Rend Collective’s Chris Llewellyn has been on the receiving end of abuse hurled by Christian protesters. It’s got him thinking - who would Jesus shout at?


Source: Shauna Hundeby / Alamy Stock Photo

I received a megaphone-amplified greeting last night as I walked off the tour bus. And it shook me.

“That man is wicked and he is bound for hell!” screamed an angry protester through a loudhailer.

It’s actually not unusual for Christian concerts here in the US to attract such people. Most of my friends in the industry have faced similar verbal assaults at some stage. 

There’s a small, inexplicably angry group who yell curses and wave banners with hate speech slogans. These protesters borrow our audiences and subject them to rants about everything from the evils of modern Christian music to the villainy of certain political figures, plus the full range of hot topics you’d expect them to campaign vocally on. They even reference the Bible sporadically, although their message never sounds like anything approaching good news.

We’re in a US election year and rising political tension always seems to bring religious tension along with it. I’m a non-voting foreigner, but I’ve found myself caught in the crossfire a few times. I’m no longer surprised by it, but it still upsets me. 

Having a grown adult howl furious insults at you through a bullhorn hits your nervous system like the frayed ends of a live electrical wire. You instantly enter a fight or flight state – heart rate skyrocketing, adrenaline and cortisol spiking. It feels like an emergency. It takes at least an hour to recover from…maybe longer, given we’re twelve hours on from the incident, yet here I am writing about it. 

I’m a straight, white, Christian man with a security escort. I’m pretty well insulated from the attacks of extreme fundamentalists. How must it feel to be yelled at if you’re more vulnerable? When you’re alone. If you do not have anyone around to protect you.

I once heard Derek Webb, lead singer of the Christian band Caedmon’s Call, say that if you aren’t in danger of getting hit by a few stones, you aren’t standing close enough to the marginalised.

I hope I’m close enough. Jesus certainly was. He spent his life maligned as the “friend of…sinners”. He was dubbed a “glutton and a drunkard” (Luke 7:34); guilty by association. He kept company with sex workers and insurrectionist zealots and bore the consequences to his reputation of hanging out with those deemed ‘unsuitable’.


The best example of his standing with the outcasts was his courageous defence of the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11. Rather than lining up with the religious establishment who accused her, stones in hand, Jesus stood with the accused. He positioned himself in the firing line and in doing so, successfully disarmed the bloodthirsty mob.

I find it hard to imagine Jesus death-gripping a megaphone, spitting hellfire and condemnation (not least because Romans 8:1 specifically tells us “there is…no condemnation…in Christ Jesus”). But I can easily imagine him with his arm around the wounded and insulted.

And yes, I can picture Jesus full of righteous, table-turning anger too – getting up in the faces of those who use the banner of Christianity as an excuse for bullying.

But if Jesus ever held a megaphone, I think there’s only one thing he’d be shouting about: the deep, wide love of God.