My Fellow Citizens

God’s Messenger

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.

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4 thoughts on “My Fellow Citizens

  1. A very thought provoking post. It is wonderful to see a Christian examine Christian behaviour. Most I have met are very unwilling to do so…in that case I guess I haven’t been so lucky.

    • Mum raised me to “question everything.” I haven’t followed everything that she told me to but I do still follow that, even when it has gotten me into trouble with her; yes, I question her too.

      Possibly the biggest failing of the human ego is that we seldom question how we go about doing something. It’s important to be certain of ourselves but at times it’s only willful ignorance and profound hypocrisy that truly leads to the unnecessary abuse and/or destruction of others for stupid reasons (no religion or religious faction is immune).

      I’m proudly Christian but I’m quite secular in my habits. I’ve seen when supposedly devout Christians go completely wrong, and have questioned my Christian brotherhood and sisterhood. My heresy, if you will, has resulted in me being accused of not being “a real Christian.” You can probably imagine what I think about my critics.

      • Yes I think I can. As an athiest what I find hardest to understand with many Christians I have met is that it is all about BLIND faith. I guess I don’t understand that. When I find a Christian who has looked at many options and theories – then makes a decision on what they believe – that I get. But many I have met are almost afraid to look at anything that questions their beliefs…as if it is poison. Does that make any sense to you ?

      • I guess you could call it “blind faith”. I’m used to it being referred to as “a leap of faith”; that’s when anyone takes to believing in any deity or “supreme consciousness (in terms of quantum mechanics)” without the aid of the scientific method or reasoning through secular philosophy.

        I was born into a Christian family, so it may be easy for aetheists or even members of a different religion to think that I’m “indoctrinated”, “assimilated” or “brainwashed” from birth. Unfortunately, I can only try in my limited capacity (I think I always fail) to explain that far beyond what I’ve been taught, I have always “felt” or somehow “sensed” the presence of God, and the impact that God’s existence has on my life and my soul. What I’ve been taught in churches and from Bible studies only gives me words to try to describe, accurately or inaccurately, this profound entity that I have always sensed is all around. My choice to not doubt the existence of this mysterious an unseen intelligence I’m sensing, and follow it is my personal leap of faith. I do this regardless of what I’ve been raised to believe. After all, there are many who have also been raised Christian and later in life they either convert to a completely different religion or become aetheist.

        My mother was raised Catholic but she converted to Pentecostal Christianity when she became an adult. The switch in religion; also known as “faith”; was due to her reasoning for herself that the similar teachings and practises in Christianity made more sense to her than those she was used to in Catholicism (a prime reason why she taught her kids to “question everything”). Regardless of either dissenting religion; however, she never doubted the existence of God. That too is “faith” but with a different meaning. One that transcends religious doctrine.

        It makes complete sense that there are Christians that view discenting views on “faith”; regarding religion or otherwise, as hostile to their own. You’re not imagining anything, that is unfortunately very real. I see this animosity all the time, and personally find it intolerable. Hence, why my questioning Christian beliefs and practices has gotten me into trouble with other Christians.

        Although I maintain my relationship with God and Christ, I haven’t been to church in many years for a regular service (I’ll always clash with fellow congregates that will rub me the wrong way), only funerals and weddings. I feel that Christians get too hung up on Chritian tradition and presumptions of Christianity, and lose sight that God exists for people who worship through other religions or even not at all. For many Christians this is heresy, and supposedly “not real Christians” like me are only destined to suffer the hot breath of hell for such sinful beliefs.

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