The Bill of Rights today...

I saw this same thing back in 1978 in Madison, Wisconsin. Two law enforcement officers stood by, one smiling in amusement, as UW students committed assault and battery against a man preaching the Gospel on Library Mall at the foot of State Street.

Now the criminals aren't jaded UW students but Dearborn Muslims; it's not one or two policemen watching, but a crowd of them; it's being documented; then it's publicized on the web; and no one cares. 

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.

Comments

Around 12:30, the officer in the white uniform says:

...We have a responsibility of policing the entire festival, and obviously your conduct is such that it's causing a disturbance and is a direct threat to the safety of everyone here...

Then a deputy says:

...It's not your call. We've been very gentle and very, very respectful to you. You are jeopardizing public safety...

Later, the officer in the white uniform again:

...you are a danger to the public safety. You are disorderly.

The sword of the law being turned against men who bring the words of life...

Men who desire to be true to their Lord in the day of battle, be ready to be accused of being the troublemaker, the one in the wrong.

Brothers,

I am new to this blog, but have really enjoyed reading through the posts for the last several days. In full disclosure, I am a middle aged father of four and a member in good standing at a CREC church in central Pennsylvania.

When I was a junior in college at Southern Methodist University, I stopped acting like a hypocrite and returned to my Christian roots. I began to evangelize people between classes and on the weekends, and since my roots were in the Southern Baptist church, and since I was very immature in my faith and theology, my presentation was a straight-forward cold call of "Have you asked Jesus Christ into your heart?" I grew a great deal through my two years of this activity, having some people pray to accept Christ, while most ridiculed me. Some were very verbally abusive, but no one physically abused me. In medical school, I began to "street evangelize" in a downtown area of Houston, and that was quite a step-up in terms of verbal abuse and threats. I myself had an interaction with the police, where seven law enforcement officers surrounded me and began, in rapid fire succession, asking my why I was there, what I thought I would accomplish, and how I had better go home quickly.

I mention all of this for absolutely no self-arrogating purpose, but only to preface my comments on the video below, and to say that I have a personal experience of a lesser extent with what I saw on the video, and that I am also aware of how easy it is for Christians comfortable in their conformity to rationalize their disobedience, and sometimes cowardice, in not partaking in the command of Christ to disciple the nations. With that in mind, I make the following observations, for which my spirit is quite teachable and correctable on this matter:

1. I doubt any Christian who is not either a liberal in his theology or a complete naif to our present cultural condition would be surprised that if the group of "provocateurs" were sexual perverts or members of Islam, that their treatment would have been different. Although I felt the police were quite well mannered during their conversation with the brothers in the park, the police were quite aware that any perceived infringement on the rights of politically expedient groups would create more personal and professional liability for them than carting off the crazy Christians.

2. Knowing police officers personally, and having an opportunity to have picked their minds on issues such as this, I think we need to distinguish between root and fruit for the problems we see in the video. The police may or may not have had enough LEO's to protect our brothers. There are myriad and often ridiculous rules about how they are to conduct themselves in situations like this. Did you catch, however, that the city refused to set up a free speech zone? The police are, as persons before God, responsible, of course, for their actions, but it appears that the city is more so the cause of our brothers not being given the opportunity to speak the gospel to these people with appropriate protection. Now, who might the city have anticipated showing up to provide an alternative view? Members of the Baha'i faith?

3. Apparently, what is judged as "anatogonistic" stems from one's worldview and the presuppositions in that web of beliefs. There are no brute facts. The brothers were simply holding signs that stated Biblical truths. This, an expression of our religion, was considered by the police as antagonistic. The police felt that the solution was simple: you have a riotous crowd, the majority are Muslim, here are some Christians presenting a competing view, the Christians are the minority, so the Christians should leave. Notice the secular mindset of the current police and city bureaucracy. Whatever makes the Muslims upset, that is the irritant that needs removed, even if that irritant is a simple expression of Christian faith and even if the Muslims commit crimes in the process. The police officer, perhaps without even realizing it, was basically saying "Jesus is really offensive to these people; you all need to leave". This is not religiously or philosophically neutral, of course, but notice how the officer rationalizes this with a procedural format and a tincture of truth. It is true that those brothers were in some physical danger, outnumbered and being physically assaulted. The officer removed them in the name of public safety and defusing the situation. My post does not connect all of the dots, but this seems to me to be evidence of why we need to pray that God brings Christian men into positions within the civil magistrate, so that anti-Christian treatment does not get whitewashed through the process of political correctness and favoritism.

