RELIGION

Bikers riding for Christ

ANDREW NIKIFORUK December 7 1981
RELIGION

Bikers riding for Christ

ANDREW NIKIFORUK December 7 1981

Bikers riding for Christ

RELIGION

The biggest chuckle we get is when the police pull us over,” says the long-haired biker. “They give us the third degree. And when we tell them we’re going to church, they give us that ‘Oh sure’ look.” Meet Pastor Ed (Dutchy) Brouwer, former outlaw biker and head of the International Christian Bikers Association (ICBA)—an organization whose phenomenal growth matches its extraordinary mission: bringing bikers to Christ. Since its inception in Dunnville, Ont., in 1979, the group has spawned 10 affiliates across the country and drawn 700 international members (including prison inmates in the United States and missionaries in Papua and Africa). And the number of cyclists joining clubs such as Peterborough’s Revelation Riders or California’s Christ Patrol shows no sign of abating.

“We use motorcycles as a key to reach a certain group of people that most Christians or citizens are afraid to talk to,” explains Brouwer, who rides a hulking 1200-cc Harley-Davidson. The Pentecostal minister at Halton Gospel Temple in Georgetown, Ont., visits bikers in jails and hospitals where, he says, they are a “captive audience.” Members either receive Christ as their personal savior before they join the association or convert at club meetings, rallies or even Christmas banquets. Older bikers, ravaged by drugs, alcohol and street violence, regard the Christian clubs as a place where they can shed old habits while at the same time retaining vestiges of their former selves.

In the basement of the Faith Gospel Temple in Burlington, Ont., gather 15 members of the Christian Riders Motorcycle Club. Black-shirted and leath-

er-jacketed, they meet every second Monday night for Bible study and prayer. Fellow Dean Stokes of St. Catharines, Ont., sums up this seemingly ironic image as “black on the outside; Christian on the inside.” The testimony of Randy O’Keefe best defines the club’s appeal. Before being “born again,” the 26-year-old trucker rode with outlaws. Addicted to drugs and alcohol, he treated his wife “like a punching bag” and “had a thing about blacks and Pakistanis.” Then, he made a deal with God and joined the group last month. He and other club members claim the club gives them the kind of support and fellowship they need to keep from backsliding into what born agains call their “old natures.”

Born-again bikers convert their bikes when they convert their souls. Angelic paraphernalia swiftly replaces the Satanic. Crosses, praying hands and angel wings are welded onto handlebars. Gas tanks display airbrushed paintings of biblical scenes. And the jacket crests of some outlaws once boldly identifying “Hell’s Angels” now announce that “Jesus is Lord. Ye must be born again.”

Not all of ICBA’S members are ex-bikers like Brouwer and O’Keefe—about 80 per cent come from occupations as varied as cabinetmaking and banking and are simply motorcycle lovers. One Ontario couple in their 70s, with a Honda Gold Wing 1000, ride regularly in ICBA tours. Proselytizing tours are enhanced by bikers’ residual fraternal ties, which represent the movement’s strongest card. Explains Brouwer: “Besides

Christianity, motorcycling’s the

greatest freedom in the world—you smell it, feel it, taste it—there’s nothing like it.” -ANDREW NIKIFORUK

ANDREW NIKIFORUK