Home / Views & Opinion / Christian Business Man, Who Made Mistake, Talks With a Local Humanist Columnist, Calling a Truce in the "Culture War" Between Christians and Atheists
Christian Business Man, Who Made Mistake, Talks With a Local Humanist Columnist, Calling a Truce in the "Culture War" Between Christians and Atheists

Christian Business Man, Who Made Mistake, Talks With a Local Humanist Columnist, Calling a Truce in the "Culture War" Between Christians and Atheists

So many news sources, such as the Springfield News-Leader, made news out of what Springfield Restaurant owner, Andy Drennen, did in reaction to what he saw at Skepticon last weekend that I wondered about the man behind the story.  While they reported what happened, in regards to a "Culture War", and gave clips of what people said, they missed the human behind it.

Along with the news, many people tore Drennen apart in blogs, comments, and reviews, despite his apology.  There are some people who believe Drennen offered the 10% off and apology to make profit and save his business, which is partly true.  He does need to make a living and support his family, but that is not the only reason he apologized.

The only way people will know if Drennen is sincere is to meet him and talk to him face to face.  That way, he can see you are human and you can see he is a human who made a mistake and is truly sorry, which I did.  Thus, I decided to write this as a human-interest story, and not just make more news.

For the first time since leaving Christianity, eight years ago, I stood in front of a Christian and announced, “I am a humanist.”

I went in, gave him my home-made business card, which stated my name, the top Google news source site I write for, with the web address, and that I am the humanist columnist, section editor, and writer for the God Discussion.  As I handed it to him, I shook his hand and introduced myself, telling him that I attended Skepticon and would not only appreciate the 10% discount, but would also like to do a story on him that would show him as a human being, making a living, but made a mistake.

Drennen agreed and served me ice cream.  He did not spit in it, like some feared, and I know this because he dipped up the ice cream in front of me.

Andy Drennen, age 28, owns Gelato Mio ice cream parlor.  Born and raised Baptist, he stumbled in on Brother Sam’s show, which he did not find funny.  Instead, as a Christian, he found it deeply offensive, so offensive, that, out of impulse, he put a sign on his door, which excluded a religious group, or rather a non-religious group.  This sign read very much like signs prior to the 1970s, which excluded another minority group.  This started a backlash, which hurt both sides- atheists, of which I am included, and Andy Drennen.  People did many hurtful and potentially harmful things, but some individuals learned some lessons too.

During the interview, Drennen said he felt people cannot reach others with such shows that mock others.  He does not know how atheists expect to reach others by using mockery and ridicule.

In all fairness, we reach each other by sitting down together and talking to each other without judgment or imposing our views on each other.  Listening to the other side brings about understanding, as well as seeing what we have in common.  In fact, Drennen commented that I chose two of the flavours he likes, which showed we have something in common as far as ice cream goes, adding, “Everybody likes ice cream”.  For the record, I chose White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake and Pumpkin Cheesecake.

No human is perfect and we all make mistakes.  Drennen, like many other Christians, believes he is not perfect, just forgiven.  The question is by whom is this young businessman forgiven?  In the Christian worldview, God forgives a person, but who forgives him in a secular society?  Can people forgive the mistakes of others, which they might find deeply offensive and hurtful?

After Drennen’s statement, concerning mockery and ridicule, I asked him how he would feel if he walked in on PZ Myer’s talk concerning Junk DNA, given that it deals with Evolution.  He was not sure, especially after everything PZ said online.  Part of it depended on how PZ talked about Christians, if at all, in his speech.

As for dropping into next year’s Skepticon, to see something other than Brother Sam’s show, he does not know.  If he did, he would hope to see something that does not mock Christians or any other worldview.

I asked him, if the tables were turned and a humanist or atheist walked in on one of their events and heard the minister criticizing humanists or atheists, which happens often, how he thought we would feel?  He agreed that we would feel much the same way he did concerning Brother Sam and felt that should not happen either.

Then I asked Drennen how he felt about the street preacher, who stood on the corner, telling all of us atheists that we were going to hell.  He missed that early morning threatening display of judgment, so I told him about it.  To Drennen’s credit, he does posses a sense of humour.  He chuckled when I told him that I told the street corner preacher that it would be a lot warmer.  Thus, not all remarks that atheists make towards or about Christians offend him.  The key probably concerns the circumstances of the statements, criticism, and actions, as well as the reason for the response.  In this case, attendees of Skepticon walked by to enter the Gillioz and the street corner preacher accosted and threatened people, namely non-believers.

