Sunday, 26 August 2012

London: A Preacher on the Tube?


Smart changes
Having learnt that the changeover from the Hammersmith & City line to the District line to the East was literally an interminable walk at Barking Station, I was minded to get off just before Barking.
I decided on West Ham and took a seat waiting for the District line tube to arrive. I have noticed that people do take up the priority seating places for the slightly incapable though on most occasions those seats have been vacated for me, since I do use a cane.
At other times, I have demanded the use of the priority seating if it is obvious that the occupier is not in need of it.
The voice of a preacher man
So, getting on the tube at West Ham, I had hardly settled into my seat when a man decided to introduce himself. I was quite taken aback, I have not seen people preach on public transport for decades and that was in Nigeria. I can even remember sharing a garbled message of the gospel with my accent so out of place in Nigeria, people probably listened – my accent being a cross between English and Nigerian influences is indicative of the fact that it is not being put on for effect.
The message started with questions about life and death, the possibilities of paradise and judgement amongst other trains of thought that seemed to begin to lack any form of coherence – I live tweeted the event surmising that someone might soon tell the preacher man to be quiet in a not so polite manner.
The audience was captive, many were returning from church and could well identify as Nigerian – not that it mattered to me between his saying aks for ask and with an accent that was as unnaturally regional to any known speaking it was just a matter of time.
Put on my black shiny shoes
Then a man took on the preacher, excoriated him for wearing black shiny shoes, looking really dapper and having a designer bag slung over his shoulder – in the assailant’s view, this rather ostentatious look was distracting especially to women who he believed will be enticed by the looks of the preacher thereby distracting them from the gospel.
In what looked like a sign of displeasure, turning into an argument ready to erupt into a shouting match, the preacher kept his calm as he tried to reason with the assailant – the message of the gospel had been derailed as other Christians on that coach began to voice their displeasure that the assailant who was now determined to have his say and allow no further preaching to continue until he was ready to disembark
In some ways, the assailant was probably Christian but whatever legalistic teaching he might have been subjected to would undoubtedly have been of the see not, read not, say not, touch not, wear not, appear not, walk not, seat not variety that it would have made Levitical laws look utterly tame.
Eventually, the assailant disembarked where the preacher would also have wanted to get off but the preacher stayed on the tube to wrap up his message with some encouraging words before stepping off at the next stop.
Your freedom versus my freedom
In one of those Twitter exchanges, someone advocated the freedom of worship and religion which is all fine and well in the places of assembly where such adherents decide to congregate, the London Underground is however a public space and it is illegal to preach in such an environment without a licence because it disturbs the peace and the people’s right to be free of such influence is infringed upon by another exercising their supposed rights.
Interestingly, I observed on my way to church this morning that the tube driver was a Sikh. We are to find ways to co-exist with practitioners of other religions and no matter how compelling the Great Commission we have to be more intelligent and innovative about how we share the good news without daring the law to put us in uncomfortable situations.
Much of what can be tolerated in many very religious countries will not necessarily find the law so sympathetic if any of the passengers had decided to call the London Transport Police to report a breach of the peace.

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