Hate Mail From Sharon Kass: ‘Zack Ford, Captive of Gay-ness’

My best approximation of Sharon Kass.

My best approximation of Sharon Kass.

I got some very amusing hate mail this week!

Many folks out in the LGBT activism world are familiar with Sharon Kass. She regularly trolls advocates of equality with emails extolling ex-gay therapy and the ex-gay group NARTH. In fact, Truth Wins Out has been tracking her for some time, and she’s also had run-ins with my friends at The Bilerico Project, Good As You, and others. She contributes occasionally to some uber-conservative sites like WorldNetDaily, where her schtick is the same.

Most recently, Kass targeted Tennessee 11-year-old Marcel Neergaard, who successfully petitioned Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst group to rescind an education award from state Rep. John Ragan (R), sponsor of the pro-bullying “Don’t Say Gay” bill. (I met Marcel’s mom, Misty, this summer at Netroots Nation, and let me just say that the world would be lucky to have more moms like her.) Kass wrote to Marcel’s dad telling him that he was responsible for Marcel’s homosexuality, which she called a “disorder of deep-seated gender self-alienation.” She went on to explain how the family clearly didn’t want a second boy and so the distance between father and son is what caused Marcel to be gay. “The ex-gay truth,” she wrote, “will prevail in this country.”

A Change.org petition asking Kass to stop sending hate mail currently has over 600 signatures.

I’ve heard from Kass plenty of times myself. Back in September, she even suggested that we hold a public debate. After exchanging a few emails, she decided I was not a “worthy opponent” because I sneer at “Christians” (her quotes, not mine) and ignore “original sources” (those quotes are mine) like NARTH, Joseph use-gay-porn-to-cure-homosexuality Nicolosi, and Richard hit-a-pillow-with-a-tennis-racket Cohen.

I was disappointed, actually, because I don’t know if “Sharon Kass” is a real person. I’ve never seen a picture of her anywhere. I’ve never seen her make a public appearance anywhere. Her name outside of her hate mail might not even be Sharon — she might not even be a she. (That would be disappointing, because I hate misgendering people.) During the should-we-have-a-debate debate, I asked to see a picture of her, and I think that may have put her off.

But this week, I heard from her out of the blue! And this time, she wrote a custom article about me! It includes some quite random quotes from here at ZackFord Blogs as well as over at ThinkProgress. I replied to ask her if it was published anywhere, but her only reply was, “To quote Hillary… what difference does it make?” I sure hope that my sexual identity doesn’t become an overblown fake scandal like Benghazi, but I assume — with some Google confirmation — that she meant “no.” So, I’ll solve her that problem and print it here because I think it’s just so amusing. To be nice, I’ll even toss in some links to my posts and her sources (since she only included the reference list at the bottom). Here is a direct copy and paste of her email:

Zack Ford, Captive of Gayness

Sharon Kass
October 29, 2013

I’m just a regular guy, I think.  Well, maybe.–Zack Ford, “Who is Zack Ford?”  ZackFordBlogs.com

He’s young.  He’s Leftist.  He’s gay.

Welcome to the world of Zack Ford, head gay at the Leftist D.C. think tank the Center for American Progress.

He’s a self-described atheist.  Psychologist Paul Vitz, in his Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism, explains how an early troubled relationship (or nonrelationship) with the father contributes to a lifelong troubled relationship with authority.  God, of course, is the Ultimate Authority.

Male homosexuality originates in faulty bonding and identification with the father, starting at or before age two.  Psychologist Joseph Nicolosi discusses this in his article “Fathers of Male Homosexuals: A Collective Clinical Profile.”  To the male homosexual, with his insecure masculinity, the male object of desire is not the object of mature erotic love but a source of a masculine fix.  (A “gay” relationship may have an element of true friendship, but the erotic part is neurotic.)

He says, of himself, that being adopted is “just kind of cool.”  He’s in denial.  Being casual about family ties is a pose he puts on in order to escape his feeling of hurt.  Deep down, he wonders what role his having been adopted played in his father’s difficulty relating to him.

He loves knocking ex-gays and critics of homosexuality.  But he’s got no opposing case.  He’s very invested in being a “sexual minority” because then he gets to be part of a “protected class” like blacks and gets to force his fellow Americans to affirm his “gay identity.”  Nicolosi’s “Gay as Self-Reinvention” explains this.

More Fordisms:

It [the assertion that “gay” is psychotherapeutically treatable]’s the latest evidence that all of these groups [such as Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays and the Family Research Council] are actively working against the lives of LGBT people ….

How to Invalidate Gays: Validate Ex-Gays

Ex-gay Rich Wyler, founder of People Can Change, had the opportunity to reiterate many untrue ex-gay talking points, including unfounded “causes” for a gay orientation, the misguided notion that it’s ethical to support a patient who wants ex-gay therapy, and a completely inaccurate comparison between ex-gay and transgender patients.  ….  NPR [National Public Radio] has no obligation to highlight their [ex-gays’] harmful, anti-scientific, and anti-gay views as having any merit.

Ford lives in a bubble of denial, a Leftist bubble.  All his life, he has been among the millions of Americans who have been used for bogus civil rights cache.  He makes his living repeating unsubstantiated talking points.  He is a captive of gay-ness.

GayScam could end as soon as 2021.  If Zack Ford is smart, he’ll get real help and start working on learning who is really is.  No time to waste.  ///

Sources:  http://thinkprogress.org.feedsportal.com, www.zackfordblogs.com.  For real information, see www.narth.com, www.gaytostraight.org, www.peoplecanchange.com, www.jonahweb.org, www.janellehallman.com, www.josephnicolosi.com, www.voiceofthevoiceless.info, and www.pfox.org.  The 2013 meeting of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality is November 8-9 in Phoenix.  

So, a couple quick thoughts:

  • I don’t think I’m the “head gay” at CAP. Lots of other people are doing great LGBT work there, and they definitely do not report to me.
  • If gay sex is “neurotic,” so what?
  • Why is GayScam, whatever it is, going to end in 2021? I didn’t get any memos.
  • Why is everything my dad’s fault? Is it his fault I also don’t like peanut butter?

Speaking of my dad, I showed him Kass’s letter. He wrote me the following response:


Tell her the next meeting of the National Association of “Hypocrites of America” is on November 3, 2013, at your local church. Remember Ms. Sharon, Jesus despised the hypocrites and the money lenders (rich white right wing bankers).



My dad always jokes that he likes to read the last lines of my posts (which he reads daily, by the way), because he enjoys how I drive home whatever point I’m trying to make. I think I’ll let his be the final point here, though.

Sister Denise: Prayer WORKS (And Other Unnecessarily Capitalized Words)

One of the most enjoyable aspects of writing a public blog is hearing people’s reactions, especially the negative ones. Honestly, I look forward to opportunities to learn from people who disagree, but I also look forward to responding to the people whose arguments simply do not stand up. Most importantly, those who evangelize here (like Shelonda) help demonstrate the ineffectiveness of religious language. If they are willing to make their remarks public, I’m willing to respond to them.

