"A presence of Street Pastors will earn credibility in the community, so that people know that the Church is there for them in a practical way. The role is not about preaching heaven and hell, but one of listening, caring and helping - working in an unconditional way"The BBC programme itself was basically a fly on the wall style documentary that made no overt judgment about the people involved on the ground (Liverpool City Centre in this case), but let the actions and comments of the pastors speak for themselves. Now, I maybe more hypersensitive to the mixed motives of Christian “good works” than many people, but it certainly seemed to me that the people filmed had more than a little self delusion about their reasons for being out on the streets. There was definitely a strong evangelical streak in the makeup of some of them and even if they are genuinely concerned with the welfare of the people they engage with, it was clear that promoting Christianity was very high on their agenda. There have already been concerns raised about individual pastors attitudes to GLBT people they meet and I think this is a genuine worry. Commenter, Angela Geeson from the link above relates:
I spoke to a ‘nice’ lady street pastor in training the other day about her view on homosexuality and to my horror she said that her church ‘did not do gay’….. and that homosexuality was ‘wrong’…. and that she was considering helping to teach / preach in high schools… “That one hole is for babies and the other hole is for the toilet………….”This kind of attitude could be dangerous if communicated to a very drunk and confused gay teenager. Inevitably the “clientele” for the Street Pastors will come from the less mature and most troubled sections of society, and therefore the most vulnerable to manipulation and indoctrination, even if not directly proselytised to at the time.
The thing is, if there is a real need for this kind of activity on the streets, (the police seem at least grateful for it,) and if it is going to continue to expand, some secular checks and balances might be a good idea, if only for the safety of the pastors themselves. It’s one thing to hand out free flip-flops and a bottle of water to a sozzled girl struggling on high heels; it is another to expose yourself to the potentially violent and abusive elements that are also around at that time of night. These pastors are being trained, but the religious zeal is strong in some of them and it’s not impossible that some less than subtle bible thumping could get them into trouble. Many of them genuinely believe that the power of prayer is protecting them from harm, which is exactly the sort of delusion that could see them in serious danger and oblivious of risk.
I don’t object in principle to these groups and I am aware that the criticism could be levelled at secular humanists that no equivalent volunteer group exists from them. But it has to be said that humanists do not have the incentive to advertise for Jesus that the Street Pastors obviously have and which is a stated primary motive for their existence.
It may be time to take this initiative out of purely religious hands and establish a service some other way under the auspices of local councils or police authorities. This shouldn’t stop good people volunteering for genuinely humanitarian reasons and may encourage non-Christians to take part (the Street Pastors only recruit from church members, which reinforces the suspicion that their motives are mixed) providing some balance to a project with desirable effects but suspect intentions.