Preachers on Parade


42nd Street Subway station preacher posters (a bit out of focus because I was afraid the screaming preacher was going to rip my iPhone out of my hand. He and another one were screaming “Abortion is murder!”)

Every day on the ramp from the #7 subway to Port Authority Bus Terminal at 42nd Street is a kind of mini-carnival of preachers, but last night was a full-fledged parade! They were coming out of the woodwork, I mean, tiles. Everywhere, all ethnicities and ages and temperaments. They almost outnumbered the commuters. Was it annual Preachers Day, and nobody told us?

Among the preachers were:

(1)    An unintelligible Korean woman holding a placard and shrieking Bible quotes or condemnations at the passersby.

(2)    A Latino man who approached a girl no older than 5 walking hand-in-hand with her mother. He got in her face and said in an admonishing tone, “It’s never too late.” Are you kidding? What sins has she committed? It reminded me of going to confession as a young girl and running out of things to confess. One of my “sins” was interrupting my dad when he was on the phone in his study. If I were that mother, I would have told the guy to leave my kid alone, or perhaps used stronger language.

(3)     A white stringy-haired guy standing against the wall, mumbling sotto voce. Too shy to be a preacher, I think.

(4)     A young African-American man wearing a brown hoodie with block yellow lettering on the back, “TRUST AND BELIEVE IN JESUS.” He hovered near the pamphlet / chachka table and said nothing. I wonder what his sales are like.

Tons of plaques and posters painted with scripture verses in primary colors, and one of Jesus, head bloodied by thorns, with an ocher backdrop, lined the walls. A painting depicted what looked like a man being lured by a prostitute (oversized woman, smaller man – you get the point) sitting in a come-hither pose.  I wasn’t able to make out what it said, will have to check back again tonight.

In the morning, there’s the African-American preacher in Frye boots and cowboy hat and bolo tie, who says, “Do not reject Jesus. Jesus will not reject you.” Listen here: 

The energy of these preachers on parade is palpable. If only it could be harnessed and used for the greater good, to solve world problems, or help the poor, homeless and mentally ill and other disenfranchised people. If only they were DOING and HELPING, instead of preaching and accosting the innocent. I guess I could say the same about myself; only difference is, I’m not a preacher, but still, no excuse.

(audio – E. Herd)

6 thoughts on “Preachers on Parade

  1. Street preachers have a lot to say about the human spirit. Most are narcissistic cripples, who have personalities so damaged that they cannot think beyond themselves and are thus compelled to bark their beliefs at the world.

    But then…. some preachers in mega-churches are like that too.

    Back when I worked for the cops, when the weather was good, we loved going to a BBQ joint in an industrial section of East Saint Paul that had the great ribs for a shockingly low price. After you were served, the proprietor sat at your table and talked about Jesus. He was fun, humorous and kind. The preaching, he said, was the price of the discount. I’d listen to his gospel any day. They say Jesus is love and this man lived it in a simple, wonderful way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are so right. They all seem to be either narcissistic, disturbed or both, hence incapable of helping themselves or others in any real way.

    That sounds terrific — a kind preacher with ribs.


  3. Brings to mind the time I visited Gastown in Vancouver, early ’70s. Arranged on the grounds in carnival booths and presided over by a giant metal statue of a hobo with a real joint sticking out of its lips, was the same-type array of preachers and proselytizers. My particular memories include watching the Hari Krishnas roaming around chanting and banging tambourines, interrupting the other preachers, who were stationed at permanent booths.

    I remember one booth where a guy had a complex map illustrated with grotesque characters depicting a soul’s progression through the various stages of Hell. He had a patter and a pointer which he continually slapped on the map to emphasize certain aspects of his sermon. Visitors paused a moment or two until they’d become completely bewildered by the complexity of this schtick, and then drifted away.

    At another booth a drunk was heckling the female preacher, who held her own as she waved a Bible in his face and shouted repeatedly, “MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON YOUR SOUL!!!” He eventually realized he was outmatched, if only by sheer volume, and staggered on his way.

    Wish I’d had a camcorder then.

    Liked by 1 person

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