Monday 20 October 2014

Dealing with home grown fundamentalism

No, not another blog about ISIS. This is home grown fundamentalism.

On walking through the city centre yesterday, I encountered two men berating a group of young people. The two men were from a local Pentecostal Church, and were, not surprisingly, describing how Gay people were going to hell. The young people were disagreeing with them.

Now, the easiest thing to do in that situation is to quickly walk away, hiding my dogcollar, and just getting on with the shopping needed for the event that was going on later in the Minster.

But I couldn't bring myself to do it. This hateful bile might become the image of Christianity that would stick in the minds of these four perfectly lovely young folk, unless something changed the story.

I turned to the group and with a big Howson smile aimed at the teenagers said: "our church is very welcoming of Gay people, not all Christians have these attitudes"

One of the young men turned and smiled. "wow, can I give you a hug?!" We hugged and I shook the hand of the other three young folk. The older of the two street evangelists lost it. "Repent" he shouted holding a bible in my face "You are sowing the seeds of the devil." I ignored him, and talked to the teenagers. "Some churches have moved on, hopefully we can try to remember that Jesus came to show us how to love, and not how to hate. You are welcome at the Minster anytime"

One of the guys began saying something about me going to hell or something, but I didn't engage - what was the point? I've become less convinced over the years that we can change the hearts and minds of fundamentalists - certainly not on street corners. Our job though, is not to allow them to go unchallenged, and not let there voices be the only ones heard. The damage these street evangelists do to the Gospel is immense, and they ought to be challenged where possible.

It's uncomfortable, and we may well be condemned and publicly attacked. It was horrible to be shouted at in the street like that. But I hope I changed the 'story of Christianity' in those young folks heads, and that hug certainly made it all worth the hassle.  

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