Local “gospel” event drives Ypsilantians into the arms of Satan

I was alerted to a series of posts on Facebook yesterday by the increasingly popular “I blame Mark Maynard” tag. I would seem that, in trying to navigate my way though the crowd at this weekend’s downtown “gospel” event, I inadvertently deflected a pack of rabid young evangelists toward a woman who found herself pinned against a brick building, helpless, unable to escape. Here’s one of several comments she left about the harrowing experience on Facebook.


[I know that Jesus gave bread to the poor and hungry, but did he demand that they give him their souls in return? It’s been a while since I read the bible, but I don’t remember him saying, before handing over a loaf of bread, “I know you’re hungry, but I’m going to need your soul first.”]

For those who didn’t have a chance to attend this weekend’s Gospel Fest, the best analogy I can offer is this… Trying to navigate North Washington Street between Michigan Avenue and Pearl Street was like suddenly finding yourself in the shoes of a protagonist on The Walking Dead. And I don’t say this to disparage the beautiful art form that is gospel. I sincerely love good, heartfelt gospel. There’s nothing more beautiful in the whole world. And I mean that with all of my heart. What I saw this weekend, though, wasn’t like anything I’d ever seen before. What I saw, the few times that I passed through the event, were just evangelicals yelling over the racket of small bands comprised largely of children, as the “saved” made their way through the crowd looking for people to lay hands on and convert. Granted, there may have been awesome gospel groups that I didn’t see, and the evangelicals stalking people through the crowd could have been a minority, but my sense was that this event was primarily about luring people in for conversion, and not simply making music to glorify god. And, yes, I’m fully aware that gospel is a music of faith, and I appreciate that fact. I’ve actually spent time in small southern churches, listening to gospel choirs perform. This, however, seemed different to me. It wasn’t joyful. It wasn’t deeply moving. It was just amplified insanity from people who claim to speak with god, and know what god wants the rest of us to do. And I think that’s the thing that bothers me. My previous experiences with gospel have been framed in a positive light. People were singing about what god had meant to them in their own lives, how he’d helped them to keep going, and stay positive despite setbacks. This, however, wasn’t like that. This was straight up culture war stuff. It wasn’t music so much as it was the sound of collision between Tea Party politics and fundamentalist Christianity.

My first time through, there was a woman on stage talking about how doctors don’t cure cancer. Only god can cure cancer, she said, as about twenty people raised their arms in agreement. A man in front of the stage, at the same time, was laying his hands on people. I wasn’t close enough to hear what was being said, but, given the context, I’m pretty sure that some kind of healing was being promised… My second time through, there was a man on stage urging someone in the audience to blow the shofar he’d brought with them. He said it was the voice of God, and that God wanted Ypsilanti to become a Christian city, and not one of sin. Between blasts from the shofar, with children playing guitar and drums behind him, the man talked of the war for souls that was being waged here on earth.

Both times through, I was approached by fresh-faced, young evangelicals. Both times I was able to quicken my pace, say something about how I couldn’t talk because I was in a hurry, and get though unscathed. [They don’t move fast… hence the reference to The Walking Dead.] During my second visit, after making my way successfully through the evangelical gauntlet, I stopped a little ways off and just watched… It was interesting. I wish I’d taken video. People would walk in, and, by the time they were about ten paces down Washington, they typically would have caught the attention of someone stationed around the periphery of the crowd. And, at that point, the “saved” would mobilize. They’d make eye contact with one another, nod in the direction of the new person, and then they’d start their slow approach.

I should add that I didn’t mind it. The people in question didn’t attack me. They didn’t chase me. I just found it kind of unsettling. I felt like a fish who’d just figured out that he’d made his way into a weir.

Here’s the setup for Gospel Fest, minus the thirty or so who were in attendance. [Photo courtesy Lena Reeves.]


Oh, I should add that there was potential for things to get even more weird, but, sadly, nothing came of it. As the man on stage was yelling about God’s desire to turn Ypsilanti into a sinless Christian city, I noticed a band of four Hare Krishnas making their way down Pearl, playing instruments and chanting. I hung around to see if there might be a conflict, but the Krishnas made it past without attracting any attention… It was kind of a really beautiful “only in Ypsilanti” moment.

Speaking of the Krishnas, I really like walking my dogs past their house in Ypsilanti and listening to them chant. It’s really quite lovely.

Oh, and speaking of Satanism, why is it that I’m just now learning about this incredible news video shot in Detroit the night that the Baphomet statue was unveiled?

This entry was posted in Mark's Life, Religious Extremism, Uncategorized, Ypsilanti and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Posted August 23, 2015 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Context on the “weird satanic guy”, as he’s being referred to online.

