North Beach Echoes
About twenty years ago Jews for Jesus was only a slogan. It began with a group of loosely affiliated friends — Jesus freaks” we were called–and it was the time of the “Jesus revolution.” The Jesus revolutionaries wanted to make a sweeping gospel statement by demonstrating in public, but they didn’t know how. I had had some experience with demonstrations and picket lines, and I knew how to make placards, so I was chosen, elected and commissioned. In other words, the job was dumped on me. Our purpose was to go down to San Francisco’s North Beach area and put up a picket line in front of the porno palaces and clubs that featured topless or bottomless dancers and live sex acts.
I thought that instead of protesting we should be attesting. We wanted to make the positive statement that real love comes from Jesus. I taught the two hundred or so Jesus revolutionaries a few old songs like “Jesus Set Me Free” and we settled on a slogan,”Love, not lust,” that we chanted over and over again.
The two hundred demonstrators came out on a couple of Saturday nights. The TV cameras were rolling, the newspaper photographers were there and the feature articles were written, but I realized that the demonstrators might lose interest. In order to continue the story, some of us (who came to be called Jews for Jesus) continued with the demonstrations.
For about a year, every Saturday night and many Friday nights found us down at North Beach. We singled out one of the clubs that seemed to be a little more vivid in describing how lusty their show was. Besides, that particular club had the most “religious” name on the block: “The Garden of Eden.”
The people in the club were less than delighted with what we were doing and saying. Some of the women “dancers” came out and tried to embarrass us. We were harrassed and threatened with weapons. Even the San Francisco police began to harrass us. Though we encountered opposition and not much encouragement, we kept going back. Eventually we did stop, but only after we felt that we had made our statement long enough and that it had been understood. Shortly after that we began to hear of people who had been touched by our North Beach demonstrations.
The first was Pat, the doorman/bouncer and official tough guy at the Garden of Eden. Pat contacted one of our staff people because he had something on his heart. He had committed murder for money, and now he wanted to get straight with God. Our missionary prayed with Pat to receive the Lord. Then Pat turned himself in to the authorities and has been serving a life sentence in the Florida state prison system. We still hear from him from time to time. He does not feel defeated, though at times he has been down. God has given him a victory. He has acquired a college education in prison, and there is the possibility of a parole.
Next we heard from Judy. She was one of the dancers who used to rent out her body for inappropriate uses. She, too, found the Lord. With her husband she went into the ministry, repentant of her former life, but not ashamed to talk about it in order to see other women rescued.
Most recently we heard from a young man who had been the former manager of The Garden of Eden. In light of his letter (printed below) maybe you would consider having a “love, not lust” demonstration in front of the pornographic palace in your home town. You would be surprised at what could happen!
I think you might be interested in my story, as your organization played an integral role in it. In 1973 I was the 23-year-old manager of “The Garden of Eden” strip tease night club on Broadway [in San Francisco]. Although raised in a Christian home, I decided to take the “broad way” to destruction and death. Believe me, I was traveling at a fast rate of speed.
Every Saturday night Jews for Jesus would picket my nightclub there in San Francisco with signs [our placards] and chants of “Love, not Lust.” I enjoyed this, for when they were through with the demonstration, a throng of people would beat down the door. They must have thought that any show that would be picketed must certainly be the most filthy one on Broadway
One night a Jew for Jesus came up to this cocky young man and said, “Son, Jesus loves you.” It was as if a double-sided knife was thrust into my heart. Within a few months, another stranger said the same thing. It was then that I opened my heart to the Giver of life, Jesus Christ.
I sold my three houses and traveled to New York City to become an actor. I didn’t know that God had other plans for me. I would eventually attend Bob Jones University to get a Master’s degree in dramatic production.
In the years since, God has given me a wonderful believing wife, four great children, and a nationwide ministry through drama. I’m eternally grateful for your bold and tireless witness; not only to me on the neon-lit streets of San Francisco, but throughout our world. May God continue to richly bless your ministry.
—Bob H. Erie, PA