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, 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.

Roosevelt Resistance Reports: Friday, January 2nd 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 Friday, January 2nd 2009.

The Resistance arrived sometime around 7pm mostly in the form of Kyle and Kazz who set up their amplified apparatus near where the evangelical Way of the Master preachers had set up in the triangular dirt parcel between traffic lanes. It’s an interesting little region that seems to simply be set aside from development because it’s ensconced between roads.

The Anonymous vs. Scientology protesters also reappeared in front of the newly bought Scientology Corporation building. The Scientologists had set up their blue tent with the endless-loop video and the lonely chairs, although this time the small cluster of chairs had an announcer who chose the scenes to play from the video. Cale decided to go and take a free stress test. The results were pretty much similar to the previous time I followed various members of the Resistance/STFS during these. He also professed interest in getting a free guide from them, but didn’t get a chance. 

Shortly Todd and Rachel also appeared and started to lay into Valerie who had the mic at the time and was proselytizing to some Asian girls who had stopped. We also had Edwin, Lee, John, and others. And a new guy, who I’m going to call Shawn3, a balding late 30s to 40s man, with a somewhat playful attitude—this comes up later—who stood around and spoke with people with the preachers and at one point even took the microphone.

At one point Shawn3 decided to play a game with Todd and said, “Well, you seem to be a scholar.”

“Well, not really,” Todd said.

“You seem to be quoting the bible a lot,” said Shawn3, “and if you quote the Bible you must have read it.”

“No, I don’t.” Todd plucks at his shirt, shrugs, and says, “Actually, I don’t quote the Bible. Ever. I haven’t even once tonight. What are you talking about? I have read the Bible, yes. Years ago. But I don’t quote it.”

“Well, if you’ve read the Bible then tell me is the Book of Hezekiah in the New Testament or the Old Testament.”

Of course, there is no Book of Hezekiah. Apparently this is a common inside joke beginning to emerge within some segments of the Christian population about people who say that certain quotes exist in the Bible that don’t, so a nonexistent book has been invented to hold them. (I wonder if Ghostoftheday and others have heard this one, perhaps the Book of Hezekiah is actually in the Gibberish Bible and we don’t know it.)

After Todd couldn’t answer the question correctly, Shawn3 went on to ridicule him and call him a liar because he said he’d read the Bible, so on so forth. None of this was very compelling because Todd never claimed to be a Biblical scholar and certainly a single person cannot know everything in the Bible by rote memorization without a great deal of study. I am certain that people who read To Kill a Mockingbird do not know offhand the name of Scout’s cat.

Later on during the night I stood by and listened to some conversations between Kazz and John, and the subject seemed to be about the rampant sexism in the Bible. This was interesting because during that time also Todd and Rachel were still talking to Shawn3 and their subject paralleled almost exactly the other discussion.

“What does my being a woman have anything to do with this conversation?” said Rachel.

Then, about ten minutes later, the conversation dissolved into a sudden caper as Shawn3 ran away—chased closely by Rachel and Todd. He sprang away, running, “Don’t chase me.” Of course, Rachel chased him around the one tiny tree there was, and then pincered him between Todd and she; putting her hand on Shawn3’s shoulder as if to root him in place.

From what I can tell the conversation had degraded quite a bit because, like most people, both Rachel and Todd find general sexism to be irreconcilable with reasonable behavior. Fortunately, the chase scene was more playful and less hostile than it actually looked and while Shawn3 tried to end the night without too much bad feelings, Todd felt like he had been too disrespectful and rude to interact with further.

Rachel apologized for “manhandling” Shawn3, although it didn’t really look to me like she was—she is actually quite tiny compared to Shawn3, so I figure that she felt bad about putting her hand on his shoulder to stop him after he ran away.

In all, it seemed a pretty fun night for everyone.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, December 6th 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 6th 2008.

Ah, Art Festival how we love thee. It brings out numerous people, allows us broad forums to have discussions, and a great deal of cultural dialogue.

The Way of the Master evangelicals

They didn’t last long. The set up had Al, Lee, John, Erin, Suzanne, her daughter, Sean, and others—most of them left the scene at about 10pm. However, Lee did remain behind with his speaker enough that Richard could arrive and use it and Vocab could use it to rap.

The evangelicals did some caroling before they finally melted away into the night by in large, leaving behind a different sort of crew to help last until near midnight.

I just wanted to mention Richard! I recall him from previous years and I’ve been somewhat concerned as to why he hasn’t been around ever since I arrived back on Mill. He is the dark skinned man with the tattoos, bald head, and short-thick beard and mustache that frame his mouth. He also has a strong voice and a ready clever intellect that he uses to respond to people asking questions.

He took the microphone and spoke with Kazz, Rachel, and Todd.

A point that I would like to make for Todd and others, that Omar brought up, is that it’s important not to be confrontational with people. At one point during the night Todd was starting to use a couple direct points against Richard or some other evangelical in a somewhat harsh manner. In some cases harshness may be required; but it’s probably not the best place to start.

After Omar asked people not to be confrontational, of course, Todd was kind enough to back off and let Omar take over the discussion.

