15 July 2013

Reflections on the Arrest of an Evangelist

by Dr Mark Keown

As someone who has done a bit of street preaching over the years, I was fascinated to see that an English evangelist has recently been arrested for supposedly preaching homophobic messages on the streets of London. Tony Miano is a retired deputy sheriff from Los Angeles County, California, who was ministering in England. On this day, feeling led by God, he preached from 1 Thess 4:1–12 that any form of sexuality outside of heterosexual marriage is sin and people should abstain. He did not target homosexuality specifically, but sex outside of heterosexual marriage; such things as fornication, adultery, pornography, and homosexuality etc. One woman was particularly offended at him saying that homosexuality is a sin, and complained. He was then arrested for violating Public Order Act Section 5: “using homophobic speech that could cause people anxiety, distress, alarm or insult.” He was then led away, booked, photographed, fingerprinted, and a DNA sample was taken. He was then questioned for seven hours about his Christian faith. You can read the transcript on his website, http://www.crossencounters.us/. It is a fascinating read.

Whatever we think of street preaching like this, the arrest could perhaps be said to give a signal to where things are going in the west for Christians who dare to speak in the public square and say things that violate the new “normal” of our age. I suspect that it won’t be long before we see Kiwis treated the same way. Perhaps it is already happening. While such things can currently be preached in our churches, when Christians dare to take them into the public square, it is likely that they will be increasingly challenged. Currently, churches which hold views on sexuality and marriage that differ from the new normal have certain exemptions. I wonder how long that will last?

Whatever our views on homosexuality, I would imagine that as it becomes increasingly a part of the fabric of our culture, the media, in the curriculum of our schools, and such like, Christians who continue to uphold the sexual morality of the first followers of Jesus are going to face increasing persecution. Some will believe this is a good thing as it is homophobic. Others will see it as a disturbing attack on the right of free speech. Indeed, this issue brings a clash of human rights “law” – the right of people to speak freely and publically, vs. the rights of people who hold a liberal sexual morality.

One response is to stop speaking on this issue for fear of offense, and focus on other dimensions of the gospel. There is something to be said for this, and I suppose it depends on whether we see heterosexual marriage and sexuality as core components of God’s vision for human life. If so, can we proclaim a sexless gospel with integrity?

More importantly, where is this all heading? What do you think?

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