Streetcorner Tolerance

In downtown Seattle, on the Southeast corner of an old department store, a Jesus shouter shows up regularly armed with banners, gospel tracts, and a bullhorn. Before the shouting begins he sets up shop by leaning his crudely lettered placards with seemingly random quotes from the bible against the wall of the store. Then, clutching his tracts to hand out to the heathen multitudes, “Are Roman Catholics Christians?” or “Doom Town … a compassionate plea to repent of homosexuality.” the Jesus shouter pulls the trigger on his bullhorn and lets ‘er rip.

He doesn’t need the bullhorn. I’ve seen his act without it and he could still easily bounce the Word of God off the building across the street like a tennis pro. He’s got the lungs of an oboe player. He can rattle off big chunks of scripture, diving deep into Leviticus, without ever coming up for air.

But the Lord Gawd saw fit to give him the gift of artificial amplification so the thunder of the Good News is often punctuated with the squeals of feedback.

The Jesus Shouter does not preach of the god of love. A seriously pissed off Jesus is coming back any day now with his sleeves rolled up and ready to pitch each and every unsaved sinner belly flopping into The Lake of Fire and see how long they can tread brimstone. He doesn’t talk about the righteous reward of living eternally with God in heaven. That’s not the Jesus Shouter’s message. He’s more interested in the details of what it’s going to be like when you jump off the heavenly bus by rejecting Jesus and get on the express to hell instead. The fate that awaits all us sinners is what the Jesus Shouter shouts about.

If you don’t rush on by him … probably in too much of a hurry to get to wherever it is you need to go to commit more sins against Gawd … and take the time to catch his whole act … it’s pretty obvious that the Jesus Shouter is absolutely convinced that his name is written in the Book of the Saved. When he smiles … it’s not because he’s filled with the happiness that comes in doing the Lord’s business. Oh no. He’s smiling because he knows he’s got his ticket safe and sound in the inside pocket of his cheap suit … and you don’t.

He thinks when he finally croaks … when he’s up there getting his heavenly sun tan basking in God’s Radiance, the Jesus Shouter’s attention is going to be … elsewhere. He’s planning on spending a good chunk of his eternity looking down at the squirming screaming population of Hell. He’s going to finally get to see everybody who never listened to him suffer the Tortures of the Damned. Everyone who ignored him, everyone who made fun of him, everyone who passed him by on their way to having a life is going to burn … and the Jesus Shouter will have himself a ringside seat. Vengeance is Mine sayeth the Lord … but all the Jesus Shouter really wants to do is … watch.

Of course he’s crazy. He’s abso-goddamned-lutely crazy. But it’s the sort of crazy we tolerate because … because … well he’s harmless isn’t he?

That depends.

What if the Jesus Shouter’s got kids? Is inculcating violent gibberish into the mind of a little kid harmless?

What if during the Jesus Shouter’s routine, he replaced the words “God” and “Jesus” with … Elvis? Would that get the Seattle PD pulling up to the curb and hauling him off to where they keep the vocally delusional?

Okay … forget the Elvis thing. Now on some days the Jesus Shouter has a following. 3 or 4 people hand out the tracts while he’s shouting. Sometimes one of the Shouter’s associates is engaged in a discussion with somebody about some aspect of their flavor of Christianity.

What if you saw your family doctor handing out some Christ Comics? Would you go ever go back for a checkup knowing that your doctor has allocated a lot of head room for craziness?

How much crazy do we tolerate before we draw the line? And where did we get the idea that tolerance is a virtue in the first place?

Tolerance is a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose beliefs or personal characteristics differ from one’s own. Sounds good doesn’t it. We believe it’s how a society can get from Monday to Tuesday without blowing apart at the seams. But an act of tolerance generally requires no effort. It only demands us to do nothing when confronted with something that goes against what we believe. Live and let live blah blah blah.

I think we’ve been engineered through our schools and churches to be tolerant. It’s an easy grade to make when all we’re asked to do is be … passive. We’re groomed to be passive. And our society is amazingly tolerant.

We’ve allowed the government to illegally invade countries and murder innocent people by the hundreds of thousands. And what do we do?

All the bailouts we’re on the hook for add up to more than the cost of the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Marshall Plan, the New Deal, and the landing on the moon … COMBINED! And what do we do?

We protest for a day or two when the anniversary of our war crime rolls around again. And for the rest of the year we are the spiritual descendants of the apartment dwellers who listened while Kitty Genovese was murdered in the courtyard below their balconies.

We’ve tolerated ourselves into Hell.

I found this from an anonymous blogger on the net, “Justice, the closest virtue to tolerance, begs restraint and the application of some concept of fairness. Justice also obligates one to judge.

Justice requires us to think. Tolerance is passive. Pursuing justice is not. It was when we fought against injustice that our country became great. The capitol in Wisconsin is packed every day by people striving for justice.

On March 19th, the 8th anniversary of the Iraq war will roll across the world with protests. If only there were enough people to pack the capitol building in Washington D.C. that day … and the next day … and the next … and the next … until the elected representatives who continually vote to fund the wars understand that we are not tolerant any longer.

We demand justice instead.

Streetcorner Tolerance March 3, 2011



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