My Fellow Citizens
It was fascinating to observe this man. On most days, like when I shot this image, he would just silently stand at the corner of James and King using himself as a human billboard for God while most simply ignored him. He generally didn’t say a word unless you spoke to him. He’d stay there virtually motionless for long periods on the little riser he carries or just with it in his hand. I only saw him call out to people a couple of times, as is the stereotype of the manic street preacher, and sometimes he had a female companion with him to help spread the Gospel.
Some days, young men engaged him by asking what he was doing and why? Crowds of young women gathered to deliberately tease him and try to set him off by putting on deep, amorous lesbian kissing displays right in front of him. Their behaviour didn’t seem to have much effect. It was so obvious that their intent was to shock and embarrass him. They clearly didn’t get that someone who’s dedicated to what they consider a pious faith, regardless of religion, will not be shaken by such antics. In fact, the dedicated are likely to feel more empowered by a notion that an opposing force; typically presumed to be the devil or in league with Satan, is desperately trying to undermine their resolve. In the end, it was usually the antagonists that proved more frustrated. One scrawny woman with a green fauxhawk walked by me saying, “Hey, take a picture of that freak!” while pointing to the man on the riser.
I do understand and appreciate the concern of this messenger of God. I swear there have been a few instances when I was sure that I saw Jesus making his way among the crowds of King Street; wearing his thorny crown and lugging his old rugged cross. Only on those occasions, unlike when he first did it in Jerusalem, nobody mocked him. Christ labouriously passed within inches of everyone’s faces and shoulders, and they didn’t even realize that he was there. As he did in Jerusalem, and on the cross, he endured our ignorance toward him without ever once complaining. I know that I couldn’t do that, and I wouldn’t believe anyone else who might claim they could. That’s why people like this messenger of God do get out on the streets in the ways they do. They feel remorse for knowing that we take for granted the fact that we all allow a special someone to suffer for us, and the messengers feel it’s their duty to finally act on behalf of the one who would give so much of himself for us.
This messenger always had large, colourful, well-designed and well-constructed signs. Perhaps that’s not what I was supposed to focus on but I couldn’t help but notice such things being a visual artist. Some of his signs were posted, and he held them up picket-style but this wearable sandwichboard type had the most impact, especially with this Bible scripture on the rear. It’s, dare I say it, a hell of a message to display in Hamilton’s downtown core.
A curious thing about this guy’s signage though, every one of them only had messages of judgement and wrath for society, especially for those who don’t come to Jesus. I know from my own strangely secular but strong and lifelong relationship with God, that God isn’t all-forgiving but also really isn’t always so in-your-face and spiritually pissed-off! For all my nonsense I have received far more love, patience, understanding and forgiveness from God than I could possibly expect from anyone else on this planet. I’ve received more than I could even give to others or myself. None of these signs conveyed such positivism so I fear that while this man’s intent was good, he may have been doing more to drive people further away from God than to God. We Christians, at least, tend to make this mistake far too often.