The Grand Rapids Press has an article about Michael Woroniecki, a street preacher who was at the Michigan State- Notre Dame football game this past weekend. I never knew his name before but I’ve run into him a few times. The first time I ran into him was in 1984, the summer before my senior year in high school, when he was preaching outside of a Yes concert that I was going to with my two best friends.
Coincidentally, we were all Christians at the time, but we didn’t see anything wrong with going to a rock concert. And we actually argued with the guy outside the place (it was at an outdoor arena and he was standing there with this huge sign, about 25 feet tall, condemning us all to hell). I still remember that he kept repeating to us that we couldn’t be real Christians and go to a rock concert – “Be you hot or be you cold, else I will spew you out of my mouth.”
To be honest, I have kind of a soft spot for street preachers like this. I think they’re wrong, of course, and I even think a lot of them are crazy. But I’ve always kind of liked crazy people, especially those who are clearly out of step with everyone else in society yet utterly convinced that they’re right and that being right is all that really matters. Whether they’re right about bring right or not, it’s a powerful form of integrity to take that kind of a stand in the face of such overwhelming disapproval. And there certainly is disapproval:
Woroniecki said he could “count on one hand” the number of positive responses he and his family had from the 76,000 who filed into the stadium.
He’s used to verbal — and sometimes physical — abuse.
“I’ve been spat on, knocked out with a rock, you name it,” he said.
“But it’s OK,” he said. “Because I love the Lord. If you read 2 Corinthians, and what happened to (the apostle) Paul … he went through hell.”
And I’ve seen him get attacked, both verbally and physically. And I can also understand why people get upset by him. The entire notion of hell and condemning someone to it is vile and barbaric and having someone interrupt a non-religious event with their frankly crazy rantings can be disturbing. But that doesn’t justify abuse of any kind.
Like I said, I kind of admire street preachers. They’re pariahs and they know it, but they keep doing it anyway. I respect that. And I’m glad, for example, that the ACLU has consistently defended street preachers around the country because they are frequently harassed by police just because people are offended by them and find them a nuisance. But they have the right to preach their crazy views just like I have the right to call them crazy. I think they add a little eccentric color to the world.