Last year Stephen Bennett Ministries (SBM) chartered a bus and took 30 Christians from Connecticut to evangelize gays and lesbians vacationing in Provincetown, MA for four hours. “Several” more folks from out of state joined Bennett there. Six hundred gift bags (printed with “You are truly precious in God’s Eyes” in pink, because it is the “symbolic color” of glbt folks) were distributed.
Inside each gift bag was a Bible, two gospel tracts for homosexuals and a special Bible insert which contained all the verses on salvation and what God says about homosexuality. Also included was a 25 minute CD with the gospel and a special recorded message directed to the homosexual, giving the listener a chance to pray and receive Christ.
Apparently the AFA and CFA provided financial support (both are thanked for their “full support in making this … a complete success”).
Bennett described the day as “life changing for all involved”, noting that his group of “strangers in a foreign land” sensed “sadness in many of the homosexuals’ eyes” and felt a “spirit of heaviness and evil” which reminded them of Isaiah 3:9 — “they parade their sin like Sodom”. He recounted a few positive stories, but noted a “greater number of negative” exchanges than positive ones.
One homosexual man who received a gift bag … noticed our t-shirts and came up to us, giving the gift bag back. “Get out of here and leave us alone! You and your message of hate are not welcome here!” he said.
After an altercation erupted between glbt folks and the Christian group, possibly ignited when Bennett’s group took photos of a man in drag and others in front of a pizza place, Provincetown police “told the evangelists they now feared for their physical safety and it would probably be best to leave P’town.”
Bennett and crew left convinced that “the lives of homosexual men and women … will be changed for eternity”, and on the bus ride home “many tears were shed for those trapped in the homosexual lifestyle in Provincetown”.
Eight months later, he is mounting a larger scale trip for August 7, scheduled to coincide with Gay and Lesbian Family Week in Provincetown. This time the plan includes chartering buses to bring Christians “from all over New England”, suggesting that “EVERY church in Massachusetts needs to be part of this outreach!!”
To do so, SBM says it needs $50,000 to cover its costs, and mentions buses, evangelists’ t-shirts, and Bible gift bags.
Let’s do a little bit of math here. How much evangelism could $50K buy? In round numbers, 500 participants distributing 6,000 Bibles appears to be within reach:
|$ 8,000.00||Eight charter buses to bring 400 people in, and another 100 people arriving via independent means.|
|(According to BusBank.com (a national broker for bus charters), one-day cost for a bus seating up to 55 people will run $600-1,200. At $1,000 per bus, with 50 people on each bus, $8,000 could transport 400 people.|
|$ 2,500.00||T-shirts (400 bus riders + 100 self-transporters, $5/shirt)|
|Subtracting the above from the $50,000 fundraising goal leaves|
|$ 39,500.00||for Bible gift bags, which would buy|
||Bible gift bags at $7 each; since 400 bags remained at the end of last year’s trip, as many as 6,000 could be available, or 12 bags per evangelist. An average of 14 bags were distributed by each person in 2003, a quarter of them by the two who handled distribution.|
These numbers are only the roughest of estimates, of course. Lower costs (or having participants pay their own way) could increase the headcount and the number of gift bags; higher overhead could decrease them. But they raise interesting questions:
- If SBM is actually mounting a smaller operation, where is the $50K going?
- Has Stephen Bennett Ministries collaborated with Provincetown officials on logistics? Is an approved parade permit needed?
- How will an attempt to put a Bible gift bag in the hands of ten percent of the estimated 60,000 people impact P’town?
- What crowd control measures and contingency plans would be appropriate?
By Bennett’s own account, 30-some people distributing 600 gift bags resulted in a dozen positive anecdotes, a “greater number of negative” interactions, including at least one potentially violent altercation. If he’s sincere about multiplying that effort by a factor of 10-20, the disruptions could multiply as well.
Luckily for SBM, Provincetown folks have proven themselves fully capable of ensuring the free speech rights of visitors, even when the speech is disruptive or hateful.