After hearing about Gene Robinson being heckled during his sermon in Putney yesterday, an interesting question has been bobbing around. Although with events like this, and the installation of Jeffrey John in St Albans, there is always preparation for some sort of big protest, and quite often the press turn up in force, conservative groups seem to stay away with any sort of official protest.
As to why, I’m thinking that perhaps those groups realise how such a protest might be portrayed. Whilst in the main, their views are that they do not think that Gene Robinson should be a bishop, it wouldn’t take much for such a protest to be shown in the media as being along the lines of the well known protests by the Westboro’ Baptist Church in the USA, or the Christian Voice protests in this country. Certainly any protest will highlight the presence of Gene Robinson more than no protest, and the press would love a large group of crazy Christians waving placards. As Gene Robinson himself said on his blog, the media are looking for a story.
And that is exactly what they got last night. Had a biker not started heckling Robinson, his sermon probably would have merited a few words, and certainly nothing on the TV news – instead, his sermon was elevated to one of the top stories of the night, and his presence highlighted even more. What the protest of the lone biker seemed to highlight even more is that it was just that, a lone protester amongst a congregation of hundreds. It is interesting to note that the point where the man starts shouting is just as Gene Robinson is talking about fear, and ironically the heckler quite neatly provides an example for the point that is being made. Also worth noting that Robinson doesn’t argue back, he stands quietly and takes the shouting from the heckler, and then asks the congregation to pray for the man. In an age where media perception is everything, what message is that sending?
If you want to judge for yourself, many of the news sites have clips of the heckle. Alternatively, a video of the whole sermon, including the heckle, is online. I would highly recommend watching the whole sermon too, at about thirty minutes it’s a bit longer than your average Anglican sermon, but well worth the effort. It speaks so much more about the calling of the Church than one bloke heckling, and really shows why the people of the Church in New Hampshire chose to elect Gene Robinson as their Bishop.