Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Going to the Manti Pageant?

I have Mormon Coffee on my Google Reader list. I am not a fan of their approach, but I do find some of the posts interesting and pertinent to life here in Utah.

They recently did a post on their trip to the Manti pageant this year. The pageant is an outdoor theatrical re-enactment of parts of the book of Mormon and the life of Joseph Smith.

When Mormons gather in large groups, organizations like Mormon Coffee take the opportunity to evangelize. Contrary to typical evangelism, these street preachers carry signs designed to provoke and belittle Mormons, while yelling similar slogans.

On their blog, Mormon Coffee was inviting Christians to come down next year and join them in sign carrying and yelling (Click here to see the post). In the comments section I tried to post my experience at the pageant. Since it is a moderated blog, it has to be cleared. My comment was not posted, so I am going to try to recall it as best I can here.

I had the opportunity to attend the Manti pageant last year with some neighbors who had invited my family. We were sitting outside the fenced area since we had some dogs with us. A street preacher was making his way down our row. He was yelling out to the small crowd behind the fence about deception, Mormons going to Hell, etc. When he got to our area, he singled me out declaring that I was blind and needed to be open to the truth. I couldn't get a word in to tell the guy I wasn't Mormon. My neighbors snickered at the irony of his choosing the one non-Mormon in the group to yell at. This reaction made him angrier. He shouted at us a little louder, then stomped off.

It is said on the Mormon Coffee blog that if one person comes to Christ, all of this (yelling and sign carrying) is worth it. Therefore, it is considered that the methodology works. I think there is a difference between something working, and something being efficient and effective. My neighbors saw the shouting as confirmation that their beliefs are correct (after all, why all the persecution if Mormons aren't right?). From that view, I don't think you have forward momentum if you take one step forward followed by four steps back.

I am sure there were some good hearted and sincere street preachers out there. For the most part however, I observed only frustration and anger. When the totals are tallied, I think the street preachers do more harm than good.

I am disappointed that my original post was deleted. I know it was better than the above (I was in the groove that night).

Seeing the street preachers out there makes me realize how careful I have to be when I open scripture. They are a living testament that you can get scripture to justify almost anything. If they truly feel that Mormons need converting, I think they can engage in a way that does not destroy community.

A wise woman once told me, "Don't pull weeds unless you are willing to stay and tend the garden". These street preachers come in... do enormous damage with their verbal violence... and then leave the scene in a wake of destruction - that those of us who live here have to clean up.

6 comments:

Aaron Shafovaloff said...

Neighbor,

I know there are a few bad apples, but here are some things to consider:

1) 99% of what Christians folks do at Manti is either one-on-one conversations or small group conversations. While most don't hold signs, the ones that do find it incredibly useful for advertising web sites and starting conversations with those curious.

2) Even while recognizing that there are some bad-apple belligerent street preachers that show up, the local church there (Ephraim Church of the Bible) is happy and supportive toward legitimate, loving, compassionate folks who preach to large crowds. You should call Chip Thompson, a local ministry leader at the coffee house by Snow College, and ask himself yourself what he thinks of street ministry in general.

Andrew said...

First I have to say.. WOW... I have never had a response post come so fast.

I think it is a fair comment that there may be levels of street preachers there and that the obnoxious are simply more noticed. Should I go again someday, I will be more aware to look for that nuance.

Still, there never seems to be a shortage of people who lay claim to the name of Christian, yet feel the best way to introduce someone to Christ is to pop them in the nose (metaphorically speaking). Unfortunately, from my vantage point, that type of person seemed to be the norm there rather than the anomaly.

I had a co-worker who I did not know well say she saw me at Manti. She was very suspicious and defensive when she talked to me. She knew I wasn't Mormon, so WHY was I there? Her reaction, I believe, is typical of what happens due to the circus and harsh atmosphere that is created there by non-mormons.

I do not think it is enough to claim to love Mormons. You have to like them. I think the word love is tossed around too easily. Christians claim to love people that they do not know and do not befriend. I think if you asked the average Mormon in Manti during the Pageant, "Do those guys with the signs like you?" I think the answer would be a resounding no. Jesus brought a different response; people felt his affection.

People are confused by the Christian message. We claim to love people, but then behave like we despise them. Peter's direction that we should share our Hope with gentleness and respect is one that should be heeded.

Andrew said...

Aaron,
Also, did my post on the Manti 2008 never make it to you, or did you choose not to post it? If it was by choice, what was the reasoning?

Chad said...

I've always wondered why all of those "evangilical christians" have to go to a big event like the one at Manti. I know when I was LDS, we just laughed and mocked them. I'm a Christian now and it's funny, I do all I can not to laugh and mock them, though I want to.
God called me and I listened, he then used people who I trusted and put them in my path and they invited me to a service. The one thing that kept me from asking Jesus into my heart sooner was the fact that he might make me an obnoxious street preacher or a defender of one.

I've been a Christian for almost 5 years now and I've not met one person whose come to Christ from listening to a street preacher. I've heard plenty that people have accepted Jesus despite the "street preachers". def. street preacher: someone who yells at others while they are on there way to worship the only way they no how. Show denigrating signs of things their religion deems holy.

I don't think you can put God in a box but I'm sure you wouldn't see God holding a picket sign.

Will said...

I am a Christian, I am also a member of the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints. I believe that Christ is the only way that we can be 'saved' no matter what your deffinition of saved is. I have accepted Jesus as my savior, I made it public when I was baptized into His churchas he commanded and I renew that commitment every week when I take His sacrament. I am so grateful for for His life, His teachings, His suffering and death for us, and His power of ressurection. I will forever be indebted to him and will always strive to live an honorable life, obey His commandments and share this faith of Christ with others. This is the core of my testimony and whitness. Other Christians may doubt my belief, it doesn't matter. I am sure that it is true.

Andrew said...

Will - thanks for stopping by. Have you been to the Manti pageant before?

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