Downtown Saturday night in Springfield, Missouri is not what it used to be. Music from a dozen different venues fills the air. There are misplaced teens everywhere, riding skateboards, beating on worn out guitars. A local prophet of god stands at a street corner, tonight with his son along, warning people about the wages of sin and sex.
The crowd at Ernie Biggs is singing very loudly and another smaller crowd hovers at the door, trying to figure if there's actually enough room to enter the place. They were singing Neil Diamond songs. It was awful. A woman with huge propped up breasts and cleavage about the size of my ass, raised her arms and danced up by the stage. The crowd was way more interesting than the music, believe me.
On the corner of Walnut and South, we ran into what has become a downtown fixture - our own placard prophet. There were two tonight, father and son. When we passed the first time, they stood alone. Most passers by politely ignore them, but when I came back with my camera, there was a crowd of revelers milling around the placards - asking questions, pointing fingers. The prophets usually have four double-sided placards to aim at passing cars and pedestrians. There was one message that really had a group of young halter-topped girls in a tizzy - something about lustful dressing.
The elder prophet calmly tried to explain - the younger one was obviously intimidated by these loud females, who were, by the way, lustfully attired by anyone's standard.
I told my friend, "They're probably rubbing themselves through their pockets right now." It was an awful thing to say. I apologize. Anyway, things got very volatile a little later, as I tried to maneuver to get a good shot of the younger prophet's sign.
"I'm going to take your picture. I hope you don't mind," I said.
"I'd rather you wouldn't," he said, turning away so I couldn't get the shot.
"Well, you're out here on a public street corner, are you too shy to get your picture taken?" I asked. He turned sideways, so the sign was not visible to me. I walked around him. He turned. It was like a weird magnetic effect I had on this guy. We danced like that for a couple of rotations before I gave up and we crossed the street.
One sign, held by the elder man, warned that marrying after divorce was adultery, which I took to mean that you might as well live in sin and save the paper work. Another sign, held by the younger, caused a little ruckus. It read: "True Christians Do Not Go To War". (He's holding this sign in the picture above.) As we reached the other side of Walnut Street, a couple of young men, maybe a little drunk, accosted the two sign holders.
"What do you mean true Christians don't go to war," one of the men shouted, obviously a good Christian patriot. "My brother is over there fighting for your freedom, you fucking coward." He stopped and menacingly pointed a finger, while his friend tried to lure him away. "You don't know a goddamn thing about war, you fucking pussy."
And just like that, the elder prophet interrupted his proselytizing, and screamed back at the man. "YOU DO NOT TAKE THE LORD'S NAME IN VAIN!" (He didn't react at all as his son was being publicly berated as a coward and, worse, a pussy. Does this imply tacit agreement?)
At exactly this time, the police came roaring in. Two cars, and officers quickly calmed the drunk Christian patriot guy, as he earnestly tried to explain and justify his outburst. "My brother's over there," he said.
Things calmed down from that point, but it seemed like the younger prophet apprentice was a bit shaken. He might put the war sign away for a while and stick to safer topics - sex, lust, divorce and adultery. The standards.