Friday, September 2, 2011

Jesus on Market Square

Not in the flesh, of course, but the name has been mentioned quite prominently, loudly and repeatedly in recent days. I suppose we should expect nothing less in the Bible Belt. Certainly downtown Knoxville has a history of street preachers. Typically they've been found somewhere around the edges of Krutch Park.

I've photographed several for this blog over the last year. Sometimes they are single-cause activists, most commonly anti-abortion or anti-Planned Parenthood, two issues they seem to equate. On a larger scale, we recently had Worship in the City on the World's Fair Park. We certainly have most of your prominent brands of Christianity represented downtown and the Christian pilgrim to our city can easily find services from the very traditional to the hand-waving rock-band-playing variety.
Chilhowee Baptist Church Praise Band and Choir

In recent days I've run across the Chilhowee Baptist Church Praise Choir. I've heard them before. They rock, they roll and they just don't move me. I'm probably not their target demographic and maybe they inspire other people. It just seems forced, somehow. Perhaps I should try harder. In any case, there they are sharing the joy even if it doesn't resonate in my particular soul.
Very Loud Preacher on Market Square

Unhappy Patron at Preservation Pub
We also recently had a preacher with a small, but loud, sound system standing in the middle of the square flailing his hands about in a somewhat maniacal manner. I watched a confrontation between him and a patron of Preservation Pub. The patron seemed to take umbrage at the fact that his quiet evening sipping a beer on Market Square had turned into a shout-fest. He flipped off the erstwhile preacher who in turn proclaimed to anyone listening that the man hates Jesus. There's that name. Which of them used it in vain? I posed the question to a man who stood nearby passing out tracts. He asked if I thought the preacher's statement was judgemental. I allowed as how I did, in fact, think so. We politely agreed to disagree.
Sister got it going on - Black Gospel Music on Market Square

Crowd listening, dancing and shouting to the gospel, Market Square
Last Friday night I found another group shouting and praising about and I had a very different reaction. I like my gospel black. I've never been much for the white variety, unless it is rendered by Dr. Ralph Stanley. It's odd because I'm generally a terminally white guy, albeit a bit proud of a bit of indigenous ancestry. My indigenous ancestors also flailed about with complete abandon and maybe that's the appeal. I can't do it very readily, but I admire people who can.

Children Dancing to the Gospel
And the Children Danced All Night Long - I'm Betting God Smiled
It didn't feel forced when the children danced, the singers shouted and the preachers pranced. It felt like joy. I sat with a table full of acquaintances and friends, young and old, black and white at Preservation Pub. As we sipped our beverages, wiped the sweat and prayed for a breeze, it felt like the right spirit for the night. No one objected, flipped a bird or speculated about the morality of passersby. We enjoyed fishes and loaves, wine and bread, good friends and a beautiful night on the square. What more could one ask in this lifetime or the next?

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At September 2, 2011 at 9:30 AM , Blogger Andrea said...

I enjoyed reading this. I wish I had known about the Black Gospel Music. That sounds like it would have been so much fun. But I agree with your sentiments on the other 2 situations with the loud preacher and the Chilhowee group. It seems like preaching like that with a loud sound system (aka cramming your religious beliefs down everyone's throats) should be illegal by noise ordinance.

At September 2, 2011 at 11:20 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a customer from the Chilhowee group, it was a wife of one of the band members. I tried to give them some history about henna and the fact that it is mentioned in the bible (after all, it is grown in very hot regions and Israel is one of them). They didn't seem to care and he just looked away from me. I found it kind of rude that I was ignored when I was trying to relate and be a good henna hostess. I'm not Christian but I'm all about respect and I did not have any reciprocated to me and it's kinda sad.

At September 2, 2011 at 12:33 PM , Blogger Knoxville Urban Guy said...

Hey guys,
Yes, Andrea, I asked the guy about the sound ordinance too and he assured me they complied with all regulations. I have no idea if that is true, but it would have bothered me if I had settled into a quiet dinner with my wife at a restaurant and had to listen to the shouting and condemnations for the entire meal. Than there is freedom speech, so it gets tangled. 3M, I'm sorry you got the rude treatment. I assume most of them are very nice, well intentioned people and I don't intend any disrespect by my post, just as you tried to offer your respect. Sometimes people of good intentions can't find common ground, I suppose. Sad, really.

At September 2, 2011 at 1:04 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I should clarify though that it wasn't all bad. One gentleman offered me a booklet and when I said no thank you, he smiled, said "God Bless" and walked away. Respecting boundaries and personal decisions actually makes me more inclined to hear others out. Negativity only gives negative connotations which results in less followers.

At September 2, 2011 at 4:31 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like a comment I overheard from the fishes and loaves table, "Sister sang the hell out of that one."


At September 4, 2011 at 2:10 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can bet that if you had an amplified guitar and were singing at the volume that these idiots are shouting about Jesus sending me to hell on Market Square you'd be arrested immediately. But since it's "only" street preaching and annoying as ****, it's perfectly OK. Seriously, people like that need to be kept away from downtown Knoxville.


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