Christianity,  Politics

Street preachers assaulted and beaten at gay pride rally

Two street preachers were assaulted and beaten at a recent gay pride rally in Seattle, Washington. The entire confrontation was caught on video (here), and a local news station reported on the story (see above). Some thoughts worth noting:

1. The two preachers were obviously there to preach, yet the news anchors refer to them as “protesters.” This is misleading—to say the least—since preaching and protesting are not the same thing.

2. I don’t know anything about the preachers except that they were preaching the following: “repent or else” and “Jesus saves from sin.” In short, the preachers called homosexuality a sin, and they paid a price for doing so.

3. The video makes clear that when the preachers were beaten they did not retaliate.

4. If two gay rights protesters were beat-up at a Christian rally, wouldn’t that have been front page news and banner headlines across the country? How is it then that this assault is only being treated as a local crime story by the media?


  • Paula Bolyard (@pbolyard)

    The site below has the extended video that gives more context (without the commentary). There is an accompanying story that has a quote from the photographer (pulled from the YouTube video comments) who said,

    “While photographing this event, I witnessed a growing anger from some of the crowd, towards the preachers. All of a sudden a few members in the crowd attacked the street preachers. I switched to video to document the incident. I DO NOT condone what the attackers did. While I don’t agree with these preachers, it is their Constitutional right to be in public and preach.”

    Note: Profanity warning!

    • buddyglass

      Not necessarily. To prosecute as a hate crime it would need to be shown that the assault happened expressly because the victim was a member of a protected class. It can’t just be, “I beat up a gay person who was protesting at my rally for traditional marriage,” or “I beat up a fire-and-brimstone street preacher who was preaching at my gay pride rally”. In both those cases the assault may have happened because the victim was protesting obnoxiously and not because he or she was gay or Christian per se.

  • James Bradshaw

    The heavyset man in the video has had a long string of run ins with the law: over 20 arrests including drugs, DUI and domestic assault.

    Look, there were probably over a million people in attendance at gay pride parades this year across the nation, most of them also attended by Christian protesters holding placards that were far more provocative (like those of Ruben Israel). As far as I know, this was the only incident that resulted in assault and violence on the part of a parade attendee (and there are some reports that this man is a married heterosexual).

    ” How is it then that this assault is only being treated as a local crime story by the media?”

    Probably the same reason the violent gay bashing of an acquaintance of mine didn’t hit the national media (which resulted in a fractured eye socket). Who knows. There are thugs out there that can be set off by the least little thing in every city. It’s not national news.

    In all cases, the appropriate response is jail time, no matter who’s doing the bashing.

    • Denny Burk

      On the full video, it looks like he is there with a woman. I’m assuming that he’s a heterosexual, but that’s beside the point. The takeaway here is not that homosexuals are especially violent. The takeaway is that the tolerance worldview is tolerant of everyone except those that don’t agree with their homogenizing notion of tolerance. That self-contradictory point of view afflicts all kinds of people–both gay and straight.

      • buddyglass

        The charge of hypocrisy seems misplaced. I doubt most folks’ conception of “tolerance” requires that they be okay with those who attend their functions just to cast (what they perceive as) aspersion on them. Tolerance usually means something like “If you happen to get hired as a coworker of mine, or move in next door to me, I’m going to treat you just like any other co-worker or neighbor until you give me reason not to”.

        • Lauren Bertrand

          Absolutely. Well put. The thug who beat Ruben Israel up should and most likely will be subject to the full extent of criminal law.

          But Ruben Israel, the “preacher” and “victim”, is loving this right now. This is what this man does. Several weeks ago he was witnessing at an Arab Heritage Festival in Dearborn, MI with severed pig’s heads, and yes, he got the crowd riled up, though no one threw a punch apparently. Aside from being too dense to know that a huge portion of Dearborn’s Arab population is actually Lebanese Maronite CHRISTIAN, it’s hard to see how Ruben is exactly an emissary of God’s grace and love. Is this the way to win souls for Christ? Or is Ruben an archetypal Pharisee, savoring the notion that he can get arise out of people so that they swing at him, thereby vindicating his self-righteous. If he is someone that conservative Christians endorse, you’re just as well off endorsing that “man of God” Terry Jones, who decided the best way to affirm Christianity was to burn a Koran publicly.