  2. Demetrius
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 5:19 am | Permalink


    “… 1,000 judging eyes staring back at me from the cover of a a stolen Victoria’s Secret catalog … I didn’t steal your mail, Mrs. Pemberton … stop asking me that … Leave me alone!!!”

  3. Steven
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    It wasn’t a gospelfest in any traditional sense of the word. It was a forum for small, far right Christian churches to spout insanity.

  4. Eel
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Were they encouraging people to buy real estate in heaven?


  5. Thom Elliott
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Wish I had heard about Gospel fest, would have been a great time for some vociferous Satanic protest. Too bad. Also strange no mention of our action against christianist totalitarianism in Ferndale which made national news. Maybe next time.

  6. Dan from Austin
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    “Again, the Satan statue will not stay in Detroit.” That news piece was amazing. I’m surprised they used that much of the footage of the bearded “believer”.

  7. 734
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    What happened in Ferndale, Thom?

  8. Kurt Anschuetz
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    I knew the gospel event was happening but I didn’t know when. Sadly, I couldn’t find anything on the internet about it. I’m disheartened that Google didn’t save my soul.

  9. Thom Elliott
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 9:00 am | Permalink


  10. Steve Putala
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    What a bummer, last year was a great experience for my family when we stopped to take in a few songs and the smell of smoked meats on our walk back home from the Heritage Festival.

    Hopefully it will return to its roots next year and I’ll remember to save a few bucks after the Heritage Festival for some ribs.

  11. Rick Cronn
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    I lived in an Atlanta GA commune during my hippie phase, a long time ago. Some nights we used to get high and hang out at the waterbed store on Peachtree and 10th. The Strip.

    The Jesus freaks on one corner of Peachtree and 10th, the Krishna’s on the other. Chanting and finger bells one one side, praising and dragging huge crosses on the other. Both had staked out their corners for proselytizing and begging. One night, the Jesus freaks decided that they wanted the other corner. Right then and there, a street fight broke out between the Krishna’s and the Christians as they went at each other with fists, signs and saffron robes.

    Holy wars in the Bible Belt.

  12. Erika Nelson
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    This “conditional” aspect is exactly why I am disgusted by the libertarian view that the things sometimes handled by government involving services for the underprivileged (food stamps, housing services, substance abuse treatment, counseling, etc) should be handled by charities, which often involve churches / Salvation Army, etc. I am also concerned about church involvement in healthcare for this reason. If getting services/treatment is conditional on my accepting Jesus Christ as my personal savior or whatever, well, I’m fucked.

  13. Lynne
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Well, I like to tell libertarians that maybe the way to get government out of the social safety net business is to have those charities step it up and meet the needs of the community *before* dismantling the safety net we already have. Here is the thing, the government does it better than charities and has always done it better and in fact, is only doing anything because private charities failed. And yes, one of the ways they fail is by putting strings on their help.

  14. Gillian
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    This is the third (maybe fourth?) year in a row that there’s been Gospel Fest on Washington Street at the same time as the heritage festival. In years past it was organized by DAY and they partnered with several churches, this year a church took it on on their own. Sounds like it was less music and more faith, but if that’s the party that they want to throw in the streets and they got their permits and aren’t breaking any laws, I say more power to ’em.

    I’m sorry they made you uncomfortable when they approached you on the street… oh wait, no I’m not. Canvassers from Greenpeace and campaigners for Bernie also approach people on the street and make them uncomfortable. It’s called free speech and it is absolutely within their rights. If you don’t want to talk to them, you just keep walking. If they come to your door and you don’t want to talk to them, you just say “no thank you” and they leave. If they don’t leave, then you start to have a problem, not before.

    I’m pretty disappointed by the discussion here so far. Satanic protest, really? These people are just trying to joyfully celebrate their faith. You can celebrate yours too if you want, there are plenty of streets in town that you can get permits for and have your own little festival if you want, why rain on theirs?

  15. Lynne
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I am glad that I didn’t find myself downtown this weekend then. Yikes!

    I have an affliction you see. I have to call bullshit whenever I see or hear it and man, with bullshit slingers like that on stage, I would not have been able to stay silent. Especially with any talk about Ypsilanti becoming a “christian city”. I would not have been able to stop a loud “Fuuuuuuuuuk THAT!” Just as well I was at home. :)

  16. Lynne
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Gillian, suggesting that they want the city I live in to be a “Christian City” is NOT just them celebrating their faith. It is them trying to make non-christians feel unwelcome and that is not ok in my book. A satanic counter protest would be just be a way of asserting that non-christians belong too. Not a bad message when you think about it.

