When I think about Jesus, I have to think about the many Jesus iterations I know of and was brought up with. All around my grandma’s house were holy pictures of the sacred heart of Jesus. It was a very poignant piece of artwork with vibrant colours. In essence, it displayed – or was certainly intended to display – that Jesus had a great heart, was forgiving and was open to us all. So far so good…
Then there is probably one of the most enduring images of Jesus as the wee baby in a manger in Bethlehem. The humility into which he was born – a stable – and the innocence of the pictures suggest that indeed this infant was something special. It imbued notions of purity and a new hope. Every year, my religion set up the nativity scene in the Chapel. It was the sign of a new beginning and, of course, lots of presents at Christmas. I was spoiled. I loved it.
But, Jesus, and what he represents to me, has been bastardised and tinkered about with so much by so many that I think his days may be numbered. Christianity is now all over the place and has so many shades of grey that I’m not sure which one is worth following. Last week was a particularly bad week for the Baby Jesus in Scotland: a week which I am not sure he would be very happy about.
We’ve all seen those street preachers who stand in Buchanan Street in Glasgow or Princes Street in Edinburgh. They shout and bawl to be heard over the buskers – for me it sometimes comes across as a bit scary and aggressive. They usually have a Bible of sorts in their hand and leaflets to hand out. A few use megaphones – very common practice in London. I watch people walking by them or stopping for a short while to listen. I wonder if they pause to hear about the Baby Jesus or to gaze in bewilderment at what stands before them: fire and brimstone with a 21st century edge.
In Glasgow last week, a street preacher was pontificating about stuff and started to have a go at homosexuality. It appears that the LGBT community are all going to hell… according to this bloke and his Bible. Strangely enough the bold preacher pitched up his tent right outside a comic book shop. Ironic don’t you think…?
The crowd had gathered around this guy as he was making his presence felt. But… no-one was saying anything. Then a moment of clarity: a lone cyclist was peddling his way past and obviously heard the bile emanating from the street preacher’s gob. He stopped his bike and stood his ground. The cyclist loudly advised the preacher that he was gay. The preacher then suggested that he should repent and find God’s love, to which the gay cyclist retorted a response that is exactly why the Baby Jesus’ days may be numbered. In short, that he did not need a God to love him as he loved him for who he was. The crowd erupted into spontaneous applause. Having said his piece, the lone gay cyclist and, in my book, a local hero, went on his way.
Now, I’m not sure that the Baby Jesus I was brought up with, who was a God for all, would necessarily agree with the street preacher. To condemn people in such a fashion appears a bit judgmental. My recollection of the Bible, was that Jesus forgave many and lived in the company of sinners… no? He was comfortable there and indeed showed compassion for many. He didn’t cut his cloth according to where he was or the company he was in.
But what does this say about where we are as a society in Scotland or how far we have come in relation to homosexuality and LGBT? Why does it take the lone gay cyclist to stop and make his case? I bet many in the crowd have gay members of their family or have gay friends or, indeed, work with openly gay people. But no-one felt strong enough to step up to the plate and call the street preacher out. Is it because they simply found him comical and not worthy of a debate? Or was it apathy? Maybe just a fear of speaking up in public…
My mantra in life is: you only get one life, so be yourself and live it. I don’t really care for being preached at – I heard enough of it at church. Brian McFadden’s song, Irish Son, sums it nicely for me: “Don’t fill my head with sermons, force me to believe.”
Each to their own and a wee bit of respect when preaching in public. I think the Baby Jesus would really like this… I hope it’s not too late for him. And a big WooHoo for the lone gay cyclist. Much respect!!
• Jim Duffy is the soon to be Head of #GoDo at Entrepreneurial Spark