Before reading this post and its corollary Street Preaching and the Christian Right, Part 1: Suffer the Little Children (which is recommended reading for context before you proceed here), let me just note that these posts contain very disturbing material. Be prepared to confront misogyny, rape, assault, homophobia, transphobia, racism, Islamophobia, bigotry toward other confessions, including Mormonism, Hinduism, and Catholicism, and extreme language, including misogynist, homophobic, and ableist slurs, before reading further or clicking on the links.
Street Preaching: As American as #ChristianAltFacts
If you’ve been out to an anti-Trump protest lately (in which case, thank you!), or to a major sporting event–or, hell, just trying to go to class on a college campus–there’s a good chance you’ve encountered that seemingly omnipresent yet rarely commented on American figure, the radical right-wing street preacher. Coming in degrees of radicalism, from basically the same message you’d get in a typical white Evangelical church delivered in a perhaps not too overly aggressive manner, to banner-carrying hellfire hate-mongering, street preaching occupies a curious space within the Christian Right.
Considered controversial by some conservative Evangelicals, it is nevertheless widely practiced by fundamentalist Christians of various kinds. (Reminder that conservative Evangelicals by and large qualify as fundamentalist on the basis of external definitional criteria–such as the construction of enclave communities, the inability to reconcile themselves to pluralism, and the defense of a vision of absolute “Truth” that renders them unable to accept new information that challenges it–whether or not they identify with the term themselves).
Last spring, when the “slut shaming preacher” Dean Saxton made national and international headlines (on which see Street Preaching and the Christian Right, Part 1), it struck me that the place of street preaching in American society and its relationship to the broader Christian Right is surprisingly little understood. I decided to pursue a story that I was not able to sell to any news outlets I pitched at that time, but in the process of working on the story, I had already reached out to a number of sources, including Jim Deferio of Syracuse, New York, who was, and presumably still is, dedicated to street preaching full-time. He was generous in his responses to my interview questions, sharing a good deal of his own story, which helps to contextualize street preaching and provides insight into the mindset of a person who devotes himself to this activity.
My exchange with Deferio took place over Facebook’s private messaging system, a means through which I am unable to reach him now. Last May, which is when our exchange took place, Deferio let me know that, out of concern over possibly being sent computer viruses (something that, for what it’s worth, I have not engaged in and would never engage in, even if I had the tech skills, which I don’t), he would not open any e-mails from me. Thus, when I noticed I could no longer access his Facebook page or contact him via Messenger, I did not attempt to reach out to him via e-mail for this blog post.
The comments from Deferio that I print below, however, he gave to me on the record on May 30, 2016. At that time I promised Deferio that I would do my best to represent his views accurately, and nothing will do that more than publishing his own words below. I have not changed any of the punctuation, capitalization, paragraphing, typos, etc. The only thing I changed was to remove a reference to his birthday, as I would not feel comfortable publishing such personal information.
Before I get to Deferio’s interview, though, I want to quote another source I reached out to when I was hoping to place an article on street preaching last spring, a queer Syracuse University student who would comment only on condition of anonymity for fear of possible reprisals. Public sidewalks just off the campus of Syracuse University have been a frequent site for Deferio’s preaching, and I asked this student about Deferio and other street preachers who target SU:
I think there are now three different groups here. Jim Deferio and his companions have been around since at least 2009; they recently upgraded their bullhorns to a slick microphone headset and sound system (handy during games, I guess). They always have a giant poster on a stick with an image of a heart and the slogan “Thousands of ex-homosexuals have experienced the life-changing love of Jesus Christ” with URLs printed underneath. Sometimes they pick on abortion, too, but mostly they’re here to pick on queer folk. …
My training in literary studies has made me very sensitive to the material effects of even subtle ideological expressions, and I know their presence has an aggravating effect on the queer community at Syracuse University. Especially last year when someone was on the streets every day, they were creating a toxic atmosphere for everyone in my program, and I started avoiding lunch on Marshall St. just to avoid getting upset at slogans that, for instance, had no historical grounding and only spread hatred of Islam (and this was before Bataclan — I’m not looking forward to the start of classes this August). They’re exercising free speech, but I wouldn’t call it normal: except for the occasional student protest, they’re the only ones who do anything like it, and (unlike most student protesters) they know exactly what they’re doing in order to avoid the police. It’s very calculating. Students regularly get into arguments with them, and occasionally set up impromptu counter-protests on the opposite street corner… I want to engage them myself, but I know I would just get angry and incoherent and upset at how they’re verbally abusing people like me if I were to attempt an oral argument; and ultimately, they just are not here to dialogue, but to preach. …
This kind of street preaching strikes me as more like self-gratification: they’re not speaking to their audience in terms that would make sense to that audience or in ways that would attract them to conversion; they’re helping themselves feel more secure in their own insecure salvation. If they surround themselves with people they demonize as heathens and whores, they’ll be able to see themselves as the righteous among sinners.
