Beyond Wretched: Wretched TV, Deception, and "Violent" Muslims

Beyond Wretched: Wretched TV, Deception, and "Violent" Muslims February 20, 2012

Please read the 2/23/12 update at the end of the article.

Whenever I hear Christians claiming that Muslims are “violent,” I immediately become suspicious and I try to discover on what basis the accusation is made; so, when Wretched TV posted a YouTube clip titled “Those Peaceful Muslims” on their Facebook page, I was compelled to watch it, and I was disturbed by what I saw.

If you don’t know, Wretched is not your typical conservative Christian news show; it is affiliated with Way of the Master/Living Waters ministries and has a consistent theme of finding clarity in the news, life, society, and relationships through a biblical approach to the Gospel, and often exposes the absurdities of the thinking/logic in our age through humor, a quirky personality, a fair handful of sarcasm, and seriousness when the topic calls for it. It takes its title from “Amazing Grace,” and the host, Todd Friel, considers himself to be the “wretch” in question.* Often in the show, they will play an interesting YouTube video that they found and Friel will provide Christian commentary on it. The show airs on a few Christian TV networks, and the TV and radio show both have very strong followings among the reformed community.

Because of their reputation and popularity, I was extremely saddened and angered when I watched their video on “peaceful Muslims” and discovered that they had intentionally and obscenely edited raw footage from the 2011 Arab International Festival in order to portray Arabs as violent, irrational, vulgar, hate-filled people. This deceptive editing and commentary is utterly unacceptable for Christians, particularly influential Christians, and so I hope and pray that Todd Friel and the rest of Wretched media will publicly apologize for their behavior and thoroughly reconsider their reporting and editorial practices.

What follows is an explanation of just how Wretched deceived their viewers and why it matters.

“Christians Preaching the Gospel” or Inciting Hatred?

Todd opens the Wretched TV clip by setting the scene for the YouTube video he is about to play: at the “Muslimfest” (more on that name later) in Dearborn Michigan, across the street from a group of Christians preaching the Gospel, a crowd of Muslims are responding to them, “Just as they do on the TLC show.” Todd’s sarcastic comment seems to imply that the following clip reveals the real nature of Muslims, unlike the cleaned up, politically correct image of Muslims in Dearborn found on the TLC show. Just a few seconds into the video, we can already recognize a familiar narrative about Muslims in America: They pretend to be peaceful, they try to blend in, but if we watch carefully, they will reveal themselves to be violent, irrational, and un-American.

The YouTube clip then begins, and we are shown a crowd of young men who appear to be Muslims cursing, flipping the bird, and even spitting on the camera!

What we don’t see is who these kids are responding to. Todd has already told us that the “Muslims” are reacting to “Christians preaching the Gospel” on the other side of the street, but in the video, all we see of these Christians is a quick shot of a few signs and the barely audible sounds of their “preaching.” However, with a bit of YouTube sleuthing, I was able to identify the Christians and hear their “preaching” of the “Gospel.” It turns out that these Christians were comprised of Ruben Israel, an infamous street preacher known for his offensive signs and his tendency to mock his audience and his friends.

In the original YouTube video (which was, apparently, filmed and posted by YouTube user connect741, not Wretched media) that Wretched TV used for their TV segment, we hear from one person that the Christians who were “preaching the Gospel” at the festival were calling Muhammad a pedophile, which it turns out was exactly the message Ruben was preaching while he was at the Arab festival, as you can see here in the YouTube video that he posted.

In addition, we get a clearer shot of their signs in the original video (see here):

Now, compare them with the signs in this video, released by Ruben Israel:

Finally, in connect741’s original video (on the left) we can catch a quick glimpse of Ruben standing with the street preachers. Compare that with the picture of Ruben taken from his YouTube video (on the right).


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clearly, this group of “Christians preaching the Gospel” was the group lead by Ruben Israel.

So, what exactly was the “gospel” that they preached? As you can see from the video, their preaching included comments like:

Muslims hate Jews, Christianity, and most of them hate America.
“Go dye your hair, blonde, go dye your hair.”
“You’re a wicked Muslim! You don’t know God” (Screaming at a person in the crowd).
“You’re a disgusting Muslim. You’re on your way to the devil’s hand.”