I still feel that my post, “I Don’t Want You To Pray For Me,” is one of the most important posts I’ve written. I refer people back to it often and often reread it myself. Folks regularly criticize prayer’s ineffectiveness, but I take the argument a step further and call it selfish (i.e. its first priority is self-reinforcement of beliefs). This argument is compelling because it’s much harder to debate and is actually proven further true by any attempt to argue the effectiveness of prayer. In a comment left today, “Sister Denise” demonstrates this perfectly. Continue reading “Sister Denise: Prayer WORKS (And Other Unnecessarily Capitalized Words)” »

Apparently Only Christians Are Constituents of Alabama’s New Governor

The manifest destiny of a Christian American theocracy took a bold step towards the light this week with the inauguration of Alabama’s new governor, Robert Bentley.

The day before taking office, Bentley, a deacon at First Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, spoke at Dexter Street King Memorial Baptist Church, once led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. An occasion meant to honor Dr. King on his holiday seemed to have quite the opposite effect. Said Bentley:

But if you have been adopted in God’s family like I have, and like you have, if you’re a Christian and if you’re saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives with me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister.

Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters. So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.

Maybe he was just getting it all out of his system while he could.

What’s worse, if you read the news article, you’ll see plenty of people (the Anti-Defamation League notably excepted) are open to defending him or at least equivocating about his intentions. It must be really bad for non-Christians in Alabama if they’re afraid to even say, “Yeah, I was pretty damn offended” on the record.

This is ridiculously offensive. We’re a nation with a history of denying groups of people a role in their government, and here’s a newly elected official who seems eager to govern in just that way.

And who says “daddy”?

I don’t think folks realize how fragile the separation of church and state is. They’re not non-overlapping magisteria; they both deal with serving the people, so we have to try our hardest to maintain the boundaries we can. Electing religious leaders to government positions does the exact opposite, and Bentley is a shining example.

If you pause and consider the phenomenon of the religious right, you realize how bizarre it is that a political point of view so concerned with the constitution is the most concerned with violating the intentions behind it. Of course, snap back to reality and remember that integrity has nothing to do with it; it’s all about power. Try to make rhyme or reason out of it and you’ll get nowhere (If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college).

We’re not a Christian nation. That meme is just the largest-scale example of the George W. Bush approach to truth. Say it enough and act like it enough and people will buy into it.

Alabama, you have my sympathies. Maybe all you Jews, nonbelievers, and other non-Christians can be at least counted as 3/5 of a brother or sister.

You know what would be great? To hear some Christian groups condemn him, to stand up and say, “This was not Christian behavior and we disapprove of infusing such evangelism into state government.”

I guess they’re all too busy filing their amicus briefs to help the Department of Justice defend DOMA.

Halloween Special: Catholic Materials for Young Adults

Remember waaaaaayyyyyyy back in June when I wrote about all those materials I was handed at a street fair by different religious groups? A lot of it was creationist VBS propaganda. I mentioned then that a whole separate post would be dedicated to what the Catholics had to share.

Well, now that Halloween is upon us, it’s time for that post.

In the background right now, I’m listening to a free CD I got from the Mary Foundation called The Mass Explained. I’m almost 20 minutes into it… it’s basically an extended rant about how the bread and wine REALLY IS the body and blood of God. It’s baloney. I don’t know if I can listen much longer. It’s really just baloney… reminds me of that Frank Zappa quote about the difference between cults and religions: size. Ugh, yeah, no more.

There were a LOT of materials being distributed at the Catholic tables, and I took but a few, but which will give plenty to discuss here. The first was the aforementioned CD, of which nothing more will be said. Then, I picked up two booklets by Jason Evert (chastity.com) which I’ll pull quotes from below, and lastly, a fetus model. The distribution of these materials was at a public street fair and clearly targeted at young adults.

Let’s look at the fetus first.

Gus, The Little Jelly Fetus

This little guy (its sex organs may have appeared, but not on the model, so it could be a gal, or intersex; I named mine Gus) is 10-12 weeks old. Known as “precious one” (“Some people think that my life began at birth; but my life’s journey began long before I was born…”), it comes with a little card that tells you some things about how developed it is, things clearly designed to humanize the little jelly lump. Example:

Week 1: Conception; the baby is smaller than a grain of sugar, but the instructions are present for all that this person will become.

A zygote is not a baby and definitely not a person, but of course, the distributor of these cute little suckers, Heritage House 76, wants you to think otherwise.

Week 5: Tiny arms and legs appear, as well as the baby’s face. The baby’s blood is now separate from the mother’s.

Whoops! Sorry, an embryo is still not a baby. And I actually don’t think that’s quite accurate about the blood.

Week 11: The baby “practices breathing and facial expressions, even smiling. The baby can also urinate and stomach muscles can contract.

That one is good both for scaring girls out of getting pregnant AND guilting them out of getting an abortion. I don’t want no baby peeing in me!

Ugh. I don’t know if there’s much else need be said about the fetus. If you’re curious about getting some, they come in both Caucasian and Ethnic flavors (because all non-white fetuses look the same—you knew that right?). They’re $24.99 for a pack of 50; perfect for your Halloween party. Who doesn’t love the ol’ bowl-of-fetuses gag.

Providing misleading ideas about pregnancy are cruel, as is guilting young girls out of making certain decisions about their body. This blog is, and forever shall be, vehemently pro-choice, and disapproves of any and all pro-life propaganda.

Funny part is, there weren’t even religious messages that came with the fetus, but it sure came from the Catholic table, I can assure you of that.

Gender Policing and Sex “Education” Chastity Policing

So I picked up two booklets by Jason Evert, “Pure Love,” and “Pure Manhood,” published by Catholic Answers. Let’s be clear straight out the gate that a couple of degrees in theology do not a psychologist make. But what does a teenager know who wants to explore their sexuality? These books are loathsome.

Here are a few talking points from “Pure Love.”

p. 2: Chastity is a virtue (like courage or honesty) that applies to a person’s sexuality.

p. 4: If you’re sexually active and trying to figure out if it’s love, apply the love test. Take the sexual part out of the relationship and live the virtue of chastity. When you remove the lust, you can see if there was ever any love to begin with. Don’t be afraid to do this, because only when love is put to the test can its real value be seen.

p. 5: Your body is a gift, and during the sexual act, the couple give themselves to each other. But to reduce this gift to a loan gives you less respect than you deserve.

p. 6: Although it may be hard to see now, sex outside of marriage hurts both people. Besides the obvious risks of disease and unwanted pregnancy, it scars them emotionally.

p. 10: If you follow others into premarital sex, you may follow them into divorce court as well. In fact, if a guy gets married as a virgin, his divorce rate is sixty-three percent lower than a non-virgin. For girls, it’s seventy-sex percent lower.

