When I used to ride the train to work, a daily ritual of mine would be to navigate the sea of solicitors at the station as quickly and politely as possible. “Wanna buy a metrocard?” “Did you know the army offers over 950 jobs?” “Have you accepted Jesus?” “Spare Change?” “Incense, soaps, and loosies (cigarettes sold one by one for all of you unfamiliar with that term)” ” DVD five dollar. Only five dollar I say!” “Repent in Jesus’ name.”
After a while I got really good at dodging these characters. It was like I was in a video game. Sidestep the metrocard vendor, charge through the recruiter, stiff arm preacher # 1, throw quarter into cup, spin off incense dealer, hurdle over DVD blanket, and speed burst away from preacher # 2 to beat the closing train doors.
I should really make this videogame.
One morning I was pressing the x button to pass one of the preachers, when he said something that caused me to pause for a brief moment. He said “hey young brother, come here and let me drop some knowledge on you.” Of all the things I had heard this man say, ranging from “Jesus wants me to be in this subway car” to “all of you standing in line waiting to buy metrocards may as well be standing in line for hell”, this simple statement was the one that unhinged me from my routine.
In case you’re wondering what bothered me so much about this statement, it was his use of the word knowledge. See knowledge implies knowing and really what the fuck does he know? What does anybody know really? There are only two things this man can tell me about. He can tell me what he THINKS and he can tell me what he BELIEVES. Here is what I know:
1) THINKING is not knowing.
2) BELIEVING is not knowing, which also means having FAITH is not knowing. In fact, FAITH is BELIEVING without knowing.
Therefore if this asshole is prepared to tell me he THINKS I am going to hell because his FAITH tells him I’m not saved, then he is not dropping any knowledge on me at all.
I didn’t turn back to debate this point, if only because I knew it would have been an exercise in futility. I really wanted to though. You see there is nothing I love more than a spirited debate (with a worthy adversary that is). The topic of my damnation is one of my favorite subjects for debate, but when faith and beliefs are involved debates can often get messy. A good example is a debate I witnessed on the bus one day between a bald Christian woman and a delightful Hebrew Israelite man. The debate began with the Hebrew Israelite man telling the woman she was a whore according to his beliefs because she cut off the hair god had given her. The woman answered back, with astounding composure, that she was a good Christian woman and not a whore at all. My favorite part came when the woman said “God loves me no matter what I look like,” to which the man replied “God doesn’t love you, you don’t even know god’s real name!” He used this point at least three or four times before I lost it. “How the hell do you know God’s real name? How fucking arrogant are you? Did you play poker with him last week? Do you have his business card maybe? How the fuck do you know his real name?” He was stunned. I had been sitting there minding my business for the better portion of the bus ride, but I couldn’t take it anymore. Luckily I also didn’t have to take it anymore. “Well here’s my stop. God bless you sir.”