A screening of the latest comic-book based superhero film (this seems to be an inexhaustible well from which film makers can draw) ended somewhat spectacularly at a theater in California.
Just after 10 p.m., police started receiving several calls about a man who started “preaching and making odd statements about God,” said Carl Baker, the spokesman for the Police Department. “People panicked and ran out of the theater.”
The man was apparently waving his arms in the air and jumped while shouting.
“As soon as the movie was over, this guy starts yelling, preaching and talking about repenting from our sins,” said Susie Arias of Highland, who was at the theater at 27481 San Bernardino Ave.
“At first, I thought it was a joke and some people even started yelling back at him, but then when he starts taking about guaranteeing our right to heaven and paying for our sins today, I think that’s when mass hysteria hit and some people started running out,” she said.
Arias said she watched people leap over the railing of the upper seats of the auditorium in an attempt to escape.
“I saw the girl … fainted, and someone was dragging her out; another girl in front of me was limping and going into a panic attack,” she said.
One woman who jumped over the railing to the ground 20 feet below was trampled by several people scrambling out of the theater, police said. She was taken to Loma Linda University Medical Center.
I have got to admit that it must be alarming to hear someone start yelling in a crowded theater. This also happened in San Bernadino where there was that mass shooting recently and so people might well be on edge. But this story also illustrates how people imagine all sorts of things when they are frightened and make terrible eyewitnesses for fast-moving events. Some fleeing people told theater employees that the man had a gun and another claimed to have heard 30-40 shots, neither of which were true.
But what is curious is that the itinerant preacher responsible for causing this chaos said that he could not understand what all the fuss was about because he preaches about god all the time at the end of films. But why? That seems like the worst time to spread your idea of good news. Most people nowadays get up and leave the theater as soon as the credits start to roll, which is irritating for people like me who like to watch the credits and listen to the closing music and sometimes there is some bonus footage at the very end or along with the credits.
Surely the best time to preach to a captive audience would be during the commercials before the film starts? That surely would be more entertaining. Of course, then you are likely to be thrown out before you yourself get to see the film. But isn’t that sacrifice worth it to tell people about Jesus?