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Vogel: Subway preachers, it's time to repent

City Hall subway station (Jan. 9, 2012)

City Hall subway station (Jan. 9, 2012) Credit: AP

'You don't know what danger you face today!"

The woman stood two feet from me. Her booming voice made my heart race. Why were we in danger? "Because you are sinners!"

We were not only sinners, but sinners trapped underground on the packed 1 train.

"But the Lord took on your curse! Jesus saves!"

If this heavyset woman were screaming "Costco saves!" at this ear-shattering level, 20 people would tell her to shut up. But because she was spouting religion, she got a pass. Why?

"You are lucky -- your sins can be washed away by the blood of Jesus!"

On the word "blood," spittle flew from her mouth and landed on the jacket of the young blonde to my left. "You spit on me!" she cried.

"Child, you've been bathed in the milk of the Lord!" the preacher replied.

The blonde gritted her teeth, pulled a tissue from her bag and wiped off her shoulder.

"Are you ready for the good news?!" screamed the preacher.

The only good news would have been if a cop entered the train and dragged her off. No such luck.

I believe in freedom of speech. I also believe in the right not to be harassed. And while it is illegal to preach or panhandle on the subway, I've yet to see anyone removed for doing so.

"God is love!" she proclaimed, with anger in her eyes.

Unfortunately it takes just one self-righteous, bellowing preacher to set your whole day off wrong.
And just one righteous commuter to set things right.

Just a few weeks ago, another subway evangelist spewed an anti-gay tirade -- and one rider had enough.

"You teach hate!" he screamed at the preacher. "You are a false prophet! Do not listen to this man!" he implored his fellow riders.

The man was unmoved. "Homosexuals are sinners going straight to hell!" he warned.

"I'm a gay man and Jesus loves me!" answered the avenger. "You're wrong!"

The riders burst into applause, shaming the preacher into silence.

"The riders' response gave me hope," he later told New York magazine. "What's amazing is that most of that group weren't being singled out for hatred, yet they spoke up. It was beautiful!"

Amen.

Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.

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