          As James said, gays get beat up every day in every city for being gay and it rarely makes national news…outside the gay media I suppose. But you’d be wise to research the background of your martyr of the week. Ruben Israel is about as good of a representative of the Christian community as Ted Haggard is of the gay community (and the Christian community, for that matter).

  • Brandon

    The other takeaway–if not the biggest takeaway–for Christians is that the gospel is an announcement of grace, not a self-righteous, inflammatory message of “Repent or else.” When we lose sight of our own depravity and God’s infinite grace, we begin to turn the gospel into a platform for self-promotion.

    • Denny Burk


      The invitation of the gospel from the very beginning–indeed from Jesus himself–has always been a call to repent and believe (Mark 1:15). Anyone who fails to call people to faith AND repentance is not preaching the Christian message.


      • Brandon

        There’s no doubt that I agree with you that our evangelism/preaching must include the call to repent of sin, but notice that “repent or else” is not the same as Jesus’ message to “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). All I’m saying is that there is a fine line between evangelizing from a platform of self-righteousness and evangelizing from brokenness and love for Jesus and the neighbor. “The man-made addendum “or else” to the street preachers’ “gospel” hardly resembles that of Jesus or Paul.

        • Chris Ryan

          I’d like to see some discussion on how to effectively evangelize to homosexuals. There’s such fear in conservative quarters abt their ability to proselytize that I think the only way to get past that fear is to discuss effective measures. I’m sure Westboro *thinks* they’re being effective–but they aren’t. These preachers may have thought they were being effective–and perhaps the assault on them will serve to magnify their message–but its worth discussing if their signs & their microphone were best geared to good witness. I’ve never been told in just that manner to “Repent or else”. Lots of sermons discuss sinfulness & damnation, but those sermons are more than 3 words long. If Jesus carried a sign, what would it say?

          This is an important question because the lesson of Matthew 25:14-30 is that we must *be* effective & not just *want* to be effective.

          I remember many years ago (the early ’90s) when a NYC pastor got in a bulldozer & drove over a bunch of rap CDs and tapes to make the point that rap music was fouling the city. Was that the most effective way to win souls for Christ? I don’t know abt that…

          I’ve never done foreign mission work, but I wonder if missionaries walk up to indians deep in the Amazon while they’re celebrating some big event with signs that say, “Repent or else.”

        • Brett Cody

          Please read Matthew 7:12-14 and reconsider your comment. Further, would you have said the same thing to Jeremiah or Noah?

          • Brandon

            Brett, I’m not exactly sure what you are getting at. I really don’t even see how what I am saying should be considered that controversial among us gospel-centered folk. Let me be clear: there is a message to repent of sin. The gospel confronts us. Grace is not God leaving us in our sin and just passing over it; no, grace is God calling us to a new identity in Christ. I’m in general agreement with everything and agree that the tolerant people aren’t as tolerant as they claim to be.

            But back up a minute and consider that we as Christians may need to repent of self-righteousness that has crept in to our attitudes and actions. Christ has called us to selflessly love the other, which includes us confronting others with the offensive gospel message. BUT… “Repent or else” is not found in the Bible, and considering the connotation behind “or else”, it doesn’t seem that Noah, Jeremiah, Jesus, or Paul would say “repent” in such a self-righteous way…

            Yes, there is a message of judgment, but that message of judgment is just as applicable to us had it not been for God’s grace to open our blind eyes. Brokenness over our own sin should be reflected in the way we preach the gospel… Certainly you can’t disagree with that.

        • buddyglass

          I question whether it’s even an issue of self-righteousness. I suspect that some of the more outrageous street preachers do what they do precisely because it enrages people. On some level they enjoy poking a stick in the collective eye of those far from God. To be attacked is to have triumphed since it represents a failure on the part of the attacker to properly restrain himself.

      • Lauren Bertrand

        Since none of us are sin-free, I certainly hope that the preachers who are the carriers of the “repent or else” placards are going to be willing to sit at that same table with their targets, and discuss their own sins and moral shortcomings. Otherwise, I have to agree with Brandon that this is nothing more than a platform of self-righteousness.

