Christian rally draws opposition in liberal San Francisco

San Francisco (AP) — Thousands of Christian teenagers rallying this weekend against the moral corruption they see afflicting their generation are finding their agenda at odds with many in this live-and-let-live city.

BattleCry is a two-day onslaught of Christian rock, religious speakers and worship that kicked off Friday and is expected to draw more than 20,000 participants to San Francisco’s AT&T Park this weekend.

The rally being held at the downtown ballpark for the second straight year is meant to spark a teen rebellion against the glamorization of premarital sex, drugs and booze, said Ron Luce, founder of Teen Mania, the Texas-based ministry behind the extravaganza.

“All the stuff that’s being rammed down their throats, it’s pillaging and raping this young generation of any virtue,” said Luce. “They’re saying ‘we’re tired, we’re going to shape our culture in a different way.”

But the ministry’s condemnation of homosexuality and alternative lifestyles strikes many in this ultraliberal city as anything but inclusive.

“When you’re in a city where there’s every viewpoint under the sun, and you’re working with a group for whom there can be only one viewpoint, and never any compromise, you’re going to have a clash of ideals,” said Thom Lynch, Executive Director of the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center.

City officials agreed the rally’s values seemed to go against what San Francisco represents.

“Their homophobic beliefs are offensive, but we hope they’ll become more tolerant after spending the weekend in our famously tolerant city,” said Nathan Ballard, spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Although the event is likely to benefit the city financially, organizers say they aren’t feeling particularly welcome. Officials have asked them to turn down the volume after neighbors of At&T Park, the downtown baseball stadium, complained about noise during last year’s event.

The ministry hasn’t faced this kind of opposition elsewhere, but seeing the way they’re being received in San Francisco is “indicative of the cultural war going on all around us,” Luce said.

He is unapologetic about his ministry’s stance on homosexuality, but hopes the message of love for the sinner, if not for the sin, will reach those who need to hear it.

“The Bible teaches us homosexuality’s harmful and is a sin, period,” he said. “There’s lots of documentation that homosexuals have shorter life spans, and are more prone to suicide and depression, so it’s not very loving of us to let them stay in that situation.”

Charlotte Rose Hamilton, 18, of Waterford, one of the organizers behind this year’s BattleCry, described how last year’s event in San Francisco transformed her life, helping her leave behind the volatile mix of drugs, alcohol and sex that left her depressed and suicidal.

“I thought I was the only one who could have been that horrible,” she said. “When I got here, and I heard the message that there’s an entire generation of people out there who were living like I was, struggling with the same things, and who felt absolutely alone just like I had.”

Hundreds of teenagers gathered Friday on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall. A banner reading “Marriage (equals) One Man (plus) One Woman” hung in the background near the site where Mayor Gavin Newsom issued more than 4,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004.

Having the event in San Francisco makes it particularly relevant, said Anthony Orsillo, who came from Oroville to attend.

“There’s just so much ripe fruit here, and we’re here to pick it,” Orsillo said. “We’re not here to bash anyone but to love those who haven’t been loved.”

Some who came to protest BattleCry said they want to show the teens they’re open to talking.

“It was important to show these children that even though we may be on opposite sides of the political and spiritual spectrum, we have a lot in common, and we want to minister to them,” said Sister Mary Timothy Simplicity, of San Francisco’s Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, sporting extravagant makeup and a fitted nun’s habit. The Sisters are a group of activists and self-described nuns who include people of all sexual orientations.

Hamilton finds opposition to the ministry she credits with saving her life discouraging, but sees this weekend’s events as a chance to reach out to those who haven’t had a chance to hear what they have to say.

“It’s nothing but a message of hope, of love, of joy, of how you can progress out of the rut you’re in,” she said. “We definitely invite anyone who has any kind of confusion or misconception about the BattleCry message to check it out.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday March 10, 2007.
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