Recently, David Grisham, an Evangelical preacher affiliated with Repent Amarillo and Last Frontier Evangelism, went to the Westgate Mall in Amarillo so he could let children standing in line to see Santa Claus know that Santa is a myth and Jesus is not. Here’s a video of Grisham’s verbal assault:
This video was previously published here.
Grisham has been roundly criticized for his behavior, but some Evangelicals are lauding him as a bold warrior for Jesus who told the children and their parents the T-R-U-T-H! Never mind the fact that Grisham went on private property to do what he did. He should have been arrested for disturbing the peace. The parent who took matters into his own hands is to be commended for attempting to stop Grisham’s preaching. Defenders of Grisham are saying that this man assaulted him and that this is a clear case of a Christian being persecuted for his faith. Bullshit. Grisham went on private property and, without permission, attempted to evangelize a captive group of people. While it is always best to let security or law enforcement handle the Grisham’s of the world, the father in question was certainly within his rights in his attempt to quell the verbal diarrhea coming from the Grisham’s mouth.
The law is clear. Evangelicals can preach and evangelize on public property (though this right is not absolute). As long as they don’t harass people or impede their movement, Grisham and his mighty band of assholes are free to expose the damning heresy of believing Santa is real. Once Christian zealots come on to private property they no longer have a constitutional right (freedom of speech) to say whatever they want. Most businesses wouldn’t want someone shouting and preaching at their customers, and they have every right to ask the offender to leave. And anyone who refuses to do so can be arrested for disturbing the peace or trespassing. Grisham evidently doesn’t understand that businesses have the right to prohibit everything from handing out tracts to preaching. Most business owners realize that allowing Evangelicals to evangelize their customers is bad for business. That said, if a business wants to infuse its operation with religion — say with track stands, book racks, Christian muzak, and religious kitsch — and attempt to verbally witness to customers it is free to do so. Customers are also free to take their business elsewhere. Customers voting with their feet is not persecution. It’s merely customers saying to evangelizing businesses that they don’t like being targets for religious recruitment.
I have been asked by several people if I knew what could possibly be Grisham’s motives for doing what he did. While I can’t know for sure, I did spend a number of years street preaching and evangelizing passersby. I did these things because I believed God was telling me to do so; that I was a prophet of God; that I had a duty to tell sinners the truth. I suspect Grisham’s motives are similar.
Looking back on my street preaching years, I now know that my “preaching” was actually verbal assault, and that my call from God was really just my need to be right. I had the T-R-U-T-H, truth that had eluded 99.9% of Christians, and telling others this truth validated my rightness. I was above the fray, better than every other preacher. If they were right with God, these preachers would have joined with me, forming a Godly band of truth-tellers. That they didn’t meant they were cowards — deniers of Jesus.
This kind of thinking can lead to psychosis. Spending years believing you are like Elijah — the only prophet who did not bow a knee to Baal — will certainly lead to mental imbalance. I suspect that Grisham and other Evangelicals who have spent years and years harassing people likely have a screw loose. I realized the error of my way and stopped street preaching and using heavy-handed evangelistic methods. If I hadn’t done so, I have no doubt that I would have ended up just like David Grisham.
As most readers do, I find Grisham’s behavior offensive. That said, I feel sorry for the man. He has lost touch with reality. His brain is so besotted with Jesus, he can no longer act like a decent, thoughtful human being. Remove religion from the equation, and Grisham’s behavior might have landed him in a pysch ward or jail cell. Grisham is no different from a drunken, mentally ill homeless man who spends his days talking to himself. But because Grisham’s behavior is religiously driven, we dare not say he is mentally imbalanced. Such is the deference granted to Evangelical Christianity.
For those who think Grisham’s behavior is that of a prophet of God, consider how you might respond if an atheist came into your church on Sunday and started saying that Jesus was a myth and that there is more evidence for the existence of Santa Claus than there is for Christ. Imagine this atheist going to the children’s church meeting and preaching to them the True Word of Hitch® — that Jesus was not God’s son, not virgin born, and never resurrected from the dead. Why, I have no doubt that the atheist would be physically restrained and the police called to take him away. I am sure church members would say later, that man was crazy!
If atheists, or any other group for that matter, have to respect house rules, shouldn’t Evangelicals do the same? If Grisham was an atheist and did what he did at a church, I would criticize him just as I have the Evangelical version of Grisham. Public spaces are a different matter. Sidewalks are the freest real estate in America. Atheist and Evangelical alike can preach, hand out tracts, and attempt to engage passersby in discussion. Those who don’t want to be evangelized are free to tell zealots to go fornicate with themselves and keep on walking. When I come in contact with street preachers and sidewalk evangelizers, I tend to give them a bit of their own medicine. I snuggle up close to them and start doing some preaching of my own. I love preaching the gospel of reason! Using public preaching skills honed decades before, I can often drown out the Evangelicals. Sometimes, they will ask me to leave. Leave?, I ask. I have just as much right to this sidewalk as you do. Don’t like my message? Go somewhere else! Fun times, even if Polly is standing at the back of the crowd shaking her head and thinking, that crazy husband of mine, what will he do next?