An Ohio church associate pastor’s Easter lesson went haywire Monday when he prompted youth students to assault him and cut him with a knife.
Jaddeus Dempsey, an associate pastor of Impact City Church in Pataskala, Ohio, invited high school and middle school students to line up and during an after school church youth program and to spit on him and slap him, and later offered to let them cut his back with a steak knife, according to The Washington Post. Video of the incident spread on Facebook and Snapchat, prompting outcries from concerned parents.
Many of the students laughed and exclaimed in disbelief and shock as others spit into Dempsey’s face one by one and later slapped him. The students erupted into shrieks and cries of “No! No!” as Dempsey uncovered a steak knife laying on the stage behind him, handed the knife to a young boy, and bared his back, prompting him to cut him. An adult intervened, not to stop them, but to caution them to “be very, very gentle.”
The young boy, unwilling to cut his pastor, relinquished the knife to another student who passed it to a 12-year-old boy. That boy cut lightly down Dempsey’s shoulder blade. The 12-year-old’s mother and father reportedly rushed to the church to pick him up after a friend notified them of the incident.
“He was upset. He thought he was in trouble. When I explained to him I’m not upset with you, I just want you to know that the things that happened here wasn’t OK,” the boy’s father told 10 WBNS.
The church issued statements apologizing for the incident, as did Dempsey and lead pastor Justin Ross in a Facebook video. They explained that the display was meant to teach students about Jesus’ suffering on their behalf, but admitted that it crossed the line. Ross was present for the incident and did not intervene.
Ross said Dempsey “had an opportunity to share a message about Easter, and he chose to use an illustration to explain a very important topic about the crucifixion. But the illustration went too far and it was inappropriate for the audience that we had with students.”
Ross recounted that Dempsey told the students “I’m gonna ask you to do something that might seem a little crazy.” Dempsey then invited anyone present who wanted to spit on him to do so without fear of reprisal. The lead pastor said that many of the students were “caught of guard,” but that several accepted Dempsey’s invitation. Dempsey invited the students afterward to slap him if they wanted, again without fear of repercussions. He made the same offer concerning cutting him.
Dempsey reportedly shared the story of how Jesus willingly faced suffering and death as an innocent man out of love for others after inviting the students to harm him. Ross reiterated, however, that the initial display was out of line and that online reactions of disgust, confusion, and hurt over the incident were appropriate.
“There’s really no excuse for why it happened,” Ross said.
“In no way do we condone that students or anyone else should spit on someone, should slap them or use a weapon to harm anyone or harm themselves,” he added.
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