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The Weekly Rant: Down with Preachers in the Park

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While MacArthur Park has been cleared of homeless encampments many gather to feed the ducks or take in the open air and trees, something most Angelenos don’t get to do often enough. The powers that be may have driven out those without homes, but the park still hosts a symphony of damnation and fear every weekend.

“Knowledge and history are the enemies of religion.” —Napoleon I, Maxims (1804-15)

I value my weekends as much as the next person, and I hold a special fondness for Sundays. It’s a quiet day. Less people working, less people walking, less people doing. But living in Westlake, I rarely get to enjoy Sundays in the park. It has nothing to do with squirrels bothering me for my lunch or people asking for change; it has everything to do with lectures on fire and damnation and sin and hell.

Every weekend they come — the preacher men. They scream and spit all over bullhorns, some even using microphones and amps to convey their message. And it’s always the same. The same message, the same guilt trip, the same tactic. The message: If you don’t believe in God, you go to hell. The guilt trip: Evil lives inside you, and you need to seek forgiveness. The tactic: Take advantage of your fear of the unknown.

“Nothing like feeding the ducks to a chorus of ‘Your soul will burn forever’ and ‘Christ shed his blood for you’ in the background.”

Now, if this were just simple soapboxing on the corner, with the preacher man shouting as loud as he could — I could tune him out. But when there are preacher men posted at every corner of the park and at every entrance, who can drown that out? They use devices to amplify their voices, creating an unavoidable, atonal symphony of hatred and judgment.

Nothing like feeding the ducks to a chorus of “Your soul will burn forever” and “Christ shed his blood for you” in the background.

Ignore the fact that the Bible has undergone much editing and redacting over the millennia. Ignore the slurry of contradictions within their belief systems. Ignore everything that basic logic has taught me to believe that an old white guy floating on a cloud sent himself to be sacrificed — to himself — so that he could come back from the dead and welch on his debt of self-sacrifice.

It’s noise pollution, plain and simple. Or is it?

Actually, no. It’s harassment. It’s disturbing the peace. It’s obnoxious, and people shouldn’t have to endure the hateful cacophony just to enjoy some fresh air. If someone came into the park and started screaming and shouting, even threatening people, the police would show up. But when a preacher man does it, there are no repercussions.

This doesn’t have a psychological effect on the children playing in the park? Hearing words of hatred, fear and foreboding isn’t abuse? They don’t come with the risk of emotional or psychological trauma?

Oh, they do — trust that they do.

The Trevor Project has raised the question about religion and suicide among LBGTQ youths. Traditionally, suicide and religion go in opposite directions, meaning that suicide rates among religious individuals are typically very low. But this does not hold true for anyone perceived as sinful or evil, in this case, members of the LGBTQ community.

“LGBTQ young adults ages 18–24 found that parents’ religious beliefs about homosexuality were associated with double the risk of attempting suicide,” according to research done by the Trevor Project.

“LGBTQ young adults ages 18–24 found that parents’ religious beliefs about homosexuality were associated with double the risk of attempting suicide.”

— The Trevor Project

The idea of growing up in an environment where you’re told you’re evil and cursed for simply existing sickens me. It should sicken everyone. When your parents, the people who made you and should love you unconditionally — like the Bible says — judge and criticize you for being, no one should be surprised the suicide rates double. 

Religion also pushes other ideas. “Manifest destiny” was a slogan used to promote the idea that God wanted the entire continental U.S. for himself. This led to the slaughter of countless Native Americans and, in some instances, total genocide. God’s will has justified many attacks in the eyes of the preacher men, ranging from all-out holy wars, like the Crusades, to offensives against media and its inclusion of non-Anglos in television and film.

In the last few weeks, over 2 million people have expressed outrage over the casting of Halle Bailey in the new “The Little Mermaid” remake. Some of these bigots are just that, bigots. But some claim to be good, God-fearing Christians.

We need to stop letting these zealots spew hate, question logic and science and damn everyone who walks past. A walk in the park shouldn’t include a forced sermon, nor should it impinge on me or anyone else enjoying the day. And it certainly shouldn’t be excused as harmless, especially considering the hate they spew manifests into bombed abortion clinics, attacks on the Muslim community and gay conversion camps. 

 A walk in the park shouldn’t be tainted by hate. 

Los Angeleno