That last one’s according to a 1994 study. This kind of crap pisses me off. It’s all about guilt. It’s all about some higher calling for what you are and are not supposed to do with your body. It’s incredibly stifling and, in my opinion, harmful.

What about masturbation, Christine O’Donnell asks?

p. 26: God created sex for two purposes: bonding and babies. Masturbation achieves neither, and instead of communicating life and love, the purpose of sex becomes the satisfaction of lust.

Yes, this 2007 mini-publication includes that lovely old nonsense condemning masturbation. After all, “nothing bad happens to a man’s body if he isn’t sexually active.” Just change the sheets more regularly…

Is homosexuality a sin?

p. 27: The causes of homosexuality have not been fully explained, and many who experience these temptations do not choose or want them!

Hey! That’s true! Alright! Oh wait…

p. 27, cont.: People with same-sex attractions are called to a life of chastity along with the rest of the members of the Church who battle with their own temptations.

So, being gay isn’t a choice, but your only choice is to never have sex. Ever. If you were ever confused about how Church teachings promote bullying, check out this condemning passage:

p. 28: When we understand sex for what it is—a reflection of God’s life-giving love—it becomes clear that same-sex unions cannot reflect this. Members of the same sex can reflect his love by doing what is best for each other, but the sexual act must always be ordered toward giving life.

I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Let’s look at some of the gender policing in “Pure Manhood.”

p. 4: When the time comes to ask a young woman out, take the initiative. … This honors the girl, because it takes the burden of rejection off of her and places it on you. … If she’s not worth the pain of rejection, then you don’t desire her enough.

Get that? Girls are weak and soft, so you have to be the strong man and take initiative. Here comes more chivalry sexism!

p. 5: If you go to a restaurant, open the door for her. When you sit down, pull her chair out for her. Deliberately give her the seat that faces the center of the restaurant, or whichever one has the better view. You should take the seat that faces the wall. This is a sign that you won’t be looking over her shoulder at the hostess or the TV during dinner. Your eyes are on her, and she knows it. If an attractive woman walks by, you should keep your attention on your date, so that she is secure in your love.

Right, because women are insecure!

She should also order first, and you should pay.

p. 7: If you’re getting the feeling that you’re becoming a servant, you’re getting the right idea. If you hope to be a father one day (as a dad or a priest), then get used to it. The man is the spiritual head of the family.

That’s Catholicism in a nutshell for you. It’s all about men, which makes its values as archaic as its delusions.

This booklet also includes info about masturbation and homosexual attractions. Check out these factoids:

p. 30: The world tells people who have same-sex attraction that they have two options: either hide in the closet in fear or come out, embrace your identity, and sleep with whoever you want. …

A guy who has these attractions may not want them, or even know where they’re coming from. Perhaps they stem from an unhealthy relationship with his father, an inability to relate to other guys, or even sexual abuse.

Wrong, wrong wrong. Such horrible lies.

p. 30-31: The homosexual act is disordered, much like contraceptive sex between heterosexuals. Both acts are directed against God’s natural purpose for sex—babies and bonding.

I don’t know why he bothers mentioning bonding. Clearly, he doesn’t give a shit about bonding. And guess what, he’s not done!!!

p. 31: Even if a person does not believe in God, he cannot argue with nature. For example, the life expectancy of homosexual men is half that of heterosexual men. [Paul Cameron 1996 citation.] Furthermore, imagine what would happen if all people with same-sex attractions were place in their own country. It would be empty in a century, because bodies of the same gender are not made to receive each other. Even if a man has same-sex attractions, his body is heterosexual. He was designed to give life.

Excuse my language, but fuck. that. shit. That is the most bogus distortion of homosexuality I think I’ve ever heard (and the patronizing reference to atheists was icing on the cake). And it was right there at the Catholics’ table, freely shoved into the hands of every teenage boy who walked by.

Let me end this post with Jason’s 10-step guide to staying pure. I’m sure all of these steps will really help me deal with the fact that I have sex with whoever I want.

1. Admit the problem and set the goal. [Wait, what problem?]
2. Remove the temptation. [I can go to that country with all the gays, right?]
3. Go to confession. [Can I just blog about it?]
4. Receive the Eucharist. [I listened to that explanation of Mass and I’m really not into cannibalism.]
5. Use personal prayer. [Talking to myself isn’t very productive; I already know what I’m going to say.]
6. Ask the saints for help. [They’re dead, aren’t they?]
7. Fast. [But… I’m hungry!]
8. Do something. [Like have more sex with men?]
9. Control your eyes and words. [Well, yes, that is how I read, write, and talk.]
10. Exercise patient perseverance. [I’m bored.]

Catholics want you to live life according to their archaic and psychologically damaging ideas.

Happy Halloween!

Protect Marriage: Charles J. Cooper Didn’t Watch Trial/Read Decision

Responding to Protect Marriage’s posts is not always the most fun exercise. Sometimes it’s downright f-in annoying because their statements are always so full of BS. *ahem* But that’s why we respond, right? Rather than paragraph by paragraph as per my norm, I’m going to parse Charles Cooper’s latest statement sentence by sentence. Feel free to go to the Protect Marriage site if you want to read the statement without my annotations.

Statement of Charles J. Cooper, lead counsel for the proponents of Proposition 8, concerning the decision rendered today in Perry v. Schwarzenegger:

Today, a single federal judge has negated the will of the people of California.

No, he didn’t. He overturned an unconstitutional mandate determined by 52% of the valid vote-casters of California who participated in the November, 2008 election in fulfillment of his Constitutionally-mandated responsibility as a federal judge.

The central premise of the court’s ruling is that it is irrational for the citizenry to decide to retain the traditional definition of marriage.

Technically, he ruled that the idea of retaining such a definition was irrational, not the idea of the citizenry making decisions.

The court holds that the ubiquitous definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman is a historical curiosity that serves no purpose whatsoever, but rather is based solely on anti-gay biases.

Shocking as it may be, that is, in fact, true.

Indeed, the court went so far as to brand as “irrational” all supporters of traditional marriage, which is the vast majority of all people, in American and throughout the world.

No, here you’re quite wrong. He made no such judgment about the people who supported the referendum. In his own words, the word “irrational” appears twice in the decision. On p. 109, he uses it to describe using sexual orientation to classify people. On p. 133, he uses it to describe the post-hoc state interests that your defense team, Mr. Cooper, espoused at trial. At no point did Judge Walker refer to supporters in this way.

As New York’s high court recently recognized, until very recently it “was an accepted truth for almost everyone who ever lived, in any society in which marriage existed, that there could be marriages only between participants of different sex.”  [Hernandez v. Robles, 855 N.E.2d at 8 (N.Y. 2006)].

And then recently happened.

The historical record reveals that the traditional definition of marriage is grounded in society’s interest in channeling potentially procreative sexual relationships between men and women into enduring, stable family units to increase the likelihood that children will be raised by the man and woman whose union brought them into the world.

