Public preaching is a public nuisance


Photo credit: Michael Tracey

I, like many of my friends, have returned home this summer with the primary objective of earning a few quid at my part time job and topping up that all-important overdraft. So here I am, a month into my break, getting to know the inside of my workplace better than my own house. I don’t actually mind this; I work in a clothes store in Manchester city centre with lovely people who I have known for four years now, and I’m not ashamed to admit that yes, I actually really like my job. Unfortunately every job has its downsides. Step forward the preacher.

I’m going to say this now: I was brought up as a Catholic. I was baptised, confirmed, had my Holy Communion, went to Catholic schools, Mass and I sang hymns and prayed at morning assemblies. As I’ve got older I’ve developed my own Atheistic views, and I love hearing logical descriptions about what other people believe in. But when I have some random bloke directly outside my shop with a microphone telling everybody “Jesus loves you” and singing hymns by himself with all the gusto and joy of a talentless Ian Curtis, I’m rapidly going to get fed up of it.

His voice (and his awful singing) take over the vast majority of the high street, and drowns out our music system entirely, so I don’t really have a choice to listen or not. I think it’s incredibly rude for people to force beliefs and opinions down your throat, irrelevant of whether those beliefs are about religion, music, or which flavour of crisps is best. It’s just not really anything to do with other people.

Usually the high street preachers are just rude as well. They will stand there and tell everybody in the surrounding area that we are full of sin and that we are bad people. Once one preacher pointed out my best friend to shoppers on a busy Saturday afternoon and labelled her ‘promiscuous,’ presumably on the basis of her wearing a rather modest floral print sundress.

And as for discussion with these preachers? No chance. I have plenty of time for Lancaster’s Christian Society, who are willing to talk logically about the more debatable areas of religion. But the high street preacher will often reject any question time, preferring to continue to basically rant, and refuse to recognise any flaws in his actions. Often the ranting invites the attention of more outspoken passers by, whose involvement can range from attempting to engage the preacher in logical debate (to no avail), to immature reponses from younger parties. I can assure you of this though, the ranting preacher rarely looks sensible enough to encourage non-believers to ‘see the light.’

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware that it’s not just Christians who you see preaching. But I personally have seen, for example, Muslim preachers moved on within an hour of setting up. I have never seen a Christian preacher moved on, or studied warily from a distance by CSOs. This might be because England is (was?) a predominantly Christian society, but either way, very public preacher can be a very public nuisance.

I appreciate you trying to save my soul, but giving me a headache is more likely to make me find comfort in paracetamol, not in He Who May Or May Not Exist.

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  1. ‘I have plenty of time for Lancaster?s Christian Society, who are willing to talk logically about the more debatable areas of religion.’

    This is an oxymoron. No religious group can or will ever debate logically. Otherwise they wouldn’t be religious. But I agree with the principal; you might have more chance reasoning with someone who isn’t wearing a sandwich board condemning you to hell!

  2. *Not oxymoron – I meant incompatible!

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