4. If this video is not an example of why multiculturalism is a philosophically untenable position, I don't know what is. Every culture needs a common ethic to have any kind of society, which requires law and order. What we have today is secular magistrates managing a number of religious groups that they could really care less about, but they will take whatever measures to "keep the peace". Kind of reminds me a little of Rome's treatment of Judaism and Christianity during the days of Christ's earthly ministry.

5. I couldn't tell what percentage of the criminals, because that is what they were, were Muslim, but aside from that, is there a better example of why Christians should not send their children to public school? While I realize that where these young men and women are schooled was not specifically addressed, what do you think the chances are that even 2 out of 10 went to a private Christian school, or were home schooled?  What language for young people.

6. Though it is not politically correct, and while exceptions and embarrassments are found in any group, Christians need to stop caving to peer pressure and state the obvious - Islam is not a religion of peace for those who are either orthodox, or for those who like a good street rumble. If you know your Quran, or you are being filmed by the media, it's not because you just opened an orphanage in the name of Allah.

7. Part of discerning the times, and practicing the sort of wisdom that Jesus calls us to, is to ask whether this sort of approach is fruitful. It is just in this area that all of us can so easily err. Most of us would be intimidated to do what these brothers did. Some of us might be tempted to do this so as to prove to themselves that they are not afraid, which is a temptation that I confess I experienced in my earlier days (double-daring yourself for the Lord is not the same as being directed by the Spirit). My take on this video is that, while I commend these brothers for their faith and their courage by God's grace, from what I saw there was very little fruit visible to the fallible eye at that moment. Now, we are to obey Christ and not to decide which commands to follow based on our assessment of whether it will be worth it, but I think every member of this blog could have guessed what would happen if some Christians showed up at the Muslim fair with signs like that. Again, I am very sensitive to how easy it is, sitting in my chair now, to rationalize why I have not gone to my local Muslim mosque and carried signs, but I do wonder whether this approach in that setting is best. I do not think it is sinful, but I question whether it is the most excellent way. I wonder what our brothers in the video expected to happen? That would be interesting to know. I certainly  believe that we need to be much more vocal and direct about the gospel than most of us are today, myself included, and if the gospel is going to be presented then we are going to experience ridicule and rejection, but the footage of these brothers being lead off-site by the police seemed to me to be somewhat of an embarrassment for our faith.  They did no wrong, but their approach, knowing what the actions of the police would be (again, discerning the sky and knowing when its going to rain), I think I might have tried to hand out tracks through conversations with random people in the crowd. I probably would have gone with my wife; I find that many people will behave themselves more in the presence of a woman, though in our day, chivalry is on its deathbed.

David

Hi David,

Very good points, generally. Regarding #7, I hear you, but there's background to this story. I think they've been going for 3 years (or more?) to this event. I know this is at least the second year, because you hear them discuss the previous year in this video. Also I've seen video of a previous year. There's never been a warm welcome, but there hasn't been violence either, to my knowledge.

However, they were forced to leave in the past as well. I believe they filed suit against the city and won. Again you can hear them reference this in the video. It's also why the police had legal counsel there onsite.

Maybe discretion is the better part of valor in this circumstance, but I'm not entirely convinced. I also don't think the shame of the police escort is the sort of shame Christians should avoid. Rather we should avoid the shame of sin and hypocrisy.

Finally, any time you send missionaries out into hostile people groups you should expect this sort of reaction at some level. We need to be very wise about whether we take women and children into the fray. (I say this having recently taken my 3 year-old son to an event that could have turned ugly.)

In Christ,

-Joseph

Dear Joseph,

I was not aware that this curtailing of our brothers' rights to free speech had been an annual event. I am glad to hear that they were vindicated in the courts.