However, Drennen’s response, concerning the street preacher telling us that atheist were going hell, was that was also wrong, believing that people on all sides, even Muslims, should try to co-exist in this world without mockery, judgment, or imposing their beliefs on others.

Ironically, he said people here in Springfield Missouri, have reached out to him in friendship after what happened.  Many, including atheists, want to help him improve his ratings.  He also agreed that Springfield is a large and diverse community, with many views.  He feels we, both atheists and Christians, also need to work together to better downtown Springfield, so that we can bring life back into it, instead of letting it stay a ghost town.  Drennen wants to work amicably with atheist to better Springfield, but not in a manner that publicly mocks and tears down others.  He does not believe that will better Springfield or the world, allowing us to co-exist.

Drennen does not mind sitting down and sharing each other’s views, which we did, but do not expect him to renounce his beliefs.  At the same time, he says he does not expect anyone else to renounce his or her beliefs either.

Towards the end of our meeting, I told him that God Discussion has a radio show and asked if he would like to be on the show.  He looked away and I could see some pain in his eyes, as he said, “No, I just want to let this die.”  I truly feel he gave a heartfelt apology and was not just trying to save his business or make profit.  He even said he felt so bad about what he did that he ventured onto the atheist section of Reddit to give his apology.  “I felt like I went into the lion’s den,” he stated, adding that the incident was scary for him.  Supposedly, he received emails from as far away as South Africa and Switzerland concerning his sign.

Some people believe God is love.  Others believe love is god.  Still, others believe love for one’s fellow humans is part of the human condition and, as humans, we all make mistakes.  It is part of what makes us human.  Some mistakes are bigger than others are and it takes a big person to admit their mistakes, as well as make amends.  It takes an even bigger person to accept an apology and forgive the one who made the mistake.

It also takes a gesture of compassion to sit down to talk with the one who made a mistake and see that person as a human being, especially if the two do not share the same worldview.

For now Springfield Missouri has at least a temporary truce between atheists and the religious, but as far as the United States goes, and because we are humans with our own opinions and beliefs, we probably have not seen the last of such incidences.

About Mriana

Mriana is a humanist and the author of "A Source of Misery", who grew up in the Church of God, Anderson Indiana. After she became an adult, she joined the Episcopal Church, but later left the Church and became a humanist. She has two grown sons and raises cats. Mriana raised her sons in the Episcopal Church, but in their teen years, they left the Church and she soon followed. One of her sons became a "Tao Buddhist" and the other a None, creating his own world view. She enjoys writing, reading, science, philosophy, psychology, and other subjects. Mriana is also an animal lover, who cares for their welfare as living beings, who are part of the earth. She is a huge Star Trek fan in a little body.
  • http://www.goddiscussion.com admin

    That was nice of you to go talk with him, Mriana. He sounds like he's a pretty nice guy who learned a pretty tough lesson. You raised a great point about the guy with the hell sign and types of preaching against non-belief that "those from the other side" experience, just like he experienced.

    I absolutely hate ice cream, but would buy a coffee or something else at his shop if I were traveling that way.

    Deborah

    • http://www.houseofbetazed.com Mriana

      Yeah, the hell thing was a pretty easy one to raise, because it seems to be always there in Xianity. Thanks. He is a nice guy or at least he seems to try. As far as hating ice cream, you break his saying. :lol:

  • Heina

    I find passages in the Bible and Quran offensive, but I wouldn't dream of personally discriminating on religious people on an individual level. Somehow, as a business owner, he thought doing so with atheists based on a single experience was totally fine. Interesting.

    I'm sorry he feels so bad, but the bottom line is that, as a business owner, he felt it appropriate to post a discriminatory sign in clear and public view. No matter how bad he feels about it afterwards, there can be no doubt that he thought it was perfectly fine to post a sign like that. It shows a lack of maturity and responsibility that is appalling. I am younger than he but I know that whatever I post in a public location is fair game and I will have to be held accountable for it. It is incomprehensible to me, in a bad economy, that a business owner would post a sign wishing to keep away customers. He got his wish, no matter how much he regrets it now.

