30 April 2008


The Washington Park Preacher appeared on Tuesday evening. He's usually a weekend phenomenon, but he really made his presence felt last night. The Preacher is a sort of minister without portfolio. Some say he preaches in the park and in the street on assignment from some Bible school that requires it's students to make public their holding forth. Some believe the preacher is a total free agent, preaching to satisfy some inner calling. Still others believe that he is quite mad and possibly non-compliant when it comes to medication. Of course, when he sets up his public address system and runs his sermon through a 240 watt amp and speakers, this creates issues for the residents around Washington Park. The WPP is an African-American man who believes in loud, raucous sermonizing, fire and brimstone, growling and grimacing, all in the service of placing the fear of God in his congregation. Except --- he doesn't have any apparent congregation. When he begins shouting, people turn their heads in curiosity, but when they see who it is, they turn away. When he makes the mistake of preaching during a Music Hall event, the police are happy to provide him with a ride anywhere he wants to go, except you can't stay here, sir. Occasionally someone comes out of an apartment, approaches him gingerly, and attempts to speak to him about the noise. Inevitably he cranks his amplifier to 10. It is not possible to not listen. This is evangelism on steroids. He sounds like Sam and Dave doing a 27th take on "Hold On, I'm Coming," with their throats raw and edema forming in their exhausted lungs. When he is approached and asked to lower the volumn, his body shies away, but his lungs and vocal chords continue to howl and bluster. This is Satan, tempting him away from his spiritual calling. He cannot acknowledge the presence of such temptation. The apartment dweller sighs and walks away with her head down. Last night Ray, recently ensconced in a residential shelter, could not take it anymore. Ray bears no animus toward Christianity. But he is also aware of Matthew, 6:6. "When you pray, go to your room and lock the door...." Also, Ray still carried a sore spot about how the city of Cincinnati decided that the Vineland Church should not be allowed to distribute food or clothing to the poor and homeless in Washington Park. The city maintained that Vineland was causing crowd control problems, and that without public rest rooms in the park, many of the citizens of Marginopolis were peeing outdoors. But if not for Vineland, Ray would not have a winter coat. Allowing the Washington Park Preacher to holler and bloviate into his 240 watt amplifier constituted, in Ray's opinion, a de facto endorsement of one religion over another. Very politely, Ray called the law on the Washington Park Preacher. On the shelter's house phone, he chatted up the police operator on District One's non-emergency number. She sighed deeply and assured Ray that she would send an officer soon. Ray got the impression that the Preacher was a sort of regular customer. It didn't take long. A patrol car pulled up, and an officer leaned out the window. The Preacher paused, blinked, and waited. The sudden silence was liberating. The officer said, "Say man, you ready?" "Yeah, man," the Preacher said. "Can I put my stuff in your trunk?" "No, but I'll let you anyway." The sun was down now, and the long amber light faded like the Reds in September. A street light flickered and turned on just as the patrol car pulled away, the officer chuckling at something his passenger said, while the Holy Spirit was left behind, hoping to find a taxicab in the dark.

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All original text (C) 2007, 2008 David J. Carney. All rights reserved.

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