You get the idea. I’d strongly encourage you to watch the whole video, if you can stomach it. Near the end, a fight breaks out momentarily. The Christians claim that the Muslims started it, but what is very clear is that whoever threw the first punch, this group of Christian “street preachers” had been mocking, yelling at, laughing at, and inciting the festival goers for a long time before things got out of hand. Which was to be expected, since in Ruben’s pre-“preaching” speech to his cohorts, he tells them that their goal is to “avenge” the blood of Christians killed by Muslims. They went into this expecting violence and intending to give a “salty” message.

Considering the vile and hateful message these people were “preaching,” is it really any wonder that these Muslims were angry? Naturally, I don’t think this justifies their hate, but it does explain it. They were being incited to anger and violence by a group of Christians who went to “avenge” blood.

Suddenly, these Muslims don’t seem as irrational and violent as Friel made them seem.

Of course, it is quite possible that the Wretched people had no idea that the preachers’ messages were so violent and hateful, but that is really no excuse at all. Todd Friel tells his audience, as a statement of fact, that these people are “Christians preaching the Gospel,” which implies that what they are doing is loving, not hateful. In other words, Friel implies that the Muslims had no reason, except for their own inherent hatefulness and violence, to respond so angrily to the street preachers.

If they knew that this group was led by Ruben Israel, then they deceived their audience by saying that they were “preaching the Gospel.” If they didn’t know, then they deceived their audience by stating as fact (“Christians preaching the Gospel”) what they only assumed.

Not only does the clip grossly misrepresent the Christians, but the Wretched crew also edited out moments in the original video when older, more responsible Muslims tried to calm down the younger crowd, thus demonstrating that “Muslims” are not all violent thugs. And they also edited out the part when the cameraman antagonizes a Muslim by sticking his camera in the man’s face repeatedly until the man spits on it. We get the spit, but not the context.

If you watch the entire original video, you can see that this cameraman–a self-proclaimed atheist, not a part of the Wretched crew–had been antagonizing the festival-goers for some time. But in the Wretched version of the video, all we see is a group of violent, profane, hateful Muslims spiting on cameras and flipping the bird at peaceful Christians who just want to share the Good News.

They lied. Period.

And then they lied some more.

Liberal, Ignorant, Postmodern Ladies or Peacemakers?

Todd introduces the next clip by describing the “liberal, postmodern” women who wanted to bring peace to the festival. You should already be able to catch the deception here. In the Wretched clip, we have no idea of what the “Christians” were doing, and why these two old ladies might have felt that both groups needed to learn how to live peacefully.

The Wretched video makes it seem as if political correctness (once again!) has kept those liberals from condemning Muslims for their violent ideology. But if those street preachers were Ruben and company, it makes perfect sense for these ladies to insist that both groups need help. It would also mean that by failing to acknowledge the hatred and violent language from the “Christians,” and by repeatedly trying to get these ladies to admit that the Muslims were the violent ones, the cameraman was himself being deceptive and mean to these ladies.

But the story keeps getting better. After repeatedly sticking his camera in the faces of these young, angry Muslims–despite warnings to stop–a few of them start pushing the cameraman and it becomes clear that he is about to get beaten up. Guess who comes in to save the bellicose cameraman from his own folly? The two old ladies he had just finished mocking.

That’s right. The liberal, postmodern, ladies rescued the arrogant cameraman. But why doesn’t Todd tell us that? Why does Todd imply that these liberal ladies have no real concern for keeping peace when, in fact, they are quite willing to put themselves in harm’s way to save the arrogant?

The Bigotry of “Dearbornistan”

The evil of this Wretched TV clip comes not just from its thoroughly deceptive editing or Todd Friel’s arrogant sarcasm, but also from the racism/religionism inherent in the narrative Friel tells and the language he uses.

As I alluded to earlier, Friel presents a common narrative about Muslims in this video. Muslims are irrational, violent, hateful, animalistic threats to our country who have been sheltered by liberal political correctness. By sarcastically titling the video, “Those Peaceful Muslims” and grossly misrepresenting the situation, Friel is actively promoting the idea that Muslims (or at least Arab Muslims) are all violent animals; he is presenting evidence to support that narrative.

Then there are Friel’s witty comments about the Arabs:

Instead of calling it the Arab International Festival, which is the festival’s actual name, he calls it “Muslimfest.”

After showing the first clip, Friel comments that, “They look like Americans but act like Muslims.” The implication being that you can’t be an American and a Muslim and that the obscene and violent scene we have just watched is indicative of what real Muslims act like.