The court record and the expert witnesses reveal that that’s a load of malarkey. For example, the traditional definition of marriage included coverture, the idea that a man owned his wife and all of her belongings. It also never had procreative ability as a prerequisite nor required procreation after affirmation.

Judge Walker’s ruling sweeps aside this historical understanding of marriage.

The one that has constantly changed over the ages? I’d say he did the opposite.

In its place, he has announced that “Marriage is the state recognition of a couple’s choice to live with each other, to remain committed to one another and to form a household based on their own feelings about one another and to join in an economic partnership and support one another and any dependants.”

In its place? That’s what it was on August 3rd, too.

His opinion thus treats children as a mere afterthought when it comes to marriage.

Quite to the contrary, Mr. Cooper. I might refer you to Judge Walker’s Findings of Fact 35, 41, 49, 55, 56, 69, 70, 71, and 72. You might be surprised what you learn when you actually read the decision, considering you obviously didn’t pay attention to any of the testimony.

The Court’s disregard for the historical purposes of marriage would require California to embark on a novel experiment with the fundamental institution of marriage.

Wouldn’t be the first time! Besides, how many decades have to pass before ideas aren’t considered “novel” or “experimental” anymore? Or heck, centuries? Emperor Nero is rolling in his tomb.

In doing so, it threatens to harm the vital interests historically served by marriage.

Scary language. No substance.

The United States Constitution provides no warrant for this result, as demonstrated by the all-but-unanimous judgment of other federal courts that have addressed the issue.

Looks like Judge Walker found some pretty solid warrant for this result. Besides, no such judgment has ever heard this kind of testimony on the issue. Look what happens when there’s real information provided in a trial about gays and lesbians!

In addition to dismissing the traditional definition of marriage, the judge incredibly found that children don’t need fathers. Or mothers. To state this proposition is to refute it.

No, that’s not what the judge found at all. The judge found, based on substantial research and evidence, that the genders of a child’s parents do not determine how well that child is raised.

And the court also found that there is no benefit whatsoever for a child to be raised by its own biological parents.

That’s true. Adoptive parents like my own appreciate this resistance to such stigmas as your own, Mr. Cooper.

Fortunately, the Constitution does not require the people to substitute the social science musings of gay rights activists for common sense. This decision will not stand.

Musings? How about overwhelming consensus. And yes, actually, judges are beholden to keep experts and their evidence accountable to standards of intellectual rigor.

Fortunately, the case is not over. Judge Walker acknowledged from the outset that “this case is only touching down in this Court, … it will have a life after this Court, and what happens here, in many ways, is only a prelude to what is going to happen later.”  July 2, 2009 Tr. of Hr’g at 12.  About that he was right. We have already filed a notice of appeal and look forward to the next stage of this litigation.

And we’re all so glad you will continue to spin your foundationless vitriol for us all to see.

Is he really that stupid or does Protect Marriage just pay him enough that he’s willing to sound like it for the sake of the case?

I’m sure such a statement will get them a ton of donations, though.

(You can find all my Protect Marriage responses listed in italics in my Prop 8 Archive.)

Covert Evangelism/Underhanded Generosity + The Vacation Bible School Ruse

They say that no good deed goes unpunished, so I guess today that makes me the punisher.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about evangelism in response to “Shelonda,” who had left a comment here on the blog. In the comments for that post, my friend Kevin and I discussed mission work, and I expressed my concern that mission work is inherently disingenuous. If folks depend on the selfish motive of evangelizing to motivate their good work, then their good work isn’t truly good work.

This phenomenon is just as evident on the local scale. Last week, I attended Jubilee Day, a big street fair in Mechanicsburg, PA. The one-day event was incredibly well attended, with rides, food, vendors, activities for kids, and lots of other cool stuff. Inspired by the presence of the PA Nonbelievers, I decided to see what exactly the many church groups in attendance had to offer. There were a number of tables where I voluntarily picked up some of the materials, but a few others where items were sort of forced into my hands. This post focuses mostly on the latter, and a whole separate post will be dedicated to exploring some of the resources I got from the Catholics. Yikes. (The rubber fetus alone should scare you.)

I’ll identify the churches only by their denomination and not their specific name. My goal today is to raise awareness about evangelism; not to target specific community groups.

I experienced evangelism before I even got to the fair. One of the local churches (Denomination: CMA) was offering free parking only a few blocks away, so I decided to take them up on their offer. They had a number of volunteers in bright green recognizable shirts (which read “Jesus is the Way!”) that helped people find a spot in their lot and also helped keep them comfortable while waiting for a shuttle. Unfortunately, they didn’t let you into the lot without handing you a a flier they advertised their schedule of services, ministries, and Vacation Bible School. In order to get parking, I had to get info about their church. More on this in a minute.

Later, I encountered a Baptist church booth. I have to say that their good deed was brilliant. They were handing out bags. I don’t know that anybody else was handing out bags, so kudos to them. Of course, the bag was not empty. It included the white brochure you can see peppered throughout the post (with the very trite MS Publisher theme) as well as another plug for a Vacation Bible School.

If ever there were a good argument for year-round school, I think VBS is it. It’s an excuse to get kids out of the house and it’s an opportunity to sneak Bible training on them. I actually remember going to VBS when I was little, and pretty much all I remember was being bored at Mass, being bored in classes, and generally just being bored. The Baptist Church offers two “Quest Weeks.” For Preschoolers, there’s “LifeWay‘s Saddle Ridge Range” where they’re “Roundin’ Up Questions” and “Drivin’ Home Answers.” K-5th graders get to enjoy “Answers in Genesis‘s The Egypt File: Decoding the Mystery of LIFE.” Both come with complimentary cartoon characters and a healthy dose of misinformation indoctrination. If you value your keyboard, don’t even click on Answers in Genesis.

The CMA church I mentioned earlier also plays on the Egyptian theme with, “Egypt: Joseph’s Journey from Prison to Palace.”

Imagine living in a dusty, bustling, noisy city along the Nile in ancient Egypt…you’d gossip about Pharaoh’s palace…work with people who followed countless gods…and perhaps hear about a “dreamer” that Pharaoh put in charge…

If it’s just storytelling, that’s fine, but of course it never is.

It’s too bad that these two churches couldn’t do their little good deeds without evangelizing. You might just say it’s a marketing technique. You’re not wrong, but you also ignore how dangerous it is.

Let’s look at that brochure.

Is there a church that has real answers to life’s real questions? No. No, there is not. They certainly claim that they know what God’s answers are, but no one ever seems to let God speak for himself. They also want you to think that the questions are valid and that they have the answers, but this seems incredibly deceitful. They aren’t counselors, they aren’t teachers, they aren’t accountants, and they aren’t recreational leaders, but they still advertise themselves as such. They use promises of “fun activities,” “short and sweet” services that are “relevant,” and social engagement as a mechanism for drawing people into their delusions. They can’t be all bad? They’re using Answers in Genesis to teach kids that evolution is wrong. There’s a serious problem here.

