We followed the guy drinking two beers…
…as he flowed with the river, the crushing red, er, cardinal tide, the tsunami of party hardies, literally thousands, upon thousands, upon thousands, of Trojan fans—all heading to the same place: The Coliseum entrance!
Swept along, hands to our sides, the band of evangelists was helpless, adrift in a riptide of dissipation, emptying into one huge, glorious, teeming lagoon of the lost.
No time to waste! No time to waste! Look at the crowd! Look at the crowd! I couldn’t wait for the sound system to be set up; I hopped on my milkcrate! I could reach more “sinners” here with a 5-minute sermon than most churches could in a year! And people listened, or appeared to anyway. Hey! What else could they do? They weren’t going anywhere.
I preached boldly about how every person had broken at least one of the the 10 Commandments by either lying, stealing, or using God’s name in vain. I explained how lust was adultery, hatred, murder. That we all are guilty and all deserve Hell. I pleaded, reasoned, cried out that Christ died for them, that they had to repent and trust in Jesus to avoid God’s terrible punishment.
No one requested an encore.
But two sloshed young men tried to drown me out with a drunken dirge.
With the “Half-Mile Haler” operating, “Righteous” Richard took the crate.
And oh! What an enthusiastic response from the mob!
Obviously, he was encouraging the preacher with, “Amen! Preach it, brother!” No? No one requested an encore.
I caught a lady peeking and smiling behind the Coliseum chain link fence.
“We’re not Jehovah’s Witnesses,” I shouted.
“I know,” she replied agreeably. “You’re Christians!”
Yes. We are Christians. That’s why we do this irksome task as Spurgeon called it. We love God and want to obey His command to go. Woe to us if we don’t preach the Gospel! Since we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men: USC men. Stanford men. Christ even died for the men of UCLA! While pondering all this I noticed a squirrely guy lurking on the outskirts of our little revival meeting.
“You are on private property,” he warned. “You’ll have to stop this!”
“Excuse me. This is public property and we have a right to be here,” I ever-so-gently explained with a warm, touching smile. Then I blew it. I snapped a picture of him.
He liked that, I figured, because he immediately got on the walkie-talkie and called the police.
What is it about people not wanting their pictures taken? When we invaded the Jehovah’s Witness Convention last year, Security chased us out and forced us to erase the picture. The Scientologist’s did the same thing when we snapped a pic in their Welcome Center; we ran, and two agents screamed after us on bikes!
Whatever security was planning to do, we had to keep preaching. No matter who came out to stop us—security, police, sheriffs, the C.I.A., National Guard—we had to keep on preaching!
Old-timer Barry was up next.
Look at that raised-hand action… straight out of Whitefield’s day! And look at that crowd! Look at that crowd! How many were there? 500? 1000? 2000?
Barry didn’t care; he just kept preaching and preaching…
…and preaching… much to the chagrin of Tatsuo who wanted a chance to get on the stump before the authorities came. Tatsuo has preached everyday at the Torrance DMV since August 13, and wanted a crack at the big-time. “I can reach more people here in 10 minutes, than two months at the DMV,” he gushed excitedly.
He got his chance.
And right after he started, the LAPD showed up.
I intercepted them.
Always remember: Keep the preacher preaching. The enemy would love to disrupt a gathering such as this. Stand between the police and the preacher. Be gracious. R.A. Torrey, a preacher at the turn of the 20th century said, “Don’t let your meeting be broken up. No matter what happens, hold your ground if you can, and you generally can.” That’s what we did. We held our ground. “You are on private property,” the Officer stated firmly. “You can’t be doing this.”
“Excuse me, sir. We are on public property and this is our First Amendment Right to do this,” I explained. “What law are we breaking?”
Tatsuo continued to preach, oblivious to what was going on behind him.
“You’re blocking the sidewalk,” the Officer continued. “You’re obstructing pedestrian traffic.”
“Officer, the gate at the entrance to the Coliseum is obstructing pedestrian traffic.
As you can see, there is no pedestrian traffic. None. That whole line of people is in the way, standing on the sidewalk.”
“People are getting really angry at what you are saying.
We are getting complaints and we don’t want a riot.”
“With all due respect, Officer, you are supposed to protect us from the rioters. You must protect our right to speak.” Tatsuo kept preaching.
The Officer then said, “Let me call my supervisor.”
“We’ll be outta here in a moment, sir. Please let him just finish.” I thought it rather strange that the police force would allow hundreds of people to traverse the USC campus, Exposition Park, and stand in line on a public sidewalk with open containers of alcohol, yet forbid us from speaking publicly, which is perfectly legal. The Officer called his Supervisor. Tatsuo finished his 10-minute sermon—no one from the line requested an encore—then we packed up to leave. The Officer very politely requested that we not put his picture on the web; that’s why we disguised both officers’ faces.
Then we met the Supervising Officer. He walked straight up to us and said very apologetically, “I want to let you know that you are on public property and you do have your First Amendment Right to speak. We just don’t want any trouble.”
We thanked him and moved to another line where our fifth evangelist, B.J., preached to a thinning crowd, now that the game had started.
No one requested an encore.
While waiting for the van to pick us up outside the USC entrance, I saw that the traffic lights were in effect again, and that people were stopping on the meridian in the center of the street. Yep. I ran. I still had a few minutes before the van showed up, got on the crate, and launched into my last sermon.
It was my last sermon because an inebriated fan jumped up on the box with me, gave me a hug—beer in hand—and launched into a sermon of his own.
No… I did not request an encore.
The next day, USA Today reported: It all led to an upset that shook USC coach Pete Carroll to his soul… “I just don’t accept it. I don’t know where to put it,” he said afterward. “I have no place for it. I’ll find a way to put it off for awhile, but I’ll have it forever.”
(E-vangie Tales will be back on Tuesday with more football related evangelism.)