to go out in the rain.” Right before he offered to stand in for them, since Vince has long been Mill Ave’s oldest preacher, having earned himself the street name Preacher Man—instead he became the center raconteur for a multitude of discussions about various theologies as visitors came and went.

Niki, the journalist from the New Times, came out with some Dunkin’ Doughnuts and waited with everyone to get notes; but she seemed to have chosen a night lacking anything to write about.

The Resistance did little except form into a group around the speaker, softly playing music. Only Omar and Jim had much impact on the passersby with their signs—”Ah, here’s the infamous sign,” Niki said, seeing the black board with neon lettering in Omar’s hand.

“YOUR GOD IS NOT THE BOSS OF ME.”

The other side reads “RIP GOD,” and it served him well to attract more than one person to ask questions and drop into long discussions.

It did not appear that pamphlets were being handed out or in play.

Later into the night, the rickshaw driver, Ross, stopped to talk to Kazz and Vince. He had suggested a book to several of the Resistance and wanted to know if they had read it. In my notes the book’s name reads:

Temple At The Center Of Time: Newton’s Bible Codex Finally Deciphered and the Year 2012 by David Flynn.

The book weighs in at about 300 pages; and the summary is no less heavy. He mentioned that it gave him the impetus to change from being an atheist to a Christian just through reading it. I’ve given the information to various members of the Resistance for him—but none have taken him up on the offer or reading it yet.

The summary follows.

A belief that the ancients held unusual scientific knowledge, of which only fragments remain today, was held by many great philosophers and scientists who participated in the “scientific revolution”. Though research by these men led to great discovery, many were convinced that they were merely scratching the surface of an immense but lost pristine knowledge (prisca sapientia) somehow reflected in the architecture and remains of ancient civilizations. In “Temple at the Center of Time Investigations of Sacred Dimension, Revealed in Prophecy, the Temple of Jerusalem, and the Ark of the Covenant, from the works of Isaac Newton”, David Flynn uncovers what is sure to be heralded as one of the greatest discoveries of all time. Many books have investigated whether Newton believed that an original pure knowledge existed. Some conclude that he did in fact search for it, but that is the whole of their investigation. A few have written that Newton actually discovered something and try to fit his existing research into a prisca sapientia of their own design, claiming his beliefs fit modern realms of philosophy or eastern religions, but these speculations are not upheld by the body of his work. Although Newton had solved riddles of space, time, gravity, light and invented mathematics to predict the motion of objects, this was not the priscia sapienta. Since the time of Newton, no one has revealed the true form and nature of the original knowledge, or from whence it came until now. For the first time in history, Temple at the Center of Time uncovers what Newton was looking for and, in so doing, proves that pivotal events in history are unquestionably connected in time and space to Jerusalem. Newton didn’t know it. The key was right in front of him.

If anyone would like me to, I will query people who belong to the Christian religion of various mythological schisms and see if they know about the book. I guess also people who are familiar historically with Issac Newton might be worth asking. Kazz will probably not be reading this unless he can get the book on tape, so unless someone gets their hands on it we won’t have any insights into what Ross wants to elucidate.

While Ross spoke with Kazz and Vince, I split my attention between Joe and that conversation. Primarily because I wanted to hear what Ross wanted to say—but Joe certainly didn’t. The reasons for which bent from the usual witnessing speeches, mirror speech, and Biblical conversations that Joe would have felt the need to interrupt with his own knowledge. Out of the entire Resistance he has a great deal of Biblical scholarship and uses it like a truncheon against arguments involving translation and etymology.

In his backpack he has a New American Bible, an English-Hebrew copy of the Tanakh.

Brad did set up his electric guitar with the speakers and play a for about half-an-hour idly, but nothing else came of the use of the speakers.

The entire group eventually exited stage left at around 2a.m.

 

Roosevelt Resistance Reports: Friday, December 5th 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 Friday, December 5th 2008.

