Ever had a superficial conversation suddenly run your blood cold?
On the short cab-ride to my hotel following FOWA (more to follow), the cab driver was explaining the extension of the conference venue. This is not usually the preamble to a conversation that changes your perspectives, except maybe on the architectural uses of steel spider’s legs and concrete. However, he was saying that the folks that bought Manchester United (actually, he should have said City), bought the Excel centre for a $1billion.
“Apparently,” said the cabby, “they do a lot of, you know, ‘God conferences’, evangelical like, yeah?”
“Oh?” I enquired—shocked because I’d been greeted by some charismatics in red teeshirts on my first visit to FOWA, and they’d been there every morning, greeting folks entering the conference and—strangely—leaving the toilets.
“Yeah, there’s a lot of money in it over in the States. Folks that run ’em want to come to England, and get some British God-money, I guess. Problem for them is: there aren’t any places big enough! So, they buy it, and are building a bigger place. Lots of dosh!”
I had cynically been thinking to myself that the red-tee-shirted cohort of pentecostals greeting me by name (no, nothing spiritual—we all wear name-tags!) had been selected for their good looks and ethnic diversity. But I thought I was being cynical.
But here’s the thing: I overheard maybe ten conversations between geeks (It was a web conference, after all) about the “religious people/ god-folk/ Christian nutters”, and my heart sank. One or two said that a cheery greeting first thing in the morning is quite nice. Most, however, thought they were over-bearing, weird, or strangely sexy.
The thing that gets me here, is that the public image of Jesus’ followers is horribly maimed here. Wasn’t it Jesus who through money-changers out of the temple? Wasn’t it Jesus who went to societies low-lifes and changed their worlds? You think he would have scored well with a PR agency? Think he had a Marketing team or cheer-leaders?
“The only thing spiritual they [Arab investors in the venue] get is this:” and the cabby rubbed his fingers in the international symbol of money.
What should I say to this? I’m lost for words…