So, with that student’s assessment laid out as one external perspective on Deferio’s preaching, let’s now get to my exchange with Deferio, in which he presents his own perspective at length. I have not tried to independently corroborate any of the events he describes involving confrontations with students, nor have I followed up on any of the threads he raises regarding conversions. Let me state for the record that it has been well established that “ex-gay” conversion therapy, or “reparative” therapy, does not work and is severely harmful, so comments indicating otherwise can only be regarded as “alternative facts.”
Deferio is still active. See this video [update: Jim Deferio’s YouTube channel is no longer publicly available], for example, apparently filmed by himself, capturing audio of his preaching at the Women’s March in Ithaca, NY, on January 21, 2017. Many street preachers have YouTube channels these days. There’s a lot of material there for anyone who wants to dive into it, although it can be hard to know what to make of it, and much of it is disturbing.
Interview with a Street Preacher: My Initial Questions
I gave Jim Deferio the following list of questions on May 30, 2016 (he responded on the same day, and the follow-up exchange also took place that evening):
How did you decide to begin preaching on college campuses, and why specifically college campuses? Do you remember the first time you preached to an outdoor crowd, and would you mind telling me when and where that was? According to a report I read, you’ve preached on 59 college campuses. Is that number still accurate?
What is your religious background/denominational affiliation? When you preach on college campuses or at other sites, do you do so as part of a broader Christian organization, or do you represent only yourself? Also, when you set up to preach on a college campus, is it usually just you, or do you work with a team?
Have student reactions to your preaching changed over time, and/or do they vary significantly from one school to another? How about administrators’ or professors’ reactions? Do you believe the attitudes of Americans in general or Americans associated with colleges and universities in particular toward free speech have changed in recent years or since you began preaching?
When preaching, do you distribute tracts, Bibles, or any other kind of information or literature? If so, what kind?
From the news reports I’ve read and also from the exchange I had with a Syracuse graduate student, it seems that much of your preaching focuses on homosexuality. Why is it so important to you to emphasize homosexuality as opposed to other things the Bible describes as sin?
How would you evaluate the results of your work as a street preacher? How would you evaluate the work of other street preachers?
Were you familiar with Brother Dean Saxton of Arizona prior to his recently being assaulted with a baseball bat? While we can all agree that violent assault is not the right response to speech one disagrees with, do you think anything about Brother Dean’s preaching–he is known for the slogan “You deserve to be raped”–goes too far?
Apart from the assault, what I found most striking about the Raw Story account of Brother Dean’s preaching outside Apollo High School was that he chose a school as the location. I have observed preachers on a number of college campuses, and as campuses are often chaotic and full of people proclaiming different messages, this never struck me as that unusual. The choice of a public elementary, middle, or high school, however, seems very different, at least to me. Schools are less pedestrian friendly, and, indeed, Brother Dean has been accused by the police of causing traffic problems. But more fundamentally, schools are simply not typical sites for public speech in the way that college campuses are. Do you feel that a K-12 school is an appropriate site for preaching? Why or why not?
Finally, what motivate you to preach? What do you think motivates most street preachers? Do you have other street preachers among your friends? Is there anything else you think that I or the American public ought to know, or that you’d like to share?
Interview with a Street Preacher: Deferio’s Responses
Let me address “Brother Dean”, first. I have never met him in person but I have publicly, through social media, opposed his methods and insult-style of preaching. NO woman deserves rape! Even if a woman were to completely disrobe she should be arrested for public lewdness but she does NOT deserve rape. As a spokesperson for Christ, to maintain she deserves rape is equivalent to saying that God mandates that He breaks His own laws and punishes someone with a sinful action. In the Old testament, rape was punishable by death. (Btw, Deuteronomy 22:28 is not a rape situation even though the NIV mistranslates the Hebrew “taphas” as such.)
I have separated from numerous preachers because of their insult-style of preaching. For example, I and another preacher, James Lyman, were preaching using megaphones to those in the loud and lewd gay pride parade in Rochester, NY in 2007. James sees a lone woman walking down the street and supposing her to be a lesbian he exclaims loudly over his megaphone, “You’re so ugly no man would ever want you!”