And truly, kids are who suffer from this mess. A lot of the resources I saw are geared toward the teens who make up a lot of the attendance at Jubilee Day. (Wait until you see all the fun stuff the Catholics had!) But, the scariest part is to see young people’s participation in the evangelism. I was handed the dollar bills you see by a number of young children. One of them couldn’t have been older than five. I don’t think he even knew how to speak, but he knew how to hand me the bill with puppy-dog eyes. In fact, he didn’t even care that one of his other friends had given me one, he wanted to make sure I took one from him too.

I don’t remember which denomination had this fake money, but it was near the line of Catholic and pro-life booths. If you look very carefully at the front of the bills, you can see they represent Living Waters and Way of the Master, which you’ll notice are of course the same website. This is banana-man Ray Comfort’s ministry, where he and Kirk Cameron regularly spew out their anti-evolution nonsense. Apparently the million-dollar and trillion-dollar questions are the same, and apparently the answer, as always, is “you’re going to Hell if you don’t listen to us.”

It’s incredibly sad to see people being duped into nonsense by what appear to be good deeds. It’s scary to see how intertwined these quaint local church groups are with insane ministries like Answers in Genesis and Living Waters, plus how eager they are to market these ideas to young children.

I’ll end this post by highlighting two good deeds that I think were actually genuinely good. The first was a car survival kit (or “Community Love Kit,” according to the bag) that I was handed by a Methodist mission outreach group. The bag contained a business card and a plug for a fundraiser through a local restaurant chain, but not really any evangelism about their ministries. I have to say, the kit was pretty cool, and I’ll probably use it.

As you can see, it contains a number of bandaids, soap, toothpaste, a comb, nail clippers, and two nail files, all of which fit into a nice tidy bag that’ll fit nicely in my glove compartment. This is a truly thoughtful form of outreach that didn’t require I actually learn anything about their actual ministries. Kudos to the Methodists.

Lastly, I want to highlight something I picked up from the Mennonites’ table. Now, when I saw their booth, I wasn’t optimistic about what I’d find after what I’d been handed by Mennonites in Ithaca, NY back in April. They had various information about their different beliefs, but the only thing I decided to walk away with was this pin:

I’d Rather Be Waging Piece. What a great message. It doesn’t make me want to be a Mennonite, but I certainly respect them for it. There’s a sticker on the back of the pin identifying the church it came from, but that’s it. This is a pin I can proudly wear, and it reminds me that church communities really can be forces for good, so long as they stop talking about all that religious stuff.

Stay tuned for the detailed exploration into the Catholic vision for my sex life and some other interesting learnings from the materials I picked up!

…Because The Bible Just Isn’t Enough On Its Own

It’s been a while since I featured some religious right propaganda, so I thought I’d share this incredible offer I got today from World Net Daily.

Check out iLumina. You know it’s cool because its name starts with a lower-case i. But only kind of in the logo. They underlined the L just to make sure you understood that the small caps I was an i, even though the i in Lumina really is an i. Wait, what?

Now, this would be perfect for Shelonda, because it has the complete texts of both the New Living Translation and King James Version, and you can look at both side-by-side. That way you can pick whichever version best feeds into your biases!

There is also “The Book of Life” encyclopedia. This is perfect for the folks who get frustrated by the open-source nature of Conservapedia and want all their religious spin coming from the same reliable source. Even though it’s all digital, there is apparently 23 volumes worth of narrow-minded thinking and half-explained truisms! (They couldn’t think of anything interesting that started with X or Q and then they miscounted.)

You’ll also get an illustrated Bible timeline “with user tips.” These user tips show you both how to fold the timeline back up as well as how to read the timeline with an explanation of why you should care to. And oh, this timeline is not just in black and white—oh no!—it’s coming at you in four colors!!

Just in case you’re “with the times,” the set comes on a DVD-ROM and 5 CD-ROMs. You pay to get the same thing twice, but hey, you’ll thank them later.

This package includes 1000 new photos, so if you’re not sure whether you want to upgrade from your previous version, “iLumina Gold,” this feature should be clutch. These are real still images captured by the Roman photographer, Polarexus, that demonstrate the life and times of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the flesh and blood (and not just make believe Communion flesh and blood either!).

There are also 35 stunning animations that were originally hand-drawn by one of Mary Magdalene’s clients, Walt. If animation isn’t your thing, the 25 virtual Bible site tours will make you feel like you were actually there, being persecuted right beside Jesus himself! There are also over 200 charts and maps to help you plan your own crusade!

And if reading two versions of the Bible isn’t enough for you, iLumina includes 10,000 study notes, 8,900 in-depth articles, 1,000 group discussion guides, and lessons and quizzes to help you review! There’s enough reading and content here to keep you busy enough to forget about the rest of the world’s knowledge. This one set is all you need to be the best Christian you can be (and nothing more).

If nothing else, remember this. iLumina is super easy to use. No more rooting around on the bookshelf and lifting that heavy book and then searching through the pages! All you have to do is install iLumina, navigate through all the menus to find what you want, and then you can just click and scroll. (Note: You can only access iLumina if you have access to a computer, and no, an iPad will not support iLumina. It runs on a DVD/5 CDs, silly!)

(By the way, this was originally released in December 2008, but I guess they didn’t really sell at $6.5 million dollars a pop, so that’s why we’re still selling them, but at a lower price. Don’t worry, you still get $6.5 million dollars worth of text and graphics. This set is so cool, man. You can do anything with technology these days.)

Get your iLumina Bible Software today!

(No, this isn’t a poe.)

How Not To Evangelize To An Atheist (Starring Shelonda)

I thought today I’d outline some rules for etiquette when it comes to evangelizing religion to a gay atheist, like myself.

Rule #1: Don’t evangelize.

Ever, really. But if you know what’s good for you, you definitely don’t want to try evangelizing to someone because of their identity. It’s like touching the top of the stove; you know what the result is going to be. Now, we might politely hear you out and ask a few questions to feign respect so you can walk away with a false sense of validation. We also might respond with questions that challenge your faith, we might insist on disagreeing with your claims, and we will most likely not express gratitude to you for trying to force your delusional beliefs upon us. I’m just saying, you probably won’t be satisfied with the results.

That’s because evangelism, in general, is offensive. It’s trying to force beliefs and assumptions upon another through the use of guilt and shame. It doesn’t matter what your motivation is, as admirable as your belief might be to try to save souls. The effect is always condescending.

And let me just point out that atheists do not similarly evangelize. We reason. We encourage critical thinking, skepticism, and scientific literacy. Our effort is to liberate a person from narrow thinking, not by telling them what to think, but showing them how to think better. As an added bonus, promoting atheism often involves helping people think more highly about the life they live (this is all there is!—celebrate it!), as opposed to belittling them and offering our point of view as the only cold comfort.

