It is very rarely that I am tempted to write on matters religious, but this is one where in one day where two events and a moment of perspicacity over ride all other considerations.
The "main event" on which I was going to write I have put down second; it is the political march of the Destiny Church here in Auckland that took place yesterday. To my chagrin and potential embarrassment I knew nothing of it until it hit the news at midday by which time the fun was all over. What has overtaken it in importance is a post at OneHandClapping which drew me through to this from Ragamuffin...
Jesus Talks With A Gay Man - (John 4:1-33, 39-42 - more or less...)
1 In late July, the Metro Chicago Synod heard that Jesus was attracting more first-time visitors and baptizing more adults than any other ELCA pastor in the city, 2 although in fact it was not really Jesus who had baptized them, but his irregularly-commisioned staff of unordained lay ministers. 3 Now when Jesus learned of this, he left the seminary community in Hyde Park and went back once more toward the ELCA headquarters on Higgins Road.
4 Now to get there, he had to go through an area just north of downtown called Boystown. 5 So he came to a part of Boystown called Northhalsted, not far from the plot of ground where Emperor Mayor Daley had ordained that the Chicago Cubs should play baseball. 6 Cub's Stadium was near there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey on the Red Line, sat down at a sidewalk café table outside the bar called Hydrate. It was just about lunch-time, and though the rainbow flags were fluttering in the breeze and the music inside the bar was pumping, there weren't many people around (because it's often hot and miserable outside, at mid-day in late July, in Chicago).
7 A waiter came to the table, wearing a bright pink "His+His" t-shirt and a "Silence=Death" armband, and raised one eyebrow at the man seated at the table in front of him in the "Come Follow Me" t-shirt. Jesus said to him, "Will you give me a drink?" 8 (All the lay ministers had gone down the street to pick up Subway sandwiches for the rest of the journey.)
9 The gay man said to him, "Hey...you tell me. After all, you appear to be a straight Christian, and I'm a gay man. Let's face it - we don't get many religious folks in Boystown, let alone places like this. And I'm not only a gay man, but I'm a Muslim gay man. So where does a guy like you get off asking someone like me for a drink?" (For Christians do not associate with gays, nor with Muslims if they can help it.)
10 Jesus answered him, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."
11 "Hey, mister," the gay man said, "I'm the waiter here. I don't see you with an order pad or a serving tray, and it's tough for customers to even get close to our fountain-drink station, let alone our bar. So how are you going to get anything for me to drink, let alone 'living water'? Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you somehow greater than the folks who own this place, who let us drink have free water and soda (and snitch the occasional mixed drink) whenever we want?"
13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks your water, or your soda, or your beer will get thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
15 The gay man said to him, "Yeah? Mister...you know what, I have no idea who you really are, or even what the heck you're talking about. But you're the first Christian man in 20 years that hasn't spit on me, or called me 'an abomination' to my face. Somehow, I think I want some of what you're offering. Give me some of this water you keep talking about, so I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to get something to drink."
16 Jesus told the man, "OK - just call your wife and come back here, and we'll talk."
17 "Who are you kidding?" the gay man said. "Don't you know where you are? You're in Boystown, for cryin' out loud. I don't have a wife, or a girlfriend. Heck, right now I don't even have a boyfriend," he replied.
18 Jesus said to her, "You're right when you say you have no boyfriend. The fact is, you've had five boyfriends, and the guy you're living with now isn't even your boyfriend. He's just a guy you picked up in the club - some guy who doesn't even know your real last name."
19 Whoah, buddy," the gay man said, "that's pretty intense! How'd you know that about me?" Jesus was silent. "OK...I get it. Maybe you're one of those folks who can see right through people - maybe one of those guys with 'second sight.' Maybe you're one of those folks who 'have the Spirit,' like those televangelists say. 20 I don't know anything about that. My family - my people (the ones who are observant, anyway) - think that you have to pray five times a day to Allah to get that kind of power. The rest of the people I know don't even bother with that spiritual mumbo-jumbo...they just think you have to work out a lot, look good, live fast, die hard and leave a good-looking corpse. And all the Christians I've met think that I have to pray their way, and start living life their way, or I'm 'going to hell.' Either way, my day-to-day life is so empty, I'm not convinced that I'm not already in hell. What's a guy supposed to believe?"
21 Jesus said, "Believe me, my friend, a time is coming when you won't worship God in Mecca, or in the gym, or in the club, or in a church sanctuary. 22 You and your friends worship what you think you know, but do not know. Christians worship what they do know, for salvation is promised in Scripture. 23 Yet a time is coming - and has now come - when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
25 The gay man said, "I know that the church folks say that their Savior is coming. Maybe when he finally gets here, he will explain everything to us."
26 Then Jesus declared, "Then wait no longer. I'm the one they're waiting for."
The Irregularly-Commissioned Lay Ministers Rejoin Jesus
27 Just then the lay ministers returned and were more than a little surprised to find Jesus apparently talking with a gay man - one who appeared to be Middle-Eastern in origin, to boot. But no one asked, "What do you want?" or "Why are you talking with him?"
