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I'm so excited to have been invited to our nation’s capital.
September 30, 2005 7:35 PM   Subscribe

Stealth Evangelism? on the National Mall in DC --sponsored by Pepsi, too. People attending The DC Festival will not see any clue -- not even a simple cross -- to suggest the real nature of the gathering: broadcasting the message of Jesus Christ.
Bio of the organizer, Luis Palau, here, including this: “We began to realize that the traditional ‘crusade’ model - uniformed choir, the suits on the platform, and old, traditional hymns - wasn’t the way to go for us,” Palau says. “We want to attract the un-churched, and we want them to encounter God, and bring them all to Christ and to understand and to connect.”
posted by amberglow (74 comments total)

 
So what?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:37 PM on September 30, 2005


EB, you beat me to it.
posted by tomplus2 at 7:38 PM on September 30, 2005


This is the guy that Stephen Baldwin works with. Steven has come to our church a couple of times and we have held events with skateboarding exhibitions, bands, etc. Like this, but a much smaller scale. People seemed to really like it.

I really don't know how I feel about this but on the other hand nothing wrong with the Church blessing the populace with a good time.
posted by konolia at 7:40 PM on September 30, 2005


This is so insidious. It's another example of the [gay|evangelist] agenda and their attempt to spread their philosophy by stealth via popular culture.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:45 PM on September 30, 2005


Churches supporting contemporary culture and otherwise doing objectively good things for the community are a good thing. Churches telling you who to hate and what music to hate are not so good.

This seems like the sort of thing that Jesus would actually have been cool with.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:45 PM on September 30, 2005


Not as cool as Stealth Disco. :( :( :(
posted by thefreek at 7:47 PM on September 30, 2005


Thanks amberglow! This is good. I didn't know you were into this kind of thing. But thanks again for spreading the good word.
posted by stirfry at 7:49 PM on September 30, 2005


Skaters for Jesus! Skaters for Jesus! We ollie for the Lord!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:50 PM on September 30, 2005


Hmmmm.....I've been seeing signs about this everywhere--"DC Festival Luis Palau." It does seem pretty damned sneaky to have a religious festival without advertising it as such:
In the late afternoon both days, Palau will deliver his evangelical message, which will climax with an invitation to listeners to commit their lives to Jesus. He will ask those who want to do that to raise their hands, which will be a signal to the 3,500 trained "counselors" stationed in the crowd to approach them and answer questions.
It ain't just skateboarding exhibitions and bands. It's a religious crusade that is hiding its purpose.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:51 PM on September 30, 2005


Yeah - other than the "hidden agenda" it seems pretty decent (I am a recovering evenagelical). I wouldn't complain too much - no one has to listen and Palau is saying in the paper that he will give a sermon each afternoon.

I am glad they have this freedom to speak. Probably the signs should include the fact that a "message" will be given. They do prominently state Luis will be there. He is fairly well known as a preacher - at least in some circles.
posted by donkelly at 7:57 PM on September 30, 2005


i never heard of the guy.
posted by brandz at 8:00 PM on September 30, 2005


we were driving down SE 20th past a church and it was advertising a coming sermon by Palau. i asked mrs. acid freaking why that name sounds familiar, and she said "he's a big preacher—national reach, billy graham sort of thing."

up till now, though, i didn't know his base of operations was portland. i guess it's better that he's preaching the love instead of the hate, but on behalf of the rest of portland, can i apologize? we still have cool indie bands, record labels, local beer, skate parks, and earth-friendly hippie stuff. we're still cool. honest.
posted by acid freaking on the kitty at 8:12 PM on September 30, 2005


thefreek writes "Not as cool as Stealth Disco.
"posted by thefreek at 10:47 PM EST on September 30


I'm a disco infiltrator fo' sho'.
posted by BoringPostcards at 8:17 PM on September 30, 2005


Stealth disco, spotted in its urban habitat.
posted by dazed_one at 8:29 PM on September 30, 2005


"Excuse me, ma'am. Where's the beer tent?...Ma'am?"
posted by ColdChef at 8:31 PM on September 30, 2005


“We want to attract the un-churched, and we want them to encounter God, and bring them all to Christ and to understand and to connect."

