Luis Palau, George Bush, and the Mall of America

An afternoon with the holy trinity of terror

He repeats the phrase over and over: "The impossible is now possible and now anything is possible." Anything is possible? Could it be possible that the Bible is not infallible, and that the message of fear and shame and the definition of sin could be amended to reflect the more lofty goals of modern society? And if not, isn't almost every man here going to hell no matter what? (Leviticus 19:27: "Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.") Of course Baldwin is getting at one thing: Today is the day of repentance, because Jesus could come back at any time and judge you, you gnarly dude.

Along with Darren Wells, the president of King of Kings Skateboard Ministries, Baldwin recently released an evangelistic DVD called "Livin' It" that features skaters and BMX riders who preach the Gospel of Christ. Baldwin encourages attendees to donate $5 to send the DVD to troops in Iraq, saying, "The DVD is hardcore for Jesus Christ! Because that's where things are going now!"

Next year, Livin' It skaters and the King of Kings Skate Ministry will embark on a rock 'n' roll bus tour. Baldwin and his skater cohorts will go "where the kids are, where Satan controls them, where Satan has a stronghold in the shopping malls, and tell them about the Gospel of Jesus Christ." Moments before his testimony, an ad for one of the Twin Cities Festival's major backers, the Mall of America, pops up on the numerous big screens throughout the capitol grounds. The Mall of America, along with more than 100 sponsors and 800 churches, donated the $2.1 million needed to support the festival. Luckily, no one offends the proud Christian sponsors at Walser by talking about devil-made SUVs.

 

 

Fear and Self-Loathing

Though Palau's people maintain that the attendees must come forward willingly as Christ-seekers, one of the Luis Palau Evangelical Association's goals is to "win as many people as possible to Jesus Christ throughout the world, proclaiming His Good News by all available means to the millions of people who have yet to respond to the Gospel." The group also wants to equip the next generation by "influencing Christianity and raising up a new generation of godly leaders so that the church's commitment to evangelism will never die." The gnarly, gnarly skaters are the vessels for this message, already convincing more than 3,000 people to commit to God tonight.

Is the ultimate goal of evangelism to preach the gospel as the Bible instructs? Is it self-validation? What's the real motivation to convert millions of people? The Center for Evangelism at Southern Methodist University claims the ultimate goal is the sanctification of each individual and the restoration of the whole creation--to make things as they were. So is every nonbeliever a moral terrorist, creating rampant social destruction by disrupting the core structure of family and values? Luis Palau would like you to believe so.

Palau claims he doesn't talk politics. Yet his entire speech is peppered with tales that focus on the issues that so clearly divide the two political parties: abortion, homosexuality, and "family values." You can commit the sins that plague you every day, you can even "kill your baby," and God will forgive you, he says. But you must repent today, repent today, repent today, because you never know when you will die. He talks about how girls should remain clean, no one should have sex until marriage, sex can only be between a man and a woman, and that sex outside of marriage is sinful and empty. As if only able to reach kids through coy euphemisms, he also asks, "Who came up with the idea of ha-ha hoo-hoo?" God did. And he made the rules, dammit.

Jesus Christ calls his own by name, he says (hint: it's the guilt and shame you feel in the pit of your stomach). He interprets a Psalm and says, "Though my father and mother reject me, the Lord will lift me up." This makes my heart break into a million pieces. For lost and imperfect teenagers, whose lives become one hapless mistake after the next, even the onetime hippie Jesus sees them as a failure who must promise to never make the same mistake again in order to be accepted. "You're wild, you're out of control, Jesus knows you by name," Palau says, sounding about as impassioned and inspired as an auctioneer. Through fear, he encourages attendees to repent to God and stave off the fire pits of hell rather than preaching about living a more positive, passionate, and generous life. On top of the fear of rejection, the fear of death, and the fear of impending doom, Palau teaches us that the biggest thing we have to fear is ourselves. Hallelujah.

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