"Confrontational Evangelism" at Tampa Mosque
Richard Bartholomew printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Feb 07, 2009 at 09:21:18 AM EST
Youtube has   video footage of an ugly scene at the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay Area, where Muslims were recently confronted by a group of screaming and abusive Christian "preachers". The group has a distinctive (albeit Fred Phelps-like) corporate image and delivery style; it is clearly the "Official Street Preachers", which has a website here and is known for "confrontational evangelism" at sports and other random events. Besides some abuse directed at Muhammad, most of the chanting was simply generic calls to repent from the love of sinning - the mosque was obviously chosen opptunistically while on the way to their main target, which was apparently the Super Bowl.

The "Official Street Preachers"  is led by Los Angeles-based Ruben Israel Chavez (often just named as "Ruben Israel"), who explains:
We started a group called Bible Believers in the eighties with the emphasis on confrontational evangelism and home Bible studies.  To date we have well over 40 chapters nationwide of active Christians and Churches under the umbrella of 'Bible Believers' that are a bold witness in their region.  So now with this network more places can be covered with preachers, signs and banners with attorneys watching our free speech rights.  I believe in almost every Church there are certain men inside those pews that want to do more than just sit in a service on Sunday, or where a Church might quench them for getting fired up.  The Lord is having us meet these men, as God is stirring the pot in these dark days when much of the Church is keeping their faith personal and private.

According to a 2006 press release (link added):
Ruben Israel Chavez has street-preached at Universities from Harvard to Berkley; for 22 straight years, he has preached at Mardi Gras; and, is now working with HBO regarding a Docu-Drama on "Open-air Preaching."

Said Mr. Chavez, "Jesus preached in the open places; St. Paul preached in the open places. You cannot reach people in Churches, if they don't go to Churches, Synagogues or Mosques."

Ruben Israel Chavez was trained and sent by "Bible Jim" Webber, who preaches every night in front of the Bellagio in Las Vegas and is considered the Grandfather of "Bible Believers" open-air preaching.

[James Leonard] Elsman, himself, though a lawyer, just returned from preaching at Bethlehem's Manger Square on Christmas Eve, 2005, in Palestine-Israel, in front of the Church of the Nativity, where he was featured on FOX-TV, ABC-TV and in over 2,000 papers via an AP news release.

The group is particularly obsessed with homosexuality ("homo-sex is a threat to national security"), and in 2007 Chavez and Elsman threatened to sue to be allowed to participate in a gay rights parade with his message. Israel is also Assistant Director of the "Street Preachers' Fellowship". Conservative pundit Glenn Beck gathered some pictures in 2003.

Another group connected to the Official Street Preachers is the Tampa-based Biblical Research Center, which is run by a certain Larry Keffer. The site carries many photos of other protests, under headings such as "Preaching at the 17th Annual Sodomite Film Festival at the Tampa Theater"; "Preaching to the Satanists"; "Preaching To The Atheists", and "Preaching to Illegal Aliens and Their Supporters".

In July, Keffer showed up in Norway; Mission Network News reports:

A trial court in Oslo, Norway has found two Christian missionaries guilty of failing to obey the police, media reports indicate. They face heavy fines but not imprisonment.

Evangelists Petar Keseljevic of Norway and Larry Keffer of the Biblical Research Center in Tampa, FL were sharing the Gospel at a parade celebrating the anniversary of Norway's constitution on May 17.

They were conversing with members of the crowd beyond the parade lines when the police arrested them and held them for almost four hours. Some members of the crowd had complained about the evangelists' actions.

Following his arrest, Keffer was represented by Joel Thornton of the "International Human Rights Group" - he has a blog here. Keseljevic is another "Official Street Preacher", and he was present at the Obama inaugaration. Charisma reported:
With a crowd of roughly 1.5 million people convened on the National Mall, the inauguration was a mostly peaceful event, according to media reports. Yet prayer leader Ken Joseph Jr. said a group of Christians evangelizing during an inaugural event was heckled and harassed. "At one point police had to be called to arrest one person who threatened their lives," he said.