Sounds like an awful, awful human.

It's weird, amberglow. When other factions are so fanatical about the importance of their religion they blow up tens of thousands of innocents while expressly screaming Allahu Akbar ("God is the greatest") without even so much as the lamest pretext involving skateboarding or Pepsi, you are mysteriously nowhere to be found. No post, no condemnation, no links from "Crooks & Liars" — nothing.

But stealth evangelism? It's time to take it to the streets, or the internet, for a serious grousing session.
posted by dhoyt at 8:32 PM on September 30, 2005


I found it notable that they seem to be ashamed of their religion--having to hide it and all.

Is that what Jesus wanted? Bait and switch?
posted by amberglow at 8:34 PM on September 30, 2005


It's almost enough to make me turn atheist.
posted by sfenders at 8:47 PM on September 30, 2005


They're masking the square, dorky, out-of-touch image of Christianity so it won't alienate the coolness-obsessed young folks. They're trying to make worship seem less daunting, less sober, less traditional. Surely this is clear.

You're seeing "shame" because you want to see it. The concepts of "advertising" run through all channels, even Religion. Doesn't sound like Palau feels "shame" for organizing these events.

Even as an atheist, Palau & his crew don't scare me—why should they scare you?
posted by dhoyt at 8:47 PM on September 30, 2005


Jesus was never one for the full-court press either. If all he'd have done was straight up preaching, he'd have lost his audience, too.

He told some stories, served some food. The dude made wine out of water. Can't beat that for a party trick.

This seems innocuous to me.
posted by ColdChef at 8:49 PM on September 30, 2005


Plus, he's not doing a great job of hiding his "secret" intentions.

From the front page of the linked festival:
TOP CHRISTIAN ARTISTS COMING AND ADMISSION IS FREE!
posted by ColdChef at 8:51 PM on September 30, 2005


seems to me like it's a product without listing the ingredients.
posted by brandz at 8:55 PM on September 30, 2005


from a rightwing site on Muslims and Katrina: ... “The movement is flexible enough to allow working under the "Ikhwan" name, under other names, or working according to every country's circumstances.” In other words—disguise your intentions, and say anything as long as it promotes the Muslim Brotherhood agenda. ... (and not an uncommon view in many circles)

funny how things are bad when it's some other religion, but ok when it's yours, huh?
posted by amberglow at 8:55 PM on September 30, 2005


When other factions are so fanatical about the importance of their religion they blow up tens of thousands of innocents while expressly screaming Allahu Akbar ("God is the greatest") without even so much as the lamest pretext involving skateboarding or Pepsi, you are mysteriously nowhere to be found.

Yes, amberglow was surely dancing in the streets on 9/11.

But my important question: Can these christians give me Jesus's love in either taco or burrito form? For free?
posted by I Love Tacos at 9:05 PM on September 30, 2005


They're trying to make worship seem less daunting, less sober, less traditional.

His brand of evangelism is very similar to what you can find in many of the evangelical megachurches- religious worship presented as just another consumer choice, with all the soul-searching of a trip to the mall. All you have to do at is sign at the bottom line to get the free t-shirt and go to heaven.

And if it means getting to try out that bitchin' half-pipe, who wouldn't want to be saved?
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 9:05 PM on September 30, 2005


... Has christianity gotten such a bad reputation that it must resort to deceptive marketing in order to draw people in? Shouldn't the benefit of being 'saved' speak for itself? Do they really need skateboards and Twins to lure people to the festival and them peer pressure them into going to church on Sundays?