I turned in time to see the hurt look on her face and then she rushed off. I quickly said to her, “God wants you! You’re valuable to him!” She came over to talk to me but it was too late, Lyman had done much damage by his cruel remark. She kept asking me, “WHY would he say that to me?”
I thought it was just a rash statement on his part in the midst of battle because that parade is exceptionally lewd and dangerous. But then he said similar things at other events. I rebuked him and for rebuking him I was called “Devilferio”, and other names.
I have disfellowshipped from numerous others for similar tactics and over a Bible-based issue called KJV Onlyism (a cultic belief that only the King James Bible is pure, inerrant, plenary, inspired, preserved and blah blah blah).
I have preached with three other ministries in various cities but I will not name them. I was preaching a great deal with a group of guys who were doing street ministry but not campus ministry. These were the Baptists that I disfellowshipped from because of their KJV Onlyism and because some were generating more heat than light. You know, sometimes when people are told they are wrong about something they do get upset and physically assault the preacher, but some of these guys were PROVOKING people to violence. We live in a post-Christian society (if it ever was Christian to begin with) and people are basically anarchist in disposition. So, unless a police officer is standing right there, there is always a risk of being physically assaulted.
I have preached at sixty college campuses (last fall Cornell was my 60th – many brilliant students there!). I generally prefer college campus preaching to street preaching IF the students respond civilly. However, society is transitioning into a “cry-baby I want my safe space and don’t you dare disagree with me or you’ll be sorry” state of affairs on college campuses. It is very difficult to keep things rational and civil when a cry-baby student begins SCREAMING at you as you attempt to answer a question from someone in the crowd. More than anything else this is what upsets me because for most of the students at public or private campuses, if it wasn’t for taxpayer money, they may not be able to afford to be there.
I preach because as a former atheist I experienced people caring enough about me that they approached me to tell me about Jesus Christ and the truth. One young man in 1970 in southern California risked getting punched by me to share truth with me. I had a fist made and instead of punching him I listened to him. The late fall of 1970 I hitch-hiked acrooss the nation for the second time and a youth pastor my age (twenty years old0 picked me up in Tulsa and drove me to Evansville, IN and witnessed to me, gave me a place to sleep that night and gave me a New Testament to read. He tried to disciple me through snail mail over the next two years (remember, it was 1970, lol).
To love God means that you MUST love those whom god has created. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with them and hold your nose and tolerate the nstench of their sin, but it does mean that you are NOT to do any harm to your neighbor (see Romans 13:8-10) and it means that “Putting away lying, Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25).
So, after being born again on March 3, 1973… I have tried to cultivate a love for God, a love for truth, and a love for people. It was the love for truth that led me to the Bible and to Jesus Christ.
I first preached open air in either 1974 or 1975 on Marshall Street up by Syracuse University. My college studies and family life put a great vice on my time and I had stopped doing open air ministry when my wife and I moved to Corvallis, OR in 1976.
I became convicted of sitting on my butt complaining about the direction society was heading and around 1997 or so I began public ministry again but then discontinued to deal with family matters. I began again around 2003 and went full time in 2005.
I have not preached for seven months, though. last October on Oct. 19, 2015 at SUNY (State University of New York) I was scheduled to minister from 11am to 5 pm but at 3:30 pm I had a heart attack and that in front a large crowd of students. No one, not even I knew it was a heart attack. I thought it was severe indigestion because of all the acidic coffee I had drunk and because I hadn’t had anything substantial to eat all day.
I told the students I had to sit down but they followed and thronged me and kept asking questions so I continued answering them even though I was in much pain.
My wife, a medical worker, insisted I have some tests but the CT scan and the stress/echo test showed nothing. Then the following Monday October 26, 2015 I was at SUNY Brockport and after just 1hr. 15 min. I began having pain on both sides of my lower jaw, pain in the middle of my chest and excruciating pain down both of my arms. I felt particularly sharp that day and I enjoyed answering some questions from a polite science major (I think he was a physics major) and we discussed the nature of “evidence” and the shortcomings of empiricism.
Things became so bad i had to sit down at a picnic table while trying to talk. Finally after about 45 minutes the pain was so bad i had to leave. My wife referred me to a nearby hospital and somehow I drove myself there and man, did they move fast. I was having a heart attack and they gave me two or three hits of nitro, morphine and some other stuff and transported me to Strong memorial in Rochester.
I hope to be back preaching this week.
Btw, I meant “vice” as in the mechanical sense, not in the sense of “evil”. LOL
Sometimes I am a TERRIBLE speller.
