Famously permissive San Francisco, home of the counterculture revolution 40 years ago, might seem an odd choice for a giant Christian youth rally that its organizers dubbed a "reverse rebellion" against the excesses of pop culture. But sex and drugs were most emphatically not included with the rock 'n' roll at San Francisco's AT&T Park this past weekend, when some 25,000 screeching teens attended what amounted to a Lollapalooza for the Lord.
Known as BattleCry for a Generation, the opening rally on a three-city tour isn't just for teens to celebrate their faith by listening to biblically inspired music that rocks though that is certainly a big part of it. Organizers say they're also sending a message to the outside world that these teens are sick of the sex, drugs and violence that permeates their culture. Teen Mania Ministries, the Texas-based group that is organizing the tour, says that teens see 14,000 sexual scenes on TV each year, and another 10,000 rapes, assaults and murders. Some 90% of 8-to-16-year-olds have been exposed to porn online, they claim, most of it while doing homework. MTV in particular came under fire, for what organizers called its glamorization of sex, drugs, alcohol use and violence.
Not surprisingly, San Francisco wasn't unanimously in favor of hosting such a gathering. San Francisco's Board of Supervisors prepared for the event by passing a resolution last week condemning BattleCry's rally on the steps of City Hall as an "act of provocation" by an anti-gay, anti-choice organization that aimed to "negatively influence the politics of America's most tolerant and progressive city." Democratic State Assemblyman Mark Leno went further, telling counter-protesters that he found the BattleCry participants "obnoxious" and "disgusting" and that "they should get out of San Francisco." (On Monday, Leno issued a statement saying he regretted that some had interpreted his remarks to mean he didn't think people of different beliefs should come to San Francisco; the city was, he said, a "beacon of acceptance and love of all people.")
In fact, many participants live in San Francisco, like Isaac Maiava, 18. Maiava, the youngest of seven children, was arrested when he was just 14 for stealing electronics; he dropped out of high school, sold drugs, drank, and says he was a "big liar and a thief" for most of his teenage years. Then, after his mother's death in 2003, Maiava found God. Now studying for his GED, he worries about how to protect his nieces and nephews from from images of sex, drugs and violence on TV. "Everywhere you look, kids follow what they think is cool," he says. "I want to get across the message, you don't have to do these things, have that kind of lifestyle, to be cool".
During the event, more than 2,500 teens answered organizer Ron Luce's broader call to go on overseas mission trips to spread the Word. Buckets were circulated and more than $90,000 was collected to get them on their way. The next stops on the tour are Detroit, April 7 and 8, and Philadelphia, May 12-13. If some teens can't make it, Teen Mania has managed to tap one particularly popular aspect of modern culture. It just launched the website battlecry.com, described as "MySpace with God in the middle."