A while back, I attended a gathering of some Christian friends. Quite a few were from London and attended Holy Trinity Brompton, but one told me that he went to "Steve Chalke's church". I could tell by the way he uttered the words, "Steve Chalke" that this was something momentous and I was meant to be impressed.
" Oh yes", I said, "he's some sort of evangelical pastor, isn't he? I've vaguely heard of him."
"He's Steve Chalke", said my companion looking aghast, "you know Steve Chalke!"
"Right", I said, "That's good then."
The fact is that I'm not very up to the moment on evangelical writers and pastors. I've heard of Nicky Gumbel, of course, and of Rob Bell and of a few others but I'm just not really terribly interested. The reason I even mention this at all is that Steve Chalke has written an article saying how he now supports same sex relationships- and this has caused waves in the evangelical world. I just mention it in case you happen to be interested in things evangelical.
Now, I actually know quite a lot of gay evangelicals. I find this a bit weird and freaky (them being evangelical, not the gay bit...) but that doesn't mean I'm prejudiced against them. In fact, some of my best friends are evangelicals and even some of my family. As long as they keep it private and don't go flaunting it by saying things like "Praise the Lord", I'm just fine! I wish that they would change their ways, of course, in fact I used to be in that sort of lifestyle, I left it and so anyone can. I just wish they'd realise that they could sing psalms in a dirge like way and avoid mentioning Jesus outside of the actual service if they would only make the effort to control themselves.It's not that hard if you only try.
I have to admit that I might have some teensy prejudices - as a 100% solid Anglican (ex-Anglican?...it's the same thing anyhow!) I find the thought of people waving their hands in the air and speaking in tongues rather repulsive , but you don't have to think about it- that's the point. Most of what they believe is utter nonsense, of course, and they've got quite an agenda going on, but for me it's a case of love the believer, hate their beliefs. I'm also fascinated by the way that they have their little signs to tell each other who they are, the fish symbol in the car, the use of a strange lexicon including words such as "sanctified" and "backslidden" and "convicted". We might also think they are so full of themselves and their bloody status-among-the-elect / saved-by-grace/ washed-in-the-blood/ baptised-in-the-Holy-Spirit or whatever term they use to make it clear they are a better class of Christian - but in reality they also feel quite beleaguered, a persecuted minority facing prejudice and misunderstood in larger society. So, just think about what that feels like that next time you are tempted to judge! Finally, they're not all bigots who hate women and gays, in spite of what you've read in the papers. It's a stereotype and a lot of them are as tolerant as the average middle of the road Anglican and generally a lot younger and they give a lot more to the church.
So, next time you are about to make some shallow, prejudiced assumptions - don't! Remind yourself that, despite your instinctive disgust, lots of them are lovely, lovely people and remember that it's just the way they were born again!
With heartfelt apologies to any evangelical readers...:)