In the Dark about AFTERdark

So, we’ve got these posters up all over campus for an “event” tonight called “AFTERdark” and it’s pissing me off because I think this is a microcosm of the general bait-and-switch of religion.

The campus event of the year

the compelling drama of
Joe White
“a top 10 influencer of the century”
-New Man Magazine


in concert
Jon McLaughlin
Island Records recording artist

Free Event

It’s got photos of the two guys (actually looks like it was made on a Mac…) and some dark clouds & whatnot in the background. There are also students walking around with T-shirts that say “AFTERdark, [date/location/time]” along with our school mascot and the website on the back

A student came into our classroom one morning to write it on the board, so I asked her what it was.
“Oh, it’s just an event.”
“What kind of event?”
“Well, there’s a concert.”
“Is that it?”
“No, there’s also a reenactment.”
“A reenactment?” vague images of SCA come to mind, “What kind of reenactment?”
“Oh, like a play.”
“…What kind of play?”
“I think it’s about the Passion,” as she scurried away.
To be fair, throughout this whole conversation, she was attempting to scurry, getting closer and closer to the door with each exchange. Perhaps she had thirteen more classrooms to write in before class started, I don’t know what her hurry was, but I definitely felt like I was getting the run around.

So I went to the website, since I was curious. It also doesn’t give much information (except that it’s “One night. One campus. One movement.” and some general testimonials: “best night of my life!” “changed my life”). So I Googled it and got this article from more than a year ago, “AFTERdark Deceives Students to Preach Gospel”. So, AFTERdark consists of a random up-and-coming artist and an evangelical speech by some other random dude. But that information is hard to get.

During our weekly announcements, a classmate stood in front of the class and invited everyone to it: “There’s a concert, it’ll be awesome, hope to see you there!” We didn’t really get a chance to ask him questions, so I didn’t then. But the next day, I saw someone with a shirt on. So I asked her:
“Hey, do you know what that is,” I said, gesturing toward the shirt.
She looked down, then made eye contact and said, “Yeah.”
We looked at each other for a moment. “…what is it?”
“Well, it’s a event.” I had had this conversation.
“Okay, what kind of event?”
“There’s a concert…”
“So it’s a concert.”
“Not just a concert.”
“Oh. Okay, what else is it?”
“…there’s a speaker.”
“Oh, cool—what’s he speak about?”
“Oh, stuff that’s relevant.”
“Like politics? Is it a rally?”
“No. Like the Gospel.”
“Oh! Okay, cool, thank you.”
“Yeah, no problem.” She looked at me shiftily.
“You know,” I said, keeping her a few more moments, “it’s really hard to get that information.”
“Oh?” She looked shiftier and laughed nervously, “it’s not supposed to be.”
Then she scampered off.

Now I have a mission: shanghai everyone with an AFTERdark shirt and get them to admit that it’s an evangelical preach-fest. I also have a tactic: the naïve idiot.

Employee in the cafeteria:
“Hey, do you know what AFTERdark is?”
“Well…it’s in Alumni Park!”
“Right, but what is it?”
“It’s a concert, Jon McLaughlin is this record-signed artist who’s really cool.”
“Oh, what kind of music does he play?”
“Just…music. Pop. Nothing Christian.”
“My fiancee thinks he’s hot.”
“hehe, cool. So it’s just a concert?” I resisted the urge to assume or imply genders about his fiancee.
“No…you know, I really don’t know a lot about it. Some students asked me to wear the shirt. But I’m going to it!”
“Oh, okay. It’s just hard to find information about it.”
“Huh. I wonder why that is…”
Me, too, dude. Me, too.

Look, I go to a(n ambiguously) Christian school. I get that. I understand that they probably reserve the right to prosthelytize to their students. But I do expect them to be honest about it. “AFTERdark: concert and prosthelytization. Free cookies!” People will go, you don’t have to deceive them! Trust me, free food on a college campus plus anything = attendance. Homeland security plus In-N-Out = attendance. Prop 8 with Mormons plus ToGos = attendance. Torture and bloodletting plus pizza = attendance! The deceit makes me feel like they think they’re doing something shady by trying to get us to come to Jesus. The deceit turns it into something shady. I’m really uncomfortable with this religious bait-and-switch and feel that it’s endemic of the whole religious “thing”. They don’t want my soul to come honestly to a belief in a higher power that makes me want to be good, love my neighbor, and hate gays. They want to trick me into it.