        Or perhaps the problem with these street preachers, all of whom seem so ineffective through my (admittedly prejudiced) secular eyes, is that their message of repentance always PRECEDES faith–and why should they expect to win souls by holding a mirror to the sins of others, when they could first lure them to the purity and power of Christian living as manifested by God’s grace?

  • Chris Ryan

    1. These people should go to jail–and not just for a misdemeanor. This should be treated as felony assault.

    2. I don’t know why this wasn’t a bigger story, but I hope it becomes a bigger story.

    3. There are liberals who are intolerant just like there are conservatives who are intolerant. I’m always quite adamant with my liberal friends that they need to be “tolerant of the intolerant”. This doesn’t let intolerant conservatives off the hook for being intolerant tho. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    4. Everyone can benefit from being more tolerant. Unfortunately, tho, ppl reserve their toleration for those they have the most in common with, or who most resemble them. At another Christian blogging site I was disturbed to see the large #s of self described Christian conservatives who defended Paula Deen. Many of these posters were the very same ppl who regularly say “we can’t tolerate sin” and “society must punish wrongdoing”. They say these things in reference to gays and illegal immigrants, but when it comes to someone they identify with, its all happy talk & “judge not lest ye be judged”. Similarly I saw prominent conservative evangelical preachers rush to defend George Zimmerman, knowing full well that were the roles reversed they would not be rushing to defend Trayvon Martin. Our Christian witness lives and dies with our double standards, whatever they may be.

    One of my great disappointments at the modern church is that we’ve let petty, personal, and political disagreements separate us from the Word of God. This is equally true of liberal Christians & conservative Christians alike. Frankly, its greatly disheartening. We need to stop placing our personal political framework on the Bible and instead take the Word as the Word is. Its so frustrating to see the Bible used to score political points, instead of scoring souls for Christ.

    • James Stanton

      Good points. Any person, gay or straight and regardless of political orientation, can be capable of great violence with or without provocation.

      The hatred runs much deeper now that this message of hate against outspoken evangelical Christians spreads. I suspect that such incidents will increase as the tolerant become intolerant. That being said there is no doubt that gay bashings and assaults on homosexuals have been under-reported over the years. As social marginalization sets in we feel more and more a sense of victimization.

      On Paula Deen and George Zimmerman.. I suspect it’s nothing more than the identification of political conservatism with religious conservatism. Thus treating Paula Deen as a scapegoat while castigating the liberal media for ignoring Alec Baldwin. The Deen story was about far more than using a racial slur at some point in the past. Read about the lawsuit that was filed against her.

  • Jim Gardner

    There’s never an excuse for violence, but some of the hateful and small minded nonsense on that guy’s banner is precisely the sort of thing which gets hurled at people who just want to be treated equally all the time. It was only a matter of time before someone snapped. The big guy throwing his fists around is completely out of order; but you have to recognise that he’s probably had that stuff thrown in his face all his life. Maybe the guy with the banner should try taking the log out of his own eye before he takes the speck out of someone else’s.

    • Jared Olinger

      How do you know that he hasn’t taken the log out of his own eye? How do you know it was hateful? Especially since he clearly did not retaliate. It seems like you are the one judging the preacher’s heart, whereas they are simply expressing their worldview that homosexuality is a sin, and God will judge those who practice it.

      • Jim Gardner

        I think the longer version of the clip out there on sites like LiveLeak and YouTube gives a clearer picture of the build-up to this. The guy doing the punching was just flat wrong, so don’t think I’m excusing that. But the stuff written on the sign is really confrontational stuff. Having an opinion doesn’t mean you deserve to have that opinion taken seriously. There is no way to avoid the clear hypocrisy here. The guy is simply using his religious beliefs to justify his prejudices. It’s everyone’s planet, not just his. If gay people lined up outside churches, synagogs and mosques every week, demanding that the people inside abandoned their wives and girlfriends, husbands and boyfriends, and began instead to seek out same sex relationships, waving placards with the lyrics from various musical theatre numbers in 30 point Helvetica daubed all over them, you might have a point. But they don’t go around doing that. Why do you think that is?

