God & the Belly Dancers

His bright neon yellow t-shirt burst through the greyness of the day. As he stood on a milk crate with his portable microphone on his ear he preached to the passing crowds. He preached hell and damnation. He preached salvation if passersby just “took Jesus into their hearts.” The crowds roundly ignored him.

This was the only noticeable Christian presence at Saturday Market in Portland. Personally, I felt embarrassed for Christianity.
Portland’s Saturday Market, September 19, 2011.
Photo by Maggie Sebastian
The man preached. No one listened. So, he preached some more. The crowds ignored him. So, he preached some more. While the nearby belly dancers exuded joy, he exuded fear and panic. While the plastic barrel drummer reached out in relationship to individuals in the crowd, the man in the neon yellow preached at the passersby as if they were so many objects. While artwork at many booths manifest deep relationship with the Divine, with the Spirit, with the interconnectedness of humanity, the preacher stood on the margins preaching a tired old song.
I suspect God felt the determination of this would be evangelist. I also suspect God, also feeling the pain of those in the crowd who were hurting, shook God’s head in disbelief and sadness. The disconnect between the God of extravagant and abundant love and this street evangelist’s message was wide. The joy of belly dancers reveling in their imperfect God-created bodies in joyful movement reflected the nature of the Divine more than the street evangelist. Sadly, the neon yellow shirted evangelist is missing out on what it really means to be in tune with God. God is not about fear. God is not about talking at people. God is about love. God is about relationships. God is about joy in the creation that we are; the joy that bursts forth from us and cannot be contained.
Where did I see God at Saturday market? I saw God in the wares of those offering their artistry to others, just as the One created and creates. I saw a glimmer of the Divine in the drummer as he reached out individually to those listening, just as God reaches out to each one of us. I saw Divine joyfulness in the comeraderie and joy of belly dancers.
Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. Exodus 15: 20 NRSV

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