So, as the sun was still high enough in the sky to matter, I sought refuge in the shade of a bus idling nearby, its driver off to the loo or wolfing down a sandwich someplace.
I glanced around and saw a motley assortment of humanity gathered round, waiting for whatever line to take them wherever. The crowd on the platform at this moment was rather light, with a few folks here and there, some coming, some going, some standing around waiting like me.
Off to my right a dozen yards or so was a young black man talking out loud, muttering bizarre words – something about urine if I recall. To my left about five yards away were two young obese women – one with a stroller and a little boy about four years of age and the other, super-obese, with cotton-candy-colored hair. They were as loud vocally as their health symptoms screamed in need of drastic change.
Off to my left were two other gentlemen, sharing the shade with me, standing a couple yards apart.
There appeared a small man, with sunglasses and a baseball cap, pressed blue jeans and a button-down shirt tucked in. He had a fanny-pack turned forward, and it was open. It held a cache of Chick tracts.
What would you know! Finally a somnambulating evangelist has come my way! He was moving in my direction and offered his tracts to the two gentlemen to my left. None were takers. How sad. I watched him as he failed to bait his hook.
As he passed the gentlemen to my left, I watched him look up over to me and then look away as he passed by me. His angels must have warned him not to approach me, for he passed right by without attempting to offer me one of his death tracts.
Without saying anything, I continued to observe him. He continued on to my right, trying to give a pair of young girls his tracts. One of them accepted it but continued on. He withdrew his line and cast it back into the sea. He then passed back to my left, offering his tracts out randomly, some accepting and others waving him off. I just stood still in full awareness.
Before you know it, he was way off in the distance, working the crowd and casting his hook wherever he could, hoping for a bite. He must have been a hundred yards away or so by now.
Only nine or so minutes had passed. I still had a wait. But the fisher of souls by this time had started making his way back towards my direction, as I had figured he would (I watch for a reason).
Finally, he comes up to me deliberately, as though something were gnawing away at his conscience, my eyes looking straight at him.
He said to me, “You’re still here. I passed you by earlier. When I looked at you, the look you gave me… seemed you wouldn’t be interested in this.”
I responded, “I didn’t say anything to you, and you passed right by me.”
He said, “Yeah, that’s right, so I prayed about it.”
When did he have time to pray about it? He was busy casting his lures.
I asked, “So what did your prayer say?”
“Nothing,” he replied. “So I’ve come back.”
“And what are you going to do?” I asked.
“Would you like a tract?” were his words (to this effect). He pulled out a Chick tract from his fanny-pack and offered it to me.
I stared right into his eyes, shaking my head very deliberately. “No. I wouldn’t.”
He was speechless, clearly disappointed, his prayers coming back void, and his lure again being wasted.
While his Chick tract was still in his hand and as he was flipping through it in his fingers, I remarked, “How appropriate. A cartoon book for a cartoon view of the world.”
The would-be fisher of men could not hide the look of despair on his face. But of course, he couldn’t let the challenge go unanswered. He replied, “You can call it what you like…”
I replied, “I call it how it is.”
Ironically, it was he who was then hooked, for he couldn’t let go. He was hoping I’d be one of those fish who took the bait and bit down on a sharp hook, but in fact it was he who couldn’t leave things be.
He began again, this time attempting to apply the holy terror device: “You know, ten out ten people die. That’s a fact.”
I agreed. “Yep. I’m gonna die one day. You’ve told me nothing I don’t already know.”
“The thing is,” he continued, “where are you gonna go when you die?”
I explained, as though it weren’t already clear, “I don’t believe in fantasies. I can imagine an afterlife, but I know I’m imagining. It’s all imaginary.”
“Call it what you will,” he said. His words were as effete as the tracts he was peddling. “But your soul is immortal. When you die, it’s not over.”
I used the presuppositionalists’ own favorite debating mantra against him, “How do you know?”
This seemed to take him aback, for all he could do was say something to the effect that “the Bible says so.”
“I don’t believe fantasies,” I stated. “I don’t believe Harry Potter is true.”
“I don’t believe Harry Potter either,” he replied, trying to recover from being disarmed at this point.
“Let me ask you,” I interjected. “Does wishing make it so?”
The man looked down at the ground, pondering, “No… well…” He stammered, searching for a satisfying answer that’s impossible for him. “It depends whose prayers…” He was fumbling.
“You see,” I replied, “I understand that wishing doesn’t make it so. I grasp this. That’s essential to thinking with an adult mind. But you think wishing can make things true.”
I had misjudged the efficacy of my anti-apologetic at this point, for he was getting visibly distressed, when in fact I had expected the other devices of the Christian devotional program to kick in and rescue his outward persona more effectively from such damning give-aways as he was, albeit entirely reluctantly, letting on. He was in fact becoming quite distraught, though it was clear to me that he was struggling to hold things together.
As though he were running out of ammunition, he asked, “Isn’t there some higher thing you live for?”
Putting my hand over my chest, I answered, “My self.”
He clearly didn’t know what to make of this, and I’m guessing he had never run into someone who gave the kind of answers I was giving him. The frown he now wore made his face look as hollow as his worldview.
As he was clearly in the depths of an internal toil of conflict, I explained, “You won’t get anywhere with me. The world is dying from religion. Religion is killing the world, and we’ve seen this for centuries. The more we turn our back on reason, the worse things get. Your religion won’t help things. It’s making it worse.”
He turned and started to walk away, saying, “I won’t waste your time any more.”
I replied, “Happy fishing.”
Just then, he started to giggle and darted back to me, almost like a puppy, saying, “You know, that’s what Jesus said. He said ‘I’ll make you fishers of men’.”
His worldview had made him too obtuse to recognize that he was dealing with someone who already knows what Christianity teaches.
“Yes, I know,” I replied.
At this time, the bus behind me started to drive off, letting the sun through behind me. Even with his sunglasses, he was having to squint from the strong rays. “See, you run from the light,” I remarked.
“That’s why I need to stand in front of you,” he said. He was quite a bit shorter than me, and wanted my body to block the sun.
“I cast a shadow over you,” I said.
“Yeah, that’s right,” he giggled.
By this point, he had grown excessively annoying, so I stated, “Go now, before I make you feel as small as you are.”
He wandered off without saying anything else.
He then walked up to a young woman who was waiting on the train platform and handed her one his tracts. As he was talking to her, she pulled away and, disturbingly, began to cry. The fisher then rushed to comfort her, but she motioned him away with her hand. She clearly wanted to be left alone.
Some days fishers have the worst luck.
by Dawson Bethrick