Friday, February 08, 2008

Tough love Christianity

Here's an article about an interesting Catholic evangelist--Justin Fatica... he takes an aggressive-macho approach to preaching.

An excerpt:
The pumped-up proselytizer—he looks more like a white rapper than an evangelist—sports a tough Jersey accent and a swagger that would make Tony Soprano proud. He screams, taunts and humiliates half-filled rooms at spiritual retreats across the country, hoping to "motivate" teens into accepting Jesus into their lives. Though his ministry, called Hard as Nails, is aimed at Catholic teens, he sounds like an evangelical. His tactics include drill-sergeant-like assaults: "If you sin, you better have the courage to bash Jesus' face in!" Fatica screams at one cherubic girl, pushing her to the verge of tears. "Have you sinned in the last 24 hours? Have ya?! HAVE YA?!" Fatica wants his disciples to feel the pain that Christ suffered for their sins.

At first I was pretty turned off by this approach, and maybe I still am. But... it does highlight which styles of religious self-presentation that we're more comfortable with. The gospel with gentle rationality seems to play best. Is a different approach, as described here, appropriate? Helpful? I'm not sure.

Thanks Matt P for the link!


Benjamin said...

Interesting Brad.

One question it begs for me (and that I have been wrestling a lot with lately) is whether you can really separate METHODOLOGY from THEOLOGY, or are style and substance intrinsically linked.

It strikes me that (from my perspective) my critique of this guy is not about method, but about the underlying theological foundations.

How he is proclaiming something reveals a ton about his view and understanding of God, sin, salvation, the cross, grac, etc.

So even if I thought it was MORE EFFECTIVE to do what he is doing, I'm not sure I could do it because of the theological issues.

It used to be that people saw METHOD and SUBSTANCE as two very separate and unrelated issues... for me that is changing... I'd be curious what others thing.

Brad Wright said...

I hadn't thought about that. I was thinking more about his methodology. I think you make some good points about his theology perhaps being a problem.

Knumb said...


Jay Livingston said...

It might be useful to distinguish short-term and long-term effects.
This guy reminds me of Scared Straight. Kids who went through the program said they were scared, and they said that they'd go straight. But the early research showed that a matched sample of kids who did not go through the program had lower recidivism rates.

Brad Wright said...

John, that's really funny.

Jay, I bet you're right that any changes brought about by this type of ministry might be relatively short-lived.

Jason Kinney said...

I actually watched a video on this guy and I am not convinced, based on seeing it, that his theology is off at all.

I think his approach might be a little eccentric than what people are used to, but remember, he's trying to reach the unreached, those furthest from God. I admit, having one of his staff whack him in the back with a chair is a little over the top, but it made me see a little of the sacrifice Jesus made for us in His crucifixion.

Also, this may be the only way to reach some of the people he is trying to reach.

His methodology may not be for everyone, but I think theologically, he is right on.

My thoughts for what they are worth. . .

Brad Wright said...

Interesting Jason. I'd like to see that video sometime...

Thank you for posting!