Yes, the title above is a joke. When wrapping up the night on the microphone, Todd told the dwindling crowds about the STFS, the Mill Avenue Resistance, “Perhaps we’re the Roosevelt Resistance at the moment—I don’t know.”

The STFS hit First Friday in force and I followed in their wake because, well, I haven’t been to First Friday in so long and I guess I can give up on Mill Ave for a night… Sigh.

I noticed that there were at least twelve of the various evangelical preachers who visit Mill Avenue out tonight. Taking various turns on the loudspeaker (whom the Resistance moved quickly to set up against) were Valerie, Sean, and Linda.

I also saw two very young girls handing out tracts with the evangelical group. I received at least two tracts from them.

Discussions at length

The most conversant among the different speakers against happened to be Joe. Bringing with him his vast Biblical scholarship. And there were some fun discussions about misinterpreting the Greek in the Bible, the fact that there are multiple translations of the Bible; which ones people accept, which ones various groups don’t… I heard about an Oxford Annotated Bible that is very good for people who want to examine the literary criticism of the work as well.

These discussions realistically denuded the veil of provenance atop the usage of the Bible for anything. It should be apparent to anyone discussing this subject that if there are thousands of different schisms that use this book as their holy book and each one chooses a different translation that somehow the actual knowledge was never written clearly enough to be propagated in situ. Multiple rewrites, editing, rejection and acceptance of books by various councils and histories have rendered a vast and glorious mythology but no basis to argue truth from. The mere fact that wide swaths of it are interpreted different between different agencies of history and community says that often the book itself is irrelevant to the message. It’s a religious MacGuffin used only for its semiotic relevance.

Some of the more interesting conversations occurred out of the various translations of Greek words. And thus one of my favorite Greek words came up, logos [λόγος]; near and dear to my heart as a linguist and an author. I am extremely familiar with how languages shift, how translations themselves are always a psychological transference from the translator; even language itself shifts within a single culture over a century enough to change the meaning of any work and we can watch this happen.

While Valerie spoke to the crowds, Lux, wearing a gothic styled plague doctor outfit came by and took up the mike. She posited to use a truncated version of the Epicurean paradox—to which most replies are woefully inadequate or require a revision of commonly understood positions by Christianity about the nature of their gods. After getting a titter from gathered moral philosophers, she melted back into the night; her black parasol bobbing through the crowds to vanish finally in the distance. (You can read more about her on my First Friday Nights post.)

Joe got himself some kudos from Valerie tonight because he is polite, well spoken, and extremely scholarly. So I’m glad to see that there is at least a great deal of glowing respect between the parts of this divide. I would like that to remain for the most part.

The Prayer Station

The evangelicals set up a strange booth out of PVC pipe and a table with a large, crimson banner, white lettered: PRAYER STATION. At least one group of passersby actually came to pray with them.

Kevin wanted to know about the station and the hand-outs of glowing noodles; but didn’t want to speak to them with accompaniment, so I offered to go. By in large the evangelicals are not hard or harsh people, they’re people. Which is part of the reason why I’m out here writing about the interactions.

There was little to be learned, though, because the person manning it happened to be eating at the time. However, Kevin did score some glowing noodles which John was kind enough to locate and offer… The STFS mostly swung them at each other

Trevor and Brian on addiction

Later that night I discovered Brian, and his spiked-up purple hair, in a discussion with Trevor. The conversation had gone the way of the witnessing from hedonism—or as I’d think it is, “I was addicted to everything, sleeping with anything that moved, but I’m better now.” Basically the “I got bettah,” of the evangelical bag of witnessing. Suggesting that whatever religion they are selling is therefore a panacea for any given lifestyle that they had become unaccustomed or disenfranchised from.

This rankled on Brian because he too had once spent a lot of time taking drugs and watched some of his friends die from it. Trevor gesticulated and shifted his weight a lot every time he fell into mirror-speech, reciting off entire reams of pleated experiences with drugs and trying work his religion into it. Brian—who admitted to being a little drunk at the time—replied with hollow baritone incredulity basing his argument on the addiction for addiction premise.

