"Jesus freaks" spread the word at music festival

MOUNT UNION, Penn Mon Jul 7, 2008 10:53am EDT

1 of 5. Lead singer Mike Barnes performs with his band 'Red' during the Creation Christian music festival near Mount Union, Pennsylvania, June 28, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Segar

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MOUNT UNION, Penn (Reuters) - Dozens of young people at Creation, a Christian music festival in Pennsylvania, wore green T-shirts with the slogan "Young Single Available."

They weren't looking for a date. They were proclaiming their willingness to spend a year as a missionary in Asia.

Many of the 70,000 people at the Creation Festival at the end of June were not shy about advertising their beliefs on their clothing or, in some cases, their skin.

They wore T-shirts with slogans like "Total Jesus freak," "Poop on Satan" (over a picture of a toilet) and "Caution: Unsocialized home schooler."

Several merchandizing tents did a thriving business in everything from a diet book based on the Bible to prints by artist Stephen Sawyer, who paints Jesus as a bronzed, muscular hunk with flowing hair resembling the model Fabio.

One in four Americans count themselves as evangelical Protestants, a growing movement with serious clout in a country where religion and politics often mix.

Abortion was a common theme. Among the options: "Help cure abortion," "Love lets live," "Abortion: America's hidden holocaust" and a baby suit proclaiming "Former Embryo."

Appropriately for a festival named Creation, another recurring theme was Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which most evangelicals dismiss as contrary to the Bible's teaching that God created the world and everything in it.

There were buttons saying "Darwin is dead, Jesus is alive" and T-shirts saying "There is nothing intellectual about believing you and I evolved from hydrogen gas."

A group selling a "Virginity Rocks" T-shirt advertised in the festival program that "We will pay you to wear our shirts."

Plenty of people took them up on the offer to wear the shirts, which say on the back "I'm loving my wife and I haven't even met her," or, "I'm loving my husband and I haven't even met him."

Political campaigning directly related to this year's presidential election was notably absent, though one stall sold T-shirts saying "God is not a conservative Republican. But he's definitely not a liberal Democrat."

Alongside the serious messages, there were plenty of witty slogans. One said on the front "Church is not a place to pick up girls," and on the back: "It's just a bonus."

Others subverted well-known brand names, copying the colors and symbols but changing the words, for example "FedUp with Satan," (FedEx), "Godiswiser" (Budweiser), "Himwithin" (Heineken), "UPS - Ultimate Personal Savior" and iPray (iPod.)

There was a strict dress code at the festival, specifying that girls should not bare their midriffs and both sexes should keep their shirts on at all times. Still, the appearance of some might surprise more traditional, older Christians.

One androgynous-looking boy of around 12 with black eye make-up and gelled hair wore a T-shirt saying "I'm the Christian the Devil warned you about."

(Reporting by Claudia Parsons; Editing by Eddie Evans)

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