I can just imagine the outrage if the GLBT community held the Loring Park Festival, lured people in with Cyndi Lauper, Sandra Bernhart, and fried candy bars on a stick, only to discover that this was a gay thing. We'd be accused of 'recruiting' and run out of town. And, to be sure, if any other 'movement' or 'cause' did a similar thing, there'd be a bit of distrust. ...

posted by amberglow at 9:15 PM on September 30, 2005




"Stealth"? You'd have to be a moron not to figure it out, especially given the contents of the website. The suit with the bible they're supposedly so eager to divest themselves of is proudly pictured in the Flash montage on their front page, freshly-thumped bible in hand. It's no more covert than any other hippy-dippy contemporary Christian witnessfest. An atheist myself, I ain't worried. Mostly because the music is still terrible on its own merits.
posted by poorhaus at 9:27 PM on September 30, 2005


I dunno, man. That's like saying that educational cartoons for kids are bullshit because they hide their true agenda with silly animation.

I mean, if you had a festival with Cyndi Lauper and Sandra Bernhart wouldn't people just assume it was gay?

They're not really hiding the fact that it's a Christian band showcase. If you're not down with the G-O-D before you go to this thing, turkeylegs and non-confrontational moshing isn't going to win you over to their side. And if it does, they can keep you.
posted by ColdChef at 9:27 PM on September 30, 2005


DC Festival will feature top-flight Christian contemporary musical acts

...thereby guaranteeing that nobody who's not already that particular kind of effusive, bubbly Christian comes within 10000 yards. Stryper or weebly songs by clean, nonthreatening, well-scrubbed clones of Shaun Cassidy are to normal kids as garlic-dipped crosses are to vampires.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:31 PM on September 30, 2005


Palau had his Beach-Fest annual assemblies in Santa Cruz when I was living there. The bumper stickers just said "Lui Palau's Beach Fest" and the dates, leaving the Christian crap out of it entirely.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:37 PM on September 30, 2005


Nowhere in the advertising for Lillith Fair did it say that I would see so many butch women. Now THAT'S something that needs to go on promotional bumperstickers.
posted by ColdChef at 9:41 PM on September 30, 2005


Sure. There's a monthly parade in my town that gets called 'the anarchist parade' because several of the people that are regularly in the parade are anarchists.

But it's not like they scream 'mutual aid' or 'smash the state' or ask everyone to sign a statement of unity before they start playing the drums or twirling a flag. It's just that this town is so boring, and deperately needs something that knocks people out of the work-bar-home routine, and this is their best shot at waking them up and playing.

Now, maybe it would be different if people started blocking the street...but it's not like anyone would force anyone else to stay in the face of police crackdown...
posted by eustatic at 9:46 PM on September 30, 2005


Pepsi Pew!
posted by I Foody at 9:53 PM on September 30, 2005


You're not making rock and roll better; you're making Christianity worse! - Hank Hill
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 10:05 PM on September 30, 2005


Bread and circus, anyone?

Even as an atheist, Palau & his crew don't scare me—why should they scare you?

Because it might work.
posted by Ryvar at 10:21 PM on September 30, 2005


It's not honest and aboveboard, so i wouldn't think it could work.
posted by amberglow at 10:40 PM on September 30, 2005


I don't believe anyone alive has actually met Jesus so we only have the heresay testimony of people who did not actually witness that he really turned water to wine and loaves to fishes.
posted by bat at 10:41 PM on September 30, 2005


What are these Christians of which you write?
posted by filchyboy at 10:45 PM on September 30, 2005


It's not honest and aboveboard, so i wouldn't think it could work.

You are really, really overestimating people.
posted by Ryvar at 10:49 PM on September 30, 2005


I was converted to Christianity by one of Palau's Festivals, and now I'm waiting for an Athiest Fair to come through town and turn me back.
posted by mullacc at 10:57 PM on September 30, 2005


"It's not honest and aboveboard, so i wouldn't think it could work.

You are really, really overestimating people."


