Greetings from Amarillo, Texas (postcard)It’s often joked that the Religious Right and its various constituent groups are a “Christian Taliban,” effectively no different from their Afghani counterparts of the same name, except for 1) Their religion (Christianity instead of Islam); and 2) Their existence as a militia within a lawless country. Well, in Amarillo Texas, that latter difference no longer exists. There truly is a Christian Taliban-style militia at work there … and woe to anyone they deem “unworthy.”

Note: I’m posting this in spite of the fact that I am still not 100% sure this story is genuine. It reads too much like something from The Onion for me to be totally confident in it. Nevertheless, it’s getting some play on the Internet, and the more I hear about it, the more certain this story seems to be.

The Texas Observer reports on the the group known as “Repent Amarillo” and its activities (WebCite cached article), beginning with the protest they staged at a “swingers’ club”:

… [I]magine the swingers’ surprise when they arrived at their New Year’s Eve bash to find two dozen protesters, local media in tow, holding signs and singing songs. This was a most unwelcome coming-out party.

Some protesters, mostly young men in their teens and early 20s, wore black hoodies and military fatigues. The men, Amarillo would soon learn, were foot soldiers of Repent Amarillo, a new, militant evangelical group that advertises itself as “the Special Forces of spiritual warfare.” Their leader, David Grisham, a security guard at nuclear-bomb facility Pantex who moonlights as a pastor, explained the action. “We’re here to shine the light on this darkness,” Grisham told the Amarillo Globe-News. “I don’t think Amarillo knew about this place. This is adultery. This is wrong. There’s no telling how many venereal diseases get spread, how many abortions.” The goal, Grisham says, was not just to save the swingers’ souls, but to shut the club down.

Local Amarillo authorities have — effectively — granted this group their blessing, and will not intervene:

For the past year, this Bible Belt city of 200,000 has been consumed by a culture clash between Repent Amarillo and their targets, a list that includes everything from gay bars to liberal churches. For the Route 66 swingers, Grisham’s “special forces” have been a near-constant presence. Jobs have been lost, families estranged, assault charges filed and businesses shuttered. So far, no public official has stood up to defend these businesses, which operate legally. To the contrary, Repent Amarillo has managed to turn the city’s own laws and employees into an effective weapon. Amarillo, it turns out, doesn’t have the stomach to stick up for gays, swingers, strippers or even Unitarians. Absent a peacekeeper, the conflict might end up being settled the old-fashioned way, frontier-style. “This will not end until somebody gets hurt, either us or them,” one swinger warns.

The lax enforcement is seen in how differently local law enforcement, and Texas state troopers, handled one event:

It’s debatable whether all of Repent’s actions are legal. In January, six Repent members showed up at a weekend swingers party at the private home of Route 66’s attorney. During the party, the attorney says the group trespassed on her property and tried to block cars from entering the driveway. She called the police. Sheriff’s deputies showed up, followed not long after by a state trooper.

The two law-enforcement groups apparently had different ideas about how to handle Repent, according to a Potter County incident report. The state trooper took photographs of the Repent vehicles and filled out suspicious activity cards, which go to the state’s intelligence center. The deputies, on the other hand, dismissed the attorney’s account and left Repent to carry on.

Repent Amarillo is not backing down and is not limiting its attacks to just swingers’ clubs:

What’s next for Repent? They’ve posted a “Warfare Map” on the group’s Web site. The map includes establishments like gay bars, strip clubs and porn shops, but also the Wildcat Bluff Nature Center. Repent believes the 600-acre prairie park’s Walmart-funded “Earth Circle,” used for lectures, is a Mecca for witches and pagans. Also on the list are The 806 coffeehouse (a hangout for artists and counterculture types), the Islamic Center of Amarillo (“Allah is a false god”), and “compromised churches” like Polk Street Methodist (gay-friendly).

It is fairly easy for a group like this to operate in Texas, where county sheriffs are effectively sovereign princelings who have the power to permit people they like to operate with impunity, and who can also destroy people they dislike. So long as the sheriff of Potter county (in which Amarillo lies) chooses not to stop Repent Amarillo, they will continue their militant activities, and will ruin more lives.

I’m curious to see how truly committed these people at Repent Amarillo are, to their cause. Would they be willing to engage in this behavior in some other region where they don’t have the protection of local law enforcement? My guess is that they have neither the courage nor integrity to do so.

Hat tip: Unreasonable Faith blog.

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  • BillWrightJr

    I think that Amarillo should drive out the muslims. You might say that is bad butas stated in the Koran "make war on the infidals living in your neiborhood" chapter 9 verse 123

    • I think the good Christian folk of Amarillo — and every other city — need to concern themselves with their own affairs and not go around telling others what's wrong with them or exacting retribution against them. That's precisely what the founder of their own religion clearly ordered them to do:

      "Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye." (Mt 7:1-5)

      "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye." (Lk 6:41-42)

      As for Muslims, that they've been violent is no reason for Christians to pat themselves on the back and pronounce themselves "compassionate" and "loving" by comparison. They're anything but "loving" and "compassionate." Christians are as guilty of using violence when they wish to, as the followers of any other religion, Islam included.