        • Brett Cody

          What if the preacher believes it is actually God’s planet? Don’t you think he would be a hypocrite if he didn’t preach according to that worldview? How would you suggest the preacher preach? Should he “keep his mouth shut” or “stay away”?

  • Michael Henry

    It’s amazing how fast threads turn to blaming victims. Regardless of whether someone has an offensive sign or not, regardless of whether someone has “had that thrown in their face” is not the issue. The issue is assault pure and simple. No one denies they had the right to preach ( whether or not their method was effective by a 100% biblical universally agreed standard), or even be there for whatever reason they chose. Somehow the devolution of a discussion leads to “well, conservatives are bad too”. Or, well, my friend had….” , fill in the blank. The issue is the open hypocrisy of liberalism and it’s child, tolerance. The gospel is offensive, and thank God for that. Because sin is a stench in the nostrils of God, and peoples eternal destiny rides on them hearing the gospel, perfectly preached or not. Praise God for these men, perhaps the first of many in the days to come. I am only surprised they were not arrested.

    • Lauren Bertrand

      Ruben Israel is savoring being a victim right now. He loves it. Check out his website. He’s a moral munchkin who is debasing Christianity through his messages that border on taunting those who disagree with him (be they homosexuals or Muslims, his two favorite targets–along with the rest of the Evangelical world). Maybe in his none-too-well-developed brain, he is getting the message of Christ across, but mark my word the real motivation is to vindicate his perceived moral superiority. If that is how he employs Christianity, how are his actions righteous?

      That said, in spite of it all, Ruben Israel has a constitutionally protected right to do/say what he does, and I hope the attacker gets punished to the full extent of the law.

    • Jim Gardner

      I couldn’t agree more. The real issue here is that someone was physically assaulted for openly expressing their beliefs. Just like the thousands of children each year who are attacked for being gay.

      • Daryl Little

        Thousands of children? Hardly.

        Facts are, gay-on-gay violence is far more prevalent than straight-on-gay violence.
        This is what foolish hate-crime legislation gets you. False accusations and ridiculously inflated number. Lies.

    • Chris Ryan

      “The issue is the open hypocrisy of liberalism and it’s child, tolerance. ”

      Love is the great message of the Good News (Matthew 22:39). There can be no Love without Tolerance though. In Matthew 5:44 Christ enjoins us to love our enemies, In Matthew 5:45 He tells us that the sun shines on the righteous & unrighteous alike. And finally in Matthew 5:47 Christ says we must reach out to those who are unlike us. If Christ preaches tolerance, who are we not to?

      Christians do not have to approve of homosexuality (indeed we can’t) but we must accept homosexuals as children of God. And we must treat them as we would every other child of God.

      Hate is the opposite of Love, and since God is Love, hatefulness is the antithesis of Godliness. So Christians, of all people, should be the first to promote tolerance.

  • Hannah Lewis

    Now is the question: are us Christians up to the challenge to love our enemy and forgive them and show mercy or are we going to condemn them and work to incite fear and the rift between them and us?

  • Nathan Cesal

    Every group has people in it that are unrepresentative of the larger group. Abortion clinic bombers don’t represent everyone with a right to life viewpoint do they? Fred Phelps gives Christians against homosexuality a bad name, right?

    I think this episode was not sensationalistic enough to make the national news. It IS a big deal that these two people were denied their rights and assaulted, but it appears to be an isolated brawl. What does it say that Fox didn’t even pick it up?

  • Brett Cody

    Are you saying that the street preachers should “shut up or else”? How do you know they aren’t willing to “sit at that same table with their targets and discuss their own sin and moral shortcomings”? I don’t think they were being effective, but why do you feel they are contemptible for their actions? It seems like you are overlooking the clear and obvious sin of the attackers simply because you have more scorn for the preachers. Or, put in a more fitting way, you seem to be calling for the street preachers to “repent, or else.”

