This post entails an anecdotal narrative about an experience on Mill Ave, Hallowse’en 2010, involving a Christian congregation called The Door. There have been previous problems with them and their behavior on Mill Ave; but this year they managed to comport themselves mildly and without too much friction.
The first man to approach us from The Door zeroed in on me and immediately said, "I just wanted to let you know that Jesus loves you." He said this over-and-over as if I were failing the proper social reply. He was a small Latino man, the orbits of his eyes set further apart than is normal, but his face appeared round that gave him a sort of intense effect. He'd cropped his dark hair short against his skull and wore jeans and a collared shirt. I never even got his name during the entire discussion, but I did attempt to steer the conversation away from culture shock, but he felt rather committed to the hard sell.
"Thank you," I said, thinking that the "Jesus loves you," meme is generally a sort of blessing that Christians use (especially this evangelical type) to connect with the other person; however, that didn't do it for him. He quickly went on into his mirror speech, something that probably fits the jargon term "witness statement." Such as cliché to these statements he starts talking about how he used to live a self-destructive life, he did drugs (marijuana), drank alcohol, and partied all the time. And, now that's all changed.
Ostensively he would have attributed this change to his conversion to a particular religion. I am not certain what sect of Christianity that the Door belongs to, but it's probably theirs he would espouse.
His mirror speech followed script extremely well as he passed onto the question, "If you were to die, where would you go right now?"
And, as I like to work from Celtic mythology, as is my heritage, I said, "Well, the Otherworld."
He immediately went on to talk about Christian mythology, including about how they propose that when people die they'll be judged and then be sent to one of two places: Heaven or Hell. Here his mirror speech failed him for a moment as he ran into someone to whom these two terms create a sense of culture shock. So he attempted one of the worst metaphors I have ever heard on the subject,
"What do you see right there? In the street," he asks. Well, it's a street and it has cars driving in it. "What would happen if you tried to drive the wrong way down that street?" Well, you'd collide head on into another car. "After you die there's only two directions you can go."
That's not what the rest of the world thinks and it's certainly not related to any knowable reality (i.e. Heaven, Hell, the Otherworld, Xibalba, etc. aren't demonstrable so pretending they are is just stupid.) So I said, "No they're not..." I didn't get a chance to go on that every culture that has ever lived as invented itself afterlives of different sorts, from heavens, to hells, to happy hunting grounds, to the dwelling abode of the gods. There are near infinite and myriad answers to that question and not a single one of them can be tested (although some of them are logically absurd) so I have no reason to accept his assertion over any other.
Then he said something actually interesting and mentioned that The Door had a visiting preacher who had gone to Romania. I asked if the preacher himself was Romanian, no he wasn't, but his wife was.
Anyone who doesn't know, but there's a famous critter on YouTUBE, ZOMGitsCriss who also lives in Romania. So I'd be interested to see what she thinks about some of these subjects, but I have no reason to bother her.
Finally, our conversation ended when said missionary from Romania appeared.
He was a large man, almost taller than me—in fact loomed over me because I stood in the street and he stood up on the curb--square spectacles, broad shoulders bearing a plaid shirt, and dress slacks. His hair, dark from its appearance, buzz cut into a flat top. He carried with him a Bible that his hands dwarfed and introduced himself as John. When he spoke he delivered his mildly accented Midwestern words with a cheerful bombast that grew on his face and I could hear the slight pull of another language in some of his words (knowing that Romanian is a Romance language gave me some insight into some of the pronunciation changes, but I could have been supplying that through my own bias.) In all, John's ability to cover a full range of language and answer questions made him an interesting foil to the Latino man who had originally approached me.
I should point out that because he's a visiting missionary he's not connected to The Door or their cultish behavior directly and he's probably using them to help score himself money for his missions in Romania. This would readily explain why it felt like a totally different level of discussion talking to him rather than the Latino man who never gave me his name.
His experience in and of Romania really intrigued me. He mentions that Romania is primarily Eastern Orthodox (probably under the auspices of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Wikipedia gives the stat as 87%.) If John is working with The Door, I suspect this means that his sect is Protestant, which means that he'll face a certain amount of resistance from the local culture. He mentioned also that he had three mission churches erected in Romania—specifically in the Transylvania section, a huge chunk of the north western region.
He also went on to say that treatment of women in Romania is next to the most ugly, citing that they're second highest in the world for lack of women's rights; also that Romania is second highest in the world for abortions. He mentions there is no 911 service and that he continually hears crying and weeping where he lives in a multistory apartment building of women and children pleading not to be beaten. (I have no way of verifying these anecdotes or statistics, so I invite Romanian citizens and scholars to opine.)
I enjoyed speaking to him, but didn't get a chance for a full interview of his experience. He had to leave too early for that.
Welcome to Mill Ave, John. Just, next time choose a better congregation to spend time with.