Last week, Tuesday, I noticed that my club, AAR, was counter-postering some heinous christian fundies.
You see, every once in a while there are these christian fellas with obnoxious signs like “Repent Sinners, You’re going to HELL!”, you know the kind I’m talking about. One of the smart fellas (I’m not sure who) that attends the club meetings suggested an interesting strategy for combating this type of demonstration. Every time one of the club members sees such signs, he should send out a text message alerting the rest of the group. We have already prepared counter-signs and keep them in storage. So, in only a few minutes we can effectively arrange a spontaneous counter demonstration.
But we still have to be marginally clever about our actions. We certainly don’t want to be too terribly offensive, or get anybody’s blood boiling. The trick is to maintain control at all times, and the easiest, most effective manner to do that is by promoting joviality. Our signs are targeted to promote humor. Rather than engaging the fundies in an argument (which, though entertaining, actively prolongs theirÂ presenceÂ on campus) we laugh at them. We fight their vitriol with humor. We refuse to give their arguments any weight or substance, and undermine their credibility with our smiles. We also lend our own views a sense of friendliness, in stark opposition to the fundies scare tactics. We allow them to goad us into portraying godlessness as warm and fuzzy.
So, I passed by one of our counter-demonstrations last Tuesday. I didn’t have time to stop for long, but heard the story afterward. Apparently, after being out only for about a half hour, the fundies made a lame excuse about their meter running out of change (though Joe kindly offered to refill it for them) and left. We chased them off campus! And it was fun!
After the fundies had left, a reporter from the campus newspaper stopped by for a photo. Unfortunately, since the action had already taken place we have no accompanying article, only an image with the caption “The Happiest Little Demonstration” We also received several polite thank-you’s from moderate christians walking around campus. Apparently, everyone hates the evil sign people. I told my roommate about the event and he said that though he doesn’t agree with the text of our sign, chasing those guys off campus was a victory for all of humanity!
But this brings up an interesting point. I would consider that if someone who claims to be and considers themselves a member of your organization, then you have an obligations to encourage good behavior from that person, especially when they publicly represent you. The moderate christians aren’t really the problem in the world, it’s the extremists. Yet, I’d maintain that it’s up to the moderate factions to police the extremists. I know that many of the moderates are quite uncomfortable that a certain subset is promoting their belief system in an awfully negative light. But, being of the same community, its their responsibility to keep these people in check.
At the same time though, both because they are moderates (by nature, they are non-confrontational), and because they are ostensibly of the same belief system, they have fewer tools to work with. As members of the opposing side, it is we atheists, that wield the weapons to shut these fundies down. This, of course, places the moderate christians in a very awkward position. They incur alot of heat and wrath that the fundies encourage and spread, but are largely without recourse (they can’t act, but oh, but they can pray!). I pressed my roommate on this issue, and he said that though it’s been discussed at his christian meeting, nobody has any ideas on how to silence the fundies. I suggested adopting my groups strategy of counter-postering, but the methodology doesn’t quite transfer. The moderates own associations render them ineffective. Sure, the moderates are morally obligated to police the extremists, but they don’t have the tools to do so.