Thursday, October 14, 2010

streets of fire (and brimstone)


Why are Christians so concerned with non-Christians' current convictions and afterlife fate? And why do they need to spread the teachings of their scripture to followers of other scripture and convince them that theirs is better? Proselytizing is a predominately Christian phenomenon and I just don't get it. (According to the sage source Wikipedia, the groups noted for their extensive proselytism include Anglicans, Episcopalians, Born-Again Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews for Jesus [affectionately called Christians among Jews], Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists, Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists — all Christian-based sects. It should be noted that Jews do not actively seek converts, as we are not completely happy with all of the members of our current natural roster.)

Guerrilla preaching is everywhere. I've gotten crucifix-emblazoned pamphlets proclaiming my inevitable trip to Hell handed to me in the train station. I've had leaflets — warning the grim consequences if I don't accept Jesus as my one true savior — waiting for me under the windshield wiper of my car at a mall. And if you live in or nearby a large city, you'll see that a bustling street corner is the perfect pulpit for preaching "The Word" according to.... whoever.

Street corner religion is most intriguing. There's a guy I pass most mornings in Philadelphia's busy Suburban Station on my two-block walk to work. For the most part, he is dirty and disheveled, save for a Philadelphia Phillies cap proudly perched on his matted hair. He is dressed in torn sweats and a windbreaker that has seen better days. He offers passers-by small, black & white circulars of a religious nature. He mutters an unintelligible speech punctuated with a random shout of "Jesus" after every third or fourth word. During baseball season, when the Phillies were suffering through an extended slump, I figured his Lord had better things to attend to and was ignoring his loyal service.

I am fascinated by another single prophet addressing his permanent al fresco congregation at the corner of 16th and Market Streets, a weathered volume of (possibly) scripture in hand, screaming his own interpretation to anyone within earshot. On various occasions, I have heard snippets of his doctrine to include advice on how to raise children, dealing with unconfessed sins, following Jesus' predestination for working as a stockbroker or at McDonald's, and the Blessed Virgin Mother offering transportation service to the airport. A co-worker tells me that he sputters out the word "lesbian" whenever she crosses his path on her way home.

I'm not much for religion. Most of it makes no sense to me. And when you have a guy like this as your spokesperson, I'm gonna need a little more convincing that this is the pathway to salvation. Although, I may take Mary up on that ride to the airport.

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