    What we have here is a lesson: do not impulsively post signs that might hurt your business, and carefully think business decisions through before you make them. I mean, what else is he capable of deciding in a split second that he might feel bad about later that could still manage to hurt others? Trusting the food at business where the owner is prone to Impulse decisions might be a bad idea.

    • http://www.houseofbetazed.com Mriana

      Hi, Heina and if you are the Heina I'm thinking about, then congrats on being a SkepChick. I hope to read more of your stuff soon.

      You're right, he did get his wish, but found it a big mistake after he did it and it seems he learned from it. Hopefully next time he won't be so impulsive and think about his actions before he does it. It seems like he's had a lot to think about, including his own beliefs, given that he thought it was wrong for the street corner preacher to tell people that they are going to hell. IMO, that is progress and maybe some personal growth and maturity due to his mistake.

      • Chris Slaby

        I guess we can hope this leads him to think more deeply about things, and certainly it's probably best to believe/hope that people can change, for the better. However, I think that what this also points out, at least for the moment, is how un-thoughtful religious belief tends to be (or perhaps it shows that religious belief tends to coincide with not thinking about things too deeply). Of the two religious people, I would have to side with the street preacher, in the sense that apparently both Andy and he believe in a part of us that continues to exist after death, and that there are good places and bad places where this existence might continue. Of course I'm assuming some things about Andy's beliefs here, but as far as I'm aware, souls and hell are currently standard and common beliefs in Christianity. So both these people believe that it's possible some of us will be going to hell, for whatever reasons, and yet only one of them feels the need to try and help prevent that from happening. Of course hell, just like a soul or some other sort of part of us that keeps on existing after physical death, is most likely not real. But if Andy and the street preacher both believe what their identities indicate they believe, then I'd have to say the street preacher is doing the more ethical thing by trying to save our souls. And yet Andy doesn't see it that way, which makes me question how deeply he's thought about his beliefs, and how absurd, silly, and insane they are. If he really believes what he believes, why isn't he spending more time trying very hard to keep as many people out of hell as possible? Is it because deep down he doesn't really believe this? Or is it just because he just doesn't care? Or maybe he's just never really thought about it. Of course I don't know what's going on inside his head, but what bothers me is that he's still exhibiting emotional reactions to things (by his sign and his reaction to your questions about the street preacher) rather than thoughtful, logical reactions. I hope you'll welcome my disagreement, but I don't think Andy disagreeing with the street preacher is progress, just more gut reactions that don't seem to involve much deeper thought about the actual ideas behind the activities going on. It sounds like the tone versus content issue; and as much as tone matters, since we're human beings with complex minds and emotions, we need to start caring more about the content, about the ideas that are behind what's being said, rather than just how things are being said.

      • http://www.goddiscussion.com admin

        I have more down votes for my forgiving opinion than up-votes, which doesn't surprise me, but quite frankly, I think it is good that this happened because it points out "in black and white" the type of discrimination that goes on. I have written a few articles here about discrimination against non-believers and the only ones who seem to believe it are the members of the atheist community.

        With this blatant example being such a public thing, I am hoping that others who might be inclined to put up the same kind of discriminatory signs take pause and consider what they are doing.

        The guy did something stupid, but he followed the same kind of knee jerk reaction that many of the faithful do. Just turn on the news and watch the Republicans blather on about Christian nationalism and how important it is to have Christian political leaders.

        At least this young man has reconsidered his actions … something the religious right as a whole needs to do.

        Deborah

        • http://www.houseofbetazed.com Mriana

          I agree with you, Deborah. Those are the people we need to go after, as well as those who abuse and sexually molest women and children, as well as those who enable it, in the name of their religion. IMO, this is not the man to go after, esp when he seems truly remorseful and despite his opinion that no one should mock anyone's beliefs- religious or atheist- I do not see him as one who is going to attempt to censor anyone or stop them from claiming their first amendment rights. Those who do, esp in the name of their religion, are also people we need to go after.

          However, holding on to all this anger after Andy apologized, is not healthy. It's better to use that anger against those who abuse others in the name of religion- ie WBC and Catholic priests. I know of a lot of people, including some Catholics, both current and apostate, who want to bring the Pope down, as well as the minions who support him. Now that is one thing, we as people, can all work together on and attempt to end such abuses done by clergy and those who enable it.

