TEDxABQ Asks Joy Junction to Change Shirts that Say “Life is Tough … God is Good”

By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.

Founder and CEO

Joy Junction Inc.

The Joy Junction shirt.

The Joy Junction shirt.

While the group’s creed is ideas worth spreading, this is obviously one idea that wasn’t welcome.

The idea? “God is good,” written on a shirt.

TEDxABQ Founder Tim Nisly (who I have known and respected for years) brings people together from all over New Mexico to give what are dubbed short talks about big ideas.

This year, while the big ideas were being shared inside, Joy Junction Homeless Shelter (which I founded in 1986 and direct) was invited to have an information table on the outdoor plaza just in front of UNM’s Popejoy Hall to share about hunger and homelessness in New Mexico.

Joy Junction regularly has similar tables at events all over the community, and our representatives often wear the shelter uniform shirt which reads on the back, “Life is Tough. God is Good.”

There was never any mention in pre event talks about religion, or any words about faith being a taboo issue. So when our staff attended the event, it was natural to wear the shirt.

Our staff told me they were shocked when a couple of hours in, organizers said the shirts had to be turned inside out or exchanged for another shirt. After conferring together, all our staff unanimously decided to leave.

Nisly told Caleb James of KOB TV that speakers at TEDxABQ (which we weren’t) are able to introduce ideas about religion — as long as they’re not pushing one religion over another.

KOB said one of the TEDx content guidelines (emailed to the station by Nisly) forbids religious proselytizing; no speakers who attempt to “prove or persuade the correctness of a single religion.”

That’s something I fully understand, but as Munsey told KOB and me, none of our group was speaking and all they were doing was wearing the shirts.

“To change our shirts would have been a denial of what we are,” she told me.

That’s why our crew left. However, if we’d been told before that religion was an issue our crew wouldn’t have worn the shirts for the event.

But one thing needs clarified. While Joy Junction serves everyone, we are a Christian ministry. That’s why comments like this one, which was posted on our Facebook page, floor me.

This individual wrote, “You are there to HELP not spread your word about religion…  As a non Christian it would bother me if I was going to a place, supposedly unrelated to religion and then ended up being told about the good works of Jesus Christ at every turn. Christianity needs to check their privilege and realize they are not the only religion. So sometimes it’s just better to leave the whole thing out.”

I responded, “Yes, we are there to help, and do so by sheltering hundreds nightly and thousands of meals each month. However, integral to that help is sharing the message of recovery and a relationship with Jesus Christ. We are a faith based ministry.”

Why do we feel so strongly about that message? It has been my experience after working with New Mexico’s homeless for over 30 years, that people often fall into drug abuse and an inappropriate use of alcohol in an attempt to escape the emotional pain and despair that characterize their lives.

While regularly working with medical and mental health professionals, Joy Junction offers a relationship with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone on which to build a fully recovered life. We can never deny that.

To see a video about this issue, visit  http://www.kob.com/article/stories/S3554083.shtml?cat=500#.VA0yqsVdX4d