Yeah really. What, you've never seen advertising on TV? Or what's going on in our government? Scientology? Hoo boy.
posted by zoogleplex at 11:54 PM on September 30, 2005


Palau sponsored a rally in Syracuse NY a few years ago. You had to either know who he was or read the promotional material very carefully to realize this was an evangelical Christian event. There were a few angry letters to the paper afterwards from people who went expecting a music festival.
posted by maurice at 2:08 AM on October 1, 2005


In the end, there will be as many kids coverted to Christianity by Christian groups as there are kids converted to Satanism by heavy metal groups. In other words, not many.
posted by Jatayu das at 4:54 AM on October 1, 2005


This is a rather common tactic. When I was in high school, the local Youth For Christ (under the name Youth Unlimited) had a rally at our school with some sports figure, with an invitation to an extra-curricular rally. We had a few people who went to the other rally and were quite upset to find an altar call at the end. They felt duped, but promotion is promotion. It's about branding, and many Christians are quite aware that the Gaithers/Jerry Falwell/Sandi Patti image isn't going to help them attract youth.

I think their focusing on happy-joy-love is perhaps better than focusing on scary-hate-hell. And yes, as Jatayu das mentions, the amount of people responding to a "call" is not at all indicative of how many people remain affected six months down the road.
posted by heatherann at 5:21 AM on October 1, 2005


It's not really a new approach:
"Preach the Gospel always,
and when necessary use words"
- St Francis of Assisi
posted by klarck at 6:07 AM on October 1, 2005






oops--sorry about the double. (but don't miss the end of that article-- Through fear, he encourages attendees to repent to God and stave off the fire pits of hell rather than preaching about living a more positive, passionate, and generous life. On top of the fear of rejection, the fear of death, and the fear of impending doom, Palau teaches us that the biggest thing we have to fear is ourselves. Hallelujah.
posted by amberglow at 7:05 AM on October 1, 2005


"We'd be accused of 'recruiting' and run out of town. And, to be sure, if any other 'movement' or 'cause' did a similar thing, there'd be a bit of distrust."
Wait, so you're just unhappy that you can't recruit kids to your gay lifestyle of Cindy Lauper albums and Sandra Berhart shows?

I dunno. I vaguely expected them to be drugging people, or clubbing them over the head, for a Christian press gang.

"On top of the fear of rejection, the fear of death, and the fear of impending doom, Palau teaches us that the biggest thing we have to fear is ourselves."
Ah, good ol' Christian nihilism! This is one of those topics that Nietzsche really kills on. Not so much his view of women, but a lot of Christianity he nails dead bang.
posted by klangklangston at 7:18 AM on October 1, 2005


When Palau rolled through town here last year, one controversy was concerning corporate sponsorship of the event by the big local newspaper. (This blog entry is by someone who works there; google around for more opinions.)

A related, and sadly less surprising controversy, had to do with sponsorship of the event by the Minnesota Sec. of State's office, led by local wingnut and bible-banger Mary Kiffmeyer.

More than just hate--he's worming his way into relationships with persons in power.
posted by gimonca at 7:27 AM on October 1, 2005


klang, gay pride festivals and marches and rallies don't ever ever hide what they're about and why they're happening. Nor do they wipe all traces of their reason for being from their public notices and posters and fliers and publicity.

Billy Graham never hid what he was doing and why he was doing it when he held his Crusades. His son and Palau do hide it. That's not right.

gimonca: that's perhaps the most interesting part of all this--he wants corporate and other sponsors, and goes to the White House--is the hiding part of all this necessary for any or all of that? And what does it mean that Pepsi and others are willing sponsor an event like this, but all public notices of it don't mention the real reason for it? Is it something Palau knew would make it palatable to them? And not risk turning off other consumers? And why try to get corporate sponsors at all?
posted by amberglow at 8:18 AM on October 1, 2005


Lookit, I'm pretty plugged in--I read the newspaper, MetaFilter, talk to a bunch of other plugged-in folks. I've seen the bumper stickers and yard signs for this so-called "DC Festival," and I assumed it had something to do with, you know, DC. Not until this thread did I have any idea that it was a Christian crusade.

