What I would do if I managed Junkyard Prophet
As you may or may not have heard by now, Junkyard Prophet played at Dunkerton High School about a couple weeks ago. Dunkerton is a tiny suburb of Cedar Falls. Junkyard Prophet is a Christian band and is a part of You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide International. You may have heard of them before. Michele Bachmann took some heat for her association with them when front man Bradlee Dean said Muslim theocracies are more moral than the US because they follow the bill and execute the gays. He then threatened to sue Rachel Maddow for slander for accurately quoting him.
So they played this assembly, told the kids they need to accept Jesus or burn in hell, that homosexuals die by forty-two and that they try to push perversion on kids. Also, they showed pictures of late-term aborted fetuses. Basically, they did everything that you would think that Evangelical Christians would do to scare kids into converting, including play bad rock music. I’ve included some videos below. Watch for yourself if you want to see what happened. I want to concentrate on how this happened.
I wish there were video of the whole assembly, but this is all that seems to be available. The general approach seems typical for Evangelical youth outreach. The overall branding message of the presentation is that Jesus isn’t some fuddy-duddy who doesn’t want you to have fun. Jesus is cool. Dean has facial hair and tattoos and dresses informally. He also talks about pop culture a lot to show that he’s in touch with what the kids are doing. The band plays loud rock music, not traditional church music.
As for what he says, it appears his strategy is common and pretty similar to a lot of sales techniques. He starts by talking about things no one can disagree with, then makes some dubious leaps to tie these things to his own positions. He uses audience participation to make it seem like the ideas are coming from the audience itself. (I notice the participation seems less than enthusiastic.) This means people are invested in the presentation already and less likely to tune him out. It also makes the administrators watching less likely to shut the assembly down. He presents his material with the usual set of dubious assertions and logical fallacies (mostly guilt by association and begging the question). I think my favorite part is when he claims that Planned Parenthood gives out abortion coupons. Everyone knows they are actually punch cards. Your tenth abortion is free. (Not valid for twins)
I think what’s especially important here is how he frames these issues. For instance, he says pop music and the media glamorize abortion. I tried to embed that music video where Lady Gaga aborts a rhinestone fetus and turns it into an outfit, but it apparently doesn’t exist. She did, however, say that it’s okay to be gay. He followed this up by asking the kids if they believe what they hear in the media. He uses the usual “both sides” boilerplate, but this isn’t like evolution. He’s trying to set up a situation where “the man” wants you to think abortion and homosexuality are cool, but you’re cool enough to know better than listening to what the man tells you. It’s not in the video, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he claimed Jesus was the “ultimate rebel” at some point in the assembly.
The principal says he didn’t know they were going to do this. He booked them with the understanding they were going to talk to kids about bullying and the importance of making good choices. This seems reasonable. Schools book people all the time to teach kids about science or black history or jazz or staying off drugs. (The last one isn’t nearly as fun of an assembly.) They apparently failed to do even the most basic vetting. If you Google “Junkyard Prophet” or “Bradlee Dean” or “You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide International,” there are lots of stories of them pulling similar stunts. Here’s one from 2005 where they booked on the same misrepresentation and caused some permanent hearing loss. If I were managing the group, I would do the same thing. I could make all kinds of scriptural arguments as to why this is okay. I’d rely on the story of Rahab in particular. In fact, I think I would take it further and solicit schools using some sort of front company to prevent the Google problem. I grew up in an Evangelical Church. While it isn’t usually a sermon topic, people are generally upset that “God was kicked out of schools” and want to find ways to disguise him and sneak him back in. At worst, lying about programming content would result in a civil suit with a bunch of churches willing to pick up the tab. The story I linked up top says that the school is trying to recover what they paid the band based on misrepresentation. I think they aren’t even allowed to seek damages. The suit will actually play really well if they raise money from churches and probably net them way more than the $1500 they were supposed to get paid. In the Evangelical world, getting persecuted for your faith is credibility points, kind of like getting arrested in real music. In fact, the band’s website proudly touts footage of them being removed from schools by the police.
This is a song by Carman, not Junkyard Prophet. You can tell because it’s sappy bad instead of just bad. I’m posting it because this was a very popular song when I was in high school. It even got performed at my summer camp, which amounts to denominational endorsement. Sample lyrics: If you wanna see kids live right, stop handing out condoms, and start handing out the Word of God in schools! Basically, Junkyard Prophet can’t lose here unless schools get wise to them and quit booking them. If no one stops them, they get to indoctrinate the kids. Since stopping an assembly is socially awkward, this is the usual result. Some people walked out in this case, and the band jeered them. If someone does stop them, they get to play martyr and rally their base. This isn’t some abstract issue. They bullied the gay kids from an official platform and bullied anyone who disapproved of them. I think they need to face criminal charges or serious punitive damages or they’ll have to reason to stop and will just go bully more kids at the next school with an inattentive principal.