Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Monday, November 14, 2005

Weekend wittering

I'm feeling miserable. So bear with me.

"But why", asks my loyal and sympathetic reader, "why are you feeling miserable jim?" Well, it's for a number of reasons really... but the main one being that this weekend was the *mumble mumble*-year anniversary of me becoming single. That's a whole *mumble mumble* years of celibacy and waking up alone and not having anyone to hold onto during those long dark nights of the soul. And *mumble mumble* years is a long time believe me. About *mumble mumble* years too long in fact. So if I seem a tad more bitter than usual over the next few days, you know why it is.

And as if to rub salt in the wound...

As I was walking up to the postal sorting office yesterday morning to pick up a package (a spindle of blank discs from a well-known online retailer) I noticed two very lovely women walking towards me. It was a bright but cold morning and as we neared one another, the prettiest of the two stopped, smiled and said "good morning!" to me.

Now, I'm not Brad Pitt so I ain't exactly well-versed in how to handle this situation (that said, I don't make small children spontaneously burst into tears either). Nonetheless, there was an obvious response, and I hit upon it... I smiled and said "Good morning!" right back.

I felt pleased with myself. "This whole conversing with gorgeous strangers thing isn't nearly as hard as I'd imagined", I thought. Though I did desperately hope that my lovely new friend would speak next. I had no idea where to go after "good morning".

And my hopes were fulfilled. She did speak next. She said, "I'd like to share the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ with you".

The Romans had it right: throw 'em to the lions!

I'm not entirely sure that anyone can honestly claim to understand the word "crestfallen" until they've been in this situation.

I silently wished I'd been wearing my "Catholic School Survivor" t-shirt under my jacket. But I wasn't. So instead I realised that I'd have to fall back on one of the classics. Choosing one, I allowed the smile to drain from my face and - narrowing my eyes - I fixed her with a steely gaze. Then, quietly but forcefully I responded with the three words guaranteed to make her think twice about evangelising to strangers.

"Satan Is Lord" I said. And walked briskly past her.

Now, the great thing about the 'satan is lord' strategy is the vast disparity between the meaning those words have in my mind, and the meaning they have in the mind of a True Believer. From my point of view I've said something very silly indeed. From her point of view, however, I've said the worst thing imaginable. And now, every time she approaches some poor schlepp with her desire to share God's infinite love, she'll have a vague worry that they might be another plainclothes satanist.

That may seem sadistic - or at least gratuitously disruptive - to you, my dear sensitive reader. And I'm afraid we'll just have to differ on that. To me the buggers are fair game.

See, evangelicals really wind me up. I have nothing against people believing in imaginary beings in the privacy of their own homes. Indeed, I've been there myself. And I guarantee, if you munch enough mushrooms, you'll be there too. More than that, I'm happy to let them gather and believe in imaginary shit together. They can even build special buildings to do it in. Hell yeah, knock yourselves out. Believe in a race of 6-inch high rhinocerous people from the planet Spunk if you want. Seriously, you have my blessing.

But evangelicals aren't happy to leave it like that. Oh no, they won't be happy until everyone else believes in their rhinoids too. And frankly that annoys me. It's the reason for so much of the truly nasty shit that people have done to each other historically... it's not just annoying and - when done by someone fanciable - a tease. Though it's that too obviously.

My first thought whenever I'm spiritually assaulted by one of these missionaries is "The fucking gall! How dare they!" There's nothing more patronising than stopping me in the street and telling me that - as far as the important stuff goes - my understanding of the world, and of life, is infinitely inferior to theirs. But that if I listen to what they say, I can be cured of all my misconceptions and ascend to their level.

I want to shake them by the shoulders and explain that, actually, I've been studying theology pretty seriously since I was nine fucking years old! I have debated the existence of god with jesuits who have Phd's in theology and divinity coming out of their ears. There is nothing that some street-evangelist in East London can tell me that I haven't already heard and dismissed for extremely good reasons.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying "I know all the answers". Because I really don't. But I do have a far better set of questions than any street evangelist.

And I'm also not saying that every christian preacher or missionary earns my contempt. That used to be the case, but I've since met some quite staggeringly admirable people whose faith has taken them to some of the shittiest places on the planet, where they are - quite incontravertibly - doing very good work. But wandering the streets of London harrassing strangers just doesn't cut it... too little Jesus Christ and too much St. Paul.

Remember... Satan is Lord.


Blogger Phil said...

The Jesus Army (who are weird, but that's another story) frequently park their brightly-coloured double-decker in the centre of Manchester. If I see them out and about, I always give them a smile and a friendly wave - forefinger and little finger extended, second and third fingers folded under... I do so hope it freaks them out.

I had a memorable encounter with a Mormon, years ago. I was perfectly polite - "Sorry, no, I'm an atheist", turn, start to walk away. Stop, turn, beckon, just one more thing... "And an anarchist."

(And I like Christianity, at least in theory - the teachings of Yeshua, if that was his name, have a lot going for them. Twits.)

