Friday, June 15, 2007

Ellen G. White Bookstore Opens in a Chic Gay Ghetto

My local church complains vocally about the Rainbow Flags (Gay Pride flags) that the homeowners across the street from the church building display on Saturday mornings, not just on gay pride week. When a guest speaker inquires why there is no evangelistic effort to address the spiritual and health needs of the mostly gay and lesbians who live in this upscale residential area that surrounds the church building, the answers that are given are some of the following:

"It is very hard, almost impossible, to convert gay men and women to Adventist Christianity."

"Our efforts are better spent on groups of people that we have some hope of reaching."

"Brother, what we have surrounding our church is a peacock feather farm, a birdcage full of exotically colored effeminate men and their muscular counterparts. They wouldn't be interested in what our church offers."

"These are mostly English-speaking gay men and women and our church is a Spanish speaking congregation. Where would they fit in if they can't speak the language?"

"We unfortunately, like Lot in the bible, are surrounded by the same type of environment like Sodom and Gomorrah. It doesn't get any more sinful than this city."

Finally, months later, a few church members of conscience opened up a vegetarian food store stocking meat substitutes, natural foods, organic foods, other health books and Ellen G. White books dealing directly with health. The Ministry of Healing was among the books sold at this one-of-a-kind health store.

Next door was an upscale wine store that only stocked wine under $50.00 called Naked Grape. Next door to that was a tea-only cafe where anyone from the community, gay or straight, could sip herbal tea, chai tea, etc., and chat until the next event materialized out of thin air. Several pricey clothing stores filled out the rest of the street. Across the street were expensive Thai restaurants, as well as a piano bar and a fine-dining restaurant. Real estate businesses selling million dollar homes popped in and out of business as the real estate market ebbed and flowed.

When they were approached by some church members who found this odd little food store by chance as they walked their dogs on a cool Sabbath weekend, they wondered why anyone would go to so much trouble and try to witness to men and women that the majority of Adventist society had long ago abandoned?

"If we can save even one soul with the message of Christ our Righteousness through the health message, any loss we've experienced will not have been in vain."

Very few people visited the store as it didn't fit in with the rest of the neighborhood. Some wished they'd stop selling the religious-health books and start selling New Age or Buddhist titles to go with the vegetarian lifestyle that the store was promoting. Others disagreed and said it was a great place to meet other men and women who were exclusively vegetarian. Others even thought of boycotting the store until they removed the religious-health material and only sold health books.

One day the police was called because someone had spray-painted the words "Gay haters" across the glass window. Though it rattled their nerves they cleaned up the window and replaced the odd sentiment with "Love Your neighbor as You Love Yourself."

That ensured for a time, at least, that the community and the strange store could continue to co-exist for another summer or two.

The Ellen G. White Health Boutique did not open its doors in vain. Many souls were eventually won.

He [Christ] passed by no human being as worthless, but sought to apply the healing remedy to every soul. In whatever company He found Himself He presented a lesson appropriate to the time and the circumstances. Every neglect or insult shown by men to their fellow men only made Him more conscious of their need of His divine-human sympathy. The Ministry of Healing, p. 25,26

Disclaimer: Please see comment section.


Sherman Haywood Cox II said...

Thanks for the story....I had just talked to an Adventist physician who uses the Ministry of Healing in his practice.

God bless....

Raul Batista (Varonelo) said...

Disclaimer: There is a precedence for what I've done here. Adam McEwen, whose work shocked me when I saw it at the Whitney Museum's Biennial last year is one of the works of art that influenced the concept used here. I then realized that in the case of the Bill Clinton work, it was sympathetic and presented an alternate reality that had much to say. At least that's how I saw his works of art.
It lessens the impact of this type of piece by including a disclaimer, but I subsequently decided to add one because of the comment that Sherman posted.

Most of what is described in this post is factual and is a composite of different ministries and actual neighborhoods or adventist restaurants that I've visited in two different cities. The quotes are actual comments I heard during church service, or potlucks during the past two years.

It is my hope that what's proposed in this story, by attracting attention to it as though it has already happened in the city in question, Fort Lauderale, does in fact become reality one shining day.

My apologies to Sherman and anyone who were misled by the conceptual nature of this piece.

Siroj said...

It is wonderful that there is a place where one can extend compassion to others. It reminds me that God is always presence in all places and we cannot stop God from being everywhere...we can only be an instrument of God's work in conveying love.