the important and the not-so-important, horribly conflated.

Subway Gospels

In human behavior on October 25, 2010 at 9:01 pm

The Times published a fun special feature on the NY Subway over the weekend. Included are several audio recordings of subway preachers—new yorkers, all men, speaking to everyone and no one at the same time. A few quotes to mull over:

“This life is not really life for you and I […] this is going to pass”

I have always struggled with this idea—that the joys and sufferings of the living somehow  don’t need explaining because of scale, because of their smallness compared to salvation. I don’t want to go as far as saying that religion ignores or delegitimizes extra-religious human connection and relationships, but I will posit that that “other world,” be it heaven, hell, etc., becomes an almost idolatrous concept when it’s painted as the more-perfect or more-profound twin to the very real and meaningful events that shape this life.

People want to believe in their own—like—science, evolution, whatever makes them comfortable with how they want to live

I don’t believe in evolution because it’s comforting. I am attracted to the ideas of scientists precisely because they force me to constantly challenge my own world-view. An institution that still does not allow women to serve as priests after 2 millennia is my definition of stasis.

“May 21st 2011, there will be a huge earthquake—those who are saved will be raptured”

This made me want to read Revelations again. The second story in this episode of This American Life is excellent on the subject.

“This is our job in life—God chose us”

Being called to serve—by God, by the military, by court order—is something universal, I think. It’s why the evangelical movement is so popular in America: the call feels familiar; you don’t need scripture or a beautiful cathedral over your head to understand a sudden injection of purpose into your life. But this call becomes perverted when it’s mistaken for a license to be an unthinking follower of a larger movement. It’s the opposite: it’s an invitation to say and do what you think will bring you closer to other people, even if that means shouting above the clangor of squealing subway car brakes.


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