Trying to have a conversation with a cat like Pastor David Grisham is a little like hitting a tennis ball against a backboard.
In fact, the more fluid and swift your stroke is, the stiffer and harder the ball will come back in your face in the form of Bible verses he decides to interpret symbolically or literally — at his discretion, of course — filtered through years of well-worn strategy and rehearsed logic traps.
This is not uncommon to see in religious or political zealots of any stripe. It’s what’s often called being ‘on message,’ 'girding your loins' in the Christian world, and David Grisham is nothing if not ‘on message', loins-a-girded.
What sets Grisham apart — and, frankly, makes him more interesting than most street preachers — is that quite often, when you’re in the exercise of hitting a ball against a backboard that you presume is him, Grisham will plow right through the plywood, a la the Kool-Aid Man of advertising yore, with an emphatic and ecstatic ‘Ohhhh yeahhhh!’
It’s in these moments Grisham sets himself apart as not just a fisher of men’s souls, but an entertainer of them along the way.
In our hour-long conversation with him at the Anchorage Press office on Monday, our writer RJ Johnson and I got to experience more than a few of those ‘Ohhh yeahhh!’ moments; as witnessed in his equating the sins of homosexuals to those of serial killer/cannibal Jeffery Dahmer; his wish that he and his wife could have taken a bullet to keep gays from dying in the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and his assertion that homosexuals recruit children to their side because they can’t reproduce on their own.
These were just a few of the highlights from our conversation, which was the result of Grisham taking the challenge set forth by RJ in his column two weeks ago headlined, ‘The Prophet for Profit’ about the controversial religious figure, who makes his biggest splash annually in his protests of LGBT Pridefest. In the interest of fairness, we agreed to have a Q&A-type of interview, which we recorded on audio, that will be available unedited on our website. Unbeknownst to us, it was already being broadcast live on Grisham’s Facebook page thanks to a smartphone surreptitiously placed in the left shirt-pocket of the Pastor’s button-up, which had the pattern of an old-timey world map, which lets you know a little about how Grisham sees himself in relation to the world, yet another ‘Oh yeah!’ burst-through the walls of decorum that makes Pastor Grisham so goddamn fun to be around.
Here’s a few of the highlights from our chat, lightly edited for brevity, order and context.
RJ: Where did you get your calling to be a preacher vs. just a street preacher?
David: That happened in 2007 when my wife and I took a trip to Mexico with her family. There were like 18 or 19 of us and one of our ports of call was at Cozumel… Some background: I worked as a security police officer at a nuclear weapons facility in Texas for 26 years. We were on strike at the time, so we didn’t have much money and we’d already paid for the trip so it was ‘use it or lose it.’ So we go and everyone takes one of those expensive Jeep tours and I take a little scooter to the middle of these island ruins — it was like 5 bucks apiece to go see the ruins — and I had one of those moments where I stopped under a tree. It was one of those rare moments when your mind goes blank, not thinking about anything. That’s when I heard the voice of the Lord speak to me — it wasn’t audible; I know what an auditory hallucination is and I know it wasn’t that. When God speaks to you, He speaks to your heart. The Lord said to me, ‘David, what do you see?’ Well, I see these ruins of a dead, godless, pagan society. The Lord gave me a revelation on the spot and said if America didn’t turn back to God, America will be judged; that God had given America a land of milk and honey where there was prosperity and freedom that inspired our form of government and we had turned away from it. No nation stands apart from God. All those kingdoms the Devil showed Jesus — they’re all gone because they walked away from God, except one — Israel, which God brought back from the dead, but America doesn’t have the everlasting contract with God that Israel does.
The Lord told me that my mission at that point was to get America to turn away from its sins and turn to Jesus Christ.
RJ: For me, and others, when we see you out on the street, your methods come across very mean and angry. Why?
David: We’re not angry. We’re somewhat aggressive because sin is aggressive in the world. We’re like a Special Forces to spiritual warfare; we operate in small groups, more on our own, more detached from the main body. Special Forces are kind of self-sufficient, they move from one place to another, kind of hit-and-run, that’s kind of how we operate, although we don’t use guns or bullets — we don’t harm anyone; we abhor violence, we preach against it. Our methods are Biblical. If people read the scriptures, they’ll understand why we do what we do.
Me: You dressing up as the Grim Reaper at (abortion clinics and elsewhere), is that not inciting people to violence, and if it does, is it a righteous violence?
David: No, that’s wrong, it’s illegal and it’s a sin in the eyes of God. We are Pro-Life and that means you don’t hurt people — period. We don’t do those things. I would never give a message that I willingly thought it was an incitement to violence; I’m standing out there making a statement about what they’re doing, basically with a sign — one of their signs (I Stand With Planned Parenthood), just making people aware of the reality of what’s going on behind closed doors.
RJ: I find your message confusing at times and contradictory. You say, in your sermons and your writings, that the LGBTQ community is shoving things down people’s throats, but aren’t they trying to do the same thing as you? Where’s the difference in that?
David: Well, if I refer to someone who is a genetic female as a male, I can’t do that. That violates the Scriptures. It’s people in certain communities trying to get Christians to compromise on their faith. They say, ‘you need to bake gay wedding cakes,’ but we’re not allowed to be partakers of anyone else’s sin. If you believe homosexuality is a sin — you don’t, I do — I cannot partake in that sin in any way, shape or form. That gets me in trouble with God.