          I can very well see both the religious and non-religious working together to end religious psychological, physical, and sexual abuse (enabled or perpetrated).

          • http://www.goddiscussion.com admin

            You and I are on the same page, Mriana.

            I was just reading in Mother Jones about how 40% of Republicans in the House favor a federal personhood amendment that would classify zygotes as human beings and effectively ban birth control for religious reasons — That and the points that you raised (as well as other dangers of widespread religious extremism) are much more troubling to me than some ice cream guy putting up a sign for 10 minutes and then realizing how stupid his actions were and apologizing with some degree of sincerity. The small business owner is only the symptom of a much larger problem.

            Ten minutes spent in a voting booth, electing theocratic-leaning politicians will have a much more longstanding effect than hanging a sign for 10 minutes. The genesis of all of it is the same — some sense of religious entitlement and privilege — and it's only going to change when people understand the consequences of their actions.

            Deborah

            • http://www.houseofbetazed.com Mriana

              I most certainly agree and do far more harm to people, including an increase incidents of mortality.

  • aveteran

    To be fair, Brother Sam's show wasn't there for the entertainment of Christians.

    • http://www.houseofbetazed.com Mriana

      Quite true, but I had to keep my biases out of the story in order to talk to the man. At the same time, I also feel, although having some funny points, this was not Brother Sam's best show. I liked his other acts more than this one, but the only reason I can give that I liked the other ones better is because this one bothered me due to some moments being similar to actual Revival services. For example, "taking up the offering", reminded me too much of real church, despite the fact that Roger Scott Jackson makes a living off his comedy routines. I will give him credit, it was a talented way of soliciting/incorporating funds for his act and future acts. It's just parts of it creeped me out due to how similar it was to the real thing. Not to mention the neuro-stimulating features of his Revival to the real thing- music and "congregation" participation.

      So, even as a humanist, I had some problems with it, but not because of the "mockery". I could really care less about the mockery because I do it too sometimes. It was the damaging and not so damaging similarities to the real thing that I struggled with. While there were moments I could laugh, there were moments that reminded me too much of my Free Methodist minister great uncle's Revivals, as well as my grandfather's Church of God Revivals, which caused me to want to run.

      Thus, it was not so much Bro. Sam's show that got to me, but the reminders/triggers of some bad memories, many of which caused my mother to return to an abuser. Hopefully that makes sense and I did admit to Andy that I personally did not think this was one of Bro. Sam's best shows. I just did not tell him why I did not like it as much as the others.

      Come to think of it, despite our different reasons, I think that is Andy's complaint too- how some moments were a bit too real. We just don't share the same reasons for our struggles with the reality moments.

  • Costar

    The fact remains that this guy felt his superstitious beliefs don't deserve to be ridiculed and mocked for the nonsense they are. When his beliefs ARE 'disrespected' his reaction is illegal discrimination. No one gets to stifle free speech. Apology not accepted.

  • http://atheistpolitic.tumblr.com atheistpolitic

    Hey, just read your article, and not to be nitpicky or anything, but you spelled PZ Myers' name Meyers, not Myers. Just thought I'd point that out.

  • Chris Slaby

    Also, as an editorial issue, the links you provided for the many people who tore Andy Drennen apart, despite his apology, don't quite match your description. You say that people tore him apart in blogs, comments, and reviews. And while this is true (i.e., that some people have leveled very aggressive and thorough criticisms of Andy), your first link, the word "blogs," sends us to Hemant Mehta's Friendly Atheist, where Hemant has a blog post accepting Andy's apology. The second link, to Jen McCreight's Blag Hag (which would more accurately fall into the category of "blog" rather than "comment," I think), also shows us another atheist blogger accepting Andy's apology. For sure, your third link, to Yelp, does show some negative reviews, but Yelp has actually censored them, so that they're not on the main page (currently there are only 3 reviews on the main Yelp page for Gelato Mio, all of which are positive). From an editorial and logical perspective, it doesn't make sense to me to talk about people tearing Andy apart and then link to two blog posts where prominent atheist bloggers write about accepting Andy's apology. Yes, commenters at those sites disagreed with his apology (and both blogs initially posted about the sign, with accurate and deserved negativity), but the blog posts that you've specifically linked to are in support of Andy's apology. It would have made more sense, to me, to link to PZ, or someone else who clearly did not accept Andy's apology. Even then, at least if we're talking about PZ, it seems inaccurate to call his initial discussions and refusal to accept the apology "tearing into." PZ had a clear and negative reaction to the sign being posted, he stated that, and then when Andy apologized, PZ pointed out that simply saying sorry does not, at least in this case, really mean anything. There was no personal invective and Pharyngula went about business as usual. I don't think it's accurate to call this tearing into Andy. I should also state that while I'm a regular reader of Pharyngula, I don't agree with everything PZ says and thinks, so I'm not here just parroting his view, I simply happen to agree with his position about Andy's apology.