Joseph reported that Christians, who were led by Norwegian evangelist Petar Keseljevic and affiliated with OfficialStreetPreachers.com, a group known for carrying signs that say "God Hates Sin" or "Homo Sex Is Sin," were countered by crowds that jeered "Go to hell," "I love sin" and "You are crazy." Eventually, a man selling "Obama condoms" led the crowd in chanting Obama's name to drown out the Christians' message.

"We are just here to share the love of Christ," Keseljevic told Joseph. "It is so sad to see the way people are so hostile in America to Christ."

(Hat tip: Islamophobia Watch)

"the way people are so hostile in America to Christ."

I doubt it has anything to do with Christ per se.  Has it ever occurred to the poor dolt that it might be a reaction to him personally?  I've seen street preachers and they come on loud and noisy - like any street seller.  The first thought that comes to mind is that they are  crazy.  My first reaction is that of hostility because they are just plain annoying.

by Concerned on Sat Feb 07, 2009 at 06:18:31 PM EST

I think Jesus would weep at the way people like Chavez misinterpret his message.

by khughes1963 on Sat Feb 07, 2009 at 07:48:44 PM EST

I think this is more about them feeling good about themselves than really seeking converts. Provoking hostility feeds into a martyr complex, and binds the group together against the outsiders. Railing against the evils of non-believers is also more congenial than self-examination. Here's a quote from Dave Daubenmire I noted a while back:

While millions of Christians gathered in the safety of their church on Sunday April 25th, the Minutemen, and women...trekked to Washington D.C. to stand for life against those who were marching for death. Hundreds of thousands of pro-death marchers spewed venom and hatred at us as we proudly defended the unborn.

"Hey buddy", we yelled at the effeminized men in the parade who marched dutifully behind their bossy women, "Real men raise babies, they don't kill them." Seems pretty radical, eh?

It was the most gratifying church service of my life!

by Richard Bartholomew on Sun Feb 08, 2009 at 03:59:22 AM EST

Keffer is one of the jackleg preachers that has made things difficult on our campus.  He's one of the ones that has a reputation of driving people from Christ- we've had to undo the damage he's done to young wounded souls on campus many times.  I'd almost like to see a picture of him- if he's the one I think he is, he blasted me in the ear with one of those canned air horns- causing damage that was reported and documented by the clinic (inside of my ear was badly inflamed, hurt for quite a while, and my hearing didn't "get better" until much later.)

They don't preach the gospel... they curse and shout and tell everyone they're going to hell, and call the young women all sorts of offensive terms, and you should hear them when a Muslim walks by.  They tell people that accepting evolution as fact is sending them to hell- I could go on and on.  The only thing remotely "Christian" from their lips is a "call to repent"- but the way it's done, that call only makes things worse than better- making Christianity into something that Yeshua never meant and is horrified by.

A friend of mine once heard one of the jackleg preachers even say that speaking to a pet will put you in hell.  I wonder if it was the same a**holes discussed in that article.

I'm glad to have a report from "off campus" confirming the sort of stuff we have to put up with nearly every week.  The area where they like to preach???   Students use it for studying- and then get their studies disrupted by these twerps.

(I may have copies of some of the articles from the school newspaper (The Oracle) saved on my hard drive somewhere- like when one of the preachers attacked a young woman.  In another case, a "preacher" severely insulted a young woman and her boyfriend knocked him down.)

by ArchaeoBob on Sat Feb 07, 2009 at 11:48:40 PM EST

Here's Keffer's YouTube channel, includes a picture of him


by Richard Bartholomew on Sun Feb 08, 2009 at 03:59:55 AM EST

I checked it out (with muted audio)- recognized a few people, but the guy isn't the same one who blasted me.  He IS another that I've seen several times.

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Feb 08, 2009 at 10:19:41 AM EST

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