A Good Shepherd Sunday encounter with an Uber-driving da’i

Dana Pham (pronouns: who/cares)
4 min readApr 26, 2024
Source: https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=682457047253651&set=a.562804832552207

But first, an update from my last blog post. Specifically, Graham Linehan. I saw him last Saturday. I rocked up to his comedy writing class, and behold, the man I disagree with on that one point! For this reason, a man worth getting to know in person. As I confirmed, comedy is definitely not my thing. I don’t really watch comedy, let alone comedy writing.

I attended his “Tough Crowd” book launch, which followed — no surprises during his talk, since I’ve already watched my friend Melody’s podcast episode with him. And then of course I followed this Tough gender-critical Crowd to the local pub for the evening, and observed. Look, I don’t think Graham should have had his career cancelled, but I still very strongly disagree with him that there is a high risk that I’ll regret my gender transition.

Discussions included how the trans cult is like a new religion, and Graham lamented, in a Richard Dawkins moment, his past criticisms of the Catholic Church, due to the decline of ‘cultural Christianity’ and the social vacuum this has left. Funny that, because it also looked like I was witnessing an anti-trans cult. Blue team, red team, who am I as a Christian going to vote for?

Ackshually that’s not the most important question, since it was Good Shepherd Sunday the day after. Voting is earthly, following the Good Shepherd is eternal! Public transport in Sydney sucked more than usual, so at some point I caught an Uber ride. The Uber driver had a beard and a Muslim-sounding name, not that that’s a problem in itself.

At first, we did the small talk, as you would with any Uber driver, then he spent the next 20 or so minutes dawah-ing me, that is, inviting me to Islam. According to Wikipedia, dawah (Islamic evangelising) should be gentle, and interestingly, Aisha reported that Muhammad said, “Whenever gentleness is in a thing, it beautifies it, and whenever it is withdrawn from something, it defaces.”

Sure, this da’i (person engaging in dawah) was gentle, but ultimately I was sitting in a car as a passenger with a stranger controlling the steering wheel — I was a sitting duck. The power dynamics was not in my favour, and I was in need to get from A to B without conflict. If the setting was a university campus, I would have been more comfortable to debate who Muhammad appears to be, and the merits of Islamic scriptures.

Earlier in the dawah, he asked if I was comfortable with the conversation, so I said, “Sure,” to hear what he has to say in less than 20 minutes, though there was some minor swerving. He sounded like he was new to Islam, and talked about the Genesis creation story quite a bit. It sounded like Genesis, but a deep dive into the Qur’anic account of Genesis shows that it differs significantly from that of the Bible. This is why ultimately both the Qur’an and the Bible are different.

He showed reverence towards Mary, but could not grapple with who Christ really is. My reference to Christ as the Second Adam seemed to fall on deaf ears. In any case, he was passionate about Islam, and felt that dawah is important in his Uber-driving. Lucky for him I don’t really give Uber drivers ratings on the app.

Come evening, I visited the now (in)famous Christ The Good Shepherd Church in Wakeley. The livestream of the Divine Liturgy in English is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wco-hnoumq4. It was befitting that I visited the Church nearly a week post terrorist attack, on Good Shepherd Sunday.

Parking around the church block was packed, and I spotted a NSW Police vehicle parked nearby, ready to respond. There were security guards at the church entry, and I then realised that I forgot to bring a headscarf. It was a good thing that I was well-covered otherwise. A young usherette approached me, pointing me to the dresser nearby that contained plenty of headscarves to choose from. My first church experience where headscarfing is strictly enforced.

The church building is new-ish, and it kinda reminded me of my one visit to Sts Michael and Gabriel Antiochian Orthodox Church in Ryde. Only much bigger, and the interior whiteness was not too minimalist. Obviously the church is not Eastern or Oriental Orthodox, but there was sufficient iconography to go around. The curtain iconostasis was more impressive than that at Sts Mary and Merkorious Coptic Orthodox Church in Rhodes, contrasted against a simpler sanctuary.

The deacons’ dress reminded me of the deacons at Sts Mary and Mina Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Bexley. The Divine Liturgy felt Orthodox-ish, noting that the church is Eastern Syriac. But a few things killed the vibe for me. The sermon by the priest went on for about an hour, which made it less cogent, succinct and memorable. Parts of it felt condescending, maybe I’m not his audience?

The choir was contemporary, which wasn’t a problem at first, then the piano became a distraction for me — we all know how I feel about church music! Before Holy Communion (is that what this church calls it?), the priest laboured on about the rules for it — again, condescending, though the point about using incense to cleanse hands before Communion was interesting. Then during Communion, the choir started singing some forgettable song I’ve heard a few times before at Hillsong-style services elsewhere, at which point I had enough, returned my headscarf and left.

Yeah I know, the anticlimatic ending of what was otherwise an adventurous Good Shepherd Weekend.

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Dana Pham (pronouns: who/cares)

Trans-inclusionary radical feminist (TIRF) | Liberal Arts phenomenologist from @notredameaus | Anglo-catholic | all opinions expressed here are my own