The trade-off premise posits that religion is just another addiction that was used to replace the previous one. It does not in fact elevate the person out of whatever hole they were digging themselves into; but instead replaces the risky lifestyle with a slightly varied risky lifestyle. I don’t know that I can fully advocate this sort of a position entirely. While religiosity is apparently addictive in pattern—since the deeply seated forms of it represent a fundamental break from reality—it indeed is often visibly less risky than irresponsible drug culture. It is indeed a totally different type of irresponsibility when used as a bludgeon on good reason and sanity about reality. It is apparent that Trevor is either poorly socialized or he is deliberately provocative and both of these are tied to his religiosity.

I am probably not quite framing Brian’s argument properly here. I would like him to come and give us a clearer example of how he argues these topics.

The Agnostic Position and Mount Rushmore

A newcomer to the fray, Travis, was having a poorly-gone discussion with Sean. Unfortunately, it literally went nowhere for either of them, primarily because Sean wasn’t listening and constantly misrepresented Travis’s position with gross misunderstandings. For example, when Travis brought up that he was Agnostic, Sean attempted to counter with, “The position of the agnostic is that they cannot prove anything; they look at something like Mount Rushmore and state that they cannot say how it got there. Man or God.”

The agnostic position doesn’t apply to Mount Rushmore. No sane agnostic need say that they cannot say how Mount Rushmore got there because of their agnosticism; it only applies to the supernatural. The supernatural is not manifest; Mount Rushmore is manifest. We can go to it. Test it. Examine it. Look at the documents of its creation—if we really want to verify them we can look at the stones themselves and find evidence of tool usage, wear, and repair. All of these things are evidence that will corroborate documentation and other provenance about Mount Rushmore.

Sean has been misinformed by someone about the agnostic position and is promoting a baldly stupid argument against it.

Mill Avenue Resistance: Saturday, November 29th 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, November 29th 2008.

After I arrived on Mill Ave and got to work with my usual interviews and observations, I noticed that the STFS—in the form of the Resistance—arrived with their amplification to locate the evangelicals gathering in front of Border’s. Kazz, Rocco, Rachel, Todd, Kyle, Brian, Kevin, and Ashley making up the Resistance; and the preachers had some familiar faces in Erin, Al, Suzanne, and a few others.

I really like having Suzanne around because she’s a good speaker, actually spends the time to converse with people, and listens thoughtfully to what they have to say—of course, she found herself locked in a conversation most of the night with Rocco and in spite of his geeky expression he is extremely good at holding a conversation.

Border’s

This part of the night made for an interesting environment for the Resistance because the preachers did not set up any sort of amplification. They just stood around passing out tracts and talking to passersby as per normal operations. This lasted about two hours or so at most, and occupied most of the time of the Resistance during that part of the night.

I spent most of my time getting to know the various players, movers and shakers actually in the region, keeping track of people; I’ve collected some tracts from the preachers but they’ll be stowed amid my other documented manuscripts and missives from the Ave.

This was something of a social gathering pretty much for all involved.

Pamphleteering seems to be the primary role of that part of the night.

Post Office

Eventually things moved out in front of the Post Office after the pianist vacated his location. Al moved from Border’s out to there. I found him because I had holed up there primarily to get a soda from the Thirsty Dog, but to also see what the pianist was up to (since he had mentioned he was also a street rat at some point.) He is part of my observation now because he seems to also have been proselytizing to the crowd around him and I’m sure the Resistance would like to know about him.

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn much—he didn’t stick around long enough for me to speak to him.

Instead, I got myself into a conversation with John—who came out with Lee—and we talked about some nostalgia about the Ave and other interesting tidbits about anthropology and how to study people. The conversation seemed to turn into one of those of Biblical misanthropy. I am becoming a little bit concerned about this particular product of the religion: beginning at a base state of dehumanizing other people by presenting them as evil and unruly seems like a good way to dismiss them as peers and as respectable people.