  1. Even the official website is extraordinarily cagey about what exactly goes on at AFTERdark. Apparently it’s an “event” that relates “the most compelling story in our world”/”the greatest story ever told” to “college students from coast to coast.” Participants mention being “moved to tears” by AFTERdark’s “message” and say their campus “was literally changed,” but no one talks about what the message is and how it is relevant to today’s college students.

    Very strange and creepy.

  2. I just cornered the guy who made the announcement in class—he started by telling me it was a concert, too, but did eventually tell me that there’s a “talk” by the guy who founded a bunch of “Christian camps” (which sounds a little like “Jewish camps”….) during which he “builds a cross on stage”. I thanked him for being honest & told him it was hard to find information. He told me that was odd, since there’s a website (then we went different ways). So far he’s been the most honest—I wonder if that’s because he already kinda knows me.

  3. John

    Trying very hard not to start ranting about Mormonism’s “milk before meat” approach. There’s no way in hell I would’ve joined the Church (or even entered the temple) had I known about the penalties and covenants beforehand.

  4. Do they not, as Christians are apparently supposed to, believe in the Ten Commandments? And is there not one of those Commandments that, well, commands, that they should not lie/bear false witness? And are there not lies of omission as well as lies of commission, just like there are more generally sins of omission/commission?

    Oh. Never mind. There’s a whole subset of Christians who believe that Lying for the Lord is all peachy-keen and everything.

    I figure that if someone has to entrap me into attending one of their events, and I would argue that excessive vagueness can constitute entrapment or at least be employed in the service of entrapment, they don’t have my best interests in mind in the long run.

  5. I wasn’t thinking of that when I composed my reply, Jonathan, but I am aware of those practices and they fit right in with what I did have in mind, even if it is a little more, oh, extreme, than most of that sort of behavior.

  6. @Jonathan & @Elaine #9—I perused that site for a few minutes and was absolutely stunned. It underscored the fine line between “cult” and “respected religion”, especially when it comes to attracting new followers.

  7. Nathan

    Wow. I am sick of religions trying to appeal to young people by incorporating intrigue. It’s as if they think that Christianity has such a stigma that the only way that people will be interested is if they incorporate pop culture?!

  8. Amber

    I remember events like this in high school. “It’s a concert!” “There’s a skateboarding ramp!” (Oh, and also we’ll preach to you for an hour and people will start speaking in tongues!!)

    Actually the tongues part was really frightening. When trying to convert people, try not to be overtly bizarre, maybe?

  9. When trying to convert people, try not to be overtly bizarre, maybe?

    LOL! Agreed 🙂 I remember going to an “ecumenical conference” where my brother-in-law was a bodyguard for a woman who had visions. I was mostly left on my own & wandered from room to room before coming upon a forum on speaking in tongues. I was seriously weirded out. (And arguably already converted…)

  10. Yeah, I saw posters about something like this up at the University of Utah in September, and I thought it was really weird. I wonder how effective this really is – mixing pop culture with extremist religion to lure entice convince younger people to attend. The attempt to put this normal, secular façade over something so extreme as evangelical Christianity really rubs me the wrong way.

    Probably because I spent 2 years as a Mormon missionary covering the truth and being very milk before meat in my preachings. It all creeps me out now, every bit of proselytising, especially when you’re not absolutely up front about everything.

  11. heh, this sort of reminds me of the various “info about genealogy” events we’d use while tracting to get unsuspecting folks to come to cottage meetings for a first discussion.
    And I wasn’t trying to trick any one… I just new that if I told the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, people probably wouldn’t come (and, oh, if they only came! and could feel the spirit!…)

    I have some issues with who I used to be.

    great post, xjane. thank you for this.

  12. G, I think you hit on something really profound.

    I have some issues with who I used to be.

    I think that any healthy person has issues (or disagrees) to some degree with whom they used to be. If not, they’re not changing, and in my experience, that means they’re not learning new things. And that is always bad. I have often felt guilty for how much I used to be the kind of person I now decry, but I have changed significantly, and that is really what matters. I think that a big reason why things like this (AfterDark) bother me so much is because I used similar manipulative tactics as a Mormon missionary, and I know well what it is like from both sides.

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