I just want to preempt any readers from trying to draw a comparison. Promoting atheism is not evangelism.

I could just leave it at that, but maybe you want a little bit more detail about how exactly evangelism can be offensive. I have the perfect example to work from.

As you may recall, a few weeks ago I talked about the long road to coming out as an atheist. I shared my college admissions essay, which demonstrated I’d clearly moved away from religion, but not yet from belief. I wanted to demonstrate how atheism is something that’s always present, but sometimes it’s a long process to disassemble the wall of indoctrination that blocks it off. I also wanted to show that coming out as an atheist can happen quite naturally, and doesn’t necessarily require some form of abuse or crisis to rock a person’s faith.

Well, a character named Shelonda decided to take it upon herself to evangelize on my post. You can read the full comment here. Now, it is tempting to be completely snarky as I respond to this comment. Even if I try my best, it might still come off as a bit snarky. But I hope my response to Shelonda helps elucidate the obnoxiously annoying proclivities of evangelism in a way that better promotes your understanding. Let’s begin.

Hello,  I listened to your story and realized that you probably need to find it within yourself to find out who Jesus really is because it sounds as though you are trying to find a belief where you do not have to compromise your homosexuality or things you do not want to compromise.

Well, thank you for “listening.” I appreciate that you took the time to read my blog post and are trying to understand where I’m coming from. It sounds like maybe you have some more questions for me.

Oh, wait. Nope. Sorry. I got my hopes up there. It took only 10 words for you to start telling me what’s wrong with me and what I’m trying to do.

Thing 1 that’s wrong with me: I’ve denied myself the opportunity to find out who Jesus really was. Nope. I actually know more than I care to know about Jesus as it is. He seemed like generally a good guy, except when he was promoting slavery, duping people into believing in him (with “miracles”), and leading a cult around challenging the government without any really good arguments as to why. (No wonder the teabaggers are a fan.)

Thing 2 that’s wrong with me: I’m trying to find a belief. Nope. If you’ve read any of my blog, you should know I’m a pretty committed nonbeliever. I have no interest in nor respect for belief. I am very at peace with my worldview.

Thing 3 that’s wrong with me: The fact that I’m gay is something I need to reconcile. Nope. I’m not trying to compromise my homosexuality with anything. I love being gay, to be honest. I just wish it didn’t make it so hard to meet a mate is all. Nothing you can do about the numbers though.

So, we’re one sentence in and you’ve already ignored what I’ve told you about my atheism, forced your belief in Jesus upon me, and condescended my homosexuality as something I need to compromise. Can you see, at this point, how I’m not inclined to care what you have to say, Shelonda? You’ve already indicated that you don’t really have any respect for who I am; you only care about convincing me (shaming me) to be like you.

You seem to be a  very confused and damaged by some sort of molestation or other demonic influence that is not really who you are.

Thing 4 that’s wrong with me: I’m confused. Nope.

Thing 5 that’s wrong with me: I’m damaged. Nope.

Thing 6 that’s wrong with me: I’ve been molested or cursed by some demonic influence. Nope.

And honestly, I find this kind of assumption particularly offensive. What she (I’m guessing Shelonda is a woman?) is basically saying is that she thinks I am so out of whack that something awful must have happened to me. Like, how could I be this messed up? It couldn’t even happen naturally.

The sad thing is: some people are susceptible to this kind of language. “Wait, maybe I am confused. Maybe something is wrong with me.” No! Evangelists are frighteningly confident in their faith, but they know nothing of what they speak. Their goal is to break you. To dominate you. To crush your spirit and fill the void with their delusions.

Shelonda, how closed minded do you have to be to not be able to appreciate the diversity around you? How indoctrinated do you have to be to assume me damaged because you’re unwilling to actually consider anything I say about myself?

Instead of building up a website to find answers about your identity from others, ask Jesus to come in to your heart with sincerety and he is the only one that can provide that hole in  your heart for the answers since he created you.

Maybe this was Shelonda’s first time on my website? I don’t know.

Thing 7 that’s wrong with me: I’m trying to find answers from others. Nope. That’s not really the point of this blog. To a certain extent, the point is the absolute opposite: to help others better understand me. Or rather, to help ME better understand ME through the process of my own writing. Of course, I want to get some challenging conversations going. I want to hear new points of view. I want to commune with others who think similarly to me and have new insights to offer. I want to hear from people who think quite differently from me so I can better understand where they’re coming from. Shelonda, unfortunately, your comment is showing not to warrant that kind of respect.

Thing 8 that’s wrong with me: I didn’t ask Jesus to come into my heart (or I didn’t ask sincerely enough). Actually, did you read about the part where I claimed for many years that I had a relationship with Jesus? The Bible study? The prayer? And then I realized I was talking to nobody and wasting my time depending on a delusion instead of having confidence in myself? I did ask Jesus to come into my heart, and my heart grew when I stopped asking.

Thing 9 that’s wrong with me: There’s a hole in my heart. Wait, if Jesus created me, why did he create me with a hole in my heart? That seems like poor design! I better see a cardiologist, stat! Or does Shelonda mean that I’m dispassionate, incapable of love, totally selfish, and devoted only to my own causes? If that’s what she means, I guess she’s kind of right. (Oops, some snark crept in, but it was at my own expense, so that’s okay, right?)

To say that you live your life for you and the people in this world is like taking a knife and stabbing yourself because the world cares nothing about you, but Jesus does and you will never be able to meet the expectations of the world or yourself.

Thing 10 that’s wrong with me: I’m not cynical enough, so I ought to commit suicide. Wait, what? It’s not that I think the world revolves around me (I’d be on fire!), but is it so wrong to be optimistic about people? Is the key to happiness thinking that everyone in the world is a misanthrope? And the fact that I have hope for mankind means I should be depressed and end my life? Yikes. I want nothing to do with that. Excuse me for following the golden rule.

Thing 11 that’s wrong with me: I’ll never be able to meet anyone’s expectations, including my own. Wow, Shelonda, you are just ripping into my psyche here. If the world expects me to follow Jesus, then I guess the world will be disappointed. I’m actually quite proud of the fact I don’t follow Jesus, so I’m already meeting my own expectations. I’m going to keep trying to do right by the world, but the world’s going to get from me what the world gets from me.

Look in the mirror how many times have you dissapointed yourself?

Hey! I’ve lost a noticeable amount of weight lately! Give me some credit.

Thing 12 that’s wrong with me: I don’t look good in the mirror. 🙁

By the way, have you ever checked your own spelling and disappointed yourself? (Damn, there’s that snark again. Sorry!)

Take it from someone that Jesus has delivered from self and people. When you come to love yourself, you will realize even in your confusion, Jesus was there all along waiting on you just to seek him.

So, if I’m talking to Shelonda, does that mean I’m talking directly to Jesus? Because Jesus has delivered Shelonda. So who’s Shelonda? I’m only getting confused because of the words you’re using!