    • Lauren Bertrand

      Thanks for your response, Brett. I’ll admit I do have a general animus against street preachers like this because–nine times out of ten–I think their real motives are transparent: no grace, pure self-righteousness. Can you think of anyone YOU know who was won over to Christianity through a street preacher holding placards with threats of hellfire? If it weren’t for his previous peccadilloes, I’d concede that I could be wrong about Ruben Israel. But the action that really disgusted me was his going to an Arab Festival (with plenty of Arab CHRISTIANS in attendance) earlier in the summer and putting pig’s heads on stakes. If there is anything remotely righteous about that, you’ll have to explain to me. It is the antithesis of effective street preaching–not only is it failing to win souls to Christ, it is actively repelling many people from the Word because there isn’t a modicum of Christian love on display.

      Other street preachers? They–all of them–have a right to do what they do. But it is a right protected by the Constitution; I see very little in the Bible that would identify this as an effective means to an effective end. And if it is completely ineffective, then what ARE their motivations? Like I said before, I think Ruben wanted to get clocked.

  • Adam Cavalier

    On the reverse side of the sign that says “Repent or Else”, it lists one of the most grievous sins = Rock Music.


    In all seriousness though, I totally agree with your point #4, Dr. Burk.

  • Ian Shaw


    You can’t use just 1 of God’s characteristics for your entire view of Him. Yes, God is love, but He is also, Holy, Righteous, Omnipotent, Omniscient, etc. Yes, we are called to love all others. We are also called to make disciples of all nations to the ends of the earth. If Christ preached tolerance, why did he tell the adulterous woman “go and sin no more”. I share the Gospel with as many people as I get a chance to, it is out of love and because I don’t like to see people in destructive behaviors. Love doesn’t mean tolerating someone’s lifestyle. Love is being able to tell someone “hey, I see what’s going on in your life, and it’s because I love you that I want to tell you that you’re headed down a path of destruction.”

    • Chris Ryan

      I think Christ saying “Go forth and sin no more” was a message of tolerance, particularly in light of the fact that he first stopped the Pharisees from stoning her to death. After silencing the Pharisees’ condemnation (John 8:10), He then said to the woman, “Neither do I condemn you.” (John 8:11) This also is an act of tolerance b/cs even before He tells her to stop sinning He says that He does not condemn her.

      Its not clear to me, Ian, that we are in great dispute here actually. I agree that homosexuality is sinful & that the church should be clear that its sinful. Tolerance does not mean approval. I think that a poster that says, “Repent or else” tho can easily be misunderstood as condemnation, even by other Christians.. And as the passages above indicate Christians should be wary of condemnation. Even if the men were acting in Love, Romans 14:16 tells us not to let our good be evil spoken of.

      So, really, the question is if Jesus had been carrying the poster what would it say?

  • Brett Cody

    No disagreement here. I don’t think street preaching as it is most often practiced is very effective. I don’t think Denny was posting this story to herald its effectiveness, though.

  • Ian Shaw


    True, he may have said, ‘neither do I condemn you’ prior to ‘go and sin no more’ but if we are being honest with each other, Christ will be the judge of us all and if the woman doesn’t repent, she will be condemned, true? I guess I would say tolerance means to care/love the person, not telling them that you’re ok with what they’re doing, but until someone comes to Christ, the person and sin are intertwined before the chains of sin have been broken.

    I agree that the ‘repent or else’ isn’t teaching the truth in love, but at the same time, when we share the Gospel, it should be done with a sense of urgency because we are but a vapor. If I share Christ with someone and they willingly disagree time and time again, it hurts my heart because I know of the consequence. It’s like telling someone, “if you don’t come with me, the room you’re in will literally explode and burn” and yet they refuse your help to save their lives.

  • James Bradshaw

    @Ian Shaw: that popular biblical story of the woman taken in adultery is of dubious authenticity, according to most Biblical scholars. It does not show up in the earliest manuscripts, so it is most likely a forgery. Check your Bible commentaries and Conservapedia on the topic.

    In any rate, unless you wish to assert that sinless perfection is possible in this life, one must admit that most people die in a state of unrepentant sin for one thing or another, big or small. If I were to die in such a state, I’d rather die having done something I don’t believe is a sin than having done something I know is a sin and which I decided to do anyhow. Wouldn’t you agree?

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