A Form of Evangelism I Could Get Behind

The words “campus preacher” probably conjure up images of homophobic men who scream about hellfire at everyone as they walk by, but Ivan Imes (a.k.a. Jesus Talk), as he’s known to students, takes a very different approach at Louisiana State University:

Jesus Talk (Patrick Dennis – The Advocate)

He sits stoically at the end of the alley on a cushioned, fold-up, metal chair and speaks only when spoken to.

His chair faces a matching seat with a laminated paper bearing the words, “Prayer requests questions?? Email: jtalk@cox.net”.

“The key is, I never approach anybody,” Imes said. “They have to approach me.”

He may hold many of the same views as the loudmouths who usually come onto campus, but he knows this is a far better way to win people over to his way of thinking.

The American Jesus also points out another advantage:

… I appreciate this guy demonstrating that not all Christians who want to share their faith are completely bonkers.

He’s wrong, but he’s not crazy. And he seems open to debate.

More of this, please.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Aspieguy

    We had a hellfire preacher during the 80s on the Purdue University campus. He called himself Brother Max. Max put on quite a show.

    • Katie

      He was in Bloomington at IU when I was there in the late 90s. We also had Crazy Dan. Two hellfire preachers! Probably because IU is so much more sinful than Purdue.

      • Greg G.

        We had Brother Jed a couple of times a year at Ohio University. He cut a wide swath of colleges across the US. I expect he was in Indiana, too.

  • Camorris

    Lets see what becomes of him when he attracts followers that can throw money his way!

    • A3Kr0n

      I don’t think is guy is looking for money in particular.

  • ortcutt

    The bar has really been lowered if anyone who isn’t Fred Phelps, Pat Robertson or Ken Ham is applauded. Not being a crazy person doesn’t mean that someone is “open to debate”. I’ve never met an proselytizer in my life who was interested in free inquiry.

    • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

      In my experience, it’s all in the setup. I’ve had a truly educational experience talking with Mormon missionaries simply by stating at the front that I have a faith and that I’m not converting, but that I wanted to learn more about their faith and their motivation. I met with them for a few weeks and during that time I learned a lot about the LDS church. Did I convert? Nope. But I did get them to play a little table-top Shadowrun so I consider it a win :)

      • GeorgeLocke

        lulz, shadowrun with the mormons. it’s an rpg setup in itself!

    • jdm8

      This is the first that I’ve seen of this kind. It’s usually someone preaching loudly, have an obnoxious picket of some kind or they try to confront people personally.

  • Mick

    There are tattooed preachers, rock’n’roll preachers, skateboarding preachers, bikie preachers. They home-in on a niche market and play it for all it is worth. This guy sounds like he was inspired by a nursery rhyme:

    Little Jack Horner
    Sat in the corner,
    Eating a Christmas pie;
    He put in his thumb,
    And pulled out a plum,
    And said ‘What a good boy am I

  • SeekerLancer

    I understand the snarky comments being made but give the guy at least some break. Is the end result him being there just to proselytize? Yes, but at least he’s being more civil about it than most.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    I can’t say that I prefer this approach. Whether he uses the hard sell “Oxyclean” guy’s method of shouting at the top of his lungs, or the soft sell “Dove” soap commercial method with a soothing woman’s voice cooing behind images of tranquil seascapes,

    this guy is selling a drug.

    He is selling superstition and the idea that gullibility is a virtue. It gives the user a warm, happy euphoria, and/or a feeling of excitement and being powerful and superior to others. The effect spreads perniciously into more and more of his mind, making him more tolerant of superstitious, irrational thinking about more and more things, more comfortable with his prejudices and his conceits.

    This street drug dealer’s method is seductive. He appears to be talking rationally, but what he’s selling is the willingness to abandon rational thinking at a certain point, where the evidence no longer supports the claim, instead of abandoning the claim.

    Less of this, please. Less of any form of it.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      i’m with Richard. there are churches on every corner of every town in america. the only people who don’t know where to go to learn more about jeebus are the brain damaged or coma victims. there is absolutely no need for more advertising about what jeebus lovers have to say, think or anything similar. wanna talk to college students? stop using campus as a free space for you to promote your religion, and sign up and pay to take a class with them.

      you wanna impress me? go feed some poor people. shelter a runaway. build somebody a home to live in. actual Christ like stuff.

    • SJH

      Richard, although some may treat it as a drug, not all do. He can’t control what others do with the information he provides. I understand what you are saying if he is preaching in a way that evokes emotion rather than reason but you are assuming that he is. Maybe he is being perfectly reasonable and knows something that you do not. It would probably be wise to listen to him first and then make a judgement.

      • Ibis3

        There is nothing perfectly reasonable about believing in Christianity. We have amassed enough knowledge–historical, anthropological, and scientific–to know that it isn’t true.

