Wednesday, March 23, 2005

When Mormons Attack

I was minding my own business, walking through a quiet area of York this afternoon when someone hailed me. I didn't hear what he said, so I turned to face him - a dapper bloke in a suit with a neat leather carrycase under his arm. 'Bollocks', I thought, it's either a drunken office worker looking for trouble, or, worse than that, a fucking Mormon'.

'How you doing today, sir?' This time I heard it properly. It was delivered in a breezy American accent. Bugger - it is a fucking Mormon.

'I'm fine.' I replied, desperately trying to think of some way of getting out of the inevitable button holing to follow.

'I'm from the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints' continued the impossibly cheerful voice, 'and I wonder if I could have a minute of your time today?'. His eyes had the unmistakable half-insane gleam of the religious fanatic.

Now I'd stopped walking and the besuited god-botherer was facing me square on. The last time I was accosted by an Evangelical in the street, I'd gone through the usual motions and found the usual escape strategy - 'sorry, can't stop. Got an urgent appointment somewhere' - but I'd left thinking, 'the next time I meet one, I'll try and argue. Surely, the cold blast of some form of rational argument would knock the buggers for six'. But now, in the presence of that mad-eyed stare and that terrible, insistent mid-West accent, I felt my knees going to jelly and a surge of something between fear and anger sweeping through my chest. There was no way I could engage in a proper argument with this man - my mind was somewhere near blind panic. What is it about Evangelicals that has this effect on me? I can argue quite calmly with Tories, liberals, UKIP supporters - but Mormons scare the living shit out of me.

'Have you ever considered the big questions in life?' the Mormon goes on 'I'd like to talk to you about Jesus and the promise...'

'I'm sorry, I'm a socialist' I blurted out as I tried to walk off (why was I 'sorry'?). I must have hoped that this would get the guy to back off. He seemed taken aback for half a second. He was probably thinking 'Yeah this guy's one of Satan's disciples all right'. But he rapidly gathered himself together and launched back into the attempted conversion.

'Oh, well, you know, Jesus accepts everyone, no matter who they are..' etc etc

What I should have done at this point was ask him whether the Church of the Latter Day Saints had anything to say about Third World poverty, US Imperialism, the war in Iraq and so on. I should have asked him whether The Church of the Latter Day Saints fights against starvation, oppression and the disgusting inequalities of wealth presided over by the Bush administration and all the rest of it. But I didn't. I just got mad/scared and I couldn't think straight. I mumbled something about having to be somewhere else and started to walk away very quickly.

'Well, you have a great day now won't you?' the man called after me. Maddeningly, there was no option but to return the pleasantry over my shoulder.

Next time, I'll try to hold my nerve.

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