Street preacher found guilty of 'homophobic' message. Are we witnessing the end of open air evangelism?
Shawn Holes is a 47 year old American touring Scotland with a group of like minded Christians, mostly Americans, Scots and English.
Old style street evangelism is their modus operandi, but Holes ran foul of the law in Glasgow earlier this month when confronted by a group of gays who had stopped to hear him.
"There were homosexuals listening – around six or eight of them – who were kissing each other and cuddling, and asking 'What do you think of this?'.
"It felt like a set-up by gay campaigners. When asked directly about homosexuality, I told them homosexuals risked the wrath of God unless they accepted Christ," Holes said afterwards.
That was enough to have Holes charged and dragged into Court under legislation originally set up to prevent Roman Catholic - Protestant hate crimes.
"I spent a horrible night in jail and all I can say is that it was just miserable. Too many details from this specific incident occured for me to list here," Holes said.
Holes pleaded guilty, was fined £1000 and spent one night in the slammer.
Two things must be said about this;
How did we allow this?
John Knox would turn in his grave I'm sure. Because we don't want Catholics and Protestants blowing each other up, we have decided we must not preach the word of God - after all that's where the trouble started!
Every Christian must realise that when a persecution begins anywhere in the world it is felt by all of us. This is an attack on the body we are a part of.
Furthermore, history shows these persecutions have the nasty habit of spreading to all parts of the globe. What happens in Scotland will eventually happen here too. What are we prepared to do about it?
Christians must be public and vocal when it comes to expressing the need for freedom of speech. We all think we have freedom of speech, but that phrase really only refers to speeches a democratic society wants to hear, not necessarily the things God wants to say to it.
The truth is, any minority group can pretty much say what they like about Christians, but the freedom is not returned. It's part of living in the last days and is to be accepted as something God, in his providence, allows. But that doesn't mean we should be publicly silent about it.
Is there a better way?
Shawn Holes may not want to hear it, but it worries me when visiting evangelists ride on in to a country and blast away with no thought to the cultural sensitivities of the locals.
Did Holes ask Scottish Christians how things are done up there? Did he check local laws and work at ministering within them? Should he have pleaded guilty?
Holes does not touch on these issues in his blog but they are issues too important to ignore (as those who post replies on his blog reveal).
Perhaps the Scottish church is being wiped out and this was the only way. My question is whether he bothered to check this out before he confronted the locals with his message.
What would you do?
As always, when I hear of an incident like this I ponder what this might mean for us. Usually I can see the thin end of a wedge which we will no doubt find blocking our path soon.
This weekend, I am celebrating Easter with my church by gathering with other local churches for a combined Good Friday service out in the open on the town green.
I wonder how long we will be allowed to do this.