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, November 14th 2008.
Out tonight were a small group of preachers—possibly two—who spend a bit less of a time with breaking people down and raking them over the coals, but instead stick more tightly to their Biblical scriptures. This proved to be interesting for members of the SFTS who like to discuss their interpretation of that mythology.
The True Vine Baptist Church in Glendale, Arizona appears to be their origin point. The True Vine is an international organization of churches, almost franchise-like. They appear to pride themselves in what they’d call “Biblical mandate,” which is how they attempt to separate themselves from other evangelicals who come out to Mill.
No need for amplification today: they weren’t using any.
It appears that several of the members who I’ve met before are already famous with the group. For example Tom, an elder with bright blonde-white hair that spikes above his head, who was initially holding a sign. Several interesting conversations sparked out but nothing that I found myself privy to.
Ed, who is an elder of possibly fifty or sixty years by now, is an overweight, post-athletic man with a projecting voice and a sensibility that I see sometimes in work-a-day veterans, like my grandfather. He carries his bible in his ham-fists, smiles under his round spectacles, and speaks with a careful diction. I’ve been seeing him on Mill for the past four years, and it took a while before he started to talk to me as a person rather than an evangelical.
Tonight there were about six children. Four girls and two boys in the group. (Their names I have written but I’m not republishing.) Three of them are Ed’s adopted children, those who have been taken out of neglectful and abusive homes and given better lives. One in particular, huge Buddy Holly glasses, visible front teeth, and spiked hair, I’m told, has an ADD impatience because he used to spend days locked up in his room without attention.
The ages of the children ranged from about eight to twelve, all fairly preteen. They involved themselves broadly in the proceedings and rituals, mostly staying silent. Carrying about in groups or clustered near adults. All normal child behaviors. No gamboling and capering for them on Mill Ave.
I noticed a sign. A tall, screen-printed thing. It depicted one of the Christian gods, Jesus Christ, lashed to a tree (possibly a wooden strut), being whipped and insulted by a pair of Roman centurions—who were depicted with incorrect armor. Talk bubbles displayed things like, “This one for the fool!” and possibly messages about the King of the Jews.
(Some of the members of the SFTS found the quotes of Biblical script on the sign to be interesting and brought that up, but I don’t know what exactly so I’m going to have to ask tonight and modify this post to reflect that.)
Others, mostly latino men, shouted incoherent words into the street at passing cars—incoherent because the echo of their voices did not come back to me where I stood. They had smaller, white signs of laminated corrugated cardboard with black stenciled letters.
One in particular read:
“And God shall judge the secrets of men.”
Over the period of the night a few of the SFTS got into an argument with a latina woman wearing glasses, dark hair pulled back, who used the kids as messengers to find Bible passages for her. One telling event was when she became upset during a discussion of battles and the siege of cities in the Bible (possibly Jericho) where the invading army razed the city and murdered the civilian occupants upon the command of YHVH. Kazz and others argued quite directly if she condoned that then she condoned the murder of children.
Her heated reply, of course, was that people were putting words in her mouth. She didn’t condone the murder of children. I hope that it’s not necessary for me to walk people through the conclusion that when someone condones an act that involves the murder of children that they necessary also condone that. YHVH from the Old Testament of Christian mythology is a war god, leading tribes from land to land, annihilating foes, and often massacring children along with the adults.
Why? Because this is how tribal warfare is fought. An army cannot take care of a city full of children—if they just killed all of the noncombatant adults, the children would end up starving to death anyway.
After a certain point it’s necessary to acknowledge that tribal warfare, as put forth by YHVH, was a war of expansion and aggression and came with all of the vicious and horrible elements thereof—including the murder of children. It was a barbaric, horrible time and led by barbaric and terrible deities.
When attempting to argue these points members of the SFTS might be better to attempt to wrap themselves around a thesis of: “We have outgrown this.” And while pointing out these events talk about why we should not carry this baggage with us. Too many of these arguments devolve into spitting matches because the evangelicals feel like they’re under attack (and in a way they are right, but really it’s only because they’ve taken their mythology into themselves.) They shield themselves with a martyr complex that they then use to rationalize and justify their actions in the face of criticism.
It may be necessary to frame every discussion in order to prevent them from easily attempting to transfer their own demonization of others onto the people attempting to show them that these sort of myths—believed upon faith as grand tapestries of behavior—perhaps should be taken with grains of salt for the tribal desert clan stories they are.