Dearborn Michigan becomes, “Dearbornistan,” suggesting that the American city has been turned into an un-American, Muslim city.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Todd Friel and Wretched media have espoused bigoted views on Muslims. In this clip from the radio show, Todd reads a list called, “Ya Might Be a Muslim If,” which includes such lines as, “You might be a Muslim if you are amazed to find out that cellphones have other uses than setting off roadside bombs.”

Why Does This Even Matter? 

Let’s recap quickly. Wretched TV intentionally edited this video to portray Arab Americans as violent, irrational, thugs. They misrepresented the “preaching” done by the Christians, either intentionally or out of gross negligence. They edited out the cameraman’s repeated attempts to incite violence. And they mocked two ladies who were anything but postmodern. In fact, Wretched TV’s willingness to utterly misrepresent this situation suggests that they have bought into the very postmodern belief that truth is merely an act of power and power is necessary and evil. If anyone is a postmodernist here, it is Wretched TV.

Let me be clear here. I did not write this to attack Wretched media or Todd Friel. But what they did was wrong. It was deceptive. It was sinful. And it had very real consequences.

They lied about the Arabs and Muslims at this festival, and thereby actively promoted a dangerous stereotype about Muslims. A glance at Wretched’s Facebook posting of the video shows that it was heavily shared and that some of their fans did take the video as evidence of the inherent violence of Islam. And on YouTube, the video has nearly three thousand views so far. Think about that.

They lied about the two old ladies and in the process lied about the ignorance of liberals.

Wretched media is an influential ministry that is quite popular among many conservative Christians. Through their gross deceptions in this video they have reinforced stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims and mocked specific people. What they did was completely unacceptable for any Christian organization.

Update 2/23/12

Since the time of my original posting of this article, I have talked with Friel about my objections to this video. I found him to be humble, gracious, and open to correction. He agreed to pray about his “tone, delivery and sarcasm,” but we ultimately disagreed over the question of whether or not this video was deceptive. I stand behind my analysis and still believe that the video was deceptive. But I want to make clear that I do not believe that a mistake like this means that the entire Wretched enterprise is uncharitable or unreliable. People and groups make mistakes. At the same time, whatever good Wretched and Friel might do does not negate the deceptiveness of this video, and so, I still hope and pray that they will do the godly and loving thing by issuing a public apology and admitting their deception to their fans, apologizing to the peace group which they mocked, and apologizing to the Arabs and Muslims at the Dearborn festival.

Correction 2/23/12

A friend and fan of Wretched mentioned to me that my description of Wretched was still not accurate. He offered the above description marked by *.

Correction 2/20/12

In the original post, I mistakenly described Wretched TV as a “reformed Baptist” show. I corrected it to read “conservative Christian.”

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Thank you for researching and writing this. Racism should not be named among Christians.

  • Adam Carrington

    The video is deceptive and should be retracted. It fails to understand a great virtue of America. The United States possesses a history of moderating religious faiths toward a respect for non-violence, religious liberty, and individual rights/equality. Presbyterians changing the Westminster Confession in the 1780s is an example, as well as American Catholicism’s movement away from a more unified church/state system. I’ve seen the same with Islam. It seems an open question how the current, most popular understanding of Islam aligns with liberty and individual rights in the greater Sunni Muslim community ( I single out Sunnis because I’m more familiar with their theology). In fact, I think the current understanding is mostly against these concepts internationally, a situation that goes ultimately back to theological struggles in the 12th century. But there are significant signs in America countering this picture which should be cultivated by all living here, Muslim or not. The failure to do so is widespread, though the reasons differ depending on one’s religious and political viewpoints. (I would also note that I must be out of the loop with conservatism and conservative Christianity. I’ve never heard of Wretched TV or most of the groups you’ve highlighted recently as popular venues for religious or political discussion.)

  • Carol

    Utterly appalled.

    Also…irony…..the cameraman is an atheist. So the Christians who promoted this video and his antics against Muslims had no problem with his atheism – as long as it served their bigoted agenda. Same with Wretched TV. Apt name, they are wretched indeed for making and distributing videos slandering other people.

    I hope and pray that they apologise and make amends to those their bore false witness against.

  • KeJo

    I gotta say, Alan, awesome editorial. But when I saw a guy from Baylor was going to respond to this story, and clicked over from a non religious site, I was a tiny bit worried you might take another tact. Thanks for keeping it true. This group is an embarrassment to Christians and all Americans and the more people that know about that, the better. Nice job.

