Lately I have been bombarded more than ever by the roving hordes of Jesus’ followers that’re combing the streets of secular NYC and its doomed inhabitants. I love what summer brings! A few days ago, as I was walking into my favorite little coffee shop and my friend Patrick who works there wrote me a note that read “XTREME MINISTRIES AT TABLE 2!” And sure enough, there they were, looking way out of their element here. So I sat down and simply counted down until they found their way to me somehow.
I realize that my tattoos are one of the main draws for these people to come talk to me, and I don’t mind one bit. It’s why I got the little fuckers in the first place. And before I knew it one of them came over and sat at the table with me and sparked up a conversation with a “Mind if I sit here?” and a “So where you from? What’s your name?”
One of the best parts about this meeting was that I was sitting with my friend Brian, and he’s not as familiar with their tactic and ministries as I am. He was dazzled by their forwardness and fake awkward friendliness.
This guy’s name was Josh, and there were several things which stood out from our conversation that seemed worth mentioning. He was being very very gradual and sly with bringing up his whole purpose. He was not jumping into it. And I was also being very gradual as well, more for Brian’s sake, because I had already predicted to him that they were comin’ to get me and I wanted him to witness me stretching it out. For instance, Josh asked what I do for a living, and I told him I was a graphic artist and designed websites. And Josh asked me if I had a website of my own and what was it. And I told him it was a celebrity dressup game where you could dress up the person in clothes like the paper dolls of past, and so on and so on. Until I asked Josh what he did, and he told me he worked with teens, and I asked “Oh, that’s nice. How so?” And at this point Josh couldn’t hold it in any longer and said “I’m a Christian and I work in teen ministry.” To which I replied, “Oh? Which kind of Christianity?”
Josh had a bit of trouble with this one, and so I clarified. “Like, there’s all kinds of religions that worship Christ, like Baptist, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Catholics, even Jews for Jesus, haha!” And he laughed and replied “Yeah, I don’t like to label my belief. I just believe the word and worship Jesus my own way.” I responded by telling him, “Well, you gotta label it somehow because each of you believe that if you don’t worship Jesus the right way you’ll go to hell, right?” And he sorta agreed, saying that everyone has their own way of worshipping. And I said, “But, like for instance Catholics believe Priests can forgive sins, and you probably don’t believe that?” He agreed. He didn’t. “Or Mormons have to believe Joseph Smith, and Baptists won’t get to heaven unless they’re baptized. You know?” And he agreed and reluctantly got more specific so as not to be confused with any of them. My friend Brian was so intrigued with how the topic got “casually” brought up, and afterwards he found it hilarious how it was so obvious that I’d gotten in this discussion 10,000 times prior to this but was acting like I hadn’t. Like it was all just common knowledge what I was saying.
One interesting thing was when I brought up the Christians who come to Union Square with their Are-you-a-good-person-test and the easel and the fun “Have you ever lied, then you’re a liar, have you ever stolen something, then you’re a thief” game. And Josh quickly said “Yeah, those are the Way Of The Masters!” Like they were another crazy branch of true Christianity.
“Way Of The Masters?” And he told me about Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort (of which I already knew) and they’re tactics which Josh didn’t approve. But what was even funnier is that Josh used all of their same arguments, with the “Imagine I say there’s no gold in Europe. Now all there’d have to be is one person with a gold tooth yadda yadda yadda” but instead using “A quarter in Tompkins Square Park” instead.
Anyhow, the best thing about Josh was that he kept coming back for more. I saw him again the next day, and the next after that too! I got to tell him how I thought his apocalyptic religious beliefs were dangerous, and he said “Well, one good thing that could come from us all killing each other off is this planet could begin again at its natural state. I was disturbed by this and said “Josh, you shouldn’t be able to think of one good thing to come from the destruction of all mankind.”
Did I also mention that his wife was there? She stayed pretty quiet through the whole thing, but quite often she would nod her head in agreement with what I was saying. Again and again I would stomp out her husband’s arguments and each time she’d nod along with me in total agreement. I found out the following day when Josh came in without her that his wife was going through a painful doubting phase because she’d had two miscarriages. They recently had a daughter, but she’s still having difficulty with it.
The last day I saw them I was walking down Saint Marks Place and I ran into the both of them. Josh said he had finally gone to visit my site and was very happy he met me before he knew of it. He saw the GOD ATE MY BALLS section and asked me how it was that I could put that out there if there’s even the slightest chance that there is a God, for fear of insulting him I suppose. I had to clarify that I was 100% atheist and what that meant.
Anyhow, I said goodbye to them both there on the sidewalk and wished them well. And his final question was-Why am I doing what I’m doing? Why am I being so upfront and aggressive with my atheism?
I responded with, “Because I don’t want to make the same mistakes my parents made and I believe it’s our religious differences that’re the biggest threat to civilization. It’s two uncompromising beliefs that directly oppose each other. And when neither party is willing to debate any longer there’s only one other solution.”
Anyhow, that’s how it all went down, and I found it interesting.
I’ll let you know if I hear from Josh again. He did ask if I had a Myspace.
I believe that this quote from their site summed it up best:
“It is our desire to serve God and not to place a denomination tag on who we are or what we do. Where the Scriptures are not clear, or where the Scriptures leave room for varied interpretation we seek not to make issues out of it, but simply to love God, and to love people.”