The viral shirtless jogger, who shot to Internet fame after running half-naked through a rainstorm, is the co-founder of a Christian student ministry that has since offered "free prayers" outside of gay bars and other nightclubs in the Chicago area.
Ethan Renoe was dubbed "Ethan the Shirtless Wonder" after appearing on a live WGN-TV broadcast while running shirtless in the rain. The 24-year-old gave a shout-out to Jesus on the air and wound up with a slew of romantic proposals.
"It’s a great day for a run. Too wet to wear a shirt, you know?" he said. "I love running in the rain, and I’m also single!"
"Prayer is a way to genuinely love on people," Renoe said in a video from 2013 about the group, "to show them that we're interested in what's going on in their lives, and then do something about it, pray for it. Prayer heals people. Prayer changes and shifts things. You can never underestimate the power of prayer."
Noah Reynolds, the current leader of the movement, spoke to NBC Chicago about the group's location choices, claiming that it has to do with foot traffic. But he mainly holds the prayer sign outside a gay bar called Progress in the predominantly gay area of the city known as Boystown.
"My primary purpose of going there is to show this community love that has been severely damaged by those who claim to be Christians" he said. "That area has been hurt by people who claim Christ’s name."
Noting that the group's actions have been compared to those of the Westboro Baptist Church, Reynold's rejected any similarities to the group, telling NBC the notoriously anti-gay organization is "nearly the antithesis of what we are."
UPDATE: In a statement sent to The Huffington Post, Renoe said any notion that he and his friends are "bigoted homophobes" could not be "farther from the truth."
We go to half a dozen neighborhoods in Chicago and Boystown just happens to be one of them. We go to clubs and bars because that is where the people are. We are not protesting anything, as most of us like to dance, have a drink, and have fun as well! We often apologize to our LGBT friends for how Christians have treated them in the past. We would say things like, "We certainly are Christians, but anyone who was cruel and hurtful to you in the past was NOT acting toward you the way Jesus would want them to. We love you and we are here for you." We tell them we love them and are all FOR their flourishing and health. When we talk and pray with people (not only those in the LGBT community) they often cry and tell us how moved they were, regardless of the attitude they had when they first approached. We have never shouted at anyone or done anything to get anyone to stop. We let people come to us only if they want to. When people stop, we usually just ask what's on their heart, and chat with them for a bit. And if they want to pray with us, we do!
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