07 April 2011

Annoying subway preachers

I was once on a small shuttle bus that took me between my bus stop and my job. This was years ago, when I lived in Florida, and actually needed such services. Thank goodness they existed, because it was a goodly mile or so to get there, and on hot days, an air conditioned bus is much nicer than walking.

The driver had on some bible preaching show on the radio, but the reception was terrible. Overlaid on the show was a rap station. It was very interesting to listen to, because you could hear the beats of the rap song, which was for whatever reason, in iambic pentameter. What was the interesting part? The rap song and the preacher synced up almost perfectly. Why? Because the preacher had training in speaking in public. He doesn’t have to yell and gesture wildly. He has to open his mouth, and fall into those familiar patterns that humans are so attuned to, and people listen. People don’t even realise that they’re listening. It just sneaks right in there.

This is part of the objection I have to those street preachers that invade our subways. It’s offensive, not just because it’s intrusive during a time (journey to work) that should be a private moment between you and your ipod, but also because they suck. They have none of the natural charisma that the trained preachers have, and they have absolutely none of the skill that comes from speaking in front of people for a long time. They’re making a mockery of an art form.

To someone who does know how to speak in public, listening to that crap is like someone who’s got a good ear for music listening to someone caterwaul along to a song on the radio, and do so off-key. Then, all of a sudden, even though you know the correct tune, all you can hear is the horrible singing.

Take home message: save the crappy flailing arms and shouting for your church. Nobody else cares. If you’re going to preach out on the streets, where others are going to have to listen to you without being able to get away from it, have the decency to do it well. Otherwise, shut up and let me get back to ignoring you and the rest of the world.