How could I have missed this story? Oh yeah: OCI. Too bad. This story really has everything: churchgoers, strippers, Ohio.
Strip-club owner Tommy George rolled up to the church in his grabber-orange Dodge Challenger, drinking a Mountain Dew at 9 in the morning and smoking a cigarette he had just rolled himself.
Pastor Bill Dunfee stepped out of a tan Nissan Murano, clutching a Bible in one hand and his sermon in the other, a touch of spray holding his perfectly coiffed ‘do in place.
Inside the New Beginnings Ministries church, Dunfee’s worshippers wore polyester and pearls.
Outside, George’s strippers wore bikinis and belly rings.
Both men agree it is classic sinners vs. saints. But George says it is up to America to decide which is which and who is who.
Dunfee says God already has chosen.
“Tom George is a parasite, a man without judgment,” Dunfee said. “The word of Jesus Christ says you cannot share territory with the devil.”
The battle that has heretofore played out in the parking lot of George’s strip club - the Foxhole, a run-down, garage-like building at a Coshocton County crossroads called Newcastle - has shifted 7 miles east to Church Street.
Every weekend for the last four years, Dunfee and members of his ministry have stood watch over George’s joint, taking up residence in the right of way with signs, video cameras and bullhorns in hand. They videotape customers’ license plates and post them online, and they try to save the souls of anyone who comes and goes.
Ah, so the strippers protesting in the church parking lot is a little tit for tat.
This isn’t so much sinners vs. saints, at least not from the perspective of churchgoers, as it is good vs. evil. For one, everyone sins and none of these folks have been beatified. Not sure why the strip club owner thinks the American public has a dog in this fight. But an interesting story, nonetheless, and the kind that gets news editors salivating at the prospect of filling newspace with a quirky story that titillates while providing a little window into an odd suburban squabble.
Lots of somewhat cliche, and misused religious imagery sprinkled throughout detailed that paint a pretty vivid picture:
Now, the dancers have turned the tables, so to speak. Fed up with the tactics of Dunfee and his flock, they say they have finally accepted his constant invitation to come to church.
It’s just that they’ve come wearing see-through shorts and toting Super Soakers.
In many ways, what Dunfee and his congregation have done reminds me of the work of XXXChurch and those spreading the gospel at porn conventions. I wrote a lot about that in 2007 after following Craig Gross for three very exhausting days at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, which I reflected on the following year as pornstar ministries seemed to be growing:
There is no question that patrons and performers at the porn convention are open to Veitch and XXXChurch and the handful of other ministries. But after watching these interactions, I wasn’t sure how effective they were. A lot of people listened, few people turned down the “Jesus Loves Porn Stars” Bibles handed out by XXXChurch, but they seemed to think it was more kitsch than Gospel.
Craig Gross, who runs XXXChurch, told me that people ask him all the time whether he feels like he is making a difference. And at one point he wasn’t so sure. In his book “The Dirty Little Secret,” he writes about a guy who he thought he had helped free from the bondage of porn—only to find the guy later fly off the deep end.
Some Christians are cynical of Gross and his colleagues, claiming they’re a bunch of perverts who want an excuse to cavort with unnaturally endowed women. In a documentary, “Missionary Positions,” one of the guys from XXXChurch (I can’t remember who) gets smacked by a more fire-and-brimstone preacher who thinks Gross is doing the work of the devil.
I don’t buy this. Certainly there are people who want out of the adult business. People like Keri Humble. And knowing that, these ministries just want to be there. Even if there is there.