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Ray Comfort: Bellflower Banana Needs to Play Nicely with Others

John on June 29, 2008 at 8:58 am

Evangelist and “apologetics expert” Ray Comfort runs a ministry called Way of the Master out of Bellflower. Some of you may remember him for the “banana, the atheist’s nightmare” proof of the universe’s design. In case you missed it, as part of a TV show he argued that bananas and human hands were clearly meant for each other and that this showed God’s intent in creating both. You can see it here. To say it was an embarrassing example of sophmoric thinking would be being too kind. Atheists, rather than being horrified, have had a field day with it.

For several years now, Comfort has been coming to the crowded Huntington Beach pier to save souls on the weekends. You can see a recent example of his pitch here. Unfortunately, his efforts are beginning to attract attention beyond the crowds, but you know what they say…there’s no such thing as bad press:

It’s only the first weekend of the summer at Surf City’s Pier Plaza, and some merchants and performers say it’s gearing up to be one of the most crowded and chaotic summers in years.

Break dancers, a unicyclist, Christian preachers and others are hoping to convey a message and capture the attention of the masses – from scantily clad teenagers and tattooed hipsters to tourist mothers with babies in tow. All are fair game in the fight for money and souls.

[...]

The performers believe the plaza is a limited space that should be shared more fairly.

Zapatista Rockers – a group of about four men who do acrobatic stunts and breakdancing moves – say the Christian groups hog most of the space, pushing them out.

Arash Baboo, a member of the group, said they are willing to share the floor with the Christian groups and alternate turns.

“We try to work with them, but it never works,” Arash Baboo, a Huntington Beach resident, said. “They keep going without breaks.”

Lucky John Domingue, who hammers nails up his nose as part of his act, says the performers have worked out a system where they take turns to avoid having everyone going at once. John said he tried to get Christian evangelist Ray Comfort to join the rotation, but to no avail.

“The performers aren’t causing problems. We’re organized,” Domingue said. “The Christians set up directly in front of us.”

Comfort, who co-heads a Christian evangelist ministry based in Bellflower called The Way of The Master, said he didn’t participate in the rotation because of a disagreement about allotted time per performer.

The New Zealand native offers spectators money from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on almost every Saturday at the plaza if they answer a few questions. Comfort ends up yelling at them and calling them liars before he asks them to come to God.

“We get 50 people maybe, 100 people if someone is going to beat me up,” said Comfort who uses in-your-face tactics. “But that hasn’t happened in Huntington Beach.”

He blamed the chaos on the performers, saying that some of them play their music too loud.

“It’s a small area, and that’s what makes it difficult,” Comfort said.

Merchants said the performers are usually willing to turn their music down when asked. Instead, the vendors said the brunt of the problems emanates from Comfort and other Christian groups whom they said use aggressive tactics, scaring people away from the plaza and their businesses.

“I don’t do as well when all of this is going on,” said Cathy Wickersham, who sells paintings at her booth. “We agree with their message but the way they do it is too provocative and upsetting. You can feel the tension.”

Tony Saccareccia, who owns a bicycle taxi cab service called Blue Water Pedicabs, agrees. He said he’s come to the point of telling his riders to avoid certain groups.

“The religious people out there are just provoking arguments,” he said. “I’ve almost seen it come to fists before. It’s all about them and has nothing to do with everybody else.”

I realize there are plenty of people out there who think Comfort’s method perfectly emulates Jesus’ own (it doesn’t) and that any complaints are a sure sign he’s doing God’s will (they’re not). If you want to put on an entertaining show with a pointed Gospel presentation, fine but don’t be a prima donna (Ray always has two cameras on him when he’s performing). Behaviour like that described above only convinces people outside the church that they’re right to avoid it. In short, going to the most populated part of the city and steadily gaining a reputation as an intractable jerk is not doing the kingdom a great service.

Of course once Ray fouls the water he can just go home to Bellflower. If this is how he intends to demonstrate Christ in Huntington Beach, I’d prefer he just stay home and have a banana. What’s needed here, at the least, is an apology and some accomodation for others that want to use the space. That would demonstrate some appealing humility.

The ball’s in your court Ray.

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