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Christianity As Endurance Sport?

There is a street preacher out in front of the music building at the moment. In and of itself, this is not unusual; the University is an enormous public school, right smack in the middle of Grad School Town, so its public malls tend to attract street preachers. This guy has been out there for at least two and a half hours, ranting at the top of his lungs. He was shouting when I left class at noon (about Halloween -- he's against it), and he was still out there ten minutes ago, still shouting (about homosexuality -- he's against that, too). He'd managed to attract quite an audience, though I think most of the people watching were more interested in seeing if he'd run out of steam any time soon than in anything he had to say.

I have to say, even though I don't care for street preachers and think they're annoying, their sheer stamina is impressive. That guy's been out there for over two hours, just improvising at the top of his lungs. He has neither lost his voice nor run out of things to say. Someday I'd like to find out how these guys do it. I bet it's similar to the way Baluchis and Sufis and Harp singers can sing and/or whirl for hours on end, sort of putting themselves into a trance state.

I do kind of wish he'd shut up, though.


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 15th, 2005 12:30 am (UTC)
We had a free speech area at the University I went to and there was always a preacher there. He was always yelling at the girls when they walked by telling them they were not very nice for the way they were dressed--which usually only resulted in them flashing him. And someone would always go argue with him. It always seems very bizarre to me. ;-)
Sep. 15th, 2005 12:43 am (UTC)
He ended up attracting a large crowd of hecklers. I guess University students appreciate street theater. Around quarter to four he was going strong about how Muslims and Jews were going to burn in hell, then he segued into stories about his sinful youth. The crowd was having a blast hollering right back at him, which just encouraged him. I heard from a friend that he was still going at 4:30, but by the time gamelan class let out at 6:00, he was gone. Still, that meant he was out there probably five hours, which is impressive.

I wonder if anyone's ever been converted to Christianity by a street preacher.
Sep. 15th, 2005 02:08 am (UTC)
We used to get nuts street preachers, even at my nerdy quiet little school. My husband, whose campus was far more urban, saw a lot more and even saw one have an opened can of Coke lobbed at him. Not that I generally support lobbing anything at anyone or anything....

I, too, have wondered if those people ever convert anyone. I also, though, used to wonder if those Jehovah's Witnesses that go about knocking on peoples' doors ever converted anyone, but apparently, I have a friend whose mother was, so I'd imagine that weak souls succumb to street preachers too.

It sounds, to me, like just about everyone is going to Hell, according to the guy. Well, my husband is fond of saying that if the people in Heaven are like the religious nuts that we have met, then he'll be quite happy in Hell. I have a feeling I'll meet a lot of friends there.

(Says the girl who supports the theory of reincarnation ;D)

I drop your street preacher into the same specimen jar as the people who believe that the folks killed and stranded in New Orleans had it coming, for living in a "den of iniquity" and all....
Sep. 15th, 2005 03:58 am (UTC)
I was on the phone tonight with a friend who lives in Pensacola, Florida. There is an unaccredited college there, called Pensacola Christian College, where a certain amount of street preaching is a degree requirement. So I guess they must teach them how to do it there. Apparently, ladies can also get a master's in Home Economics at Pensacola Christian College. I'm still trying to wrap my brain around that concept. What ever would you do for your master's thesis? I'm researching music and Holocaust memory. Maybe they're coming up with new cake recipes.

Ooh. True story. Last year, I was heading home one evening, when I ran into two young street preachers who shoved pamphlets at me and asked if I needed anything interesting to read that evening. No, I said, I had a good book already.

What book? they asked.

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, I said, freshly checked out of the library on semester-long grad student loan.

They looked puzzled. Tolkien? they asked. Who was he? Did he write about God and Jesus?

I gave them my best withering look. Yes, I said. He was the one who convinced C. S. Lewis to become a Christian.

C. S. Lewis? they asked. Who's he?

You gotta love the street preachers sometimes.
Sep. 15th, 2005 12:37 pm (UTC)
I had heard of faiths that require a certain amount of "witnessing," but a college requirement? Sheesh. Actually, I shouldn't be surprised. (Blame my pesky logical-thinking mind that I am!) In my restaurant days, I worked with several people who went to Bob Jones University. One girl was forced there by her parents, as evidenced by her appetite for sex, drugs, and alcohol, and she would regale my husband and me (both agnostics) with tales about their rules. For example, they couldn't wear trousers within a 30 mile radius of the school; they had to wear skirts. And they couldn't watch above G-rated movies. Guess that eliminates The Passion of the Christ, eh? But I don't recall reading a passage in the Bible where it says, "Thou shalt not weareth slack within a radius of 30 miles of the Bob Jones University." Of course, I only read the Bible for its value in literature, so maybe I missed that part.

My husband studied international relations and terrorism in college and he had a class called "The Politics of Fundamentalism," and they watched a video that is shown at the BJU where a man stands on a chair over a woman and the narrator says, "And this demonstrates the relationship between husband and wife." I'd push his ass right off that chair, if he tried that with me!