I hate to quote Ayn Rand, but I believe that the evanescent saying would be, “You cannot rule an innocent man.” A great deal of the meme here seems to be that everyone is wicked and therefore they need to be ruled by something; and, unsurprisingly, that something is going to be whatever religion made the unsupported assertion that everyone is bad.

I don’t believe that people who promulgate this meme realize that they are deliberately dismissing everything good that anyone does by trying to shackle it to their religion.

Trevor

I met him last week and I have the same criticism of his presentation as the above; that people drown themselves too deep in this misanthropic meme they are setting themselves up for dangerous, xenophobic separation from the rest of what could be a loving community. By approaching the world, and other people, as if they were terrible, horrible things we are essentially becoming Aristotle’s “lover of war” because we are immediately judging other people as evil rather than peers.

People who say things like this may spend their time saying things like, “I am just as bad,” but this is a sallow and cowardly divorce from what they just said before—really, we do not approach other people from a philosophy that suggests that we’re both evil and actually have a sane relationship.

I am being unfair to him at the moment, though, as we didn’t get a lot of time to speak.

It’s difficult to talk to him because he is so deep in his mirrorspeech that I’m not sure when the real person is going to surface. Today he wanted to know when I would, “Start preaching the gospel,” when his god would “raise me from the dead and bring me to life.” Perhaps I am just looking at a profound form of culture shock with these weird metaphors that he uses; because I am not sure that even the most diplomatic person that he talks to would take metaphors like that as proper conversation.

Brant

Wow. He misspeaks a lot.

At about 11:30pm amplification was set up outside the Post Office and first Trevor took to it—but I didn’t hear much of it because I had interviews to do—but then finally when the Resistance arrived on the scene, having moved from Border’s, they came head-to-head with a new evangelical preacher named Brant.

He has a somewhat square face and punchy cheeks, real farmboy build, short but slicked up brown hair, flat matte in the Mill Ave lights. He had a white sweater and blue jeans; amid his support crew were a pair of girls carrying tracts. He showed distinct signs of being barely trained to speak in front of crowds, although he seems to have practice; but he had little way in preparation for the siege that the Resistance was bringing with them.

For some parts Vince decided to speak with Brant on the microphone; he’s pretty good at what he does and he’s a real raconteur so that one didn’t go so well for proselytizing. Vince is a street rat, extremely into mystery religions, well studied, and excels at standing on his own turf—while he’s not distinctly part of the Resistance, he certainly helped them hold their own with some fun and interesting criticisms.

Brant to Vince, “If you’re not a Christian, then I can talk it over; but if you aren’t a Christian, then I don’t care.”

Brant did attempt to run the Good Person Test on Kyle—which was not going to go well because as a member of the Resistance he’s wise to the misinterpretations of scripture; the emotional blackmail; and the general immoral structure of the test. That ran a strange gambit as Kyle’s replies were split between Brant and Kazz/Todd as they replied themselves on the Resistance’s amp. Score another point for the siege style criticism that the Resistance brings. Of course, a bit of this was in part that Brant was just not prepared for this sort of encounter.

Eventually Todd took over—and that just went downhill for Brant. During the Good Person Test against Kyle it was brought up by Rocco (and others) that the very basis for the test didn’t even apply to Gentiles (that’s anyone who is not from the tribes of Israel.) They even went to a bible and found the part of Exodus that says so.

Brant to Todd, “Todd is going to read from the Bible, and he professes to be an atheist—but he knows in his heart that there is a god.”

It was actually Rocco who found it; but he had a lot of trouble getting the Resistance microphone or even Brant’s attention in order to reply to the challenge. Normally, I don’t think that it’s proper to debate the evangelicals on the Bible (as Kyle and/or Joe pointed out once) because it’s just psychic masturbation and doesn’t really lead anywhere. A lot like how Jewish people deal with Christians is by totally dismissing the New Testament; the atheists and other cultures really shouldn’t be going into that book in order to prove points—cross culturally there is only culture shock and the scriptures of either mythology aren’t as important as the social bridge between them.

