I don’t have any real religious beliefs, but I don’t have problems with people that do – until they try to shove them down my throat. But what really irks me are zealots (Christian ones, in particular) who base their crusades on fabrications and hearsay. You’re not going to “save” me, but if you’re going to try, then I say at least get your facts straight.
The latest example of this is the hoopla being made over a Christian pop song called “God of This City,” written by a Northern Irish inspirational-music band named Bluetree during a 2007 visit to Pattaya. A no-name in Christian rock circles, Bluetree took the song absolutely nowhere until recently, when it was covered by better-known (but still unknown to me) Christian artist Chris Tomlin.
There’s no shortage of Jesus freaks and bible thumpers in Thailand and Pattaya seems to attract them regularly for both laudable projects (working with orphanages, homeless and women’s groups) and more-questionable quests (pilgrimages to “save” people on Walking Street.) Why it is that Christians feel the need to convert everyone – be they Taoists in Japan, Muslims in Somalia or Buddhists in Pattaya) I’ll never understand. Islamic extremists are content to blow people up while Buddhists just set themselves on fire.
More Image Bashing
Whatever the case, Pattaya’s image is taking another beating at the hands of the crusaders. I’d actually be fine with that if Bluetree and Tomlin were actually ripping Pattaya with valid criticisms. But, as is so often the case, their arguments are built upon a bare skeleton of understanding fleshed out with crap.
Bluetree came to Pattaya last year for one day to participate in the Pattaya Praise 2007 event. As you’d expect, the musicians were pretty shocked at what they saw. But somehow they felt compelled to embellish the facts in an October 2007 interview with Cross Rhythms magazine with things they never saw, heard stories about or just plain made up. (Note my emphasis marks below.)
Pattaya is a seaside town/resort place, and physically, it looks to be like the darkest place you’ll ever go to. And spiritually, it is THE darkest place we have ever been to. You just feel the evil. You just feel the enemy all over that place.
It’s a very small place, but in that small area in Thailand, there are 30,000 prostitutes and that figure excludes kids and excludes anything that’s outside of the range of, say 18-30, and who are female. . .
The band repeats much of the same fallacies on their MySpace page:
We didn’t know much about it before we left, but Pattaya is a dark place. It’s a small seaside town notorious for its sex trade. Throughout our time there we heard countless stories of girls who are bought from their parents for a price, sold to the sex industry at ages as young as 5 years old.
I’m sorry, guys, but even the most-generous estimate of the working-girl population here in Pattaya comes in at about 17,000. The ladyboy and gay numbers are small in comparison and, while it exists to a degree deep underground, there is no broad trade in child prostitution here. You had me on the darkness, but blew it with the BS afterward. You state on MySpace you “heard countless stories.” But you didn’t bother to check if they were true before you repeated them?
Playing in Pattaya
Nonetheless, armed with all the wrong facts, the band sought to break out of Pattaya Praise event and play “for the people.”
“We said, ‘If you can get us anywhere else to play, anywhere, we want to play. We just want to do what we do in the middle of somewhere and just go head-on into it,” band leader Aaron Boyd told the Christian music magazine.
Bluetree negotiated a free gig in the now-closed Climax Rock Bar on Walking Street, whose owner let the band play provided they brought in a club-full of missionaries to drink Coke. But, again, describing Walking Street, Boyd wanders into the realm of the unbelievable:
“(Walking Street is ) a kilometre long and it’s filled with everything you can physically imagine. And I promise you, as a red-blooded male, to keep your head in the right place you’ve got to look down at the ground and walk down that street and pray because it is just so in your face. People hit you with menus about everything, flashing lights, just everything you can imagine goes on in that place.
You see kids as young as eight, nine, 10, just selling themselves, you know?! You see 60-year-old guys walking down the street with two 13 or 14-year-old girls. Forget about the Christian thing, you just get raging! You properly get raging when you see that happening, you know?!”
You know Aaron, there’s no other way to say this: You’re an idiot. Yes, there are kids there. And they’re selling gum, flowers and cigarette lighters. Not themselves. And no older man is strolling down Waking Street with 14-year-olds. It just doesn’t happen. To state otherwise is simply irresponsible.
The Climax Set
Bluetree got to play a two-hour set of Christian rock at Climax, which Boyd inexplicably labeled a “strip club” despite the fact it had no dancing girls. Admitting in the interview the patrons looked a bit confused at the set may also help to explain why the bar went bust shortly thereafter.
Boyd describes what happens next in this combined excerpt from its MySpace page and Cross Rhythms interview:
“We walk in to the bar which is about the middle of Walking Street, girls are lined up on the stairs waiting (PG: at Polo, not Climax) for business. We get set up, we’re really nervous and quite uncomfortable, but we kick in to a familiar beat of worship and soon it’s ok. God starts to speak and we started to move in to this spontaneous song,” (MySpace)
“And just the way the band set up, we like using loops, and at one point I just started singing out. I started singing “Greater Things,” something along those lines, almost prophesying over the city. And without going into the band dynamics, slowly this groove emerged from this thing. And long story short; we walked out of that Climax Bar with pretty much a nailed song, as strange as that sounds. Then we were on the way home.” (Cross Rhythms)
The song that emerged from the Climax session – “God of This City” – might have simply died in Belfast obscurity and never have made this blog were it not picked up by Tomlin for a Christian compilation album released this spring. In an interview last week with the same Cross Rhythms magazine, Tomlin describes how he discovered the tune.
“We were recently in Belfast, Northern Ireland for a concert. The night consisted of a great line up of worship bands. One of the bands was local and they were called Bluetree. Daniel (Carson, guitar player) was thankfully paying close attention when they went into this song. He immediately came to me and said I had to hear it. When I did hear it, I knew it was a timely song and that it would be perfect for the journey we were about to undertake with the Passion (CD project). And after hearing how the boys at Bluetree wrote this song, it is no wonder why it is full of power…
“Proclaiming the grace of God in the middle of a brothel. Sounds like a lot of Jesus to me. Aaron Boyd of Bluetree told me that in the middle of their set of songs, this song just spontaneously birthed. God put this powerful lyric on their lips in that moment. “greater things have yet to come and greater things are still to be done in this city.” They graciously allowed me to record it and it became the title track to the current Passion CD and the name of our 17 city Passion world tour. What a statement to proclaim in the cities of the world!”
God of Which City?
With such a buildup, you’d think “God of This City” would be the most-amazing piece of music ever to grace the inspirational airwaves. The song has a nice aureal emo atmosphere to it, but reading the lyrics you discover the song is amazingly repetitious and generic.
You’re the God of this city; You’re the King of these people; You’re the Lord of this nation; You Are
For there is no one like our God; There is no one like our God
Greater things have yet to come; Great things are still to be done; In this city
Greater things are still to come; And greater things are still to be done here
You’re the Lord of Creation; The Creator of all things; You’re the King above all Kings; You Are
You’re the strength in our weakness; You’re the love to the broken; You’re the joy in the sadness; You Are
Greater things have yet to come; Great things are still to be done; In this city; Where glory shines from hearts alive; With praise for you and love for you; In this city
For more stories like these on Pattaya, please visit The Pattaya Ghost.