Students have become very rude and uncivil over the years. I was just “told off” by a fellow preacher that I absolutely should not go out preaching by myself anymore. Students do tend to be violent and very disruptive now. I have been hit in the head with a bottle at East Stroudsburg Univ. I have been spit upon and physically threatened with assault at Buffalo State College last fall (a group of six black Christian students came over to protect me – three young men and three young women).
Last fall I was SCREAMED at constantly at SUNY Cortland after a lesbian professor organized a protest against me even though I had a John 14:6 banner and I was hardly mentioning homosexuality. The campus police and the New York State Troopers had to be called in to protect me. I was alone. The administrators did absolutely nothing to discipline the crowd or this rogue professor.
The students at Cornell were very civil the two or three times I was there last fall and they impressed me with their reasoning skills. I enjoyed the intellectual intercourse (can I phrase it that way?).
Usually at college campuses it doesn’t matter WHAT you lead off with, the atheist club (“Free Thinkers” – an oxymoron) and the LGBT club will come out immediately to oppose the Christian on campus and try to shut the free speech down. It has happened to me and others time and time again. Sometimes the students see what’s happening and they become enraged against the LGBT people and their allies more than anyone else. This happened at SUNY Fredonia when my very intelligent youngest daughter and I went. I began with talking about the evidence for the Bible and i had numerous educational charts set up on an art easel and students were raising their hands to ask questions when here march in the homofascists.
At first they tried to drown me out with drums and musical instruments then they brought in a very long white draping and enclosed my daughter and i within it as if we were wild horses that had to be corralled. Some professors were very upset, including a philosophy professor and one professor and her class went through the barrier and up to me to talk with me and ask questions for her class.
Something like this also happened at SUNY Oneonta.
I don’t recall any of the college campuses in California being so intolerant as New York campuses. Virginia Commonwealth Campus was downright dangerous with all of the Muslim students! Whew!!!
At West Chester Univ. a Muslim student came along and inserted himself between me and the crowd and tried desperately to turn the crowd against me. He didn’t know that I nhad read the entire Qur’an from cover to cover and so when I shared with the crowd waht the Qur’an says the Muslim paradise will be like for lust-filled Muslim men, he tried to punch me but two plain-clothed officers grabbed his arms and hauled him away.
Syracuse University won’t allow me to go into their quad but I can be on the sidewalk near their stairs. It is usually more like street preaching than Campus preaching at SU, though I have had some good sized crowds occasionally. The homofascists there usually try to block me and shut me down and they usually call the police and make up lies about me saying that I’m using obscenities (oh their hypocrisy!) and that I’m making racist comments. One homofascist unloaded ten eggs on me and then tried to make off with my banner and tried to punch me. She did make off with my hat and ripped it up.
I have had people with me who have passed out tracts. It is difficult for me to pass out tracts while holding a banner and preaching. Also, often I have to hold a video camera to keep from being physically assaulted. Like I said, many students are very intolerant and violent.
I am against targeting K-8th grade schools but I am perfectly OK with 9th-12th high schools and I have done it myself numerous times. We had some great interchanges with students at a Pasadena, CA High School once. Here in Syracuse the high schools are almost like the NY college campuses. The students don’t seem very intelligent and they seem to be driven by raw emotions and feelings. It is very difficult to reason with someone who has cast reason aside or who has no basis for logic and reason (first principles and the rationality that follows from their use). Public schools in New York State are in a shambles even though the taxpayer pays about $21,000 per student per year!!!
I’ll answer more later. I have to run. Sorry if I’m a bit too wordy and divulging more than you asked for. I haven’t had writers block since my senior year in high school and sometimes i can’t seem to turn off the flow. LOL
“From the news reports I’ve read and also from the exchange I had with a Syracuse graduate student, it seems that much of your preaching focuses on homosexuality. Why is it so important to you to emphasize homosexuality as opposed to other things the Bible describes as sin?”
SU students are so gay! I have gone up there are mentioned fornication MANY times! I have mentioned plagiarism MANY MANY MANY times because it is a huge problem on college campuses and I have told students that when they plagiarize they are stealing and lying.
I have often talked about trhe historicity of the Jesus Christ and the Bible and about how important it is to know how you know something (epistemology).
Oh, and I have preached against homosexuality. You see, when the homofascists show up and begin demonstrating it is THAT which makes the headline and then i get labeled as the “ant-gay protester”. It’s all part of the homofascist agenda to label someone who disagrees with them as a “hater”, as a “protester”, and as someone who is against human rights. So, they protest me, label me, try to marginalize me and then try to silence me. That is why I have just a few of my confrontations with the police up on my YouTube channel. I want to show how intolerant the so-called tolerant crowd really are.