The ad campaign is, in my opinion, basically dishonest, as it does not proclaim its true intent. No, I don't think my head would explode if I happened to go down to the festival, but I would, indeed, feel lied to.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:54 AM on October 1, 2005


This is kinda like how when someone is trying to get you into Amway, they never use the word Amway, due to the negative connotation.

In fact, they even came up with another word (Quixtar) for their internet venture, because the Amway brand often causes immediate, violent response.

I was given a CD about this just recently, and nowhere on the CD, the packaging, in the materials, or in the content, is Amway or Quixtar mentioned. NOWHERE. But, I knew what it was within 30 seconds of playing it, because I have close friends that were duped/bullied into Amway back in the 90's. When I returned the disc to the guy and said "Oh, this is Quixtar, part of Amway, right?" he knew he was beaten before he started.

Same thing here. Change the name. Hide the intentions. Look! It's not a revival, it's a festival! The DC Festival. How generic can you be?

So most of you approve of deception as a valid method for religious/political/cult/lifestyle recruitment apparently.

Why be ashamed of what you are?

Obviously deception works. They will turn off some people who feel betrayed, sure. But, they will win many more simpletons than they run off.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:02 AM on October 1, 2005


is it an "ends justify the means" thing? i don't get it.
posted by amberglow at 9:10 AM on October 1, 2005


Some people like being lied to. Some welcome it and make a millenia-old cult out of the practice.
posted by Rothko at 9:51 AM on October 1, 2005


In the late afternoon both days, Palau will deliver his evangelical message, which will climax with an invitation to listeners to commit their lives to Jesus.

Which will then climax with a bunch of people going "oh shit, is that what all this was about?" and wandering off, mildly annoyed.
posted by Foosnark at 9:57 AM on October 1, 2005


Two things that raised my hackles:

About 4,000 took a course in "Friendship Evangelism," which teaches how to talk about Christ to friends and acquaintances

and

Asked for his views on gay marriage, for example, Palau replied: "I don't talk about it. Of course, I have an opinion like every other rational person; and if persons want to know what does God say, okay, read the Bible

The first, because these people don't speak from the heart but from a pre-approved and prepared script that has probably been market tested. These people aren't Christians spreading the word of God, they are used car salesmen.

The second, because there is a hidden agenda, a baited trap if you will: Christianity condemns homosexuality, so let's hide (or soften) that fact until they get converted. Afterwards we will explain that they have to stop being homosexuals.

What really irks me is the age of those attracted to skateboarding exhibitions. An impressionable age. An age looking for answers. The late teens, early twenties are when people are attracted to cults in an attempt to find acceptance and meaning in their lives. As a parent I might say OK to my son going to a skateboard rally, but not to a religious rally. But in this case I wouldn't know it was a religious rally.

And let's not forget the group dynamics. Many, many of the thousands who raise their hands will be solely moved by the mass experience and many of the thousands will promptly forget all about Jesus the next day. But Palau will get to claim that "5000" were saved that day. And many more churches will find the money to sponsor to many more rallies, and it will perpetuate itself like a virus.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:12 AM on October 1, 2005


The National Mall has been abused for this sort of thing many times before. I don't find it that insidious that there's a Christian concert that doesn't bill itself as a Chirstian concert so much. It's how these things are using public property for their aims. They better be paying the gov't top dollar for the space.

A few years back at the National Folk Life festival on the mall, the Gov't allowed this cult group to set up a fake folk festival directly next to the real folk life festival. They set up tents that showed videos about how their Leader was persecuted by the FBI and other tents for recruitment.
posted by destro at 10:35 AM on October 1, 2005


Secret Life of Gravy: If they're really going after 18 - 22 year olds, who cares if it the purpose is transparent to the parents of those adults?