I did want to clarify that when I watched them being escorted out by the police, I did not feel that this was a walk of shame for them. I did, however, wonder, if the appearance of a police escort and how this might look to a passerby, had been worth the rather limited amount of gospel presentation the video demonstrated. There are different ways the gospel can be presented, but the most effective is with a verbal presentation of the message. I am not God, and I cannot prove that someone in the mob, even one of the front line thugs, wasn't convicted of his sin by the witness of these men, but I believe a clearer and more thorough presentation might have been made with a man-to-man approach. This sacrifices a broader net for what I believe is higher quality bait.

I agree that men need to be careful about where they take women, wives and others, to minister the gospel. I have never attended this event (and don't hold your breath that I'll be going anytime soon given the warm hospitality shown these unashamed Christians) but I think both in terms of the individuals and even the police, a couple might ostensibly not so easily be eschewed into the bin of "nutty religious person". My concern here is that I would want to engage the person in a forthright and meaningful conversation, rather than a battle that kind of reminded me of something I would see at a union strike. The battle was not the fault of the Christians, the question in my mind is how to leave the least wiggle room for my audience to duck and weave, leaving them confronted with a clear presentation of the gospel.

But, but, but.... didn't President Bush assure us that Islam "is a religion of peace"?   

The glaring hatred and foul language spewing out of their mouths was horrifying, but Jesus told us that a servant is not above his master.  They hated Him; they hate us too.   The really shocking thing about it is not that they hate Christians, but that now it's acceptable to hate Christians.  May the Lord deliver us from this present evil age! 

Blessings,

Nancy

>>> My concern here is that I would want to engage the person in a forthright and meaningful conversation, rather than a battle that kind of reminded me of something I would see at a union strike

Mr. Stewart,

I thought the same thing after watching about fifteen seconds of the footage of the street preachers. I recoiled: "Can I support such confrontationalism?"

The thing is that the confrontation with the naked truth of God's Word is not unique to these street preachers in Dearborn, Michigan.  We have to walk a careful line, don't we: on the one hand, we don't want to reject the prophets and apostles of old who were clearly walking in obedience to God with their pointed words of condemnation of sin (Right? We surely wouldn't go so far as to condemn the methods of the men God Himself sent in love to call His people to repentance, would we? Would we?); but on the other hand, there seems to be something a bit unseemly, a bit beyond, a bit like asking for persecution, in the behavior of these Dearborn street preachers, that allows us to defend ourselves from the conviction that we should follow their example, right?

So, we can't give our wholehearted support to these men's methods, but we would have wholeheartedly supported John the Baptist? Isaiah? Amos? Micah? Noah? Enoch? Jeremiah? Peter? Paul? Jesus?

Sure seems like we're deceiving ourselves.

I suspect that most of what we call "needlessly confrontational", God calls being a faithful watchman, and that much of what passes as wise and prudent is a shrinking back "simply so that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ".

I'm not speaking of anything I don't also see in myself. May God help us who are called by His Name not to be ashamed at the bold proclamation of His Word! Let us rather fear the One who said:

"For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." - Mark 8:38

Convicting response, Daniel. Thank you.

Daniel,

I read your post, and I agree with you about how easy it is to adorn the graves of the dead prophets while killing the modern day messengers. I am very humbled by my observation of how easy it is for my heart to turn away from the shame of the gospel and to seek the praise of men. I work in academics; I face this every day. It is really a burden I have to say. A constant battle. I personally, at least in the past, have at times felt another temptation, one which is the opposite temptation of scorning the shame of the cross, but which I believe is unfruitful and not a product of the Spirit. When I would see a situation where I knew I would be a little uncomfortable or nervous preaching the gospel, I would deliberately seek that out. One time, I ended up on a bus full of fraternity members on their way to some drunken event. Let's just say that the treatment I received was not kind, though I certainly had a captive audience. In retrospect, I am not sure I made the right decision. I am probably lucky to have all of my teeth.

