Belfast Telegraph

It is holier-than-thou attitude of those who lecture us on where we're going wrong that I find so hard to swallow

By Lindy McDowell

Call me a stickler for etiquette, but in my opinion, the right place for oil in a restaurant is on your salad. Not the foreheads of religious anointees seeking salvation with their cod goujons.

I'm referring to that bizarre story about the diners whose lunch at the Loughshore Hotel in Carrickfergus was interrupted by evangelicals taking part in a "blessing ceremony."

A woman called Kelly, who was dining in the restaurant with a friend and children, claims that they were made to feel very uncomfortable when two members of a church group offered them religious tracts.

The men, Kelly says, stood over them for about five minutes and only left when requested to by the hotel manager.

Meanwhile, as Kelly and her friend doubtless tried to resume normal, everyday chitchat ("They're looking over again! Don't make eye contact!"), they noticed some sort of religious ceremony now taking place.

A woman, hands outstretched, was being anointed with oil. A man was praying over the table.

Doubtless uncomfortable for poor Kelly.

But just imagine how destabilising also for chef, had he, at that point, glanced from his kitchen to see how his chicken enchiladas were going down.

Pastor Paul Burns insists the church group had booked a private room, but had allowed other diners to join them there as there was an "overspill".

The hotel manager disputes this (having been to the Loughshore a couple of times for weddings and the like, I do know the staff there to be friendly, helpful and mannerly).

Pastor Paul Burns insists the elderly gentleman who'd approached the diners with the unsolicited tract mistakenly believed they were part of the church group.

Really? Do members of the same religious party often go around tables at church dos handing out tracts to each other? And surely it very quickly became clear that Kelly and co weren't part of the group. That they only wanted to get on with their meal.

I do agree that being handed a religious tract is hardly traumatic. And, personally, I wouldn't have been too put out either with the sideshow of the blessing business. I'm a rubber-necker, me.

But on a wider scale, here's where I am so totally on the side of Kelly.

It's not just the 'time and a place' argument. It's also the issue of wholly (holy?) inappropriate intrusion. The arrogance of it. It's when people start acting like God's PPI sales team. Pestering you with messages you don't want, bombarding you with bumph about saving you.

It's the self-appointed, self-anointed immodesty of it all. Lecturing the rest of us on where we're going wrong.

In fairness, the evangelicals are not alone in this. Think also of the hysterical wing of so many 'rights' groups who believe they have the one true message, that we're going to have it rammed down our throats - and if we don't agree with them, we're damned as bigots, rednecks and illiberal idiots.

The recent 'animal rights' protest at butchers' shops in Ballymena being a case in point.

I have no problem with other people telling me what they think.

I do have a problem with people telling me what I should think.

The days when we were deafened in the streets by old blokes with megaphones who appointed themselves God's spokesmen on earth are thankfully over.

But elsewhere, there's still no deliverance from the holier-than-thou barracking emanating from some in both religious and secular circles.

You're fair game these days, even in a public restaurant. Or in a shop selling animal products.

Whether they're out to save souls, or to save sole, no place is sacred.

This Provo doll's tasteless at any price

A Scottish woman, Mariea Hughes, has caused controversy with her Provo dolls dressed in black coats, skirts and berets and toting toy guns. Tasteless doesn't begin to cover it.

One of the dolls - at £100 a pop - has been sold to a Sinn Fein councillor. Surely in right-on Shinner circles there must be a question here about the objectifying of women as cutesy plastic dolls (albeit with weaponry).

But to me the biggest shocker is the £100 price tag. Fools and their money?

However, as the Scottish doll maker might say, our payday will come.

Will airlines hang up on mobile phones?

After a doctor was manhandled and hauled from a United Airlines plane with blood streaming from his face, a new flight drama, this time onboard American Airlines, where a female passenger with small children was left in tears when a staff member yanked her buggy from her. Both these incidents were recorded by other passengers on mobile phones.

How long before the big American companies involved react to stop this sort of thing ever happening again?

How long, in other words, before they ban mobile phones from all flights?

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