“How would you evaluate the results of your work as a street preacher? How would you evaluate the work of other street preachers?”
I was at Buffalo State College for the first time on Oct. 31, 2008. A student who identified as a “homosexual” came to the front of the crowd to contend with me. I forgot all about him as I see this sort of thing often.
I went back there the next year by myself and this young man wasn’t there.
I went back approx. a year after this in Sept. 2010 and this young man came to the front of the crowd again to contend with me. The atheist club and the LGBT club had herad there was a Christian on campus preaching and talking to students so they sent out their troops to oppose me. (Btw, I had a banner with two Bible verses on it that had nothing to do with homosexuality or evolution.)
This young man was quite agitated at first but settled down and gave me his e-mail address.He was 28 years old and claimed that he was “born homosexual” (he was a practicing homosexual for about 14 years).
After a brief communication I didn’t hear back from him until after New Year’s. He contacted me on Fb and said he got saved. My youngest daughter and I drove to Buffalo and met him at Spot Coffee on Chippewa Ave. and talked with him for around 2 hrs. or so. I was convinced he was born again. He asked me to come back to Buffalo State.
So, on April 26, 2011 I went back to BSC with my EX-Homosexuals’ banner liked he asked me to bring. I couldn’t figure out where he had seen that banner. I arrived and very quickly a large crowd formed and this young man who had previously claimed to be “born homosexual” preached to the crowd! He pointed out my banner to the crowd and said, “Don’t tell me that this doesn’t work!”
This young man had seen this banner on Oct. 31, 2008 (I was with two others and we had two banners that day).
Others have repented right there on the spot. One guy knelt down in front of everyone at penn State to confess Jesus Christ as Lord. One guy came out of Mormonism and repented just from reading our banners – he never talked with us. One of the guys just happened to be in downtown Rochester and the Ex-Mormon saw him and told him how effective our banners were.
So, we have these type of reports even though often we don’t see immediate results. Like I said much earlier, this is a post-Christian society and people have to be not only preached to, but they have questions that need to be answered and I study all of the time so that I can answer questions.
I have had physics students throw questions at me, history and philosophy students and professors pepper me with questions, and so on and so forth.
The homosexuality thing is easy to deal with and i always share the research that clearly shows that no one is born that way, no one is born “transgendered”, and the evidence that brains are “plastic” and people can indeed change. I CHANGED!!!
“Finally, what motivate you to preach? What do you think motivates most street preachers? Do you have other street preachers among your friends? Is there anything else you think that I or the American public ought to know, or that you’d like to share?”
I answered part of this before. It is part of caring and showing love. To keep truth from someone who is headed in the wrong direction is an act of hatred. It’s like witnessing a rape but being either too calloused or too much of a coward to do anything about it. I have watched some very upsetting YouTube videos that make me burn with righteous indignation. One was a guy punching the daylights out of a woman for TWENTY MINUTES and no one did a thing to intervene. He was eventually arrested and she had to be taken to the hospital. people just stood around and some were laughing!!! This has become a wicked nation.
I don’t know of any street or college campus preachers who preach for fame or fortune. What fortune, lol? I have met and known quite a few and they seem genuinely concerned for righteousness, truth, the Bible, and of course people. Look, I have been arrested at least six times preaching and I have been physically assaulted numerous times (punched, pushed, hit in the head, rocks, someone drop-kicked me once trying to break my leg, etc. etc.). Many of the preachers I know have been physically assaulted and arrested. So you tell me why you think they are preaching?
I do not accept donations and many street preachers don’t, though some do as it is a huge drain on resources to travel around constantly and pay for lodging. etc. We are not these fat cat TV charlatans or some of these “pastors” who demand that people tithe to them. I have rebuked these hypocrites often.
I am a non-denominational full Gospel Christian. I hate denominations and sects.
I’ll be 66 yrs. old in July and I am thinking of perhaps changing my focus to reaching atheists and evolutionists. A former NASA scientist I know from southern California has asked if I would like to go with him to some college campuses to refute evolutionists and atheists and I think I’m fairly well equipped for that. At Cornell Univ. it seemed that was all I was doing all day and evening.
It is difficult to reason with homosexualists since they have cast rationality aside. They tend to argue with their feelings. It’s like witnessing to Mormons and Muslims and Hindus. There is no basis in their worldview for rational thought and they simply argue FEELINGS. I know this first hand since many of those 60 college campuses I have been to I have revisited numerous times and all of these types come over to talk with me (or yell at me, lol).
