MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Thousands of Christians gathered in Memphis, Tennessee last weekend to lift up the name of Jesus during an event that served as a response to an atheist convention in their city.
The New Jersey-based group American Atheists held their four-day national convention in Memphis April 2-5. Spokeswoman Danielle Muscato explained to reporters that the organization makes the city selection based on locations that the group considers to be under “religious suppression.”
“The idea is that people assume that everybody in Memphis is a Christian. But, there are a lot of atheists here and these atheists feel oppressed by the Christian majority,” added President David Silverman to MyFox Memphis.
Speakers at the event included Lucien Greaves of the New York-based Satanic Temple and Muslim critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and a showing of the film “God’s Not Dead” was presented with live mockery from comedians Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff. Atheist “activist training” sessions were held as well, with a number of workshops for attendees.
While atheists from across the country converged on the Peabody Hotel, approximately 4,000 Christians gathered together at AutoZone Park for four hours of praise and worship, Scripture reading, prayer and pre-recorded testimonies.
“There has never been an event like it in the city,” Jan Winterburn, one of the event facilitators, told Charisma News. “It was incredible. We all entered into to worship and prayer—whether the choirs or speakers were African-American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian or born again Jews.”
Christians outside of Memphis attended as well, and some were international visitors from Korea, Japan, Uganda, Switzerland, Sweden, Columbia, Spain, England and China.
“This was about the Lord Jesus being exalted and the members of His body coming together under His Headship,” Winterburn said.
The idea for the event came about as two men who did not know each other began to pray and ask God what they should do in response to the atheist convention. Through mutual friends, both of them came to meet each other and realized that they had similar ideas. Others soon joined in to help organize the event, which became known as “Memphis Exalts Jesus.”
“We believe that though our nation’s foundations have eroded, the word of God is being recast, and the Lord is being rejected and replaced by paganism and evil doing—there still can be one last great awakening—one that restores the Lord to His rightful place and sweeps multitudes into the kingdom of God,” one organizer told reports.
But an event invitation letter says that the group had “no desire” to “confront atheists,” that is, to witness to attendees outside of the American Atheists convention. Rather, the two groups remained separated—one at the Peabody Hotel and another at Autozone Park—as one group discussed atheist activism and the other sang songs about Jesus. Fox13 Memphis noted that they didn’t see any Christians around the hotel while the event was underway.
“Our hope and deep desire is that there will be a great move of the Holy Spirit that utterly transforms the Church and our community and brings many souls to the Lord Jesus,” the invitation letter stated.