  • Rana

    some “Christians” posted similar misleading videos on youtube in 2010. Josh McDowell (yes, that Josh McDowell), defended the Arab-American community since his team was at this event and saw what really took place. Josh McDowell told the truth, but because he defended Arab-Americans (mostly Christians btw!!!) his ministry’s monetary donations took a DEEP NOSEDIVE. The anti-Arab meme takes very little effort to resurrect (shamefully) among Christians (thank you Chuck Smith, Israel, The Left Behind Series, John Hagee, etc) and is a PROFITABLE business to get into (take note people, who/ what is behind this meme, $$$/ media/ power/ profit/ ignorance).

    People really have no idea how damaging these people are, they are either absolutely clueless on the iniquity they create and immerse themselves in or they are absolutely intentional about this iniquity and must be exposed for who they are.

    Peace.

  • Rana

    Thank you for exposing them Alan. May God bless your efforts and sacrifice. I really appreciate the time you took in writing this, there is so much more to what these guys do. I’ve done a lot of research with a pastor from the Dearborn area and it took a lot out of us, spiritually and emotionally, so I really appreciate your work, sacrifice and love for God, the truth and your neighbors. Sadly your work stands out because it is not the normal stance of too many very *vocal and influential* American Evangelicals (cringing as I type this, not happy that this is so).

  • Good catch, Alan, and thanks for the details. It’s the research, describing the facts on the ground, that makes this one a clear example of several different kinds of abuse of the name of Christ, an abuse that is reprehensible even on the most charitable interpretation. Misrepresenting Christ in this way cannot be justified by being “against Islam,” even where we take the best reasons for opposing Islam (its misrepresentation of God), or a worst-case interpretation of the lesser reasons (its recent history and the consistency of its well-funded and militant extreme form with its origins and development), and try to add them up to a justification. It just won’t wash.

    Fear isn’t good enough reason to misrepresent Christ; but even that’s not really the issue, here, is it? The issue here is an evangelical culture which has come to believe that generating compelling narratives in terms of the found culture and its meaning-making habits is the fundamental nature of truth itself, that the prophets were prophets and the apostles were apostles because they were relevant.

    By showing how such a narrative-making response to a search for epistemic justification ends up wiping out truth itself, in an intrinsically violent act, your article reaches beyond its ostensible goals; you have allowed truth to (re)place the story.

    Or perhaps I’m just being postmodern.

  • Thank you for writing this. As a Christian worker living in the Muslim world, I cannot tell you enough how critical it is for American Christians to stop hating and start acting like Jesus. Attacking Islam does not open the door to the Gospel. It is not “preaching the Gospel”. Loving Muslims opens the door to the Gospel.

  • Dean

    The fact is that the Muslims could have and should have ignored them (street preachers) instead they choose to act in violence and not in peace. There is another video of Ruben standing in front of a Catholic Church (St. Louis Cathedral) in the French Quarters yelling at Catholics as they left Mass while waving feminine products painted red hanging from wire hangers and he was ignored. I have been in contact with Todd (Wretched Radio) about this street preacher and showed him the video; he made it clear that he does not support this style of street preaching. Yes, Ruben’s style is anything but Christian like and after looking at other videos of him it is clear that it is his goal to incite an emotion, which is mostly anger, so he and his group were not innocent victims.

  • Alan Noble

    Dean,

    That’s an important point. As I say in the post, none of what I mention justifies the Muslims’ response, but it does put it in context and help explain it.

  • There does seem to be a lot of policing of other christians going on on this site, but here it’s justified. Deliberately lying in order to promote a view is unacceptable. Yes, Islam is a false religion, but that doesn’t justify lying about it in order in order to teach people that. And what’s with his bitter tone? Seriously.

    But as for my previous mention of policing, please watch out guys. Don’t become accusers of the brethren. I would prefer it if you had more of the Pop culture angle, instead of constant nitpicking. (Except in cases where it’s REALLY necessery, like this one)

  • Mike

    I’ve watched Todd Friel on the show “Wretched” often enough to see, unfortunately, that he often debases Islam in broad, generalized language. Perhaps he would excuse himself because, afterall, he’s a wretch, but the truth is that the vast majority of Muslims are decent and moral people whose values are not different than Christians. Yes, Muslim theology is hugely different, but I can not imagine Jesus Christ using such hateful language to describe all Muslims.

  • tony

    I didnt see on person with a tshirt that said Im a christian and I hate you. Christians dont hate muslims we hate the idealogy of the pervert pedophile mohammed . Islam is a supremisist idealogly like nazism . there were no moderate nazis.

