Friday, July 6, 2007

Bob Hanus: Spiritual Road Warrior & Cross Walker

Bob Hanus: Part 1


Bob Hanus: Part 2


While driving through Yellowstone I passed a silver haired man by the name of Bob Hanus, an ex-cocaine addict and evangelical Christian who walks the country carrying a 70 pound wooden cross and proselytizing on behalf of Jesus with his personal story of redemption. Since I too have been a recruiter (for video game artists and designers, not souls) I was more than impressed by his method and style. Bob has figured out an amazing way to bring people to him rather than knocking down doors or screaming through a bull horn in Times Square. While I'm sure he gets his fair share of negative reactions from people, the fact that people have to approach and stop him on the street, puts him in a unique position of power. His friendly demeanor and interesting story absolutely requires that you listen and be respectful, even if you don't agree with him. Common human decency combined with Bob's unique brand of charisma will have the most ardent atheist or devout Jew or Muslim listening way beyond what normally would be tolerated. Amazingly when he asked me to pray, I did, and I'm not the praying type in any way shape or form. When I was in elementary school, I even refused to say the word God in the pledge of allegiance. I guess I'm more obliging now. Really shows the power of politeness. Mostly I didn't want to ruin the good vibe I had about the experience by digging deeper into some of his more out there beliefs through an argument. I genuinely liked Bob and wanted to end on a good note. My battery ran out too, so I wouldn't have gotten any crazy footage like his Creationism rant that I unfortunately wasn't able to get on tape. Wow, I'm really self serving... Oh well, at least I'm honest. The entire cross walking extravaganza definitely had a bit of the freak show element to it, but it's delivered with sincerity, a smile and a twinkle in his eye. I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing more of this kind of thing down the road from young evangelicals following Bob's lead.

This sort of participatory, yet non-confrontational method seems similar to the "prayer walks" that are employed by the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. If you listen to This American Life on NPR, you may have heard of it. I've been listening to Ira Glass for 2 days straight now via Ipod catching up on the years I've missed. If you don't listen, I highly recommend you start. In short, church members pray on every house, street and alley in the town of Colorado Springs in a structured scientific manner. They don't knock on doors, or press their message on people directly, but rather show them their commitment to Jesus and to the "saving" of their neighbors through their actions and perseverance. They literally blanket the town systematically, praying for Jews, gentiles, Muslims, beggars, criminals and Christians alike. The "prayer walk" approach may in fact be waging a war on Satan, as they contend, but it seems to accomplishes something more fundamental and self serving for the Church in the process.

For the individuals involved in prayer walks, they go on what seems to be a personal spiritual journey yet the journey simultaneously sets their beliefs in a very public setting, both within the Church and the community at large. These ritualized prayer walks reinforce the individual's own belief system by forcing him to publicly express it and by linking the commitment it expresses directly to their identity as a Christian. The insidious genius of this non-confrontational yet participatory process is that it does all this without the down sides of older forms of evangelism. Participants can evangelize without feeling humiliated or rejected by something like going door to door. Simultaneously, they also make a public show of their commitment to their peers, to their community and most importantly to themselves. They're really employing all the lessons/tricks of Psych 101. These demonstrations of extreme and seemingly bizarre commitment is also a powerful force to be reckoned with when evangelizing to people who have lost their way; take Bob Hanus as an example.

As an agnostic/atheist, who really only sees the glimmer of god in the beauty of science and nature, it's a very difficult paradigm shift to reconcile, but it seems many Evangelicals see the world in black and white and through the words and prophecies in the Book of Revelations. They truly love their neighbors and therefore put intense effort into "saving" them since they matter-of-factly believe that Jesus Christ is the "only path" to salvation when the Apocalypse arrives. I guess they really want more company at the the big old Wrap party in Heaven when it comes. According to their own beliefs, it may be a pretty dismal and poorly attended affair.

If only they put similar effort into bettering the world we live in right now, rather than betting on the after life. I'll admit freely that I've met very few evangelical Christians and using Bob Hanus as a measuring stick, they are friendly, warm and loving people. But that seems to be the exact problem most secular people have with them. Its always friendly warm and loving in regards to Jesus and always Jesus. They try too hard to "save" you and they're closed off to any other ideas about the world. Their obsession with Christ is too much for most of us. I'm not comfortable when anyone repeatedly tells me they love me, including my family. I like it even less when a perfectly stranger tells me that Jesus loves me over and over agaion. I don't want to be saved. I want to be left alone. That's the America we all grew up in. Americans have a deep sense of individualism and hold dear the idea that there are infinite ways to succeed in life and in the after life. American culture and freedom is frankly sprinkled with a bit of Libertarianism. We live in a democracy of varying ideas, cultures and religious beliefs. The Evangelical movement threatens that core with a collective ideology and a single minded focus of having people accept Christ as their personal savior and the son of God. It's a religious version of the Borg. (Star Trek reference to the single minded Collective/Communist-like alien race and enemy) Yes, I'm a dork. It seems it's the Christians rather than the Communists that are erasing personal identity.

