Monday, August 9, 2010

Focus on the Friendly Atheist

Hemant Mehta is our "friendly atheist" hero! Hemant Mehta and Jen McCreight didn't go to Wheaton but they did attended the “Celebrate Family Tour” at Wheaton College, hosted by Focus on the Family on friday night. Here is his blog. re-posted.. uncensored...


My Night at a Focus on the Family Event

Why? Because it was so close… and what better way to spend your Friday night than getting silently furious while listening to Christians talk about how they’re superior to atheists with regards to raising children, having morals, and caring for others?

We were there for over two hours. You know what? There wasn’t a single mention of Prop 8 or gay marriage all night.

I felt cheated. That’s like going to a Jimmy Buffett concert and not hearing “Margaritaville.”

But the rest of the event didn’t disappoint. I learned quite a bit actually. Here is my random assortment of thoughts throughout the night… which I jotted down on a “donate to Focus” envelope during the evening:

    * We tried hard on the drive there to come up with a solid cover story in case someone asked why we were there.

      We decided to go with: Jen was my wife and she was converting me to Christianity (because, um, Hinduism is the Devil’s work). Our anniversary? 3/14 — we’re nerds so we could remember that easily. Our rings? CRAP! We didn’t have those.

      Cover stories are hard to come by.

      It didn’t matter, though. No one asked us why we were there.

    * A video was played featuring the president of Focus, Jim Daly. He seemed like a really nice guy, actually — both in the video and in person when he spoke. In the video, though, he explained that parents deal with complex issues all the time. For example — and I quote — “How come my nine-year-old is saying ‘no’ to me all the time? That’s something I gotta correct.”

      Really? That’s your problem? What else would you expect…? I know conservative Christians like obedience, but a little bit of rebellion is not always a bad thing. I’d be shocked if a nine-year-old said “yes” to everything I asked. A kid saying “no”? Annoying, perhaps, but not really a problem.

    * They are still thrilled about the Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad. Because, you know, all of us are still talking about it. The ad, by the way, only indirectly talked about the pro-life position… more than anything, it directed people to Focus on the Family’s website. But the way they spoke about it, you would think a billion viewers decided at that very moment they would never again support abortion. That didn’t happen.

      The media frenzy was never about being pro-life, anyway. The story was always about whether commercials dealing with controversial social issues should be allowed to run during the Super Bowl.

    * The Focus on the Family speakers seemed to put a notch on the bedpost every time someone heard about Jesus through them. One example offered to us was a DVD series Focus created about Christianity. During the filming, we were told, 27 of the Comcast crew members came up to one of the producers and asked him to tell them more about Jesus.

      The audience gasped and applauded at that.

      I didn’t get it. If I were working on the crew, I’d want to hear more about what this guy had to say… because he was saying a lot of things that made no sense (“We’re intelligently designed!”). Hell, I was at this event Friday night. That doesn’t mean I support Focus on the Family.

      They’re making the mistake of assuming anyone who wants to know more about them — or attends their events, or questions what they do — is interested in becoming a Christian. Not all of us are.

    * They urged parents to get their children to watch a Focus-produced children’s series called JellyTelly because “the alternative is Nick at Nite.”

      Evil, blasphemous, heathenific Nick at Nite.

      How dare they schedule such awful, un-family-friendly programs like The Cosby Show, Family Matters, and The Nanny?

      Keep the kids away!

    * During a live taping of the Focus on the Family radio show, the guests were Dr. Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs who run a lot of marriage workshops, have written bestselling books, etc. Jen will have more to say about them, I’m sure, but the bit that stood out the most was when they discussed how men see the world out of “Blue” glasses and women see the world out of “Pink” glasses.

      Cute/funny example of this: When a woman says, “I have nothing to wear,” she really means she has nothing new to wear. When a man says, “I have nothing to wear,” he really means he has nothing clean to wear. [Cue laughter]

      Yes, there are always different roles in relationships and tendencies for a man or woman to do certain things. But they are not universal.

      I know couples where the woman is the confident and business-minded one while the husband is more emotional and the stay-at-home type. (Obviously, gay couples don’t fit into this picture at all.)

      Maybe what annoyed me was their assumption that every relationship was virtually identical. The women had to show “respect” to their husbands and the husbands had to show “love” to their wives, and they each had to fulfill particular roles (that I feel either person could fulfill). Single parents, divorced parents, gay parents? Move along now, nothing to see here.

      It played over well with the Christian crowd. But Jen and I were constantly looking at each other with looks that screamed *facepalm*.

    * In that last section, I mentioned the guests were Dr. Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs. I don’t know why they got equal billing. Sarah barely spoke. It’s not the first time I’ve seen that either, where the Christian husband and wife are the face of a particular product, but it’s the husband who does all the talking (see April 30th). The wife’s role was to be submissive unless prompted otherwise. When she did speak, it seemed to be only after her husband said, “Sarah, tell them about that time…”

      It was like watching Penn & Teller. There may be two people up there, but you only hear one of them. She was a trophy wife, put on display to give it that “couple-y” feel… but if she had not been there tonight, the conversation would have been basically the same.

    * After the taping of the radio show, a “Christian comedian” came on stage. He was actually really funny. He mentioned god once or twice, but his schtick was mostly about his wife and kids — universal things that made everyone laugh.

      Then, after his “official” set was done, he got very serious. Too serious. And he got very preachy. I don’t have this part verbatim… but at one point here, he said something like, “Joy is central to Christianity. Sure, atheists and agnostics can be joyous, but it’s not central to their lives. It’s peripheral.” Implying that we’re all depressed, sad, godless individuals.

      What. The. Hell.

      That’s not even a joke. Or crouched inside a joke. That’s just plain wrong. If anything, we rationalists know we only have this life to live — there’s no heaven or hell waiting for us — so we try to find happiness/love/joy wherever we can.

      I’ve never seen a comedian have a wonderful set, get the audience laughing loudly, and then just purposely kill that mood he created. Maybe we were the only ones who weren’t inspired at the end, but I went from wanting to share his talent with people I know to wanting to send them emails explaining what he thinks about atheists.

    * I’ll give credit to Focus on the Family for this: Based on what I heard them say, they’re doing really wonderful work when it comes to adoption — placing kids in loving (albeit only Christian) homes. They’re really trying to help couples strengthen their marriage, especially when things get rough.

      I like that. I support that. I don’t care about the Bible-based way they do it, but those are good values to support regardless of faith.

      So why do I cringe every time I hear their organization’s name mentioned?

      Maybe it’s because they’ve built their reputation on making it so damn difficult for gay and lesbian couples to adopt kids and strengthen their own relationships.

      They don’t see that as hypocrisy. I do.

And then it was over. As we walked out, Jen and I figured we needed some proof that the event happened… so here you go :) (Sorry for the quality. It’s an iPhone camera.)

(also here is what Jen McCreight had to say about the night - You know Jen, she is famous for her Boobquake Day - no actual Boobquakes are shown at this link)


  1. Not an atheist or agnostic (most of the time), but I have to agree with the criticism from Mr. Mehta of Focus on the Family--pull quote: "What.The.Hell."

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