I think the crowd at those events is actually more like 10 - 14 years old (while the skareboarders themselves are probably 18 - 22), in which case, I think you're right about the need for the religious motivations to be apparent.
posted by mullacc at 11:06 AM on October 1, 2005


I used to go to skatechurch with some friends. Of the ten of us who went, all probably 10-12 years old, only one of us was converted by the half hour enforced bible reading before you got to skate. He started going to church regularly, and we lost touch with him. A couple years later I ran into him at a skatepark. He'd quit the church and had become a self-professed satanist (I'm not sure if they have a skatechurch or not.) A few years later he'd quit Satan and become a vegan activist. I'd guess he's probably a Krishna now.
posted by underer at 11:32 AM on October 1, 2005


“We want to attract the un-churched, and we want them to encounter God, and bring them all to Christ and to understand and to connect."

Let me start with a big all-encompassing IMHO here:

Evangelism in general is just pretty obnoxious, and even though they're working around the "traditional model", a crusade is a crusade, basically trying to subvert others to your way of thinking.

"Un-churched"..if someone wants to get "churched" there's no shortage of options, they're wasting prime space all over DC. Why force the issue?

"encounter God"..ridiculous, totally subjective.

"understand and connect"..always reads as we'll make them understand that we're right and all others are wrong, no matter what it takes.

Good catch and good call-out Amberglow, keep the bastards honest about spreading nonsense culture.
posted by tetsuo at 2:25 PM on October 1, 2005


All of this aside, isn't it telling that such an established religion is becoming desperate enough to begin the journey to downright CULTish recruitment tactics?
posted by IronLizard at 8:30 PM on October 1, 2005


Why don't we just cut to the chase? Pepsi, the religion of a new generation.
posted by muppetboy at 8:39 PM on October 1, 2005


BTW, He offers great revenue-generating ad placement opportunities. Only He Truly captures attention and converts your advertising dollars to the kind of sticky eyeballs that mean repeat business and high ROI. Only He has the demographics to convert the unwashed yuppie masses into True Consumers. BELIEVE.

Praise Pepsi!

(Amani)
posted by muppetboy at 8:49 PM on October 1, 2005


Hmmm... maybe T-Mobile could help people connect with God...
posted by muppetboy at 8:53 PM on October 1, 2005


You gotta admit, it's a good tie-in.
posted by muppetboy at 8:54 PM on October 1, 2005


Partnership in marketing. Who's next? Smith & Wesson? "For your holy crusade needs, only S&W has the accuracy you need to slay the heathens!"
posted by IronLizard at 9:04 PM on October 1, 2005


Maybe Glocks would appeal more to the younger generation, on second thought.
posted by IronLizard at 9:06 PM on October 1, 2005


Surely God needs to lose that old man image.... hmmm... what about Catherine Zeta Jones or Jessica Alba?
posted by muppetboy at 9:10 PM on October 1, 2005


Christianity condemns homosexuality, so let's hide (or soften) that fact until they get converted. Afterwards we will explain that they have to stop being homosexuals.

What's this?

Christians disapprove of homosexuality? They claim it is a sin? Hot damn. They've been keeping that one quiet! Thanks for the info.
posted by verb at 12:09 AM on October 2, 2005


IronLizard : "All of this aside, isn't it telling that such an established religion is becoming desperate enough to begin the journey to downright CULTish recruitment tactics?"

Nope, it's not really telling.
posted by Bugbread at 6:18 AM on October 2, 2005


Christianity started out as a cult. They're just returning to their roots.
posted by ColdChef at 7:23 AM on October 2, 2005 [1 favorite]


All I can say is I'm tired of seeing the damn promotional signs all over town. There are those little ones you stick in the lawn, there are bigger ones in various places (like just behind Kingman Gate on Fort Belvoir), and there are the zillions of bumper stickers driving around. Augh.
posted by etoile at 7:30 AM on October 5, 2005


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