Allie and Omar

For part of the night Omar got into a discussion with a woman named Allie. Obviously inebriated, Allie took directly to speaking about love for other people and one of the Christian gods, Jesus. She wore a blue blouse beneath a white vest fringed with fur and blue jeans. After she got the microphone the first thing that happened was a descent into complete rabble-rabble.

And I mean loud yelling all around. The noise level went through the roof and she started shouting—almost crying—and quickly the roar became almost unbearable. It didn’t take too long for things to calm down again and Omar and Allie got to speak to each other without too much white noise.

Some choice quotes came from their discussion.

“I love you,” says Allie.

“I love you too, just without Jesus,” Omar says. “My disbelief in Jesus does not change my love for you; just as your belief in Jesus doesn’t change your love for me. We do not need this belief for love.”

Allie and her husband apparently were visiting from Texas; this was their first foray to Phoenix and Tempe, and thus also Mill Avenue. So we all tried to welcome the pair to Mill Ave. Thus including Allie and her three margaritas.

Vince and Trevor

Just a little introduction to Vince, again. When I was originally out on Mill long ago his street name was (and still is) “Preacher Man.” Vince is well known for his Christian and Biblical views and he is very good at controlling mirrorspeech in other people and knows how to turn a person away from attempting to roll over him in conversations. He’s quite good at controlling conversations.

One of the problems with conversing with some of the Mill Ave evangelicals is tactics that take advantage of too demure or polite people who are not willing to confront being talked over or being dismissed out of hand. Vince doesn’t let this happen.

When Trevor got into a talk with Vince, however, it didn’t last long. As Vince had the speaker at the time and Trevor did not. Both of them Christian they had a strange conversation involving interpretations and thoughts on their various schisms. Trevor, we learn, is apparently Pentecostal; and Vince decided to bring up what the different types of Pentecostals are. To list the full taxonomy of all Christian schisms could take forever, I’ve discovered, which is why I don’t have time to identify the dogmatic and doctrinal difference between all of them.

Their conversation eventually ended when Trevor told Vince that he could give up the microphone. Which Vince didn’t so Trevor walked away.


I think that I need to make a comment about this movie. For some reason, Ben Stein felt the need to insult Frankenstein in his ignorant screed against Evolutionary Biology in another gigantic misunderstanding and bad attempt to strawman the facts for the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.

What is Answers in Genesis and why is it actually a bad thing?

During the night, Sean was talking to a few passersby before the 10pm turned-into-pumpkin event. The two young men I didn’t get their names but they quickly wore thin talking to Sean because he couldn’t give them anything that corroborated any of his claims. So he offered them some pamphlets, which they accepted and at the end of it he told them to visit Answers in Genesis dot com.

AIG is a website promoting Creationism and it spends a bit of its time therefore attacking the Theory of Evolution by Natural selection mostly by way of bad science, outright falsehoods, and general rhetorical trickery.

I would like to direct everyone to where many of the profoundly wrong information promoted by Answers in Genesis are refuted with factual, evidence based, and cited. Anyone who visits AIG will discover a number of claims, most of which are uncited and unsupported, the critters that run TalkOrigins have done a lot of research and time into citing and refuting a lot of the claims made my Creationism and the Intelligent Design movement.

AIG is just a bald faced front for Creationism and pedantic religiously motivated political propaganda.

If you are looking for resources specifically aimed at cultural criticism of Intelligent Design, TalkOrigins has a sister site

Remember: all of these criticisms come with numerous citations, factual examination, philosophy, and cultural dialogues. Be willing to actually examine things, you’ll probably find a lot of enlightenment looking at what humanity knows about the natural, manifest world. Creationism and Intelligent Design try hard to play in the manifest, naturalistic stage while trying to add the supernatural and unfalsifiable non-hypothesises as if they are meaningful in a respectful discussion.

Answers In Genesis doesn’t seek to have a dialogue, they seek to make uncited and uncitable assertions about how humanity understands the Universe. Take a class in college on propaganda and political rhetoric and the behavior of AIG becomes extremely clear—it’s just a front for political ideas and not at all for an empirical, evidence based examination of the Universe. It doesn’t present any hypothesis; it has no models; and it certainly doesn’t have any scientific theories with which to enlighten anyone.

Most people are actually pretty smart; they just don’t have enough time in their days to be up on everything that everyone should. There’s always these reports running around talking about how ignorant Americans are of many things. Acting like being able to recite all of the seven dwarves but they cannot name all the justices who sit on the Supreme Court of the United States. We should be fair to them: the average American doesn’t have time to educate themselves about the fundamentals of the theory of evolution any more than they do about the theory of gravity.

It may be helpful to send people to see the criticism of websites like AIG whose behavior is easily highlighted by only a few key phrases and articles. While the people who run sites like AIG spread propaganda, sound bites, and political rhetoric—the only good way to counter this is by promoting critical examination of the facts, and there are so many when empirical analysis comes into play.

The Universe is empirical. It is manifest. Anyone who has ever stuck their hand into a fire or touched a hot burner knows how tests and certainty work.

Let’s not allow politically motivated religious propaganda and rhetoric stifle our continual advancement of the understanding of our own Universe.

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.