The Subway Evangelical

by P. Braithwaite

This morning, while taking the subway, I encountered one of those super intense evangelical commuters that rant about damnation while you sip your morning coffee and avoid eye contact. Sometimes they’re wearing like a bright red suit, other times they look like maybe they don’t wash. Either way, you see them and immediately you want to run in the other direction.

This type of intrusion is a pretty common occurrence on NYC transit, but, today, as I watched a man in sunglasses and a brown velour jumpsuit walk into my train car with a bible tucked under his arm, I had a radical thought: what if this annoying evangelical dude isn’t crazy?

“Ladies and Gentleman I’m not here to judge…” he had this awesome Jamaican accent. It sounded like Shaggy was reading the bible or something. Of course, after telling us he wasn’t there to judge, he launched into a passionate monologue about “men with men” and “promiscuous females.”

It made me think about the nature of lunacy: I generally assume these subway preachers are crazy because their thoughts are radically different from my own. Additionally, my sensibilities would never allow me to scream at people on the subway, but why is my “standard of being” the standard for sanity? After all, the` women next to me was actually moved to tears. She chimed in a few times with “tell ‘em Jesus.”

As I shook my head, I had to admit that I wanted to talk to this dude. Throughout this process of writing and talking to men, I find it easier to suspend judgment of those whose countercultural lifestyles fall on the side of liberalism; however, I struggle with conservatives who are radical or countercultural in their own ways. That said, I really wanted to talk to him about his life. Was he always an evangelist? Was he married? Has he ever been in love? When did he get “saved”?

I’m becoming less interested in judging people and more interested in understanding them. I wanted to tap this man on the shoulder, and start a conversation. Instead, I got off on my stop. This is NYC after all.