How to Respond to the Gay Pride Mob Video

A YouTube video [be advised, it contains some violence and profanity] showing some Christian street preachers being assaulted at a LGBT Pride Fest in Seattle has been spreading rapidly on social media in the past day or two. One article from LifeSiteNews.com has been shared and Liked on Twitter and Facebook several thousand times. Many of the comments appear to be from Christians outraged at this “reverse hate crime” and the “intolerance” displayed by the festival-goers antagonizing the preachers.

On one hand, some of this reaction is understandable. It is not uncommon for LGBT activists to employ some fairly aggressive rhetorical tactics in public situations, including shouting down Christians attempting to engage them in calm, charitable discussions about the Bible’s views on homosexuality and marriage. Perhaps the activists shouldn’t be surprised, then, if they find some of the same tactics being used against them. And those who advocate ceaselessly for tolerance really do need to examine the hypocrisy involved in shouting down and beating up people perceived as intolerant.

However, Christians need to be careful not to jump too quickly to outrage when we see videos like this. Footage starts only after the crowd has already been enraged; we don’t have a record of what the street preachers were saying or how they were acting before then.  Maybe they were just standing by peacefully, preaching a message that featured love and grace as prominently as sin and judgment. But it’s just as possible that the street preachers were being aggressive, confrontational, and focusing exclusively on depravity, condemnation, and hell. Maybe these preachers were just imitating Jesus and the apostles, who frequently aroused the ire of the crowds with their preaching. But maybe they had more in common with Fred Phelps (of Westboro Baptist notoriety) than Paul and Peter. Without more information, we just don’t know.

Christians do need to be prepared to be rejected and persecuted when we preach the gospel to an increasingly hostile world. But when we engage unbelievers, we need to make sure we don’t offend them with our attitude and aggression before they even get a chance to hear the gospel message that is its own stumbling block.

More to the point, when Christians see videos like this, we need to check our own reactions before we jump to conclusions. If we’re convinced that the “homosexual agenda” is inherently violent, “fascist,” and intolerant, we’ll see this as just more proof, whether or not it actually backs up those claims. Worse, we might be tempted to see the people in the video as sick, vile, and inhumane, rather than people made in the image of God to be loved, even if we’re appalled by their actions. And we might not be quick to listen to all the LGBT people out there who will be just as horrified by the violence in this video as we are and quick to denounce it.

Christians, let’s be wise and winsome when we engage unbelievers in conversations about sin and the gospel, even when it’s in a public venue like street preaching. When we see videos like this one, let’s remember that love is not easily angered (1 Cor. 13:5) and that wisdom should make us cautious about rushing into quarrels that aren’t our own (Prov. 26:17).

About Jeff Cavanaugh

Jeff Cavanaugh is an IT guy by profession and a theologian by training. In addition to Christ and Pop Culture, his writing has appeared at The Gospel Coalition, Nine Marks, and Cardus. He lives with his wife Andrea in Louisville, KY. Follow him on twitter at @jccavanaugh.

  • jtheory

    The one video I saw, the reporter said that the person who took the video said that the signs they were holding up said “Repent or else.” and that one of the preachers at least was telling people that if they didn’t repent they would go to hell. So yes, we do have a record, and it’s not a very charitable one.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    These preachers are more extreme fundamentalists than I am, and they weren’t using my preferred style of evangelism. That said, merely saying something controversial (e.g. that people need to repent or else they’ll go to hell) is still an exercise of free speech, not just cause for assault. If the preachers were screaming profanity at the crowd, pushing people around, etc., then a little push-back would be understandable. As it is, the response was completely out of proportion. People should be mature enough not to lash out physically just because they feel offended. It’s not constructive to imply that the reaction was understandable or that the preachers “had it coming.”

  • Daniel Mumby

    Both parties are equally wrong here, and it paints both sides as extremists. Why can’t people just discuss their different points of view calmly instead of behaving like the whole world is a playground?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    I disagree that both parties are equally wrong. At worst, the preachers were employing ineffective evangelistic tactics. They weren’t assaulting anyone. We can have discussions about effective evangelism, but they’re separate from the question of who is primarily to blame in this specific scenario.

    Frankly, we wouldn’t be having this conversation if roles were reversed. If a group of Christians had assaulted a gay activist holding a sign at a Christian gathering, I doubt we’d be hearing this much condemnation of the gay activist.

  • Alan Noble

    Right. Both parties can be culpable to varying extents. The preachers, for example, weren’t breaking the law or assaulting anyone, even if they were spewing hate (I have no evidence that they were, just for example). The men who assaulted them unambiguously broke the law.

  • Brett

    One of the accused assailants also has a record, and it’s not very charitable, either:

    http://www.komonews.com/news/crime/Video-shows-crowd-attacking-religious-protesters-at-Pridefest-214151861.html

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Of course, exactly what constitutes “hate” can be very subjective (witness the conveniently free applications of “hate speech” laws in Canada and elsewhere).

  • Susan_G1

    If you follow Brett’s link, the picture is clear enough.

    I am in favor of free speech, and have absolutely no sympathy for the aggressors. I hope pale-shirtless-hate-filled-man goes to prison. On the other hand, two things puzzle me.

    One is Matthew 10. At some point, you brush the dust off your feet because they do not want to accept the word, and you move on. There was ample warning that this was going to turn ugly here, and there were LGBT supporters trying to protect the “evangelists” (I put that in quotes because the most prominent was not bringing the good news of the Gospels, but more, “You’re going to hell” (along with other kinds of sinners). Why not say, OK, the better part of wisdom and obedience to God’s word here is to leave.

    As they chose not to leave, and were persecuted for (maybe) Him, where is the rejoicing? This is not a snarky question. We are told to rejoice if we suffer or are persecuted for Christ. While I would rather see God’s love and good news preached, it doesn’t detract from the fact that the sign holder was persecuted for his beliefs in the Bible/the Word.

    I will not hypothesize on the nature of persecution (does it need to come from authorities?) I’m more than willing to say he was persecuted (even though it was not to death) for the word.

  • Badnews Bear

    “employing ineffective evangelistic tactics” as the billboard sign guy did [in spades] is a more serious wrong than dishing out a few awkward punches and kicks as the pale out of shape guy did IMO

  • Andrew P

    “Ineffective evangelistic tactics” … quite the euphemism for acting like an obnoxious lout. I guess when Protestants and Catholics were burning each other at the stake, that was also “ineffective evangelistic tactics”. Lets call it what it is – bad, manipulative behavior for selfish ends. The goal in these kinds of confrontations is not to evangelize, but to provoke a reaction that then allows the “christians” to look like persecuted martyrs. The same confrontational tactics have been used at Muslim events. Can we please understand that this is nothing more than propaganda. Lets not pretend it has anything to do with a Biblical model of evangelism.


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