Thing 13 that’s wrong with me: I don’t love myself. Wellllll, without going into too much detail, I can pretty much assure you that I do. Take my word for it. And if we ever meet, we can shake on it.

Thing 14 that’s wrong with me: Thing 4 and Thing 8 combined. I’m confused and not seeking Jesus! I’m not really confused, but I’ll try to rectify this one right here and now. This is a public blog and it comes up in search results. Jesus, if you’re out there, please respond. I’m getting the sense you’re pretty full of yourself, so I’m sure you Google your own name like all the time. If you see this post, drop me a line, would you? It’d be great to hear from you.

Invest  in a King James Bible(living translation) and begin to read and pray for change and for him to reveal the reason that you are here so you can began fulfilling your purpose instead of being blindsided by that which feels good to you, but is not good for you.

You couldn’t go one long paragraph without bringing my money into this, could you, Shelonda? I have two Bibles in my house already, but both are Catholic, so they’re probably not good enough for you, are they? King James gave his translators specific instructions in the 17th century, so I’m sure he knew exactly how to properly translate those ancient texts. It also seems that the living translation is a new version of the Bible that isn’t even the same as the KJV. So, you want me to read two different Bibles that are different than the two different Bibles I already have? It seems fishy that with the thousands of editions and translations out there, you know exactly which one(s) I should read.

Thing 15 that’s wrong with me: I need to pray for change.

Thing 16 that’s wrong with me: I don’t know the reason I’m here.

Thing 17 that’s wrong with me: I’m not fulfilling my purpose.

Thing 18 that’s wrong with me: I’m blindsided by things that feel good.

Thing 19 that’s wrong with me: The things I think are good for me are not good for me.

Zackford how many times have  you awaken

Thing 20 that’s wrong with me: I’m not capable of finish

Shelonda, thank you for commenting on my blog. You have provided an excellent case study for how offensive and rude evangelism can be. Perhaps if you spent some time outside of your Bible-reading and started considering other points of view, you wouldn’t come off as so obnoxiously selfish and narrow-minded.

WHAT? WND Says I’m Not Invited To May Day?! Sadness!!

The subject of the email was, “You’re Not Invited To May Day.” Had they caught on that I was getting their emails just so I could counter them? Having not received an email from AFA in months, I can only wonder if WorldNetDaily had decided to antagonize me.

No, they’re just being snarky, which I can subtly admire, I suppose.

Let me explain. If you think that our economy is strong, jobs are plentiful, our borders are secure, and that we made the right choices at the ballot box in November 2008, then May Day is not for you!

If you think that we don’t need God and we’re doing fine on our own, please don’t come!

And if you don’t grasp where we are as a nation and how we got here, you’re not invited. Stay home. This event is not for you.

The truth is that our economy is not strong and our borders are far from being secure. In November 2008, we chose death collectively as a nation, and we’re now reaping the consequences of our actions. If you believe that we have never needed God more, please join us at the Lincoln Memorial this Saturday, May 1, at sunrise to cry out to God for our nation in distress. All the details are available at MayDay2010.org.

Making this trip to Washington does involve a commitment of your time this weekend and may involve some sacrifice to afford the journey. But, it’s nothing like the one being made by George Schalasky. He is WALKING 720 miles from Illinois to come to May Day! MayDay2010.org.

Self-conscious much, folks? Poor Lincoln. I’m sure he’d be thrilled to be usurped for such an utter waste of time.

What is May Day, you might still be wondering? I could tell you, but you might still ask again.

Join with Christian leaders of all denominations who love God to humble ourselves, pray, seek the face of God, and turn from our wicked ways—individually and as a nation.

This event is not to impress the media or those in Washington, but to reach the heart of God.  Publicly repenting and crying out to God for His mercy instead of the judgment our many sins deserve.  Repentance in personal and corporate prayer to God and remembrance of His work throughout our nation’s history will be major parts of the day as we seek God to do a great work of revival or reformation in our time.    The tentative plan is to begin the day with an hour of worship and praise.

Can someone define “corporate prayer” for me?

Nah, nevermind. If it has anything to do with prayer, it’s meaningless, and I don’t care.

So, the most important question is what exactly are all these people going to be thinking “loudly” to themselves about all day?

It seems there will be hourly “prayers of repentance” for the supposed “seven mountains of culture” (which don’t even have a wikipedia page). They are vaguely explained as Family, Religion, Education, Arts & Entertainment, Business, Government, and Media. Here are some of the highlights from the full program (yeah, I cherry-picked, but I only left out nine boring ones):

Family: “Repent for divorce and how we have re-defined marriage — Invite God back into marriage.”

Education: “Repent for how we have kicked God out of school, prohibited prayer, and punished Christians.”
Education: “Repent for what has been taught with godless, evolutionary textbooks.”
Education: “Repent for how children have been taught about homosexuality and led astray from the truth.”
Education: “Invite God back into our classrooms, teaching, and policy.”

Business: “Repent for greed and stealing from God what rightfully belongs to Him in tithes and offerings.”
Business: “Repent for the businesses that perform abortions, produce obscene material, or offend Him in other ways.”

Government: “Repent for how we have turned from God in Congress and our legislatures — Invite God to direct our lawmaking.”
Government: “Repent for how we have turned from God in our military — Invite God in every area from prayer in Jesus’ name to our military strategies and defense.”
Government: “Repent for our judicial system, for shedding innocent blood, desecration of marriage, and unrighteous verdicts — Invite God back into it and every decision we make.
Government: “Repent for the executive bran (President & Governors) — Invite God back in to guide, direct and govern.”

Media: “Repent for how the media has turned its backs on God and the truth.”
Media: “Repent for how they have become activists for evil.”
Media: “Invite God back into the media to guide and direct reporting in a truthful way.”

In other words, our nation is in distress because Christianity doesn’t have supreme power over everything.

One of the other things they’re praying for is “that all communication will occur without any interruption from the enemy.” If a whole bunch of us crash this big prayergasm, will that dispel the delusion that prayer accomplishes anything?

Apparently folks are also fasting for 40 days. Miraculously (har har), they recommend people talk to a doctor. Heaven forbid (har har) people recognize that something inherently dangerous and unhealthy is just not a wise thing to do. But oh, their faith is so strong!

The documents go on to praise the founding fathers, declaring “that the primary basis upon which government statutes were based was the Bible.” Apparently they do not have Jefferson’s skill at prose (basis-based). It goes on and on and on… they find millions of different ways to say “Our way or the Hell way.” The May Day program is just a trove of the most vicious religious organizations out there, as well as a reminder of how every single Congressperson voted on Health Reform, because everyone who spread Obamacare needs to repent too.

I suppose I should be applauding May Day. It’s taking all the people who spread oppression and defend socioeconomic inequity and getting them to spend a lot of money on a day where they will do absolutely nothing productive.