To your story: Hee. Totally believable. Should we be surprised that these people are so out-of-touch with the world that they've never heard of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis? Last summer, we met some friends getting off from work in the restaurant to go to a carnival, and my friend Evan--who checks in at about 300 pounds--was standing in the parking lot in his boxer shorts, changing out of his uniform, when a street preacher approached us and began asking if we knew Jesus. The image of my heavyset friend in naught but his skivvies being asked about Jesus amuses me to this day.
Sep. 15th, 2005 12:51 pm (UTC)
What stunned me was not just that they didn't know Tolkien and Lewis. It was that they didn't know that Tolkien and Lewis were relatively famous Christians. I figured out the Jesus allegory in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe when I was but a wee lass of six. You'd think that they'd at least have heard of the guy who wrote The Screwtape Letters.

I've always wondered about how über-Christian colleges manage to enforce rules like "no pants within thirty miles of the school." How would they know? Do they have God squads running around policing everyone within thirty miles of the school to check? And I wonder what it is about that thirty-mile line. Thirty-one miles and you're still holy, but twenty-nine miles and you're a sinner?
Sep. 15th, 2005 01:19 pm (UTC)
There is an unaccredited college there, called Pensacola Christian College, where a certain amount of street preaching is a degree requirement.

*Sigh* That is really just scary. Sad. It doesn't surprise me one bit that the school is in Florida--for every accredited college here, there are literally 5 that operate with the name college but have no accreditation.

I believe in free speech and I also believe in a person's right to worship as they chose. My problem with those street preachers is that they are really very negative--calling women derogatory names for wearing pants (God forbid shorts) and saying that followers of other religions will burn in hell...etc. I do not believe these comments are likely to make the world a better place.

I loved your story about your encounter with street preachers.
Sep. 15th, 2005 01:34 pm (UTC)
They really are astonishingly negative. I think that what saves them is that they're just so negative that it becomes comic rather than actually insulting. It's what inspires the crowds of students to heckle rather than assault this guy.
Sep. 15th, 2005 05:38 am (UTC)
Do these people ever say anything positive? It would seem that everybody in the world - except them - is absolutely dreadful / will burn in hell / can only be saved by becoming exactly the same as the person who is the worst possible advertisement for changing anything.

They can only be looked on as entertainment - in much the same way as those people who pretend to be shut in invisible boxes. With the only downside being that they are far noisier - and the mime artists probably go home and act like (reasonably) normal human beings. Whereas I'm not sure that ranters can.

Converted to Christianity by a street preacher? Turned against it, I'd say.
Sep. 15th, 2005 11:33 am (UTC)
I've never heard a street preacher walk about all red in the face screaming "You must LOOOOOOVE your fellow man!" or words to that effect. I suppose that it's either a notion that negativity will sell better or that the preachers who are more inclined to the positive aren't the sort to be out on the street.
Sep. 15th, 2005 12:30 pm (UTC)
"You must LOOOOOOVE your fellow man!"

That would be worth seeing.

What could such a ranter threaten people with? Hardly the circles of hell - perhaps he'd have to threaten that he was going to love you whether you liked it or not.
Sep. 15th, 2005 12:52 pm (UTC)
perhaps he'd have to threaten that he was going to love you whether you liked it or not.

I do believe that's illegal in most states. Oddly enough, though, threatening to send people to hell isn't.

America -- land of the free and home of the weird.
Sep. 15th, 2005 06:32 pm (UTC)
The mad can have great stamina.

I am so very glad that I do not believe in hell beyond what we may, of course, create for ourselves. I'm especially glad of this because yes, indeedy, I've had my share of fun with the J. Witnesses, the Mormons, and the assorted Right wing fundies. (I've also had my share of fun with a few of the Middle Eastern types, over the years. Not entirely fundy, but disrespectful to women for sure. American girls quick my ass...dual chaperones and a two and a half hour lecture shut him up DAMN quick on that one...)

Back in my college days, I'd argue with the annoying preacher du jour at the student union. There was always one standing on the steps, trying to scare the locals.

One day, I had on a snake bracelet. I got stopped with an intake of breath, and a 'do you know what that represents?"

"Yes indeed, it's a form of reptile."

That beginning along left him scrambling, poor thing. It would often end in "The Bible says so!" Which version? Now, prove to me that God had a hand in writing that. What, you can't? I have to have faith? Why do I have to have faith? Because God says so. How do you know what god says...the bible says so. You can't use one thing that is not proven to prove another...try again.

Heh. I love circuitous, faulty reasoning...Usually, I'd get them all flustered. They had to be GOOD to get past that.

Sep. 15th, 2005 08:33 pm (UTC)
I've done that before with street preachers. They're not brought up to debate, poor things, and I am. So it usually ends with them getting frustrated and walking away. Add to that the fact that I am moderately religious in my own Jewish way, and they can't even fall back on calling me a complete and total heathen. This tends to throw them.

There was another preacher out there today. Same church, but a different guy. He wasn't nearly as entertaining, though, and he quickly ceded the concrete block to a rather shrill Filipina woman who was also not real entertaining. The crowd tried to call back the guy who had lasted five hours yesterday. One student started handing out queer-straight ALLY pins, so I got one.
Sep. 16th, 2005 05:59 pm (UTC)
THere's a welsh pop-rock group called "Manic Street Preachers." I believe Manic is the word. WOw!
Sep. 17th, 2005 03:25 am (UTC)
I shall definitely have to check these guys out. If they're half as entertaining as the street preachers we get here, they'll be great fun.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )


by Illsaysheis

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