BARMPOT Bob Hutton, the homophobic evangelist from Broadstairs in Kent whose appearance on this blog has manifested itself like a virulent form of herpes over the past few weeks, got me thinking about several personal encounters I have had with Bible-pests over the years.
I decided to share these with you following a fresh flurry of fatuous comments from Hutton, and after reading Naumadd’s thoughtful but misguided comment left under the Attenborough piece posted yesterday.
In one way or another, these persons are dysfunctional from mildly to severely and often requiring professional treatments. I can’t bring myself to hate them when I realize they are human life that has somehow gone horribly wrong and in need of sympathy and help if I can give it.
Alas, I don’t share his magnanimity – and have an evangelist called Campbell to thank for my zero tolerance.
Campbell was a bank clerk in a small town in South Africa. My first job on leaving college, aged 17, was at this bank, where the florid-faced, chain-smoking manager, a Mr Hutchinson, told me at my induction to be very wary of Campbell as he was “a wee bit ga-ga”.
“In what way?” I asked. Hutchison replied:
In the very worst way. He is a religious maniac. Don’t let him ever hear you blaspheme, or he’ll react like Vesuvius.
I was then introduced to Campbell, a pasty-faced, bespectacled little man in his 30s with a lame handshake whose first words to me after our introduction were:
“Have you found Jesus?” “No”, I replied, “Where did you lose him?”
Bad retort. The look that sprang into Campbell’s eyes was little short of murderous, and I knew instantly that I’d made an enemy.
“Jesus FUCKING Christ,” I yelled as I lay losing blood on the concrete floor. That’s when Campbell, as predicted, “went Vesuvius” and began kicking me in the ribs, all the while yelling gibberish. (I was later to learn that this was called “speaking in tongues”. Or, in this case, screaming in tongues.
Campbell was hauled off of me by other staff members. I would cheerfully have punched his lights out, but I was blinded by the blood that had run into my eyes. I was sent to hospital to have 12 stitches put in my head. Two ribs were broken in the assault. I quit on the spot when I was told that no action was to be taken against this madman, as it was felt that I had provoked the attack.
Some years later, in the early 70s, a very close friend who was a highly-paid executive in a record company, fell into the hands of an evangelical group called the Children of God, to whom he signed over all his cash, as well as his home.
I then spotted him on the streets of Johannesburg, evangelising and railing against homosexuality. This was disturbing, as Tony himself was gay.
When he saw me he began yelling “burn in hell, you vile sinner.” I looked deeply into his eyes, and saw only madness. A few weeks later he committed suicide.
My third encounter with an evangelist was in a park in London. It was a beautiful spring day in Lincoln’s Inn fields, and I had just sat down on a bench to read a book, and tuck into a cream cheese and anchovy sarnie when this nutter stopped in front of me. He had a Bible in one hand, and a small stepladder under one arm.
He set up the ladder, climbed to the top and started preaching at me. “Fuck off,” I said politely. He stopped in mid-flow, closed the Bible, got off the ladder, and asked me to repeat what I had said. So I did.
“You can’t say things like that when I am on my ladder,” he protested, and explained that when he was on the top rung he was “God’s appointed messenger on earth” and any insults I uttered would go straight to God’s ears.
Well, you’re off you ladder now, so fuck off.
Because I am an atheist, and you, buddy, are an annoying, delusional pest who’s wrecking my lunch break.
Are you 100 percent certain that you are an atheist?
“Good, God loves 100 percenters ,” he cryptically declared, walked off, and set his ladder up in front of another bench, where a fellow Londoner was trying to have a read and a bite in peace. This man got up and threatened to swat him with a rolled-up Evening Standard, and he beat a hasty retreat.
Encounter No 4 occurred outside a hospital in Paddington during the Thatcher era. A band of nurses had formed a picket outside the hospital during a pay dispute, and a creepshow of an evangelist in a black bowler hat and an undertaker’s suit turned up to berate them.
When I arrived, he was brandishing a Bible, and yelling abuse. “Jezebels!” he screamed. “The Devil’s own harlots! Get back to work, you godless heathens!” Spit was flying off his lips and into the nurses’ faces.
A huge cheer went up from the nurses when his Bible got creamed, followed by an even louder one when I told the creep to get the fuck away from the picket line. Which he did. He spun away, dashed into the traffic to retrieve the remnants of his “good book”, then vanished into the crowd, looking fearfully over his shoulder.
I am so glad he legged it, because by then I was so enraged I could happily have tossed him into the path of a double-decker.
My fifth encounter was with a young journalist who joined the team at a publishing firm where I worked in the 90’s. He seemed OK til I spotted him leaving copies of a fundie newspaper on colleagues’ desks. I gathered them all up, tore them to shreds and spread the confetti all over his desk. Together with a copy of the Freethinker.
Within hours the little shit was history. He walked out, never to return.
I believe that Naumadd’s suggestion that people like these are “disabled”demeans those who suffer a genuine disability. Religious zealots may be victims of a vile belief system, but my experience is that they are willing victims – hate-harbouring inadequates who have sadly been given license by society to take their rantings to the streets solely because their irrational, juvenile behaviour has a religious foundation.
Without their Bibles and their crackpot beliefs, these people would be simply classified as common-or-garden crazies and be taken away in strait-jackets for treatment.