  • GP

    I am sorry to break the news to a lot of you, but most of the rantings on this topic are what need to be repented of such as slander, gossip and heresay. These are all clearly condemned in the Bible and you are doing the very thing you accuse others of doing.

    Alan states,
    “That’s an important point. As I say in the post, none of what I mention justifies the Muslims’ response, but it does put it in context and help explain it.”

    Ok, let me help you explain it. When you bump a cup what spills out is only what was inside to begin with. If Islam is a religion of peace and Muslims are peaceful then you would not get this behavior on camera no matter what lead up to it. Jesus taught that all actions spring from the heart and make men unclean.

    Or should we believe that if Jesus ran into Ruben and his group you would have found him spitting on cameras and giving people the middle finger? We all know the answer is “no”. Jesus would never act like that. And as his followers, you shouldn’t act so shamefully either.

    All this slander and back-biting is truly an unChristian thing to do. Slanderers are those who will not inherit God’s kingdom.

    I hope you all repent, stop worrying about the Muslims, I fear most of you will not make it into the kingdom and are not only deceiving yourselves but others as well.

    P.S. I have ministered the gospel on the streets of Dearborn, studied Arabic, visited the Arab International Festival other years when neither Ruben, Todd, nor Atheists with cameras were there and my wife and I experienced the same treatment. And my wife was visibly pregnant when they cursed, threw rocks at, physically threatened, pushed her, hit her camera and I was told twice by older Arab women who “feared for my safety” that I may get beat up. A Dearborn Police Officer insisted on walking us to our car because he too was concerned for our safety when we decided to leave. Tell me this is a peaceful people. Unless you have more attacks and lies to throw at me as you did Todd and Ruben. Don’t bother, I’m sure it was all my wife’s fault for watching me preach “Isa Ibn Allah”. Jesus is the son of God. I have had death threats on multiple occasions for simply preaching John 3:16 to Muslims. Do your own research on Islam and you will find out the truth. Dearborn Muslims (actually Hamtramck ones slightly to the NE) are the only ones in the US allowed to blast the Muslim prayer call over loudspeakers 5 times a day and want to make it illegal to pass out a gospel tract in the city for any reason. I understand why Todd might call it Dearbornistan even as you will find of London and it being called Londonistan. There radical muslims call for the bombing of the US and UK with impunity and have a growing implementation of Sharia law, honor killings and rape for women being unveiled. What would you call it?

  • Alan Noble

    GP,

    Where did I slander? What gossip? I carefully layed out how Wretched misrepresented (bearer false witness) the situation. If you can show me how I deceived, how I slandered, then I’ll apologize.

    As for your personal experiences with Muslims, I’m sorry to hear about them and I don’t doubt that some Muslims some places and some times are rude and violent. That was never at issue. What was at issue was Todd distorting an event to give the impression that Muslims are inherently violent.

  • Mike

    Exactly, Alan Noble. And, GP, I happen to think its inherently wrong to “minister the gospel on the streets” in Dearborn. Do you really think people get saved by this method? It’s just rude. I am not excusing anyone for treating you badly, but I can understand how it might incite the worst in people who are trying to celebrate Islamic culture at a festival. I have lived, worked and traveled in the Middle East for the last 15 years, and have encountered mostly kindness, hospitality and virtue from the many Muslims I have met. Muslims as a whole are no better, or no worse, than Christians. One finds in both religions those who are devout and less devout, and also those who are more radical. The latter category is a minority in both faiths. It does no good for the betterment of our world to over generalize and stereotype, so please try to refrain from it.

  • Ted

    Hi just stopped by to see what stories you had. My but you do seem to spend a lot of time and effort to change the truth to your point of view. Have you ever worked at the White House? They could use some of you inventions.

    By the way saying Muhammed was a paedophile is simply agreeing with history, it is recorded history you know. I’m sure you know that. Every Muslim has to agree that sex with children is acceptable for all men or they are anti-Muhammed. All of the best Imams and prophet still practice paedophilia, as you continue to defend them against those wicked speaker of historic facts.

    Learn history and you will not be fooled by people like the one that wrote this trash.

  • Mike

    Dear Ted, Do I need to recount the laws of Leviticus to you? These are often excused by Christians as laws given for a certain people at a certain time and not necessarily applicable to a Christians today….Would it be possible for you to understand that context plays a similar role in the Koran? ….It does Christianity no good to proliferate ill will towards Muslims,

  • Heather

    Is he making this up as well?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1cwmZWe534

  • Heather
  • Tony

    GOD HATES ISLAM