Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Strippers and Sunday School



For the past four years, members and staff of New Beginnings Ministries Church in Warsaw, Ohio have taken action against a grave threat to the moral fabric of their beloved community. Night after night they have gathered with their digital cameras and driven nine miles to shame the patrons of a local “adult club” known as The Fox Hole. Over the years, the church has utilized several tactics to diminish the club’s business, including posting photos of customers on the church’s website (often with their license plate numbers), badgering customers by asking what their wives or mothers would think of their behavior, and loudly picketing with signs that refer to the dancers as “whores” and “prostitutes.”

Understandably, this behavior is frowned upon by the club’s current owner Tommy George, who has spent years amassing the upscale clientele associated with exotic clubs in rural Ohio. Mr. George has decided to fight back and has organized a counter-protest against the church. So every Sunday, he, and a small platoon of exotic dancers descend upon New Beginnings Ministries Church and hold up signs chastising the congregation for their lack of grace and humility. They have declared that they will stop picketing only if the congregation returns the favor.

New Beginning’s pastor, Bill Dunfee, has stated that "It's not about a personal battle. It's about a battle between two seeds: right and wrong, good and evil, light and darkness” and vowed to continue until The Fox Hole has seen it last lap dance. He believes that the adult club exploits the workers and encourages marital infidelity. The pastor has even offered to help the strippers pay their bills if they agree to quit. Although none of the protests have turned violent, both groups are unwilling to back down.

This scenario presents several interesting facts:

I believe that the church has underestimated the tenacity of a man brave enough to sport a quasi-mullet and open a low-budget strip club in the heart of Amish country. Obviously he is not someone easily discouraged by adversity, traditional business models, or community sensitivity. Besides, if history has taught us anything, it is to never cross a man with two first names.


To be fair, I can identify with Pastor Dunfee’s dim view of The Fox Hole. After all, nothing makes property values skyrocket like a windowless plywood shack across from a trailer park that uses a rented sign to advertise “1/2 price lap dances.” And I doubt that anyone would argue that strippers are the cornerstone of a healthy marriage (especially their own). However, it might open a better dialog if the congregants refrained from calling the dancers “whores.” I have yet to meet a woman that responds to a derogatory remark with “Tell me more about Jesus.”


I will say that regardless of the church’s motivation, it is probably not a good idea to use the money from the offering plate to pay the strippers’ utility bills for them. In such adverse economic conditions, I am not sure that the church should be encouraging those who are already gainfully employed to quit their jobs in order to support them with tithe money. I can just see the bullet items in the next budget committee meetings:


· Roof Repairs - $579.33
· Baptismal Maintenance - $253.24
· Digital Cable for Unemployed Strippers - $189.14

This situation does present an interesting moral dilemma. The church certainly has every right to peacefully protest what they see as an amoral establishment, but is packing up a busload of congregation members and driving them nine miles up the road to picket for hours on end the correct usage of the church’s resources?


Perhaps that time and effort over the past four years could be devoted to a soup kitchen, or building a Habitat for Humanity House, and as one of the female entertainers pointed out, at least the girls aren’t sitting on their couches being supported by welfare.


Strippers, like car valets, only exist because someone out there is willing to pay for their services. If Tommy George can afford to employ ten full-time dancers in a town with one stop-light and a Citgo, perhaps the church might want to utilize a different approach. After all, I doubt that very many of these women grew up dreaming of a career that paid them in a roll of sweaty singles dispensed by even sweatier men. If the church wanted to offer them an alternative, maybe they could take some money and create a scholarship fund so that the strippers could go back to school and establish careers outside of adult entertainment without going on welfare (church sponsored or otherwise).


For now, it appears that the only thing the two sides can agree on is that the town isn’t big enough for the both of them. Pastor Dunfee and his crew have recently expanded their protests to include an “amateur hot-body car wash” in a bordering county, but he made it clear that closing The Fox Hole is still their first priority. Ironically, thanks to Dunfee’s tireless efforts and publicity, The Fox Hole has become the most well-known strip-club in Ohio. Maybe these two can work together after all…


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