In my photo essay about this year’s LGBT Pride Parade, I mentioned that the usual group of right-wing evangelical ministers who used their bullhorns last year to scream and denounce anyone who wasn’t what they wanted them to be did not show up this year to use their bullhorns to scream and denounce anyone who isn’t what they want them to be. The photograph below, oddly enough, does not prove me wrong:
You see, The Silent Preacher, one of our city’s more interesting characters, always patrols Market Street between 4th and 7th Streets, every day of the year. I think he began his vigil during the 1980s; I have never not seen him when visiting this part of San Francisco, although he must have had a few sick days here and there. For him, the parade was just another day of holding this sign–and saying nothing.
Never, ever, saying anything.
The Silent Preacher has let his sign do the talking for the past few decades. If you approach him and speak to him, he will reply in a voice so soft and whispery that I have never overheard a word he says. It does seem curious that such a public figure should also be such a private one, but The Silent Preacher seems to believe that nothing he can say can match the words that he carries. He always stops walking to pose for people who want to take his photograph (free advertising for his beliefs), and I have never seen him accept money. Perhaps the most modest individual I have ever known.
Who knows what he really thinks? I don’t think we’re supposed to care. For The Silent Preacher, only his message to the world matters. Methinks his “Jesus Christ Loves You” message has proven more effective than the “God Hates You!” message some right-wingers inflict upon the world; people do approach him. His commitment to his message even extends to his clothes.
One aspect of San Francisco life that many people do not appreciate consists of its religious side and spiritual life. Come on, look at that name–people overlook the fact that the name “San Francisco” simply shouts religion. I realize that sometimes the name might seem a little ironic (he wrote, thinking back to his South of Market nightclub days), but you will find intersections here where churches sit on three of the four corners. You will also find plenty of other religions represented; I know a Pentecostal minister on Ocean Avenue who gets along fine with the folks who run the mosque down the block.
I have never figured out if I should feel annoyed or amused or even care or even take notice when people who do not live in San Francisco, have never lived in San Francisco, and have never visited San Francisco do not let that prevent them from passing poorly reasoned criticism, calumny and condemnation against San Francisco.
We’re not that hard to understand, but our critics don’t.
I think I’ll pick stoic. Seems to work for The Silent Preacher.
Vonn Scott Bair