RJ: What is the difference in you dressing up as the Grim Reaper and a woman (genetically, who dresses in male drag) dressing up as Mary Poppins at Drag Queen Storytime? Hers is just a costume to get the message out of love and tolerance and yours is… different.
David: (My costume) is to get a message out. The costume is a visual for the message whether you’re a drag queen or a Grim Reaper. I stand out as the Grim Reaper carrying signs — their signs — that say ‘I stand with Planned Parenthood’ because Death is right behind you at Planned Parenthood. That’s the message; the visual goes along with the sign to convey a message. Now you have to ask yourself, is the message true? And is it righteous? Is it for God or against God?
Also, the drag queen is sending a message — the wrong message in God’s eyes. That message is that it’s OK to crossdress when the Bible says clearly that it’s not OK to bend gender, to make it fluid male, female, androgynous. It’s been going back all the way to Boy George and Prince, beyond that even.
RJ: If you’re a proponent of free speech, then why do you try to shut down Drag Queen Storytime?
David: The message, as we see it, is an indoctrination of children. Homosexuals cannot reproduce, so they recruit. Two men can’t make a baby so they’ve got to get people somewhere and that’s adoption and recruiting. Drag Queen Storytime is how they make their numbers bigger. It’s all about getting more political power, more money, more influence.
Matt: So you’re saying children are being turned at home?
David: Yes. I don’t believe anyone is born that way. I don’t believe people are born into sin that way. I see that as an abuse of children, which is why I want that to stop it.
RJ: You say you are non-violent, but psychology would say your words are violent. Are you concerned at all about suicide rates of LGBT people?
David: I’m very concerned about that. I’m also concerned about the 100 percent suicide rate they have if they don’t repent of their sins. If they don’t give their lives to Christ, they’re going to Hell. It’s a 100 percent suicide rate.
RJ: Out of everything you protest it seems you come after the LGBTQ community the most. Why do you come after this community?
David: There are three parts we focus on what we see as prominent — one is Islam, another is LGBT, another is abortion. These three seem to be the spearhead of what’s going on on the other side. If there’s a gay pride parade, it’s a river, a stream where we gotta fish. If they weren’t having Pride, we wouldn’t go there.
RJ: Would you prefer for us to stop having Pride?
David: Well, yeah, my preference would be for everyone to get saved and then they’ll want to stop. That’s not necessarily going to happen, but my preference is everybody get saved.
RJ: Do you care about transgender or queer kids killing themselves?
David: I do. I want them to be neighbors in Heaven because I see the second death as worse than the first and that second death is spiritual suicide if you don’t accept Jesus… Eventually we’re all going to die anyway. I don’t want them to kill themselves early; I wish all gays would die of old age, but when they do die of old age, I don’t want them to go to Hell. I wish every gay person could die of old age, I really do. One of the most abominable things was the Pulse nightclub shooting up a bunch of gay people. I said at the time, and my wife and I told people at (our) first Pridefest that we would have stepped between the gunmen and them. We’d step in front of a bullet for the gay community. We’d stand between them and Hell because that’s what we’re trying to do.
RJ: You understand those words you say are probably raising suicide rates?
David: Even countries lie Sweden where they’ve allowed gay marriage for some time, suicide rates are the same. The reason why is people are confused. It’s even proven that people who’ve gone through the surgery, their suicide rates go up.
RJ: Are you aware of gender dysphoria and how it’s triggered?
David: That’s a psychological issue. The science behind it is not biological, it’s inferred from psychology. There’s not a transgender gene; you can’t take a blood test to see if you’re trans and we don’t believe there will be.
RJ: What do you say about science that goes against what you preach?
David: Any science that disagrees with scripture is wrong. Science has been wrong all the time all along. They used to believe in bleeding people with leeches. There’s science that says eggs are good for you, then bad and back and forth. The only thing I know of for sure is the rock solid word of God.
RJ: Is it possible for someone to be Christian and queer?
David: No, for the same reason and the same way you’re not a Christian if you’re a murderer or fornicator or adulterer…. You can still have temptations and urges and allow the strength of God to suppress you.
Matt: So if Jesus were to appear in the flesh, would he engage in Pridefest protests at Delaney Park as you do?
David: Well, I think, first of all, he’d walk up to all the false churches and rebuke them. He did that to the Pharisees, the religious hypocrites of his day. So he would walk up to St. Mary Episcopal, St. John United Methodist, Turnagain United Methodist and others and severely rebuke them, publicly in front of them.
Matt: So if a family member of yours, especially a son or daughter identified as LGBT what would you do?
David: I would give them the same message I give everyone at gay pride. Does that mean I would never talk to them again? No. It would mean I would change my behaviors. If they got married, I wouldn’t go; I wouldn’t get a wedding gift because gay marriage really is just a piece of paper.
Matt: The Pride Parade is coming up Saturday. Any special surprises planned?
David: Just preach like i did last year — basic simple stuff no surprises, nothing weird.
Matt: Back to RJ’s point — you’re wanting to suppress others’ free speech because you don’t want them to do it, to be proud about being gay…
RJ: We’re not proud about being gay; we’re proud about surviving.
David: I’m just out there telling them I want them to take a different path. I’m not stopping them from the broad road of destruction; I’m just showing them the exit… We’re not forcing anybody not to have gay pride, we’re just showing them the exit… gay conversion therapy is the Bible.
Matt: Anything you’d like to say to us?
David: I do look at your paper. It gives me a great insight into the culture in the city, so I do like to stay informed because I do care. You guys probably don’t know how much.