If you have any more questions let me know.
My Follow-Up Questions
Do you have a sense of how often preaching occurs in front of high schools? Is it common across the US? Why do you find it appropriate to preach to high schoolers but not middle or elementary school children? When you preach in front of schools, do you face much opposition from teachers, administrators, parents, or police? Would you be willing to name any of the high schools you’ve preached at so that I could call them to request a comment?
Are you still in contact with the ex-gay student from Buffalo State College, and do you think he might be willing to comment for my story? If so, feel free to share my contact information with him. I would really like to talk to him. You can share my contact information with anyone else relevant who you think might be willing to comment for my story.
You seem to regard Muslim student presence on American college campuses as dangerous. Why? Don’t we all need to coexist in this pluralist, post-Christian society? And shouldn’t a university or college be the kind of place where people from a wide variety of backgrounds can come together to study and learn?
What kind of evidence could convince you that homosexuality, bisexuality, etc., are not a choice, and that transgenderism is a legitimately recognized (by the medical community) condition? A lot of prominent people have changed their minds on the efficacy of “ex-gay” therapy in recent years; very significantly, Exodus International shut down its conversion therapy programs in 2013, admitting that the evidence is overwhelming that conversion therapy does not work (here’s a source on that: http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/20/us/exodus-international-shutdown/). How would you respond to Exodus and Alan Chambers?
You say that you are marginalized, but can you see why members of the LGBT community feel marginalized?
What would you say to people who profess to be gay or transgender and Christian? Or to straight but LGBT-affirming clergy?
Do you think homosexuality should be criminalized?
Do you have any empathy for those who find your preaching objectionable? And do you ever have any doubts either about any particular beliefs or about the methods you use to get across your message?
Is there anything you’re willing to share about your political preferences? Do you think politics matter much in a post-Christian society?
“Do you have a sense of how often preaching occurs in front of high schools? …”
I rarely preach in front of high schools and I rarely hear of others doing so. It was actually some years ago that I did.
“Are you still in contact with the ex-gay student from Buffalo State College…”
Yes. He is studying theology and is very intelligent. He has been to my house a couple of times and when I’m in the Buffalo area we have gone to dinner.
He had a girl friend but she was interfering with his studies and he decided that she was too self-centered.
I will not ask him. I respect the privacy of others unless they are a public figure, in which case they lose their right to privacy in some respects.
Btw, I know NUMEROUS EX-homosexuals.
And I have preached with EX-homosexuals and will probably do so again this summer.
You stated and asked,
“You seem to regard Muslim student presence on American college campuses as dangerous. …”
Chris, Chris, Chris, Chris, Chris! What did I write?! I wrote that I have read the entire Qur’an and that the Muslim student at West Chester Univ. attempted to punch me after HE (got that, “HE”) purposely tried to disrupt my interpersonal interactions with the students.
At Virginia Commonwealth Univ. the Muslim students were very hostile but the police kept them at bay.
At Pasadena City College a Muslim student threatened to knock me out. And I have received similar threats on the street and at other colleges from Muslims. Educate yourself!!!
“What kind of evidence could convince you that homosexuality, bisexuality, etc., are not a choice…”
Alan Chambers is badly backslidden. Experience and the Bible show that this is a real possibility and danger. I known people who come to Christ and are delivered from various sins and then go right back into the sin again some years down the line. If you have ever read the Bible (the new Testament) then you would know that the Bible is full of warnings of such possibilities.
Therapy works but not for everyone. You can’t force someone to repent of sins. You can give them truth and attempt to reason with them and persuade them but ultimately each person has to come to Christ and turn from sin all alone (that is free from duress).
The biggest problem I see is that genuine repentance is not preached but some form of “easy-believism”. The churches are full of such shallow believers who were never really born again and who have never experienced a new creation in Christ as mentioned in John 3:3-11 and 2 Corinthians 5:16-17. The churches are full of hypocrisy.
Look Chris, I am very intelligent and I have challenged numerous college professors to debate me publicly on the scientific evidence in regards to homosexuality being in born. I also know from research studies about brain plasticity and the uncanny ability of people to change and to actually reshape their brain by MERE THINKING and also through behavior modification.
Don’t give me that libtard line about transgenderism and about homosexualism.
The evidence is also seen in the many EX-homosexuals. I have MUCH research I can share and usually in social media debates I only share a fraction for a couple of reasons. One being that most people are too lazy to actually read the research and reason two being that I save the big guns in case my challenge to debate publicly in front of an audience is accepted. I don’t play around in debates and I never regard debate as being a “friendly endeavor”. My aim is to completely demolish the lies of opponent.