I don't think these men in the video were asking for persecution. Nor do I think the defining mark of apostolic evangelism was confrontation, such that anyone today who is confrontational is, on that basis alone, being faithful to the apostles pattern. The apostles preached forgiveness of sins through Jesus, and this is what I see as their defining modus operandi, and our major failing today. We want to tell people how much Jesus loved them. That certainly is not the apostolic pattern. We need to be faithful to the apostle's pattern of sound words, and this will of necessity be confrontational since they offered people the message of forgiveness for their lifelong sinful misdeeds through One Man. That is pretty confrontational.

The apostles went town to town, preaching the gospel and planting churches in their laying the foundation of the church. They encountered people who, in some cases, had not heard of Jesus before. This is not quite like our own day. We have a much bigger problem. We deal with a large proportion of people who have heard of Jesus and have been exposed to the gospel, and who have hardened their hearts and turned away. We have churches on every corner, though I know many of them are weak. We almost have a visible overexposure of something called Christianity, which has a form of godliness but denies its power. Most people, therefore, think they've heard it all before.

I do not personally believe signs are an adequate response to this situation, though I know God can use them to His glory if He so chooses. Think of how the apostles never varied from the message - repent of your sins and believe on Jesus. Yet the way that this was expressed aimed at the particular sin and error of each crowd. In Acts 17, Paul went right for the heart of the pagan philosophy of his day. This was not what he emphasized when he spoke at the synagogue, because they had different errors. Same core message, but applied to different errors. Signs cannot do that very effectively. They provide slogans, or verses without explanation, and therefore they represent in my estimation an inferior form of preaching. Yes, you can hold a sign and speak, but then why have a sign?

The apostles verbally preached, and although a verbal presentation can be just as roundly and violently rejected, I think speaking to the audience, whether a crowd or a small group, is more useful than holding a sign,and I believe this better fits the apostolic model. Speaking does not imply being non-confrontational, and it provides the audience with more than a few words, which is the limitation of a sign. After watching the video, these brothers seemed well spoken, and they did not show anger toward the crowd despite their poor treatment. I would wager that if men like that had spoken to some of the crowd, without the signs, the first rejection would not have been a bottle to the head. And regardless of our own skins, isn't that better for the sake of Christ than a bottle tossed at the messenger? A crowd attracts a crowd, and sinners easily join in all sorts of folly. Just watch some of the dumb kids in the video. Some of them look like they are actually trying to work themselves up into an anger; they're throwing bottles and rocks, and some of them don't even know why. A few did not even genuinely look angry; they just saw some other people being abusive and they thought they'd join in. People do sinful things without thinking through their actions. Likewise, in my experience it was not at all uncommon to be speaking to one person, and then two or three others would hear the conversation, and stop. Often, they would stop to attack, and try to stump the hayseed who was preaching. Still, they stopped. We talked. I had an audience who heard forgiveness of sins through Jesus alone, and in most cases I was not even verbally abused, important only in that it removed another barricade to the gospel.

The video demonstrates what I see as the higher likelihood outcome of bullhorn preaching at an intersection or sign holding in a crowd. I do not believe that the antithesis between the sons of God and the sons of the devil is avoided by speaking as opposed to holding signs, but I think people tend, often in pride, to at least speak back if for nothing more than to show you how dumb you are for preaching. This, in God's providence, can be the beginning of a dialogue to shut the mouth of the fool.

Daniel, I do not condemn those brothers for what they did. I am arguing, however, that there is a way to have stayed at the fair longer and to have spoken to more people before the police dragged them out.

David

All,

I found the following article interesting.

http://www.garynorth.com/public/9710.cfm

>>> In retrospect, I am not sure I made the right decision. I am probably lucky to have all of my teeth.

I honor you for preaching the gospel. I would be inclined to look not so much at the motives of the preacher (yours in this case) but rather: "Was there a need for the gospel to be preached?" and, "Was it preached?" Clearly there was and you did. Thank God.

There is a bunch of other really good stuff in your comment, including a very helpful summary in the second paragraph of how the gospel is inherently confrontational (because it has to do with the good news of an opportunity to repent of our sins and be forgiven). 

May the Lord grant us all courage to warn men of their danger and call them to repentance! And may your experiences with such not all be in the past, Mr. Stewart.

Love,

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