And the next day we’ll have our Don’t Ask Don’t Tell protest and probably get more attention for it. We’ll certainly make a bigger difference than just sitting around praying.

Fear-Mongering Quote-Mining Mennonite Proselytization (with CD!)

Ithaca, NY is a pretty progressive place, so I was very surprised during my visit this weekend by the entertainment I found in the Ithaca Commons. Flanking each entrance to the pedestrian mall were Mennonite proselytizers distributing pamphlets and CDs while a Mennonite choir performed hymns on the center stage, amplified for all to hear.

I politely accepted the materials I was offered, knowing they would make for interesting discussion here on the blog. Further, I don’t know much about the Mennonites, so I was seriously curious what kind of messaging they are using. If you’re completely unfamiliar with the Mennonites, I generally think of them as Amish who are less conservative about electricity. (The Amish actually were a group who split from the Mennonite church in 1693.)

Knowing I would probably write a stinging critique, I decided not to take any photographs of the proselytizers or performers, but I have scanned the pamphlet and CD case so you can get a sense of what they were offering. Click on any of them to see them full-size.

The informative pamphlet seems innocuous enough at first glance. “Do you know?” Do I know what? Let’s see what interesting lessons it has to offer!

Do you know why nations are on the brink of catastrophe and churches are overrun with unbelief and rebellion, their walls crumbling by moral decay and sin? The answer is in the Bible, if you really want to know.

Well that’s uplifting, isn’t it? I mean, first they’re kind of begging the question a bit. Are nations on the brink of catastrophe? What does that mean? Further, I don’t think churches are overrun by “unbelief.” As someone who does not believe, church is really the last place I want to spend any of my time. I also doubt that the mere fact that many of us do not believe is somehow impacting the physical integrity of church walls. Perhaps this is a use of metaphor, but when we’re talking about folks who take the Bible as the word of God, the line between metaphorical and literal interpretation is pretty fuzzy.

Do you know what determines your eternal destiny—heave or hell, saved or lost? The answer is in the Bible, and the following verses all relate to the final Judgment.

Another begging of the question, this time with a false dichotomy tacked on!

This right here speaks to the observation that atheists are often “more intellectual” than believers. It takes a more significant intellectual foundation to be confident in nonbelief. As a nonbeliever, I understand that there is nothing to substantiate the existence of a soul, an afterlife, or sin. I do not use a god to define my morality; I only care whether I offend the existence of fellow humans.

BUT, if I had any wavering doubt, this pamphlet might raise concern for me. After only two paragraphs, I might already be thinking about how I’ve lived my life, with concern for the fate of my soul in the afterlife. This is blatant fear-mongering, and it is at the heart of most proselytization.

The rest of the brochure mines quotes from the Bible to “prove” each tenet. Here are the rest of the questions posed (I highlighted a few that I think are funny to consider from an atheist point of view):

Do you know that many people who think they are Christians are deceived, for many ministers and teachers today teach partial truth?

Do you know that salvation and good works cannot be separated?

Do you know that if you do not obey God, you are not even saved?

Do you know that if you do not walk in the light (that is, respond in obedience to every Bible teach), the blood of Jesus does not cleanse you from sin?

Do you know that if you claim to know Jesus and do not keep His commandments, God says you are a liar?

Do you know that no liar will go to heaven?

Do you know that the things Paul wrote in the New Testament are the commandments of God?

Do you know that if you are involved in a divorce and second marriage while your first companion is still living, you are living in adultery?

Do you know that no adulterer or adulteress will be allowed into heaven?

Do you know that God commands men and women to dress modestly?

Do you know that there are many other commandments in the New Testament, and that the pastors who say you are all right without obeying them are lying to you, meaning that both you and they will be lost unless you repent?

Do you know that to believe in God but not obey Him is death?

Do you know that your final judgment will be based on what you did and how you obeyed what you knew?

I like that last one. There is no final judgment offered by a higher power, but I definitely measure my life by my actions and how I use what I know. It’s exactly why I’m an atheist!

Anyway, you can see pretty obviously how this Mennonite group is trying to use fear to convince folks to conform to their narrow-minded beliefs. Looked at another way, it could be seen as an act of self-reassurance: Look, this is what we believe! This makes sense, right? Either way, it’s the age-old core foundation of religious outreach: Join us or you’ll burn in hell.

This paper was written to give you an opportunity to repent, and to expose the greatest error in the churches today—the teaching that men and women will go to heaven only on the basis of their knowledge. [Another mined Bible quote.] When you stand before the great Judge and hear His eternal verdict about you, there will be no second chance. Nor will the pastors that deceived you be able to change it. So repent now, turn to Jesus for cleansing from sin, and keep His commandments. Then only can you claim the promise of eternity with God.

While the pamphlet seems mostly geared toward other kinds of Christians who should be afraid that they’re not getting the full package from their beliefs, the accompanying CD seems to target atheists in particular. I wonder if they originally were going to call the CD, “Yeah-huh!”

I should point out that the CD is not really listenable. They basically opened a hymnal and sang 18 songs out of it. It’s just a cappella homophony, and the vowels are spread and the intonation poor, giving it the folksy sound you might expect if you were sitting right in their church listening to the congregation belt it out. It almost makes you want to sing along, just in hopes that your own voice will drown theirs out. If you’re curious, iTunes identifies the artist as “Singers of the Epmc” (Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite Church) and the Album as “Hymns Of Truth And Grace.”

Look at those mountains! Aren’t they pretty? There’s no way that picture was taken in Pennsylvania or New York. The goal of the message there is that since the mountains are majestic, they must be proof of God. I think they’re just proof of mountains… somewhere.

The message on the back of the CD reads:

Dear Friend,

The songs on this album bring you a message about the love of God. The Bible tells of the gift of salvation that God has offered to us through His Son Jesus Christ. [Another Bible quote.] Jesus’ blood is able to cleanse us from sin and give us power to live a new life. We need to repent of our sins to experience God’s forgiveness and confess our need of Jesus to receive his help to live free form sin. Then we can have peace with God and the promise of a future home in heaven.

In other words, we need to beat ourselves up and make ourselves feel like shit so we can feel better later. That’s a message of “love,” for sure.

If you would like to talk to someone about how to find Jesus as your personal Saviour, we welcome you to use the phone number and address on the face of the disc. If you have already given you [sic] heart and life to God, we desire that these hymns could be an encouragement to you. We would enjoy hearing from you.

Apparently, the money they would have used to get the internet and an email address went to the fancy speaker system that amplified their solemn singing across the Ithaca Commons all afternoon.

What is most interesting and yet most unsurprising is how un-unique these proselytizing efforts are. You would expect to see the exact same tactics from most Christian groups. In fact, this pamphlet was quite similar to the “America, America” pamphlet I wrote about last year.

Unfortunately, this means I didn’t really learn anything interesting about the Mennonites except that they use the same fear-mongering as everybody else.