  • becky t

    pz myers pontificates about 'mockery and ridicule' yet he labels a transwoman who objects to his cisgenderist transphobic comments as a man called Donald in an attempt to ingratiate himself to His 'discpiples' then sends one pathetic minion fascist to troll my blog calling me a 'freak' (btw how original to call transgirl a freak). pathetic.

    • http://www.houseofbetazed.com Mriana

      If true, that is just wrong. It would be nice to have a society that does not assign roles by skin colour or gender, but rather assign roles that are earned or chosen. The problem is defining the words "earned" or "chosen" for the larger society.

    • Kagehi

      Wow, so we are "disciples" now.. Even the word is offensive, and as one of several people there that has called him, and others, on some things, I am offended by the comparison. As for his stance, yeah, he used an analogy, but the nature of it was to say that *if* he held a certain view, it would be just as foolish of him to act as Andy did, because of it, not that he "did" think that way. Andy's problem is that he is making a half apology. He imagines that doing something that was, basically, illegal, and an overreaction, is the "entire" problem. The complete problem is that he imagines that its also the conferences fault, for presenting content that he didn't like. This is absurd. It would be just as absurd as someone who was a crytozoologist, Ufologist, or dare I say, Scientologist, or Muslim, posting a similar sign on their building, because they didn't like what someone at a conference said about their fantasies, or beliefs, ****purely**** on the claim that those beliefs should somehow be off limits. Given that, outside of homeopathy, anti-vaxers, etc., the #1 source of nearly all anti-skeptic, anti-science, anti-medicine, in the US is the various forms of Christianity, and "prayer revivals" are one of the major tools in the hands of some of the craziest of them, this isn't just an absurd objection, it borders on telling the skeptical community that it should only go after "every other" form of idiocy, but not those propagated by *his* belief system.

      Half an apology, do to a failure to understand that we have as much right to mock those things, as he does to believe them, is still not an apology. That he can't get this simply means that he is the same as any other believer, who "thinks" they are being personally challenged by it, and just as wrong as some crytozoologist, if they opted to post a, "Bigfoot haters not allowed!", sign outside their store. Something that, ironically, would still be illegal too, if 99.9% of the population even took it as serious, and not just a joke. In this case, its not a joke, but his defense of "why" he did it, is both insulting to skeptics, and just as absurd (its just that religion in "protected" territory, so way too many people imagine that its "not absurd").

    • Ermine

      ..Except that PS didn't "send minion(s)" anywhere – Or can you actually provide some evidence that he asked/told/hinted that people should go to your blog and say something?

      I can see you making some pointed accusations here, but strangely enough, you don't provide a link to where any of it happens. Since PZ's comments are all still in place, you shouldn't have any trouble at all providing the link that'll make the truth of your claims manifest, right?

      … I'll just keep waiting, shall I?

    • http://www.houseofbetazed.com Mriana

      I can see how you would feel like that Becky. Church of PZ is full of Fundamngelical atheists who are as horrid as Fundamngelical Xians, but use the word "asscalm" in place of "sinners" if you don't agree with PZ. I guess they set PZ on a pedestal as though he were god.

  • becky t

    pz is full of shit

  • joe bloe

    So let me get this straight – Drennen heard somebody say "goddamm" and that encouraged him to break the law with a discriminatory sign in his shop window !

    • http://www.houseofbetazed.com Mriana

      No, it was more than just "god damn" that bothered him. It was the mocking of a Revival services, the worship, and "cursing the Bible". In other words, he did not like any of it. I thought Bro. Sam's thing about how to treat their whores was rather funny, because it was a remark as to how ministers behave sexually. That's one of the things I did find funny, esp when it seems some ministers have taken it to heart and do just that.

  • zzzzz

    Don't they have trees in that part of the country?

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