However, this was an interesting blow because it did manage to point out a serious flaw in the design of the Good Person Test.

Brant may have some training in crowd control and speaker mollification but he’s not very good at deploying it. He tends to use, “Fair enough,” too often in the wrong places and mistakes it not for the affirmative that it is because he uses it and then contradicts what the person said. This creates a sort of backlash from the entire crowd who hear him say “yes,” and the in the same breath “no.”

For anyone who is familiar with the Good Person Test, here’s something that you should never accept from them. If they’re doing the bit where they ask, “Have you ever stolen anything?” And you’re hemming and hawing because most people have never actually stolen anything and the questioner says, “Have you ever downloaded music illegally from the Internet?” If you have: You have not committed theft.

Don’t let people get away with this stupid, ignorant-of-the-law meme. Copyright infringement is not theft. It’s not. Assault is not theft; murder is not theft; arson is not theft; vandalism is not theft. There are millions of illegal acts that are not theft and copyright infringement is one of them. The Supreme Court of the United States themselves has rendered decision after decision to make this clear to the public and the judicial system as if it were necessary.

The entire concept of Intellectual Property is an extremely infantile idea; the Bronze Age culture and dogma from which the Ten Commandments is derived had no conception of what IP was—it is not covered by any of them.

Brant: You are on notice. You have been told twice now that it’s not theft. Learn or be left behind. I expect you to be a rational, intelligent, and healthy peer of mine and actually do your homework and learn why copyright infringement cannot be theft. Stop trying to say that it is simply because it is convenient for this immoral, toxic, and psychologically abusive tool “The Good Person Test.”

The Resistance did not take well to Brant, probably because he’s particularly loud and refuses to be conversant—probably all part of his training in crowd control. This is particularly galling to the members of the Resistance who are there to create a public dialogue. Certainly I’ve heard others mention that they’re, “Not here to debate; but preach the gospel.” Okay, but what is not being understood here is that they’ve entered into a public forum and part of the function of the forum is to become part of a play-by-play of interaction and conversation.

Break that and you’re going to cause friction, and here’s the friction.

Some of the things that I noticed was that Brant would fall quickly onto saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

And more than once he found irritated fury in the mouths of the Resistance who had faced up to his crowd control techniques and didn’t like what they were hearing; except that he absurdly replied with, “I’ll take that as a compliment,” to things like Rachel’s flagellations:

Rachel to Brant, “You are an ignorant airhead!”

Brant said, “I take that as a compliment.”

Well… “Oh, how clumsy of me: I meant to insult you,” Captain Von Trapp, The Sound of Music.

I don’t know what he said to elicit that reaction, and I didn’t get a chance to post interview Rachel to find out; but there was shortly some sort of dialogue about brainwashing involved. I fear that Brant misspeaking and his use of crowd control techniques was causing abrasions, which spiral rapidly into frustration on both sides. I’d warn people to use caution with flat ridicule “on the first date” but since I missed part of that exchange I cannot properly comment on it.

If I see more of this sort of sparks between the two groups I will try to make comments on how social critique and public rebuke work—especially in the context of siege protests. Irony, sarcasm, parody, and other swift, sharp kicks in the delicate sensibilities have to be tempered with careful contextualization. Both groups are producing a sort of production for an audience; like a pair of entertainment troupes playing off of each other.

Castigat ridendo mores,” Jean-Baptiste Poquelin.

If anyone can give me experiences, how they feel when these events are going on, and what they can remember from their interaction and what they want to present and what obstacles they feel they have I will try to include that in my future critique.

Funny

I almost want to call the Resistance “The Résistance” instead just to be funny but … I think that I’ll stick with the less high faulting’ name.

Mill Avenue Resistance: Saturday, November 22st 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, November 22nd 2008.

The SFTS invited out some reporters from the New Times tonight to observe what they do and get some time to talk to everyone.

Tonight we saw a varied crew: Jim and his wheelchair, Edwin, Al, Suzanne and her daughter, even Vocab Malone (—btw, both of us missed each other because we don’t know what we look like, even though we stood within close proximity to each other several times!)

