Outside the Science Center: evangelists galore! A tall red banner emblazoned with a cross speaks of human rights violations. According to the banner it is illegal in 52 countries to do what this man in black does. He shouts: ”JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY! Going to church won’t save you! Doing good works won’t save you! YOU MUST ACCEPT JESUS!”
It’s hard to hear over the mariachi band, a long-haired waif playing kindergarten ditties on his guitar and another woman calling out to passersby behind a table covered in brochures. I stroll past a circle of teenagers dressed all in black, waving their arms and stepping in time to Radiohead.
This grimacing bevy of stricken blackbirds has drawn a crowd. They’ve obviously choreographed their wordless skit. But what is it that they’re getting all worked up about?
Are they Jesus People, too? “That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out,” mutters a sun-browned, wrinkly man in banana-yellow bike shorts. ”They’re wearing the same T-shirts.” I nod and start to speak, but Bike Shorts has already pedaled off on his mountain bike, taking his quizzical mug and silent opinions with him. It’s probably for the best. I don’t like discussing religion with complete strangers anyway.
Across the lawn, a fortune teller gesticulates at a client across a round table decorated with a crystal ball and the customary jewel-toned tablecloth. A rapt young woman nods back earnestly. How much did she pay the ball-reader, I wonder. I hesitate to whip out my camera because the fortune teller is watching me watch her.
I’m an agnostic, but I can’t help thinking that all anybody here wants on this gorgeous day is some relief from anxiety, uncertainty and doubt. We want to hear that if we studiously follow the prescribed cure, jump through hoops and submit ourselves humbly to a wiser being, no matter how silly the prescriptions may seem, things will be okay.
I know the feeling well. I came to the park for comfort, too. I found some in this: