A Cult Comes to the Heart of Darkness, with Public Funding


By Bruce Clark

The ironically modern-looking Center for Youth Excellence has finally opened its doors in Winnipeg’s heart of darkness. Youth For Christ, an evangelical, international cult that boasts the racist charlatan and presidential ass-kisser Billy Graham as its first “full time worker,” was given $2.6 million from Winnipeg taxpayers and $3.2 million from Canadians to aid in the construction of the building now located at the notorious corner of Higgins and Main.

Youth For Christ has been around since the 1940s when an assorted group of parasites like Billy Graham understood how easy it is to implant bigoted falsehoods such as the racist elitism of evangelical Christianity into the minds of unsuspecting children.

The ministry has turned into an international business that, according to their website, employs 46,000 people proving that you can fool most of the people most of the time.

The Center for Youth Excellence houses an indoor skateboard park, a dance studio and a gym that are free to all. These recreational luxuries are typically available to children fortunate enough to be born into families that can afford them. Like candy in the pederast’s pocket, the clubhouse will be used to lure disadvantaged youth for the purpose of indoctrination so Youth For Christ can make the nonsensical, pointless claim that they’ve saved another soul.

YFC also owns a bucolic retreat located on the Winnipeg River called Cedarwood. An enticing video featuring teens having a tremendous amount of fun waterskiing, biking and playing basketball reminded me of my own religious-based camping experience.

When I was eleven, I signed up for a Mennonite Bible camp in Winkler, Manitoba. A friend of mine who attended the previous summer gave me a glossy brochure that promised horseback riding and something irresistible to a pre-teen boy: sword fighting.   Every kid in the old ’hood had fashioned a “sword” by nailing a couple of broken hockey sticks together and used the lid of a garbage can as a shield to play Roman soldier. The idea that I could do this at a camp made it all the more authentic and all the more irresistible.

I convinced my parents to send me to the camp and was more than a little disappointed when the “sword fights” falsely advertised in the brochure turned out to be Bible lessons framed in a game show format. I still don’t understand why they were called “sword fights,” but I don’t suppose you’d attract too many pre-pubescent boys to a camp by honestly promoting the memorization of biblical verses.

I was duped by the deceitful sales tactics and forced to participate in something I cared nothing about. I sat stewing in the camp’s chapel while other Todd Flanders types seemed genuinely thrilled to learn that the parable of the mustard seed appeared in Matthew, Mark and Luke. I had no interest in playing their stupid game and desperately wanted to thrust one of the camp councilors clean through with a sharpened Sher-Wood.

Other than one of my fellow campers swallowing his tongue after crashing to the ground from twenty feet up a jack pine, the entertainment was pretty lame. Horseback riding happened once, there was nowhere to swim and by the end of the week, the Jesus talk was getting a little stale.

At the grand finale campfire where Mennonite leaders strummed guitars and sang Michael Row Your Boat Ashore, I noticed one of my new buddies, a chubby likeable kid named David, sitting by himself looking angst-ridden.

He was missing all the fun of searing the roof of his mouth with molten marshmallows, so I asked Mr. Kroeker (don’t know why I still remember his name) why David wasn’t sitting with the rest of us. I still remember Herr Kroeker placing his hand on my shoulder and telling me somewhat threateningly that David wasn’t happy because  “he hasn’t accepted Jesus into his heart – yet.”

The bizarre thing was, David had told me earlier in the week that he was Jewish. I don’t know why Jewish parents would send their son to a camp run by Germans, but there sat poor David in the penumbra of the campfire, cursing his lineage and the loss of his foreskin.

Even at eleven, I recognized the sheer cruelty being inflicted by these adults whose only authority was the power they had granted to themselves by claiming to do “God’s work.”     This subtle yet sinister ploy of preying on a vulnerable minority was my introduction to evil incarnate posing as the virtuous. My little Jewish friend was made to feel sub-human because he didn’t believe in some hocus pocus that was cooked up when, as Mark Twain said, “…the first con man met the first fool.”

My experience with these detestable, self-righteous authority figures and my intense fascination with religion and its countless charlatans has forged in me a zero tolerance for piety. Since most people know very little about the history of religion, ancient or modern, criticizing organizations like Youth For Christ can elicit collective eye rolling by those who believe these zealous groups are ultimately benign organizations trying to do good work.

I mean, what harm can a group of proselytizing Christians do to First Nations cultures for example?

It’s also not surprising that opportunist politicians like Sam Katz are willing to abandon their previously averred moralities in order to bank political capital by claiming a role in the cleaning up of Winnipeg’s growing mess of an inner-city.

Katz, who has spoken publicly about his own encounters with anti-Semitism, has played Hitler’s Pope (Pius XII) to Youth for Christ, an organization that by their very definition is anti-Semitic. (If you’re anything but a Christian, you’ll burn in hell.)

If you think calling YFC anti-Semitic a stretch, check out Youth For Christ International’s website,where the uber-douchebag and Jew-hater, Billy Graham, is lauded as one of its founders. The infamous tapes of Graham telling Richard Nixon that the Jews are running the media (among other despicable rhetoric) and that “this stranglehold has got to be broken or the country’s going down the drain,” are all one needs to hear to understand Graham and people involved with organizations like Youth For Christ are agenda-driven demagogues.

