Jesus on Market Square

Not in the flesh, of course, but the name has been mentioned quite prominently, loudly and repeatedly in recent days. I suppose we should expect nothing less in the Bible Belt. Certainly downtown Knoxville has a history of street preachers. Typically they’ve been found somewhere around the edges of Krutch Park.

I’ve photographed several for this blog over the last year. Sometimes they are single-cause activists, most commonly anti-abortion or anti-Planned Parenthood, two issues they seem to equate. On a larger scale, we recently had Worship in the City on the World’s Fair Park. We certainly have most of your prominent brands of Christianity represented downtown and the Christian pilgrim to our city can easily find services from the very traditional to the hand-waving rock-band-playing variety.

Chilhowee Baptist Church Praise Band and Choir

In recent days I’ve run across the Chilhowee Baptist Church Praise Choir. I’ve heard them before. They rock, they roll and they just don’t move me. I’m probably not their target demographic and maybe they inspire other people. It just seems forced, somehow. Perhaps I should try harder. In any case, there they are sharing the joy even if it doesn’t resonate in my particular soul.

Very Loud Preacher on Market Square

Unhappy Patron at Preservation Pub

We also recently had a preacher with a small, but loud, sound system standing in the middle of the square flailing his hands about in a somewhat maniacal manner. I watched a confrontation between him and a patron of Preservation Pub. The patron seemed to take umbrage at the fact that his quiet evening sipping a beer on Market Square had turned into a shout-fest. He flipped off the erstwhile preacher who in turn proclaimed to anyone listening that the man hates Jesus. There’s that name. Which of them used it in vain? I posed the question to a man who stood nearby passing out tracts. He asked if I thought the preacher’s statement was judgemental. I allowed as how I did, in fact, think so. We politely agreed to disagree.

Sister got it going on – Black Gospel Music on Market Square

Crowd listening, dancing and shouting to the gospel, Market Square

Last Friday night I found another group shouting and praising about and I had a very different reaction. I like my gospel black. I’ve never been much for the white variety, unless it is rendered by Dr. Ralph Stanley. It’s odd because I’m generally a terminally white guy, albeit a bit proud of a bit of indigenous ancestry. My indigenous ancestors also flailed about with complete abandon and maybe that’s the appeal. I can’t do it very readily, but I admire people who can.

Children Dancing to the Gospel
And the Children Danced All Night Long – I’m Betting God Smiled

It didn’t feel forced when the children danced, the singers shouted and the preachers pranced. It felt like joy. I sat with a table full of acquaintances and friends, young and old, black and white at Preservation Pub. As we sipped our beverages, wiped the sweat and prayed for a breeze, it felt like the right spirit for the night. No one objected, flipped a bird or speculated about the morality of passersby. We enjoyed fishes and loaves, wine and bread, good friends and a beautiful night on the square. What more could one ask in this lifetime or the next?