“You say that you are marginalized, but can you see why members of the LGBT community feel marginalized?”
Civil behavior and the exercise of 1st Amendment rights by rational people who conduct their lives in a civil and rational way should never be marginalized. This obviously excludes “homosexuals” (i.e. heterosexuals in denial of their heterosexuality).
“What would you say to people who profess to be gay or transgender and Christian? Or to straight but LGBT-affirming clergy? ”
That is a whole long sermon right there. One of my Fb friends, a Professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary has written a long and extremely well documented book entitled, “The Bible and Homosexual Practice” by Robert A. J. Gagnon. Even before I purchased his book I was using numerous arguments that appear in his book. He greatly expands on them, though.
Ultimately people tend not to use a measuring rod that is reliable. Instead of the canon of Scripture (i.e. the measuring rod of Scripture) they engage in eisegesis and in substituting their or some other person’s ideology into the mix. That is what the Pharisees and Sadducees were doing in the 1st Century Ad when Jesus rebuked them.
“Do you think homosexuality should be criminalized?”
YES! And so should adultery. No society can survive for long when the building blocks of the society are destroyed. The building blocks of society are the natural families.
I can cite research that backs this up.
“Do you have any empathy for those who find your preaching objectionable? And do you ever have any doubts…”
Only for the police officers who have to hear me repeat the same old same old over and over again while street preaching. I have to because a new crowd comes along every several minutes (e.g. when preaching to people going to a college basketball game or concert).
I sometimes doubt the ability of people to comprehend simple concepts, let alone more complex concepts like particulars & universals and how they can be related in a logical way.
I have many different banners and signs because I preach and minister to so many different types of people. I go to Mormon events, Muslim events, college campuses, Roman catholic events (Roman Catholicism is not Christian per se), and so on. I study all of the time.
It is not unusual for me to go to a college campus and spend only 30-45 minutes preaching and the rest of the time (4-5 hours) taking questions or speaking one-on-one or one-on-two or three, etc. It’s not just one type of method. And like i said before, i may be re-directing toward refuting atheism and evolutionism. That would require a more classroom type of approach. Maybe I’ll die tomorrow, who knows besides God?
“Is there anything you’re willing to share about your political preferences? Do you think politics matter much in a post-Christian society?”
Socialism is a very bad ideology. The Bible teaches capitalism and the Bible also teaches uncoerced giving. I can give you numerous verses on these two principles.
I’m a bit Liberterian on some things and very conservative on others. I lived through the Johnson administration’s expansion of socialism and his “Great Society” and “War on Poverty” (and war on other things in 1965) that has proven to be a huge failure. believe it or not I was an avid follower of the news when I was 14 and 15 years old. I saw first hand what the Democrats did to the cities. I’m still upset about it.
At this point, Deferio and I had a brief further exchange, and he pointed me to Robert Breaud, who is mentioned in part 1 of this series. As for this part, I am inclined to let Deferio’s words largely speak for themselves as a window into his fundamentalist worldview. That worldview is one I have spent much time unpacking, here and on Twitter, and I will certainly continue to do so. To get a sufficient grasp of this worldview, however, one also needs to confront primary sources, such as Deferio’s responses to my interview questions.
Post updated on May 3, 2017.
10 thoughts on “Street Preaching and the Christian Right, Part 2: Inside the Mind of a Street Preacher”
This is a highly interesting look into the fundamentalist mindset. The questions you posed to this man were well thought out and designed to elicit a more contextualized level of self-awareness. As I would have predicted, his answers reflect that he is unable to engage it that type of reflection. Evangelism is an action done to someone–the target has no inherent merit other than they are in need of ‘saving’. In the mind of the evangelist, this action is an imperative, a duty–justified by something outside of the realm of logic. That’s why I find it particularly interesting that Deferio repeatedly references his intelligence and ability to engage in logical discourse on these matters. Emotionalism peppered with a few cherry-picked references from the realm of scientific evidence and epistemology does not pass as logical debate. Nevertheless, he has convinced himself that it does–really, he has to believe it does.
Recognizing how this mindset informs the Christian Right, American politics, and, ultimately, the trainwreck of the 2016 election is absolutely necessary, and our only chance of finding effective methods of political outreach. The GOP has long courted the Christian Right and added to the problem by nurturing anti-Intellectualism. I suspect that, at this point, there is a portion of the GOP that is regretting the results of these actions.