28 Then, leaving his tray and his order pad behind at the table, the gay man went back to the bar, and even next door to the gym and to the other clubs, and said to the people, 29 "You gotta come and see this... come see a guy who told me everything I ever did, and didn't run away or act disgusted. Could this possibly be 'the Christ' all those religious folks keep talking about?" 30 People came out of the gym, and out of the bars and clubs, and made their way toward him.
31 Meanwhile the lay ministers (the ones who considered themselves Jesus' disciples) kept saying, "Hey, padré, you may walk on water, but come on - even Michael Jordan's gotta eat something." 32 But Jesus said to them, "I have a source of energy that you know nothing about."
33 Then his disciples said to each other, "Did someone slip him some Mrs. Field's cookies while we weren't looking?"
Many Gays and Lesbians Believe
39 Many of the gays and lesbians who gathered from all around Boystown believed in Jesus because of what the waiter said: "You gotta come and see this... come see a guy who told me everything I ever did, and didn't run away or act disgusted." 40 So when the people of that area - gay men, lesbians, bisexuals (even people in civil unions from Vermont and Episcopalians visiting from New Hampshire) came to him, they urged Jesus to stay with them. So rather than continuing the ride out to Higgins Road, the irregularly consecrated lay ministers found some rooms at a nearby bed-&-breakfast, and he stayed in Boystown - amidst the people with whom most Christians would not associate - for two days. 41 And because of what Jesus spoke to the men and women there, many more became believers.
42 The people who heard Jesus said to the gay man who first encountered him, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world."
Remember, that is not my sermon. But, from my childhood knowledge of Christianity it rings something of a bell.
What I do want to do is to contrast it with the events of yesterday...
There is much in the following two articles regarding the counter-demonstrations. That to me is a disappointment, but not the reason for this post, because that reportage detracts from the main "news"...
First, extracted from the news this morning...
Warwick Gilmore and his children came from Tauranga to take part.
"This is not my scene. I've never marched before in my life and it aggrieves me that I have to do it, but I feel like I have to make a stand. Moderates like me are being pushed into this, it's like the basics (of society) are being redefined," he said.
National Front youth members, one wearing a balaclava, walked next to Destiny members.
Tamaki, overtly political, called Christians to arms in election year.
"Christians hear me. You are one of the largest voting blocks in the country, yet you are one of the most under-represented in places of influence. It's time for you to make your stand."
While digging around for that, I also came acros this opinion piece datelined from Friday...
But Christian Life Centre pastor Paul De Jong insists: "We are for something, not against anything."
There is an incorrect perception that the march is a Destiny event, he says. The family isn't important just to Christians, "many New Zealanders share these views".
He says the march is intended to be a political statement - leaders need to be reminded in election year that people are concerned about the moral state of the nation, and the lack of importance being placed on family values and society's cornerstone: the nuclear family.
Other groups lobby hard, so Christians need to.
He doesn't approve of black shirts and fist salutes and there will be none of that today. Anything that can be seen as a hate march is not helpful to the Christian message, he says.
"It's about marching for marriage, for our families and for the future generations."
That's not what the website says. Well, he admits, the website was a Destiny thing.
And the Destiny Church will be the only political party to speak. Others were invited and agreed to speak, but they pulled out. Why? "The perception that it was a Destiny march."
Does his church support Destiny's political aspirations? "We've never expressed categorical support."
Mr Winslade (national leader of the Baptist churches], making it clear he was expressing personal views, said Christians should not support Destiny at the general election or take part in public demonstrations that could be interpreted as political support.
This is despite "agreeing wholeheartedly with Destiny's desire to see an arrest of liberal and destructive social policy on the part of the current government".
"Could it be that such public displays are embarrassing the wider Christian community and stigmatising fellow Bible-believing Christians?" he wrote.
Mr Winslade argues that public displays are not the Christian way.
"Jesus and his first followers eventually won an empire through a revolution of love and faith and good deeds."
The Destiny movement is based on "presumptuous false prophecy - that Brian Tamaki was the anointed spiritual leader whom God is raising up to lead the nation", he says.
"Allegedly within four years Brian Tamaki will be the spiritual leader of New Zealand. Many Destiny Church members, and a growing number of Pentecostal Christians, believe this to be true. It's time to call this for what is really is: wrong."
The only mention on tv news yesterday evening was a 5 second clip of Tamaki haranguing the crowds after the demonstration... The outtake they screened "...our leader, Helen Clarke, is an avowed atheist..."
Which she is, and as if that makes any difference to how the country is governed.
To you folks of religious persuasion, which of these two pictures represents more closely the religion that you follow;
the picture of a Christ sharing a glass and debate with a gay muslim waiter,
or the Destiny Church marching against an inclusive society, accompanied by members of the National Front (who for those who do not know or remember are the neo- and devout followers of a diminutive Austrian paperhanger and Corporal who affected a funny little mustache)