Australia’s got the attytood

When I lived in Philadelphia, one of the miseries of taking the subway was the abusive street preachers who’d board and start haranguing everyone. There was one woman I remember vividly who’d wear a sandwich board covered with an incoherent salad of bible verses and condemnation and fire up with a well-practiced gospel singers vocal chords and tell us all about how we were going to burn in a lake of fire. Philly residents are generally blunt and outspoken, but no sir, we all just shut up, shoved our faces in the Daily News sports page, and hoped no one would say a word, because they would start gabbling and howling even louder if you did. I hated it. I’m kind of an outspoken atheist myself, but I knew that protesting would be futile, and would just alienate the other riders because no one wanted to hear any of this crap at 7am, before the start of a long day, or at 5pm, when we all just wanted to get home.

They have a different response in Australia. An evangelical loudmouth (and an American asshole, too–how embarrassing) boarded a Sydney subway train and started witnessing to the other passengers. He seems a bit nonplussed because no one is respecting his piety.

“Yeah, shut up,” another passenger chimes in. Phillip struggles along for a bit longer, as the pissed off legends who frequent Sydney Trains turn around, block their ears, and ignore everything he’s saying.

“Mate, if you ask for our time, we have the right to say no, we’re not giving it to you,” one passenger points out.

Why are you so triggered, my friend? Phillip asks.

Whoa. That’s a tell-tale phrase only a right-winger would use.

“Why won’t you just shut up?” the passenger responds. “Speak quietly to someone who wants to listen.”

At this point, the train reaches a station, and almost everyone seizes the opportunity to get as far as possible away from this guy. He keeps trying to yell things, but it’s a bit hard to hear him as people shoulder through him to get to the Opal gates.

I’m here because I care about you — one more stop and I’m leaving! he pleads, trying to get a single person to hear him.

“Oh, thank god,” someone responds.

I care about you, he tries again.

“Apparently not about our opinions, because we’d like you to shut up.”

“No one wants to hear it, bro,” another passenger adds.

I’ve been in prisons in El Salvador, I’ve been in the slums of India, I’ve –

“Nobody cares, okay?” the first angry passenger explodes. “I don’t care if you love me. I don’t know you!” Half the carriage is laughing at this stage, and cheering every time someone gets the preacher to shut up.

“You’re the selfish one because you won’t shut up! Can you not see that? You’re forcing your opinion on everyone in this train. We are asking you to shut the fuck up. And do you? No! How selfish is that?”

At this stage, the guy finally, finally shuts up. Salvation is close. Heaven, in the form of a quiet peak hour train carriage, looms. And then another passenger begins to speak. Well, let me give my testimony, he says. I used to be a Buddhist, for 27 years of my life, but I became a Christian, um,

“Oh no,” someone sighs. The guy closest to the ex-Buddhist shakes his head and puts his headphones on. “Nobody asked,” someone else groans. “Shut up, you sound like such a dickhead.”

I learned a few things from that story.

  • It’s worth it to make evangelicals squirm when they inflict their hokey religion on the public.

  • They’ll still keep trying to talk, so you won’t get immediate relief, but maybe they’ll eventually learn appropriate behavior.

  • Australians are like Philadelphians, only more so.


  1. doubtthat says

    There were two I remember on the El in Chicago during my time there:

    -First dude would put on headphones with some crazy apocalyptic screed playing, and he would just try to repeat whatever he was hearing as loud as he could. But, of course, shouting takes juuuust a bit longer per word that normal speaking, so he’d fall behind about every 5th word, making the entire thing absolute gibberish.

    -A guy who dressed up like the Tin Man from Wizard of OZ – complete with silver spray paint – rode the el to the Water Tower Square where he would busk. So, his presence filled the car with paint fumes, and he would also shout out bible verses and such. Did raise the question of whether the paint fumes drew him to the Bible, or the Bible drew him to paint fumes…

  2. F.O. says

    Melbourne opened a fucking showroom for the idiot who plastered the center with inane “you deserve to die”, as if it was an innocuous part of the city colour.

    Oh and ask any LGBT Aussie about the referendum…

  3. zoniedude says

    I had one start on us once at a bus stop who ranted about “God” and it was just after John Lennon had been killed by a guy who said God told him to do it. So I confronted the preacher “You mean the God who killed John Lennon?” I kept on him for a few minutes and he looked miserable. Never encountered him again at the bus stop.

  4. says

    I knew an obnoxious street preacher who, when he got this type of response was very pleased;
    1. That showed that his preaching was effective; the people were “convicted” and were fighting God.
    2. When it’s their time to turn up in hell, they won’t have the excuse that they never heard the Gospel. So God will be justified in torturing them for eternity.
    3. Persecution! Brownie points. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” Etcetera.

  5. Artor says

    Last time a street preacher asked if I’d heard the “Good News,” all they got was an “Oh, fuck off!” as I barreled past them without slowing down.

  6. magistramarla says

    I encountered this when I used the city’s transportation service for the disabled. It was usually a passenger or two who would be spouting bible verses or asking the other passengers if they were “saved” – fairly easy to ignore.
    The last straw was when a driver picked me up after standing in the 100 plus degree heat and started asking me to pray with him for god to heal my disability. When I declined, he started ranting about me going to hell along with the Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. When I asked to be dropped off immediately, he refused and locked the doors of the van. I called to report the guy, but of course, nothing ever happened.
    I never used the service again. This encounter made me very determined to start driving again! When I’m not feeling well enough to drive, I use Lyft. It costs a little more than the city service, but the drivers are always polite and punctual. They are often recent immigrants who are hustling to make a living, and I’m more than glad to support them.

  7. gijoel says

    I had to laugh where he announced that his ‘soul was aggrieved’ at the beginning of the video. I guess you know how we feel.

    @3 Where/when was this? Brisbanite here.

  8. DanDare says

    Two carriages on every train in Brisbane are designated “quiet carriages”. If they try that in there the preacher can get hauled off.

  9. nomadiq says

    My fellow country folk are making me tear up 😢 oh how I miss that public transport no-nonsense sass!

  10. mattandrews says

    Last time few times I’ve been on the El or Broad Street Subway in Philly, it’s been mercifully free of obnoxious preachers. They unfortunately have been replaced with addicts and the mentally ill who have fallen through cracks in the system. They generally move on once they’ve either been rebuffed or got some money.

  11. Rob Grigjanis says

    mattandrews @12:

    the mentally ill who have fallen through cracks yawning abysses in the system


  12. F.O. says

    @gijoel #9
    Bourke Street,CBD, a couple of years ago?
    No clue if it’s still open, hopefully it was just temporary.

    The guy would stick signs to old bicycles, then lock the bicycles in bike parking spots in CBD and abandon them there for all to see.
    ie, doing advertisement without paying for the spaces and abusing bike spots.