        • SJH

          So wrong. Just because you have found scientific answers for some of life’s questions does not disprove anything. I would say that we have amassed enough knowledge to say that Christianity’s philosophy and belief’s are reasonable and worthy of respect. It is perfectly reasonable that a person might decide to look into Christianity more deeply and in practicing come to the conclusion that it is in fact true. It is unreasonable to assume it is untrue just because you cannot prove it in a lab. Life is not that simple. It has proven to be complex and beautiful.

          • Ibis3

            Seems like you didn’t read what I wrote. I’m saying that what we know to be factual discounts just about everything claimed in the biblical texts. There was no creation, no flood, no exodus, no great kingdom of David, no mass following for Jesus. There are ancient Semitic religions created by human beings, of which the strains of Judaism we see in the Hebrew bible are only examples. They post-date paleolithic and neolithic religions. They post-date Sumerian religion and Egyptian religion. We know about the historical development of both Judaism and Christianity (i.e. we can see how they were constructed by human beings–what their antecedents and influences were with respect to both myth and doctrine). We know how life came to be (in general if not the specifics) and how it evolved. There’s no room for the Christian god and original sin. We know from neuroscience there’s no such thing as a soul–our consciousness is an emergent property of our brain. It is not reasonable to believe something to be true when all of human knowledge (*that’s* complex and beautiful) contradicts it.

            As for respect? Christianity as a belief deserves none. It posits that human beings are broken and diseased by nature, in need of a saviour. Which saviour must do the saving by means of a substitutional blood sacrifice to a bloodthirsty asshole deity. And anyone who doesn’t buy into this preposterous nonsense must burn and be tortured for all eternity. That’s not beautiful or profound. That’s repugnant. Even the philosophical bits like passive acceptance of injustice are morally questionable. The only good parts of Christianity were lifted from Romano-Hellenistic Paganism and grafted on to a sick and twisted root.

    • rhodent

      Whether the “drug” analogy is valid is open to debate, but even if we accept it for the sake of the discussion, I would still argue that someone who quietly lets people know he has drugs to sell but doesn’t offer them unless people come to him is still an improvement over someone actively getting in people’s faces trying to pressure them into trying drugs.

    • http://www.myfathershouse.squarespace.com/ A Christian

      Lol. I hope you read some of my blog posts. We have some things in common, like being aggravated about manipulative practices in churches.

      Like this: http://myfathershouse.squarespace.com/journal/2013/3/1/will-they-know-we-are-christians-by-our-attitudes.html

      This:http://myfathershouse.squarespace.com/journal/2013/1/15/a-critical-spirit.html

      And this:http://myfathershouse.squarespace.com/journal/2012/9/28/christian-culture-is-weird-a-bunch-of-what-ifs.html

      I would love to hear your thoughts.

  • Art_Vandelay

    I commend proselytizing of any form. If you’re a Christian and you really believe your own theology rather than tailor something up that feels comfortable as so many do…you SHOULD be trying to save me. If you think my life is worthy of unimaginable torture for all eternity simply because I’d yet to have been convinced of the existence of your particular deity before my death, you should absolutely be trying to save me. You should be spreading the word and you should wear that shit on your sleeve. To not do so just seems wicked.

    • tinker

      My feeling is that if you truly believe in a God that damns you to burn forever because you do not worship him then you should fight against that injustice and vow to go to hell in solidarity.

      • Art_Vandelay

        Well, I couldn’t agree with you more. Provided that’s not the reality of it though, I would think people that really believe it should have a moral responsibility to convince the ones that don’t. JT Eberhard says in one of his talks very eloquently that if you saw someone hanging over a cliff ready to plummet to their death, that person would immediately become your entire world and it would be wicked to ignore them. Yet, if you see someone that you truly believe is hanging over the precipice of hell…that’s even worse! So why do so many brush the responsibility off?

  • JKPS

    I don’t think I would have a problem with this. If I walked by him at my campus, I would have whispered about him and looked at him funny, but eventually my curiosity would have gotten the better of me and I might have approached him. I’m not against “witnessing” about your faith, and I would rather be given the option to be the one starting the conversation.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    At least he’s polite about it.

  • Robster

    All successful sales people smile, bit like politicians…There is a reason.

  • Beau

    I agree with Hemant. This is a much better approach than the screaming, insanity version.
    Living in Oklahoma as an Atheist, I have plenty of opportunities to discuss religion with Christians all around me. Most are not worth the attempt, because they’re judgmental and rude. But sometimes, just every once in a while, I run across a Christian that is genuinely curious about my non-belief. These are the conversations I enjoy, even if I completely disagree with the person. I’ve made many friends in this manner and have many interesting debates and discussions. At the end of the day, we shake hands and move on. Heck, I even go to church sometimes with these friends, because I know it will make them happy. And they, of course, know there is no chance in hell I would ever convert. it’s a reasonable compromise to have a good friendship.


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