In this comment, I said that the real goal of the Dearborn police and the organizers of the Arab festival is to impose an unwritten, unconstitutional rule against all Christian witnessing to Muslims except at rented booths. (Notice that I am talking not about passing out literature but about having conversations.)
I was wrong.
It's worse than that.
But before I tell you, let me back up a bit. I've always had an admiration for famed popular apologist Josh McDowell, author of Evidence That Demands a Verdict. What I didn't know until very recently is that McDowell has recently gotten into Muslim evangelism. Sort of.
Josh went to last year's Arab Festival in Dearborn (you know, the one where the Acts 17 guys and their camerawoman were physically assaulted and chased out by festival security). And Josh just had a swell time last year signing his books at a rented table. He couldn't get over how kind, wonderful, and nice everyone was, including the Chief of Police. He tells about it in this diabetes-inducing and pretty much contentless video, titled (I am not making this up) "Dearborn Arab Festival: Sharia Love in the USA."
Well, um, to each his own. And the Acts 17 guys are classy and have refrained manfully from criticism of Josh. (I can't help wondering whether last year's video was in some sense directed at them and their experience, but as I just found out about it, I don't know whether or not that is borne out by the timing of that Youtube posting.)
But McDowell doesn't have quite as much class as they do. This year, he put out a new video, also with "Sharia Love" in the subtitle. This video, however, is clearly a dig at the Acts 17 missionaries, because the main title is "Arrested in Dearborn? Not!" In it, he not only goes into raptures similar to those in last year's video about how sweet and wonderful everyone was in Dearborn. He also says that in the whole two days there was not one hint of a conflict nor a single raised voice. (Subtle, Josh.) And he adds (here I quote exactly) "yet every person walking out of here knowing that I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and I'd like them to know Him, too. That's what makes it all worthwhile."
Hmmm. From that you'd get the impression that Josh was talking with them about Jesus, right? Perhaps inviting them to know Jesus, too? In fact, you would get the impression that Josh was allowed to witness for Christ at his table, which would be consistent with my original conjecture--that the unconstitutional rule being applied is that you can witness for Christ but only when you are corralled at a booth, which would be unacceptable anyway as a rule, especially one enforced by the police.
But it's worse than that. And really, I have to say that given what I now know, I think this year's video by McDowell is outright deceptive. One gets the impression from it that if only Nabeel and David had been nicer guys, they would have gotten a chance to invite people to know Jesus Christ, just like Josh McDowell got to.
But look here, in the comments on last year's video. (Search "Proselytizing" on the page. I don't know of any way to link a single comment on a Youtube video.) When a viewer of the video asked about four months ago what was done at the table last year to present the gospel to the attendees at the Arab festival, someone writing for Josh McDowell's ministries (perhaps McDowell himself) answered,
Proselytizing was not permitted within the festival. More Than a Carpenter was passed out outside the festival. Hopefully, from reading The Witness which was given out within the festival, their appetites were whetted for knowing more. They then had the opportunity to request additional material. [Emphasis added]
Now, I am making one assumption here, but I think it's a justified one. It's the assumption that these unwritten "rules" this year were no looser than last year. The only piece of evidence to the contrary is the following from an excellent post by apologist James White: "I have been told by some that there was witnessing going on around McDowell's table." When White wrote the post, he appeared not to know about the statement about the festival "rules" made by McDowell's own ministry four months ago. It would have been interesting to question those making this claim about just what the witnessing consisted in, about why and how it did not conflict with the "rules" McDowell had accepted, or about whether the rules had changed this year. In any event, there was certainly no indication four months ago that "proselytizing" would be permitted this year.
Given that assumption, if the people left McDowell's table knowing that he wanted them to convert to Christianity, this was just an inference based upon independent facts they knew about McDowell and whatever they had read from the book he was passing out, not based on anything he said. Because clear and open witnessing for Jesus Christ was not permitted within the festival, not even at a rented booth. And McDowell has accepted this utterly unconstitutional and wrong rule.
So what was the big contrast between McDowell and the Acts 17 missionaries? Well, they didn't rent a booth but exercised instead their constitutional rights to mingle with the crowd and propagate their views. But more, they propagated their views at all within the festival area. They answered questions about Christian doctrine and differences with Islam, as you can see in the video here. If someone had approached McDowell and said he was interested in knowing how he could have a relationship with Jesus Christ, what could McDowell have said under the "sharia love" rule, the "no proselytizing within the festival area" rule, that he accepted?
When Christian leaders allow witnessing for Jesus Christ to be spoken of dismissively as "proselytizing" and when they agree not to engage in it, in public, in the United States of America, the church is in trouble.
Mr. McDowell, one would think from your video that just by being a winsome Christian, you got the opportunity to tell the Muslims of Dearborn about Jesus Christ. But instead, it looks like by being a dhimmi, you got the opportunity not to tell the Muslims of Dearborn about Jesus Christ.
(HT to commentator Royal Son at the blog of Acts 17 ministries for the link to the comment on last year's McDowell video.)