14/11/05 11:28  
Blogger Jim Bliss said...

I once saw the Jesus Army physically attack someone who was heckling their preacher in Leicester Square. The police intervened before myself and about 20 other outraged bystanders gave them a lesson in turning the other cheek.

I noticed the line "Leaving the Apostle Paul out of it for the moment..." in your piece Phil. See, that's where you slip up. There are christian sects (presumably not the C of E) which appear to place almost as much emphasis on Paul's evangelising as they do on the gospels. Catholicism being just the most obvious of those sects.

Because of that, it's impossible, in the main, to divorce modern christianity from Paul's ranting. And there are also a scary number of christians who are happy to cite the old testament as The Word of God in those instances where it supports their personal prejudices.

14/11/05 13:00  
Blogger Larry Teabag said...

Jim, I can't help fearing that you might have misread the situation. She said "I'd like to share the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ with you", but did she say how she'd like to share that love?

95% chance it would have been by boring you stupid with quotes from the bible for 3 hours, but 5% it would have involved a hotel-room and a pair of rubber gloves.

Still assuming your interpretation was the correct one, "Satan is Lord" is a fantastic response to give.

I was once hanging around in Leicester Square with a friend when we was struck by the amazing crapness of the evangelist on a soapbox there. "We could do better than that" we said, and the two of us (both practising athiests) did our best to spread the Word of the Lord for half an hour or so until we got bored. The best response I got to my question "Have you heard of Jesus Christ?" was "No, fuck off". "Satan is Lord" is far better - hope you don't mind if I use that one myself next time.

14/11/05 14:44  
Blogger RA said...

The Witnesses came to my door a few weeks back. I was VERY tired. I have a two year old and a (then) two week old baby. My nerves were frayed and I answered the door without thinking...

As I opened it this cheery soul looked at me and said " Oh! The Church.. You'll be interested in this then"

I then realised that I was wearing a t-shirt "advertising" one of my fave bands. "The Church"

I didn't have to think hard (good job, as I couldn't think hard) before i said " No, they're a band, goodbye"

14/11/05 21:31  
Blogger Rachel said...

There wasn't a word of that post that I read with anything less than total agreement and recognition. Here at uni the evangelists are an absolute plague, although they do often make it easier to avoid them by going about in packs wearing CiCCU hoodies.

(CiCCU stands for Cambridge Intercollegiate Christian Union. I find it amusing that they haven't realised how perfectly their acronym - pronounced "kick-you" - fits them, and childishly sublime that the Durham lot follow the same naming convention.)

If they do corner me I usually reply "Sorry, I'm Jewish" - one of my ancestors was, at least! - and walk smartly off, but "Satan is Lord" sounds much more fun. When I was a young and very naive fresher, I made the mistake of asking them questions on a couple of occasions. Funny how something polite that I meant as "I'm interested in how you can justify (such-and-such an absurdity) to yourselves" sounded to them like "I'm interested in having my worldview, sexual identity and morality belittled several times a week and being regularly prayed for for the next year. Also free food and chocolate, to further convince me of your superior belief system."

Off my soapbox now, thanks.

16/11/05 11:07  
Blogger Andy Hume said...

Having been single for just over a year myself, I can assure you that I'd have put up with the three hours of bible quotes just for the 5% chance of the rubber gloves.

There's also a "turn the other cheek" gag in there somewhere, but that might be a stretch...

16/11/05 11:46  
Blogger Saneman said...

That may seem sadistic - or at least gratuitously disruptive - to you, my dear sensitive reader

No, that was hilarious! Nice one Jim.

17/11/05 10:09  
Blogger Oscar Wildebeest said...

"Have you heard of Jesus Christ?"

Ah, mistake - closed question. Too easy to answer "yes" and move on.

Anyone else here know Phil, the Scouser with a megaphone who hangs round Oxford Circus with a fixed smile and a determination to bring the light of Jesus to all of us? He has two front teeth missing. I always wonder why...

21/11/05 17:11  
Blogger merrick said...

Been using the 'Satan Is Lord' approach myself recently. I used to give them the Bill Hicks line, 'while I appreciate your quaint traditions and superstitions, I on the other hand am an evolved being who deals solely with the source of life, which exists in all of our hearts, no middleman required'.

But it's not only giving them more time than they deserve, it also is incomprehensible to them.

Far better to let them think Stan is winning. I had one reply 'no, you don't want to do that, come to Jesus', to whom I replied that the earth is no longer The Garden, it is Satan's domain and it would be disrespectful to deny the dark prince.

23/11/05 19:17  
Blogger zoe said...

stan is winning merrick? i'd certainly hope so.

mr bliss, it's a good thing that you're not exactly brad pitt - variety is the spice of life. and london girls are obviously stupid cos you're too nice to be single. (ok, compliments over with, it's back to ms not-nice guy now)

and heh, i *do* make small children cry. often.

and for anyone interested, i've blogged useful tools for talking to religious zealots.

23/11/05 20:13  

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