Tuesday, July 04, 2006

John Smith an old biker from God's Squad

from Wendy
John Smith an old biker from the God's Squad

Yesterday I joined an elective with guest speaker John Smith, famous as the founder of the God's Squad Christian bikies in the 70s. The son of a preacher man, John distanced himself from the formal Methodist church of his youth and reached out into the community of hippies, bikies, dissidents in the 70s. Today he is still on speaking tours, even to businessmen, and his position has shifted a bit to endorse core values in Australian life. So when he said 'Multiculturalism has a dark side' one of the women near me really got excited and demanded an explanation! What did he mean? His answer was that though he is a cultural relativist (after studying for his doctorate in Lexington, Kentucky) he says that we need to retain core values in Australia rather than be compromised by every kind of religious/cultural idea that comes our way. (We in Geelong, a few years ago, had loudly protested when the ultra conservative gang of Pauline Hanson wanted to set up a branch in Geelong. She was the red-haired fish and chip shop lady from Queensland who had railed against migrants and even Aboriginal people! And then her ideas were taken up by many of the Liberals!)

One of the things John talked about was suicide - of both young and old people, mainly because of a lack of meaning in their life or a broken relationship. He emphasised that we all need to find a meaning for our lives.

He now reckons the 'cult' of self-esteem which focuses on self-improvement, is not the way to go.

He still criticizes the church that wants a safe place rather than a sacred space and he reckons the church is mission.

The topic given for his talk was 'Australian Spirituality' but did he actually get to it? He wandered here and there with anecdotes, one-liners, anthropology quotes; and sometimes said something about Australia as perhaps a barren landscape where seeds of hope need to be planted. He emphasised that people want hope - and that the song All you need is love, ought to be All you need is Hope.

In Kentucky someone asked him 'Are you a Christian, or do you love people?' - as if they were opposite!

He was critical of the American style of mega churches where millions of dollars are spent on lavish buildings and he doesn't like most of the pop music they use. He said that cancer has taught him that fast cellular growth is not healthy. His preferred model is John Wesley, Francis of Assissi, Paul and Jesus with bands of lovers of people telling stories and art to the people. Often one to one talking.

He talked about New Age religions and the way spirituality is a buzz word these days with so many TV programs on seances, etc. Even the BBC guys interviewed, in all seriousness, an 'expert' on angels. The woman said that if you worship the Goddess you will have your bills paid! Fringe ideas are now mainstream, so where does that leave the Christians? He says 'religion' is not a bad thing because the real meaning of it to make sense of life's experiences, and to live with a purpose.

John just used his passion and voice. There was no Powerpoint presentation loaded with words and diagrams, no whiteboard, but we got the drift of an aging hippy, still with a concern for ordinary people, particularly those in the underbelly of society. He still wants to tell the story of Jesus as the Christ. Many people in Australia are searching or facing death so ask penetrating questions. That's where we Christians ought to be. Talking to them.


Blogger The Moody Minstrel said...

I think I really like this guy! He sounds like a real kick! I definitely hear where he's coming from!

7:28 AM  
Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Yeah, he's a remarkable guy who speaks from heart and experience. I agree with his view that it's really about one to one relationship with people. He said that in Kentucky he and a few friends went around the pubs talking to people - well listening really because his style is not agressive and being a 'know-all' at all.

I was a bit stirred with his reference that 'multiculturalism has a dark side' because I am passionate about celebrating difference in language, music, religion, and so on. We are all on a path with different insights.

I don't always practice it but I really want to be a person who listens with respect to people, paying attention to them without jumping off on a tangent and changing the subject. I fail most of the time.

3:15 PM  
Blogger stillers said...

Just passing through and saw the comments on John Smith - if you wanted to reach him try http://www.bluespreacher.com or http://www.godssquad.org
He's usually pleased to get some feedback and continue the discussion.....

6:03 PM  
Blogger Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Thanks for that. The post was quite old and luckily I have notification of comments.

6:17 PM  

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