Thanks for your work on this, and for providing a starting point for discussion!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you for the very thoughtful and insightful comment. I essentially agree with your assessment of the situation, although I don’t think there’s much of a non-radicalized GOP left.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Clearly, the GOP’s embrace of the Christian Right has shaped their party into what it is today. But, I saw the Never Trump faction as a sign that at least a portion of Republicans felt that they may have taken anti-Intellectualism too far. I wrote this piece in August https://rachelmurphyazzara.com/2016/08/15/how-the-republican-partys-strategy-backfired/
LikeLiked by 1 person
Unfortunately it seems like far too small a portion are willing to actually do anything about the state of the party. The Republican Party, it seems to me, needs to implode entirely so it will be forced to reform root and branch or be replaced by a new party. A two-party system (which is highly flawed; I’d prefer parliamentary) can’t function with one deranged party. But that’s what we have, and that deranged party holds disproportionate power, and thus has no immediate incentives to moderate.
razzara, do you even hear yourself and the contempt that seems to be in your words for me, the GOP, and others? You have made hasty generalizations and by doing so have made your own “intellectualism” suspect.
I was not answering Chris’ questions to dazzle him with my intellectual prowess though I did mention a few things like universals & particulars (the problem of universals). My aim was to keep my answers brief and on point and not expound on epistemology, for example, and explain why abstract particulars cannot be objects of knowledge and why abstract unity cannot convey knowledge. I do not, in an interview like this, think it is appropriate to just launch into various non sequiturs like the 17 presuppositions of science, how atheism and evolutionism are religions and why they are irrational religions to boot. There are numerous subjects that I and other open air evangelists are well versed in.
As the nation has clearly seen over the past six months with the snowflakes and SJW’s, anti-intellectualism is alive and flourishing among the Democrats/Liberals.
Why does the Left think that the American public has to be saved from heterosexuality, saved from rational sexual relations, saved from belief in a Creator God, and saved from the truth of Western superiority in science, philosophy, technology, music and the arts? WHY does the Left seemed bent on shoving irrational behaviors like homosexulaism, transgenderism, and shoving evolutionism and multiculturalism down everyone’s throats?
I’m “unable to engage it that type of reflection”? Says who? YOU? WHO are you and what merit does your vitriolic comments have? Look in the mirror.
Btw, I only debate on subjects that I am well-studied in (like science, philosophy, the historicity of Jesus Christ and the Bible, the Qur’an & Islam, the Bhagavad Gita, and Mormonism). I do not go to college campuses to debate but often some sort of debate naturally develops between myself and students & sometimes professors who find the subject matter important and engaging. Typically, though, most students, even science majors, cannot even provide answers to simple questions like: “What does the scientific method involve?” “How can free will exist if evolutionism is true?” “Did Jesus Christ actually exist?” Is psychology a bonafide science or is it a pseudoscience?” And on and on it goes…
I’m not on here to argue but only to confront your narrow-mindedness and the elitism you seem to exude.
Chris, after being put in Facebook Jail three times, I was forced to delete many from my friends list and to block scores of people (I have even received death threats from homosexualists). I have another Fb under “James Deferio”, though I still use the one under “Jim Deferio”. You should be able to contact me under “James Deferio” (I’m wearing a recycling shirt and talking to a musician in my profile pic).
I have let Facebook know that I and many others are not pleased with their censorship and that it is going to come back and bite them if they don’t stop censoring Christians and conservatives. They seem to have backed off. I know lawyers are waiting for the opportune time to intervene if Fb continues to harass us.
Btw, some of these haters have sent me viruses via e-mail. I’m not paranoid, lol, I’m just cautious now.
I also had to list all of YouTube videos as either Private or Unlisted because left-wingers have flagged numerous videos. The hatred from the Left is astounding. Many, certainly not all, hate the 1st Amendment.
Thank you for the update, Jim. I had intended to let you know I was planning to publish our interview on my new blog, but I wasn’t sure how to reach you.
Hi Chris. I thought I would make a quick comment about what that Syracuse University student said. I have to really wonder if he even knows who I am. I do not go up there that often and when I do I use Scripture banners and sometimes an Ex-homosexual banner. There are two men who do preach there frequently but I have never heard then make the atmosphere “toxic”. They generally stick to quoting from the Bible.
The SU student’s reference to Islam is puzzling unless this is a Muslim student you interviewed. Having read the entire Qur’an and having studied what Muslims have done for 1,400 years, anyone who identifies as “homosexual” in Aamerica should be glad they aren’t being thrown off of roof tops in Muslim nations.