They were standing on literal soapboxes, wearing go-pros around their necks. They were pretty heated about something - shouting at a group of kids, in the parking lot, telling them they were going to hell, asking where there parents were. His direct quote was, "What kind of world are we living in, where parents don't know where their kids are at this time of night? WHERE ARE YOUR PARENTS??!!"
Let's be clear, it was 7:30 pm, these kids were between the ages of 15 and 19 and were standing next to the whole foods co-op. It's not like my first grader was down at the VFW smoking cigars at midnight - it was a perfectly respectable place to be - except for the yelling.
Where were their parents? Who knows? Who CARES? These kids are old enough to drive, babysit and get drafted, they should certainly be allowed to loiter in the parking lot with their hummus and organic almond milk for a few minutes.
But this group of men would not let up, and I saw kids I knew there, kids I taught, kids I went to church with, kids who are friends of my kids - and I could see this man's face turning purple with rage, spit flying from his mouth, sweat covering his shirt, as he kept screaming, "Where are your parents?!"
And you know - I'm a big fan of the whole"it takes a village" philosophy, so I see a friend of mine, and we decide that we'll go over there and see what's up, maybe make sure the kids are OK.
Holy Hellfire and Damnation.
We no sooner stepped onto the grass near those kids when the preacher started going off on "women" calling us jezebels and harlots. For real?
I mean, maybe we were just bringing some chips for that hummus - but he didn't care. We were going to hell because we were on the wrong side of the parking lot.
He actually posted this video to his youtube (I saw it through a friend of a friend) according to the video he's "never heard kids being so disrespectful, I mean this 17 year old child walked up to me and said things I've never even heard a young man talk like." He posted another on Facebook called "hating the gospel."
He says videos don't lie.
But neither do they tell the whole truth.
This group of middle aged men continually mocked a kid with a growth disability, calling him a baby asking how he could know anything if he was an infant (the kid is 19, and was standing there silently). They only captured the faces of the kids across from them, not the angry glares and gestures from the men. He called their parents names, called them whores and demons.
The worst part of this whole scenario is this - while this "man of God" stood screaming his version of "the gospel", this is what the kids were quietly whispering to each other:
"I don't think Jesus wants us to hate people - even them."
"I think God wants us to do better."
"Why does this guy get to speak for God? I thought only Jesus could do that?"
THAT'S what these "heathen" kids were talking about, as he spat in their faces.
Certainly there were a few yellers, a few things that shouldn't be said - but really - who could blame them? And yes, they stood there (quietly for the most part) waving a rainbow flag, standing for themselves, their friends, their family members, when they could have walked away. But they were calm, they were peaceful, they were reminding themselves not to judge others.
That guy might have been "preaching" it, but those kids - those kids were the ones living it.
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven." Luke 6:37
"But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere." James 3:17
"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." John 3:17
I don't know what all of those people believe, nor do I think for a second, that a single mind was changed that night. And, heck, we may never know where those kids' parents were - but I do know one thing - their children are people to be proud of, thoughtful, kind, and brave enough to stand for what is good.