Monday, March 27, 2006

A Nice Place to Visit, But They Wouldn't Want You to Live There

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that this weekend evangelical Christian teenagers rallied in San Francisco. The rally, "Battle Cry for a Generation", was held by a group called Teen Mania whose goal is to guide teenagers away from the negative influences of pop culture. Not surprisingly for an evangelical group, they also want to create more youth who are evangelizers, helping other young people with problems and trying to bring them to Jesus.

A San Francisco Assemblyman said of the evangelicals, "they're loud, they're obnoxious, they're disgusting, and they should get out of San Francisco." I suppose rallies of any kind are bound to get loud, but funnily enough, the article does not mention even one act by the rally attendees that might earn them the designations "obnoxious" or "disgusting". Could it be there were unreported incidences of rude behavior or crimes by the attendees that made the Assemblyman hostile to them?

According to the article I linked, the city's Board of Supervisors "earlier in the week"--i.e. before the teenage evangelicals got to San Francisco--passed a resolution condemning the gathering. Hmm. The city officially condemned the evangelicals before they had a chance to do anything. That makes it sound as if the problem the city has with them is their presence--perhaps even their very existence--not anything they've actually done.

I don't have a problem with the private citizens who protested the rally (even if they do bring out the rather tired epithet "fascists"), because I would expect it and because I support freedom of speech and assembly--even by people assembling for speech I disagree with. But it seems kind of odd for city officials to say these things. As long as the rally members are law-abiding, gathering peacefully, and not endangering the community by committing or encouraging others to commit dangerous & illegal acts, shouldn't the city be neutral?

I don't necessarily agree with everything the rally organizers and attendees believe. For one thing, I find their referring to the filth of much pop culture as "virtue terrorism" distasteful. For another, I'm neither an evangelical nor a fundamentalist. I'm a Catholic. I consider the people at that gathering fellow Christians--what many Catholics call "separated brothers and sisters"--but at least a few of them probably think I'm a heathen statue-worshipper, so needless to say there's some theological differences. But we're more alike than we are different.

I guess that means San Francisco wouldn't want me either. Maybe I should be impressed by myself. Considering some of the pictures I've seen of various protests & gatherings (none condemned by the city, as far as I know), being too "disgusting" for San Francisco is quite a feat.

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