Sunday, January 30, 2005

Booze, Sex and Rock n Roll

On Day 2 of a boozy weekend, a stranger emerged from the swirling pub smoke and seated her heated bottom on my lap.

She shoved her unfinished pint among the empty groundnut shells and wound a fleshy arm around my waist, moving her lips so close that I could smell the warmth of her make-up, in her fog of sweaty perfume, stale eau de Marlboro and sour beer. Ample bosom swaying alarmingly, she shouted over the mad electric guitar rifts and frantic drum sets incoherent drunk angry words about the unreasonable church which forbade alcohol and sex outside of marriage, and which fingered her as the devil incarnate. She needed sex and she was gonna get it, honey.

Angry and hurt. Wanting acceptance, yet rebelling. Wanting to forget with drink, yet remembering far too starkly. Wanting love through sex, yet never finding it. Wanting to believe in God, yet not wanting him to be God. Wanting happiness and a place to rest.

I wished I had a pithy answer; the full gospel in one line; a clean clear salvation injection to cut through the cancerous murk of her life. The words of life in an upper.

But I didn't.

And it was too late.

She unwound herself and staggered off into the haze from which she emerged, into the shadowy arms of another man.

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Phillip Jensen has a good pub analogy. Heaven is not a pub without beer. Hell is the pub with neither beer nor the mates to share it with.

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On Day 3 of a sloshy weekend, my old roomie arrived from London so we cobbled together a few mates and went out for some local nosh while he groused about being preached at in his local pub. A very good idea.

Every place is a good place for evangelism of course, and every person (sloshed or sober) a good person to tell the good news to. But sometimes, certain places are blindspotted due to sensitive consciences or incorrect theology, losing opportunities with whole social groups.

Pub ministry and evangelism has been going on for some time in England (eg. Barnone in Cardiff (good head on the beer, some bad nuts in their creed basket)): booze, pub grub, good music, a short evangelistic talk, unblinking straight-out discussion. Born of the understanding that no building is sacred or holy, keen on bringing the gospel to where people are, seeing the mission field and darkest Africa in our backyard, keeping holy and distinctive yet being healthily culturally-relevant**, it's a cultural update of the coffee bar evangelism of the 1960s and 1970s.

Pubs are full of lonely people as well, wanting a chat. Stuart Briscoe is known to do personal evangelism in bars. In one conversation, he said to the guy sitting next to him,"I was saved by grace!" He wanted to say by the grace of God, but the beery fellow said: "Was Grace a blonde or a brunette?".


** For a discussion of Christian liberty and how biblical cultural-relevance and contextualisation is, see Phillip Jensen's address at the Australian Forum on Evangelism 1992.

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