Sometimes I think I should start a new file: really dumb culture wars that do more harm to Christianity than good.
Two came up this week. The first courtesy of New Beginnings Ministries Church in Warsaw, Ohio, that has taken it upon itself to travel seven miles down the road each weekend in order to visit the Foxhole strip joint. Once there, they block traffic, take photos of the license plates of customers, and then post them on their “shaming” site. Apparently there’s a fair amount of condemnation and verbal insult offered in the process.
Turnabout is fair play, or so feels the Foxhole crew. So the owner of the strip club – along with a couple of his dancers – set up shop outside the church on a Sunday morning, wearing bikinis and eating hamburgers.
The pastor says now the church is really solidified, and will see it through to the end.
The second had to do with the new pastor of Kingdom Builders Church of Jesus Christ in Warner Robbins, Georgia. Upon enrolling his son in the ninth grade, the pastor found out the school’s mascot was a “demon.” He’s been collecting signatures of protest ever since, saying that a pitchfork-wielding mascot sends the wrong message to teens. “Hundreds of children gather into one place at one time chanting ‘Go Demons.’ It’s the equivalent of us gathering into a church on Sunday morning and shouting ‘Go, Jesus’ or ‘Hallelujah Jesus,’ the pastor maintains.
A Warner Robbins senior says it isn’t like that at all. She says the fiery mascot doesn’t symbolize evil or Satanism. It’s just tradition. School principal Steve Monday says that the origin of the mascot isn’t religious at all. In fact, it started in World War II from the 7th fighter squadron at Robbins Air Force Base, which earned its nickname in the South Pacific who were known as the “Screamin’ Demons.’ The school adopted the name in a show of patriotic honor to the squadron.
The pastor says he’s ready to fight for what he believes in.
The school says it’s ready to rumble, too.
I’ll say it again. This is just dumb. They are dumb confrontations, and done in dumb ways. I won’t say they are over dumb things – I am not attempting to promote strip clubs, and if I was starting a school, I doubt I would pick the “demons” as the name of our team.
But it’s still dumb.
Why? Because the actions hold little or no hope for any real or substantive change. Because it brings the worst kind of ridicule on to the Christian faith. Because it does nothing but alienate the people we are most needing to reach for Christ.
Think those strippers want to go to that church, after their livelihood is threatened and they are called names?
One of the strippers, a married mother of six, says she was tired of being called a “homewrecker and a whore.” She views the members of the church as hypocrites, and their offers of salvation are not wanted.
So much for effective evangelism.
And do you think those high school teens are going to fill the youth ministry of the church at war with their mascot?
One senior said she doesn’t get it at all – it just seems like an attack on her school. “We’re all proud to be demons,” she said. “You walk through the halls and see everyone wearing their Warner Robbins High School shirts. It’s really awesome.”
So what could have taken place that wouldn’t have been dumb?
What if the pastor in Ohio had taken the energy and effort of picketing, name-calling and posting license plates and developed a series at his church on healthy male sexuality and invited the community to attend, or reached out in love to the women serving at the Foxhole with the message of God’s love and the healthy self-esteem they could find in His embrace?
After a while, there might not be any patrons at the club, much less dancers to employ.
And what if the pastor in Georgia offered the kind of youth experience and outreach that earned him the right to talk about the difference between a demon as a mascot, and a demon in reality – opening the eyes of the students to the spiritual realm? Or what if he was able to so winsomely and compellingly engage them and their culture that he was able to actually turn them from chants of “Go, demons!” to “Go, Jesus!.”
Then he wouldn’t have to collect signatures on a petition. The students and faculty might just want to make the change on their own.
So instead of acting in ways that make strippers want to go to war, perhaps we ought to act in ways that make strippers want to go to church.
Then we’ll really make the demons scream.
James Emery White