By Paula Schlueter Ross
Fresh on the heels of winning a lawsuit that guarantees its freedom to distribute religious literature at public events in St. Louis, the Apple of His Eye once again attended a gay-pride event in the city’s Tower Grove Park to hand out tracts and talk to passersby about Jesus.
The St. Louis-based mission society filed its lawsuit last year after it was unable to resolve the matter with the city. The lawsuit was sparked by an incident at a PrideFest event at Tower Grove Park in 2006, when two Apple of His Eye workers were told to stop handing out their tracts or face arrest.
“The lawsuit was about rights, not lifestyle,” said Steve Cohen, the mission society’s founder. “We believe that all Christians have the right to speak their faith in public places regardless of how shameful that place is.”
At this year’s PrideFest, the weekend of June 27-28, a dozen Apple of His Eye volunteers distributed some 5,000 Gospel tracts, and 20 people provided their names and addresses for follow-up by local Lutheran congregations.
The single-sheet tracts did not mention homosexuality, but said: “Hi! We just wanted to ask you a question … What do you think of Jesus?” They included Cohen’s e-mail address, the mission society’s Web address, and an invitation to “chat.”
“Most of the people were indifferent to the message of salvation through Jesus — no different from our outreaches over the past 12 years,” Cohen told Reporter. “A few were quite hostile, with very foul mouths, seeking to give offense to our presence,” a response that “does hurt,” he said.
“Most people know nothing about us, so their reactions are more knee-jerk than thought-through opposition,” he added. “We have to allow those comments to go through us, to the cross, and pray for those who persecute us.”
Cohen called the PrideFest weekend “one of the most intense spiritual battles I have engaged in in my 34 years as a missionary.
“We knew going in that our message was not in favor with those gathered to show pride in their lifestyle,” he said. “Still, there was no direct hostility from the leadership of the festival, as they understood our legal rights and accommodated us accordingly.
“But the battle rages on, and I believe we, as Christians, need to reclaim ground long ago given up through our silence and absence from reaching out.”
In addition to PrideFest, Apple of His Eye volunteers also distributed about 7,000 more tracts throughout the week at the city’s Muny outdoor theater, Busch Stadium, and the Gateway Arch for Fourth of July festivities. Those outreach efforts resulted in about 20 more “contacts,” according to Cohen.
“We need bold champions of the faith who are not satisfied with the status quo, who are willing to advance the Gospel for the sake of those who are perishing apart from Christ,” he said.
“God loved us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Should we do less for those who are perishing by not telling them the Good News?”
Posted July 15, 2009