    I don’t have any problems with people using their freedom of speech in this way, btw, but they should remember that freedom of speech does not include freedom from criticism for what you say. I will point out that no one has suggested that these people have their speech rights taken away. People are simply responding and in my mind, that is not only ok but one of the reasons freedom of speech is so important in the first place.

  17. Gillian
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Are we also supposed to stop calling Ypsilanti a “Bee City” because some people are allergic to bees? Maybe we should mount a pro-Roundup counter protest against the Festival of the Honeybee so we can make sure that pesticide users feel validated and accepted by our community.

    Sure, go ahead and have your satanic protest (with appropriate permits, of course). I’m not saying it’s wrong or illegal, I’m just saying it’s rude and uncalled for.

  18. Smeat
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    FWIW, I don’t think Mark suggested a Satanic counter protest. Furthermore, he said he “didn’t mind” what he saw at the event. He was clear that he wasn’t attacked, threatened, or chased. His issue as I understand it, was that the brand of gospel being shared wasn’t consistent with the kind of Christian gospel he was accustomed to. He said it was more political and confrontational in tone. He did not say that they should be silenced.

    If others were there, I would like to hear their impressions.

  19. Lynne
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Well Gillian, fair enough, but a Satanic protest would not be any more rude and uncalled for than this Christian event apparently was. That is one of the things about the Christian right that gets me, their hypocrisy. That is why the whole Satanist church is so perfect! It exposes the hypocrisy so well. I mean, do you really think that a Christian group having a big event where they claim the city to be less rude than a bunch of people using the name of Satan to say that they feel the city should belong to everyone and not just Christians?

  20. Frosted Flakes
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    I watched several YouTube videos featuring “weird satanist guy”. He is very talented.

    Thom’s group was ok. But was that milk? Pouring milk onto a girl/ sidewalk should not be protected speech. Someone needs to clean that up. Summertime. Smelly. Not cool. Were the cops reacting to the milk or the speech? I would challenge Thom’s theater group to get their point across without the littering and without the cheap visually distracting effect. Also, you have wrote about vegetarianism and against wastefulness here Thom. how does your philosophy square with the unnecessary side effects of the performance?

  21. Posted August 24, 2015 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    “If you don’t want to talk to them, you just keep walking. If they come to your door and you don’t want to talk to them, you just say “no thank you” and they leave.”

    Or you can write blog posts about how annoying these people are. It’s called free speech. No one has to like or even apologize for these assholes.

  22. Thom Elliott
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Jeah, we were ‘ok’, we only got 25K youtube views in 24 hours and became national news, and we were the *only* group counter protesting christianist scum that was noticed in the mainstream media. I don’t see a lot of resistance from you libs, and I for one will not stand for one more day of women’s rights eroding by being polite to scum. Christianism needs to be combated, it’s not for fun, these people have to know that there are people out there who will not stand for their fascist bullshit one more day.

  23. Frosted Flakes
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    I stand corrected. I didn’t realize you got more clicks than “wiffle ball to the nuts” and “elevated train down blouse”.

  24. SP
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    I just tell evangelicals I’m already saved and agree with everything they say by nodding. It works extremely well. “Don’t waste time on me fellows…there’s lots of people out there still need to hear the Good Word!”

  25. E
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    Hi, I am the one who donated to the satanic temple and whose post is featured here on this blog. I am not now calling for a “satanic protest”. I simply said that I am donating to a counter religious group that uses their image to create cracks in religious extremism. They sent me a card, and now i can flash it next time i get approached.
    Yes they were having a street festival. on my street. I was approached. I was creeped out, i donated, i made a post about it, the post is now on this blog whatever, and now some lady named Gillian is calling me and mark rude.
    Ironic that you use the example of doing a protest on the festival of the honeybee, an event i started with two other women, and am currently organizing the entire portion of.
    We could talk about how comparing awareness to save the honeybee and religious freedom is incredibly stupid.
    We can also talk about why it would be beneficial to Ypsilanti to become Bee City, USA and why it would not be beneficial to become Christian City, USA.
    P.S. we are fighting pro roundup pesticide users every single day. Hence why The Festival of the Honeybee is so important.

  26. Lynne
    Posted August 24, 2015 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    I learned the hard way not to tell evangelicals, Mormons, Jehovah witnesses, etc that I am an atheist. They act like it is some kind of challenge. Now I tell them I am Russian Orthodox and I look them right in the eye and say, “You know, like Vladimir Putin” and they always leave me completely alone. :)

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