What frightens me most about the Evangelical movement is that their message of "love" only furthers their commitment to "save" others from false gods and false prophets rather than saving people from real world problems. They always seeks to save people from the inside out. I'm not saying the method isn't valid, but I'd rather teach a hungry man to fish, than teach him to pray. Bob Hanus refutes Luther's Doctrine of Good Works during the interview, one of the only religious belief systems that I believe transcends religions worldwide. All religions have the same fundamental moral core in their texts and this core also lives and breathes at the center of the secular world through basic commonsense and our legal system. Same God, same core rules, and some occasional different details. It's kind of irritating that every religion likes to be caught up in the minutiae rather than looking at the big picture.

I had a scary thought about how this sort of ideology can effect the kids of today. If catholic guilt has proved such a powerful force for those raised Catholic, I reel at the prospect of the evangelical youth of today growing up with as sense of "Evangelical Guilt". Not only are they growing up with the fear and guilt surrounding their own sins and transgressions, but also that of the rest of the world. How many Hail Marys and Our Fathers do you need to do for not saving your alcoholic abusive neighbor, the 10 crack whore's down the street and Jerry Springer. With all that sin, you can forget the fact that you had an impure thought and took the Lord's name in vain. It seems young Evangelicals will be praying forever... but I guess that's the Movement's point. It must be tough trying to deal with the fact that their friends and neighbors will probably burn in damnation for all eternity. That's quite a burden for an impressionable child to carry. It's kind of sad.

I think I'm beginning to understand why the evangelical movement has been so successful. Action is the culture of Evangelism. This youth focused participatory fervor creates an evangelical culture in which self propagation is it's primary focus and also the glue that in turn binds them and shapes the identity of its members. Maybe they're learning from the counter culture of the 60's or youtube of all places. A participatory culture breeds community, loyalty and evangelism. And speaking of.. join the youtube zeitgeist and upload a video of your own. I'm working on one with some wildlife and natural wonders from Yellowstone next. Until then, I'm in Chicago for the weekend and then heading back to the East Coast for a week or two. Hope you enjoyed the videos.

4 comments:

mlsurfs said...

you prayed? this guy is quite the character. but i hope you did more than drive through yellowstone!!! i agree on your analysis of the problem with the evangelicals. i have a happy mormon in my research group (thank god he doesn't try to convert everyone, but he's so damn happy and nice). get your ass into gear or the JMT is gonna KICK IT.

Colin said...

Word. Good stuff Ad.

KEVIN FROM NEBRASKA said...

AFTER WATCHIHG YOUR VIDEOS AND READING YOUR BLOG IVE COME TO THIS CONCLUSION ITS EASY TO BE A STAND OFFISH(IF THATS A WORD)WHEN MEETING A PERSON WITH THE TYPE OF CONVICTION AND PASSION THAT BOB HAS I TO AM A CHRISTIAN FOR OVER13 YRS ABOUT A LITTLE OVER 3 YEARS AGO I WAS INTERDUCED TO BOB NEVER MEETING ANYONE WITH THAT KIND OF LOVE AND PASSION FOR WHAT HE DOES I WAS LEARYAT FIRST TOO BUT IT TOOK ALL OF ABOUT 20 MIN TO REALIZE JUST HOW REAL HE IS IMAGINE LEAVING WHAT HE HAD THE OPPERTUNITY TO HAVE ALL THE CREDENTIALS A PERSON COULD NEED OUT OF COLLEGE OPPERTUNITYS TO MAKE A 6 FIGURE SALARY LEAVING IT ALL BEHIND TO HELP OTHER PEAPLE IM PROUD TO CALL HIM MY BROTHER IN CHRIST THE BEST THING IS HIS WIFE AND SON ARE AS GENUINE AS HE IS EVERY RELIGION HAS IT RADICALS BUT AFTER MEETING HIM YOU PROBABLY COULD TELL HES NOT ONE OF THEM IF YOUR NOT A BELIEVER IM GLAD YOU GOT A CHANCE TO MEET BOB AND GLAD YOU GOT A CHANCE TO PRAY WITH HIM GUARANTEED HE STILL IS PRAYING FOR YOU. I ENJOYED YOUR VIDEOS AM GLAD YOU ARE OPEN TO LISTENING PEAPLE NO ABOUT THE FACT THERES ALOT OF HIPPOCRITES IN RELIGION MY HINT TO ALL THOSE WHO DONT KNOW WHO IS REAL IN THERE FAITH AND WHOS NOT IS HOW YOU FEEL IN THERE PRESENCE, HOW THEY LIVE THERE LIFE,HOW THEY TREAT OTHERS YOU BELIEVE IT OR NOT YOU WHERE ON THE SAME ROAD AS BOB THAT DAY FOR A REASON I HOPE IT WAS SOMTHING HE SAID TO YOU WILL STAY WITH YOU FOREVER! THANKS FOR LISTEN SORRY IT WAS SO LONG

Mutcluck said...

Thanks for your thoughts Kevin. Meeting Bob, you can really get a sense of his commitment and his convictions. He's also one of the most charismatic guys I've met. I really enjoyed meeting him and hearing his testimony. He has a pretty amazing story. I wish there was a way that secular values and fundamentalist Christian values could reconcile with each other. This country and the world could use the love coming from both directions. This same inability to reconcile the secular with the fundamental is being waged in Islam. Its the fundamental crisis of our time. While I don't pray, we all need to pray that someone comes along in the near future that can reconcile the disconnect between the secular, the Christian and the Islamic worlds with a unifying message.