Will Wheaton notes the hateful Christian demonstrations at San Diego Comic-Con this year, and wonders what the point is and why they bring their kids:
… many of the sign holders are children between the ages of (I’d guess) 8 and 16. Some of the older kids read the script into their megaphone, while the younger ones try to shove tracts and leaflets into the hands of people who — if they take them at all — immediately throw them on the ground.
These children looked miserable. They looked sad. They looked like they’d rather be anywhere else than shouting at thousands of joyful people who are celebrating things they love. [...]
I feel like these kids are in a cult, and their parents are robbing them of their childhood. I feel like these people show up where large groups of us are being happy, so they can tell us that we should feel bad. I’m not entirely sure what they hope to accomplish — I’ve never once seen a person engage them in a thoughtful way, much less convert to their particular flavour of religion, and they don’t seem to be interested in soliciting money — but whatever it is, it isn’t happening.
I think Doctor Science at Obsidian Wings has it right that this is about reinforcing the tribal boundaries rather than evangelism or growing the church. By going to these events and behaving in this fashion they draw the line ever sharper between the sheep and the goats. By exposing the kids to the indifference and mockery of the general population it will force the child ever deeper into the group.
This also helps us understand why the Church of Latter Day Saints sends every young man out on missionary trips. Consider a young Mitt Romney, sent to convince the French that Jesus made a special stop in America and that therefore they should give up their wine and coffee. The chance of success there is negligible, but it forges ties between the young Mormons as they face an indifferent, or even hostile, audience.
I doubt that there is a plan for this, it’s simply a matter of evolution. Churches that have these sorts of evangelism manage to survive by holding on to their members.