The last thing vulnerable, First Nations teens need to be told is that their “pagan” culture is evil and they are worthless human beings unless they accept Jesus as their saviour. It didn’t really do much good the first time the Black Robes showed up at the teepee door and if I were a First Nations kid, I’d be pretty wary about false prophets promising redemption in the form of an indoor skate park. If they start handing out blankets, I’d run for the hills.

John Courtney, the executive director of YFC Winnipeg, is under the delusion that bringing wayward First Nations to Christ will help ameliorate their problems. He believes the very poison that helped erode the culture of an entire race can be the antidote to what now ails it.

I emailed John Courtney to answer a few questions including whether or not gay and lesbians were welcome at the center. He never got back to me but it only took a few clicks of my mouse to confirm my suspicions that YFC, like all evangelical Christian groups, is a homophobic organization. (For some reason, evangelicals just can’t let go of their hatred toward homosexuals.)

YFC International’s president, David Wraight published a handy little primer for those who aren’t sure what direction their moral compass should point. Wraight’s Biblical Reference Guide uses several Bible verses to prove that being a homosexual means you’ll burn in an eternal hell.

I asked Ross Mcgowan, CEO of CenterVenture, the arms length agency of the City of Winnipeg if there was any vetting done of Youth For Christ in relation to their homophobic nature before they were given the millions in public funding.

“It’s news to me,” Ross said. Mcgowan said that YFC came to them with $7 million dollars and a plan to help kids and the only opposition was from First Nations who were afraid of a residential school redux. He admitted it would have been a problem had he known about YFC’s public distain for homosexuality. I guess somebody should have asked.

The idea that government will put $5.5 million dollars behind an evangelical Christian organization like YFC speaks loudly about the fecklessness of people like Mayor Katz.   Katz and other supposed city leaders have no imagination when it comes to social challenges and have exacerbated the problem by closing community clubs in areas that needed them the most.

It should be part of any city’s mandate to address social inequities. It’s easier, I suppose, to cut a cheque to a group of people who come with cash in hand and a plan. Even if their plan includes telling lies to children.

Secular governments should never team up with people like John Courtney or fundamentalist religious organizations like Youth For Christ. People like Courtney make their way in the world by exploiting the vulnerable and pointing to the ignorant words written by other self-righteous, odious men who also believed they spoke for God. He presents myth as fact for his own personal gain under the auspices of altruism.

YFC’s Statement of Faith, tells you all you need to know about the organization. It is a predatory cult whose mission is to convince young people to quit thinking on their own and blindly follow the archaic, offensive nonsense people like Courtney espouse.









  1. Barbara Toews
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Sadly, there are many of us who can relate to the experiences with ‘Christianity’ that Bruce describes. The core values of most world religions are the same. If everyone lived by them, the world would be a better place.

    As for the YFC Centre in Winnipeg, I think there should always be separation of church and state! All of us, but particularly, people of faith, should be willing to pay the taxes needed to show youth in the core area that they are important and deserving of the same level of recreation opportunities as youth in other parts of the city.

  2. Phil
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Really liked this article on the “center” at higgins & main… we need more articles about this sort of thing, the christian hypocrites. power & control, and of course jesus. makes me sick, hopefully I’m not the only one.

  3. Jim
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    All I get out of this is that Mr. Clark didn’t have fun at summer camp, so all kids should suffer for his experience. If Mr. Clark thinks this is such a bad idea, where are his ideas? Where is his youth program? I see no indication in this article that he spends any of his abundance of free time working with high-risk youth. We need more people to do that instead of researching lame 1950’s American politics.

  4. Ryan Humble
    Posted January 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    I don’t want to come out defending YFC, I have only encountered small glimpses, and I will not try and defend Billy Graham. I am writing this out of a place that is trying to be honest. My feathers get ruffled when I read your article, because I am a “Christian”. Who cares whether I am a Christian really and who cares if my or anyones feathers get ruffled, that is irrelevant. So I say this from a place that of course will be incorporated with the relationship I have with Jesus. A christian walks with as much failure as anyone, some walk full of themselves, some walk with boldness and conviction, some walk hurt and wounded by the past, some walk claiming “the truth”, some walk in love, some don’t walk at all. This world is bombarded with people trying to defend what they know at the time they know it and attacking what they know from the places they have been attacked, some would say this is how we progress to find truth. I’m not sure how much of any man/woman can be taken with such conviction that it controls who we are. The question remains who to trust, I tried basing my life on all the scholars, religious leaders, the cool-kids, the down and outters, the hippies, the I don’t give a damn clan, and I’ll tell ya, none of these people gave me any hint of what I was searching for. So here it is my punch line which is not a punch line really, it’s my belief, God is the orchastrater of all things and nobody can do nothing without him that amounts to any worth or value.This is not a defense to your article, this is something I feel I wanted to share.

Stand Up Guy

Bruce Clark

Bruce Clark is a comic and playwright. He splits his time between Winnipeg and Palm Springs, CA.