Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pole Dancers & Grace

Ten years ago, Pastor William R. Dunfee and his fledgling New Beginnings Church in Warsaw, OH decided to take action against the moral rot they saw in their community. So the pastor, along with a small number of parishioners, drove 9 miles to a strip-club known as The Foxhole and on weekend nights would stand outside with bullhorns and read The Bible aloud while shaming patrons who attempt to enter the establishment. They even went so far as documenting all the license plates of cars that parked there and posting them online. The dancers complained that church members shouted at them and called them "whores."

Pastor Dunfree believes that he is acting on behalf of “victims” who he defines as employees, patrons, and aborted babies that might result from “the enticement of irresponsible sex.” The clubs owner, Thomas George, responded by having several of his dancers protest topless (this is legal in Ohio) in front of New Beginning’s Church on Sunday mornings and running radio ads inviting people to come and see Pastor Dunfee’s “favorite weekend hangout.”

The feud has continued steadily for an entire decade with both men refusing to back down and reporting each other to the authorities for trespassing, harassment, assault, etc. Most recently, Pastor Dunfee has filed a Federal lawsuit against Mr. George under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. The act was passed as a response to the growing number of abortion clinic arsons, bombings, and kidnappings carried out by Christian terrorist organization Army of God and the 1993 murder of Dr. David Gunn.

Signed into law by President Clinton in 1994, the act applies to both reproductive clinics and churches. It prohibits “the use of physical force, threat of physical force, or physical obstruction to intentionally injure, intimidate, interfere with or attempt to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person” attempting to enter an abortion clinic or a church. Pastor Dunfee argues that the presence of the topless women “threatens and intimidates” congregants on Sunday mornings. (Although I suspect worship attendance among teenage boys has skyrocketed)
Foxhole Employees and Supporters Protest Outside New Beginnings Church

Authorities for the county in which both the club and church reside have written both parties begging them to stop because they are draining taxpayer resources. Between the endless law enforcement calls and the un-prosecutable charges, local officials are fed up. They also cite the terrible publicity as The New York Times and CNN have sent reporters to cover the ongoing animosity.

As if it was not ugly enough, The Foxhole’s owner told The New York Times reporter that he found it rather hypocritical that Rev. Dunfee would protest The Foxhole for promoting infidelity when he was forced to resign from his previous church for an extra-marital affair. While admitting the affair, Pastor Dunfee responded that he has “no intention of looking away from evil.”

In so many ways, this situation embodies how easily Christians can get it wrong when it comes to outreach. While New Beginnings may eventually shame enough paying customers to bankrupt The Foxhole, I doubt they won many souls for Christ. It is far more likely that they have given a cynical and unbelieving world another reason to remain exactly that.

While attempting to find an update on this story, I found a far more encouraging (and regrettably unpublicized) interaction between a church and strip club.

Pastor Zack Smithson of First Church of the Nazarene in Euless, TX attributes their ministry to a church-wide viewing of a DVD about human trafficking. It started a conversation in the church that lead to a unique ministry to the three strip clubs within three miles of the church. One Saturday per month, the pastor’s wife Corrie and a group of women from the church show up at one of the clubs and wash the dancer’s feet, give them pedicures, and bring them food.

According to Corrie, the goal of the ministry is to show the dancers the love of Christ. “If they ask questions [about who we are], we answer, but we talk to them about their lives. We don’t want them to feel judged. We want them to feel loved and respected.”

So far, their ministry hasn’t shut down any strip clubs or even converted any of the dancers. No reporter from The New York Times has shown up and no police reports have been filed. Instead, something far greater has transpired: Christians are being associated with grace. Dancers have told the church members, “You guys must really love us.” Church members have confided that they had once worked in the adult industry and are inspired by the church reaching out rather than casting judgement.

It takes far more faith, courage and humility to privately wash the feet of a sex-worker than to publicly berate them and their source of income. It is regrettable that such professions exist, but it is equally as regrettable that those in the profession cannot look to followers of Christ for compassion and understanding. This must change.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Random Thoughts 9

  • On a recent road trip to rural Mississippi, I found myself in need of a restroom break. We stopped the car and I went into the men’s room of a non-descript gas station. The inside of the door was adorned with graffiti which, as anyone who has ever urinated in a gas station restroom knows, is not unique. What was unusual is that someone utilized a bright-green paint marker to write the following:

“What is life to you beyond the almighty $$?”

As I read the question, I thought to myself how reassuring it was to discover a thought-       provoking philosophical musing rather than a racial slur or crude drawing of a phallus. Sadly, in the way of an answer, someone had subsequently taken a black permanent marker, drawn an arrow from the question mark, and written......“Dees Nuts”

  • I certainly understand that from a marketing perspective phrases like commercial strength or contractor series are excellent selling points. It allows the consumer feel as if they have become privy to something exclusive. After all, why would any use anything less than NATO-grade Velcro to hang a picture? That being said, I believe that we have jumped the shark with Professional Series toilet paper. What does that even mean? What qualifies someone as a professional connoisseur of bathroom tissue? Dysentery?

  • The War on Christmas is exhausting. I am having difficulty remembering exactly which corporations hate Jesus. As far as I am concerned, the War on Christmas was over the moment someone lost their life attempting to get a Black Friday discount on a waffle maker.

  • I am upset by the latest batch of emojicons. The only visual representation of feces is smiling, and while I feel that the evacuation of one’s bowels can be a happy event, I should at least be offered a frowning alternative to convey gastrointestinal distress. On a side note, the British technology firm SwiftKey published a report that found Canadian residents are twice as likely to utilize the smiling poop emoji as the rest of the world. It may be time to close the border.

  • While there is legitimate debate to be had over the recent protests at the University of Missouri, it should remind us all that wherever you stand on an issue, it had best be on the same side as the football program.

  • Several weeks ago, a SPAM message made its way in to my GMAIL inbox. This was unusual as these sort of messages rarely circumvent Google’s anti-spam algorithms. The message was a formulaic phishing scam presenting itself it as an unsolicited carnal encounter (I saw your profile on “the social internet site” and would like to have a meaningless sexual relationship etc..) and included three photos. Two of them were exactly what you would expect. The third, appeared to be a scanned picture of lower quality that could have been captioned “Elderly Ukrainian Woman Washes Dishes” I am still unsure if this was an honest mistake where the originator of the scheme had accidentally attached a personal photo or, having been disappointed by the scheme’s response thus far, decided to cast a wider net. I can just imagine some guy getting this message and saying to himself, “The bikini model is tempting, but I am having a devil of a time getting my Brioche Pan clean after that progressive dinner!”