From what I observed the two who came out got photographs of many people. Spoke with Al, Jim, and others to get notes and quotes. I pretty much stayed out of their way. I tend to find my position on Mill Ave to be one as more an observer when it comes to the SFTS and the evangelists; I spend most of my intimate time with the Mill rats. It seemed to go well.

By and large very little happened. According to Kazz they moved from Borders at 8:30pm to the Post Office because Al had set up there. Shortly after they left (about 5 mins) Edwin set up amplification in front of Borders and started talking but that didn’t last long. Al also gave up the ghost pretty shortly and simply played some sort of tape of from his amplification that I couldn’t make out and unfortunately didn’t get a chance to ask him what it was about.

One of the best encounters of the night happened between Trevor (an evangelist I will go into shortly) and a Latina woman who started talking about the conception of Jesus. I may have misheard her initially but she seemed to start out by talking about the immaculate conception of Jesus Christ. For those who don’t know what this is, it is a part of Catholic doctrine that Mary, mother of Jesus, was without sin thus that she should give birth to Jesus (i.e. a sinless vessel to bring their god into the world.) There is a Wikipedia article on this for those who don’t understand the terms in this paragraph.[1]

I probably did mishear her because Trevor immediately jumped on her for this because the Bible does not support this, from what I hear it is entirely Catholic doctrine and does not show up in the scriptures. An assumption based on passages readings, as it were. So, every time the conversation moved away from it, he brought it back up again, until she reneged on it (or basically said she hadn’t said that which could have been the case.)

Eventually Trevor came to talk to me and his disciplined mirror-speech was something profound.

In spite of the thickness of his mirrorspeech which was crystalline and sheer in quality, I was able to tease out some personality from him. According to him he’s been doing this about four years, ever since he went into Alcoholics Anonymous because of his lifestyle of party going and drinking and drug use—but he found the teachings of the AA to be “false teachings” because they suggested that people become gods unto themselves, or seek out some ambiguous higher power in order to drag themselves out of the hole their addition left them in.

“They hate Jesus there,” he said, “you start talking about Christ and they’ll throw you out.” I actually have never heard that, but I suppose that in a very important way the AA groups might need to keep themselves as even keel as possible and allowing highly controversial Christianity into their midst could destroy the fragile balance they have with helping people. I fear that he may have taken this as a form of persecution rather than the social protocol that it probably was.

However as much as I tried I could not determine the first time that he picked up a Bible or how he actually came to start doing what he does. He deflected or misunderstood every question of that vein, turning it into more mirrorspeech at every turn. I eventually gave up and just listened. It would have been nice to know how he came to decide upon Christianity, and his singular type of evangelism in particular.

His speech was steeped in strong metaphor as well. Saying that his heart had been stone and replaced with a heart of flesh—and that if I accepted what he did the same would happen. In trying to draw me into a discussion about religion he ran into my normal observations about mythology and made the lay-mistake of thinking that the connotation of “myth” is tied up with mythology. I tried a little bit to dance around talking about his mythology, though, as I don’t think that I could have educated him in the proper use of the term without him unthinkingly taking insult.

Eventually I told him about my work on Mill Ave. How I spend a lot of time observing and getting to know people. “I love people, they are wonderful—amazing creatures who make up our social landscape.” He wanted to tell me that if I wanted to study people that the biggest thing was their wickedness. He went on about how people were selfish, and horrible, and awful and into themselves, and so on.

Trevor, if you read this I want you to know that in a very powerful sense that you are drowning yourself in soot colored glasses when you do this. I tried to tell you last night, but you don’t want to listen to me: you want to sell your religion to me. I’m not buying. I observe people and I don’t see evil and horror and choking weeds ravaging the world; because that’s not what’s going on. You are strapping on an outmoded morality that demands good of people by comparing them to an arbitrary “perfect.”

