Preach on, Garth

Ibiza_2Salon offers religion coverage only occasionally, but sometimes its quality compensates for the lack of quantity. Kimberley Sevcik’s 5,500-word report on Christian party animals is a fine example of what Salon does best: Treating evangelical believers as an exotic species, much like a shrieking peacock.

Sevcik hits a few clunkers, such as not knowing the difference between evangelical and evangelist (“For the past decade, the evangelical movement has been attracting American students in record numbers, and a 2003 Gallup poll estimated that a hefty 46 percent of Americans consider themselves evangelists”), not recognizing “proselytizing about damnation” as a nonsensical phrase and not knowing the theological differences between a Protestant or a Jehovah’s Witness.

Taken as a whole, though, Sevcik’s article is a remarkably detailed and mildly sardonic portrait of the 24-7 prayer team, which tries to spread the gospel among the hard-partying crowd on the island of Ibiza, Spain. These earnest Christians can be easy targets: Feeling God’s call to evangelize on Ibiza sounds like feeling God’s call to evangelize among the world’s most beautiful models:

You would expect the typical evangelical Christian to be horrified by Ibiza. But the 24-7 Prayer missionaries aren’t your typical evangelicals. They tend to be pierced and tattooed, antiwar and pro-fair trade, and the minute they get off prayer duty, they put on halter tops and body glitter and wristbands and go clubbing until noon the next day. They might even have a drink or two. They don’t do drugs — which alone sets them apart from most ravers. Most eschew premarital sex, although they try not be judgmental about others’ sexual behavior. Like all missionaries, they want to be down with the people whom they’re preaching to, but in the case of 24-7, they’re not faking it. The primary difference between the average Ibiza clubber and a 24-7 missionary is what gets them off. “To know that the God who made the heavens and the earth loves me and wants to know me — that’s an amazing high that lasts much more than a few hours,” says Bruce Gardiner-Crehan, 25, a 24-7 missionary with the beatific countenance of a Caravaggio apostle. As members of a generation that came of age with house music, the 24-7 Prayer team finds it a lot easier to commune with God while dancing at a rave than while kneeling in a church, listening to an organist drone on.

But as anyone who has ever watched a street preacher during Mardi Gras could tell you, 24-hour party people are not usually known for their eagerness to hear about God. Sevcik’s narrative hits its greatest stride with these graphs:

Evangelizing among the wasted can have its benefits, though. People who might otherwise tell you to piss off are a little more open, a little friendlier. Last week, Gardiner-Crehan had one of the biggest breakthroughs of the mission at the Bull Bar. At around 1 a.m., he tried to start a conversation with a trio of brooding guys hovering over their pints. Nothing.

Within an hour, one member of the trio, Matt, sought out Gardiner-Crehan on the dance floor and greeted him like they were old buddies. “They’d taken some Ecstasy and it must have kicked in, because he became incredibly friendly,” says Gardiner-Crehan. Suddenly, no topic was off-limits: They talked about music, about school and finally, finally, about religion.

Matt must have gone back to his table raving about the second coming of Christ because the next thing Gardiner-Crehan knew, Matt’s friend Brian approached him. He wanted to let Gardiner-Crehan know that he had a bum leg and couldn’t walk properly. “I told him that I believe that Jesus can heal people,” says Gardiner-Crehan, “and I asked if I could pray for him.”

Ten minutes later, the third guy, John, took Gardiner-Crehan aside for a full-on spiritual counseling session. He told the missionary he was terrified of dying and that he couldn’t sleep. He’d been seeing a counselor for two years, but nothing helped. “By then, I was going for it,” says Gardiner-Crehan. “I said, ‘Listen: I believe Jesus can touch your life if you let him. Can I pray for you?” John was happy to submit. Afterward, Gardiner-Crehan advised John to get himself to a church as soon as he got back home. “I said, ‘You need to find some people you can talk to about Jesus.’” They all bear-hugged Gardiner-Crehan goodbye, and the next day, the three guys got on a plane back to England.

To the extent that Sevcik treats the 24-7 prayer team as something more than (in the words of Elton John) “Jesus freaks / out in the streets / handing tickets out for God,” she has done a journalistic service.

Print Friendly

  • http://blog.kevinbasil.com basil

    Article: …a 24-7 missionary with the beatific countenance of a Caravaggio apostle…

    So, he looks gay?

  • James

    So, you’re saying that Christians are happy enough with their preachers using the weakened state of mind of those under the influence of narcotics in order to turn them to Jesus, and they do this with a clear conscience? So people are more likely to turn to God if they’re not in their right state of mind?

    And this doesn’t smack of religious “ambulance chasing” to anyone?

    Sorry, but this just strikes me as sick. I simply can’t find any other word for it.

    And people wonder why non-believers dislike the preaching methods of Christians.

  • http://getreligion.typepad.com/getreligion/2004/02/about_douglas_l.html Douglas LeBlanc

    {So, you’re saying that Christians are happy enough with their preachers using the weakened state of mind of those under the influence of narcotics in order to turn them to Jesus, and they do this with a clear conscience? So people are more likely to turn to God if they’re not in their right state of mind?}

    I’m saying nothing close to either of those sentences.

  • James

    But you consider an article which describes this group doing their work as doing “a journalistic service?” I can only assume you’re endorsing the actions of this group.

  • http://getreligion.typepad.com/getreligion/2004/02/about_douglas_l.html Douglas LeBlanc

    Any time journalism moves beyond stereotyping and portrays people in their complexity, it is doing a good thing. There is irony in the title of this post. There is irony in a sentence like this: “Feeling God’s call to evangelize on Ibiza sounds like feeling God’s call to evangelize among the world’s most beautiful models.” In short, you’re assuming incorrectly.

  • Paul Barnes

    I am always a little leary when groups like this emerge, and as mentioned, “God’s call to evangelize among the world’s most beautiful models.” It sounds like people want to have their cake and eat it too.

    Yet, I have felt for a long time that we are called to evangelize in whatever environment we are in and that every individual’s call is different. I remember (since I am still young) that in my Pentecostal youth group, our pastor placed a strong emphasize on reaching out the the social outcasts, “losers”, etc. I was always slightly annoyed at this because I was friends with many of the “popular” kids and played on the football team, in which I was one of two practicing Christians on the team.

    What I learned during this time is that everyone needs Christ, without exception. “Popular” people are just as hurting as the outcast. They are able to cover it better in many ways.

  • dan

    I remember clearly reading in a north american magazine two years ago that Ibiza (the island this group was on their mission to) was being refered to as the “Sodom and Gomorrah” of Europe. Beautiful people in attendance or not, seems like the right place to be doing what they are doing … bravo


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X