lincoln logs in me sock drawer
My morning commute from Bed-Stuy to Grand Central Station has its usual cast of characters that I've grown to love, or at least grown accustomed to. There's the Huge Scary Black Guy Who Screams. He's out there every morning next to the KFC knock-off on Nostrand Avenue, standing on the corner in a yellow tank-top. He yells this constant, gruff monologue all day long and my wife and I have never ever understood a word of it. Not one. But we believe him.
Every morning I buy my paper from The Rude Deli Guy in a Wife Beater and pass the cluster of Little Old Evangelical Black ladies passing out Hightowers in the subway station. Sometimes there are young white guys helping them (do you capitalize "white"?). The White guys are easy to deter if you're hungover and wearing sunglasses underground (you don't capitalize "white", I don't think). Recently there have been a lot of cops at the transfer in Manhattan, less for security and more for making sure people walk on the right side of the corridor. 9/11 changed everything.
There used to be a Jamaican lady screaming about Jesus every morning at this corridor. It was a shrill noise, like construction, but I got used to her piercing howl.
The last few days, though, she's been forced downstairs, now preaching on the subway platform.
I wondered about this. Then I saw Them.
Jews For Jesus are in town. They're on a national tour (like Whitesnake!) and they're blowing their wad in New York to the tune of a $1.4 million advertising bonanza. They're everywhere. They bought up all the ads in a couple of subway corridors so you walk an entire avenue underground looking at their candy-colored billboards calling you home. You fucking Jew bastard.
Now, I never really knew anything about Jews for Jesus before. For some reason I gave them the benefit of the doubt and, when I heard the name, I just assumed it was some sort of inter-faith effort to unite Jews and Christians. Like, Jews acknowledging the wisdom of Christ as a philosopher but not as their savior. I am, apparently, a generous man.
The funny thing is that the way I found out was via a New York Daily News column I usually only skim because of the title: "Skenazy's World", which always sounded too much like A Room of Jean's Own. But this morning Lenore Skenazy was ON POINT, calling out the tourists and throwing on her leather Warriors vest.
The problem is that the Jews for Jesus - in town this month with their biggest mission ever - say nothing of the sort. While they, too, want Jews to embrace Christ, they only call this becoming a more "fulfilled" or "completed" Jew. And to make it look, well, kosher, they dress it up with Jewish symbols.
"Acknowledge what you're doing! Acknowledge that you're asking people to convert to Christianity!" says Michael Miller, executive vice president at the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. Like me, Miller has nothing against people with religious convictions trying to share them, so long as they don't stoop to deception. And this group is trying to look as Jewish as Jackie Mason.
"They speak of their houses of worship as 'synagogues,' and their spiritual leaders as 'rabbis,'" says David Berger, professor of religion at Brooklyn College. "They are trying to appropriate the label of Jewishness."
First off, points for name-dropping Jackie Mason.
But, yeah. These little fuckers are EVERYWHERE. And they're making an enormous push in New York right now. They've even got a seperate website from the main one for the New York mission. The only good thing I can say about it is that they flop the words so they're more honest. On the NYC website they are "Jesus for Jews". Which could read like, "Hey, Jesus thinks Jews are awesome" but is really more like, "Hey Jews! Have some Jesus! It's good for you."
On top of all this I'm generally a douche about these things. I hate people who hand out flyers. My wife chastised me for yelling at this band and telling them to go away and "keep your distance". If they weren't wearing huge neon afro wigs I might have given them a chance.
But that's the deal. Living in New York means having crap sold to you all day. Everywhere you go there's advertisements and miserable-looking people shoving menus and pamphlets and coupons and surveys and flyers at you while you're just trying to walk down the damned street. I've grown to tune most of this out.
But, like Skenazy, I've decided that the Jews for Jesus are a step too far. Go back West, you filth, and leave me be. It's hot and humid and my undershirt is soaked, and I have no time for you and your eager smile and enormous backpack.
Here is a link to a Jews for Jesus flyer featuring Steve Jobs & the iPod.