The perfect is the enemy of the good. We will never be able to set a proper morality, nor love and embrace our fellow creatures if we set upon them such rigidified, uncaring, and unsympathetic strangling mores. By painting other people with a brush tarred in the differences you think are flaws and ignoring their triumphs, their adoration, their love, and the wonder in them you have condemned yourself to an extremely dismal experience. This kind of escapism will end only in your self-destruction as you asphyxiate in your own self-imposed bubble.

The biggest problem with all of this is that clearly you are aware of the world around you; you can respect and interact with other people; if you really do recoil from everyone you meet and think them horrible and awful then you are condescending everyone you speak to.

When I study people I do get the good and the bad, by leaps and bounds different metrics for “good and bad” persist—and few of them reach the scary “everyone is wicked” meme that you have injected into your blood and it will poison you. Instead of being the mouthpiece of rigid vulgarity maybe one day you can decide to be the amazing person that surely you must actually be.

(I love the word “wicked” by the way; it’s such a beautiful word, linguistically thorny, and anthropologically powerful—this is probably why evangelists are so in love with it themselves.)

At the end of our conversation he cheerfully offered me his hand and we shook where he asked me my name. As per usual I gave him my Crystalian name, which is also my street name, and handle. “Amerist.” Which he instantly took as exotic and expressed incredulity that it was my “real name.” By which, I think, he means my family name, but he’s using an old-hat linguistic trick to disenfranchise any other name than family names. Then he requested my birth name, which I don’t even have anymore—then tried to guess it, and he did really badly because my birth name is actually even more exotic than my street name.

Eventually he went away flustered at not learning my name; and even tried to tie some weird metaphor to my explanation of what my name means (“her [stone] purifying tears”.) I tried to explain to him that my name essentially is a variation of a name that meant “she who bears [away] the sorrows of the world.” To which I said fit in with my healer tradition, taking away suffering, helping and mending people. And click on came his mirrorspeech again—as I fully expected—“There is only one healer! And that’s Jesus.”

(I wrote a lot more about Trevor in my Mill Avenue Nights blog.)

Why are evangelists so hung up on your “real name”?

Psychologically names are powerful things; they are how we interact socially with other creatures, they become the labels by which we represent ourselves, they are not just our identity within the group, but they are also the handles by which others attain and attract our attention. Saying a person’s name is attractive to their mind—say a name in a crowded room and that person will likely take notice, turn their head—so I’d like to introduce everyone to what is basically a dirty trick.

It’s called false intimacy.

Salesman and flimflam artists are well versed in the false intimacy trick. It is a staple of confidence men and anyone who is attempting to convince you of something—or sell you something like an evangelist is. What they will ask you for is your name, generally your first name if you give them your last name. I would love to see some staunch British aristocrat berate someone for being rude by not accepting “Mrs. Strahan” and requesting a first name. By using your first name they are psychologically trying to put themselves on the same level as your close and intimate friends.

Mythology about “true names” isn’t too far off the truth. Names may not have metaphysical or supernatural power—but they do have psychological power. We are social creatures and are more likely to accept what our friends tell us without much corroboration (they are our friends, after all) and our friends use particular protocols of speech that acquaintances and strangers do not know. One of these things is our familiar name.

In the conversation a person endeavoring to gain your confidence will say your first name over and over again in an attempt to cause your social brain to link what they’re saying to something you should be confident in. Of course, if they’re your friend they will use a familiar name, therefore they must be familiar if they’re using that name—and if they use it over and over again they keep and rapt your attention to what they’re saying.

Listen to a used car salesman work sometime.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with using whatever name you want in any encounter with any person; and it is good for you to be aware of how you control the various compartments of your life with your own identity. In our society we have at least two names to start with that we use on a general basis. A great deal of people find their family name “Mrs. Strahan” or such to be stuffy and enjoy being called by their first names. It is just important to realize that when a person attempts to use your name against you to listen to your instincts.

If you are an evangelist and you have received training in this sort of psychological hack, take a moment to realize that applying this is the razor’s edge of dishonest behavior.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immaculate_conception