Friday, May 4, 2018

Why Do They Do This?

The classic example of a limit to free speech is yelling "fire" in a crowded theater. After what happened recently at a theater in Redlands, California, constitutional lawyers might want to add proselytizing to that list as well. Preacher Michael Webber interrupted a screening of the new film Avengers: Infinity War when he stood up and started yelling about God and salvation. The moviegoers freaked out and stampeded to the exits, during which two of the fleeing patrons were injured.

Police were called, fearing a gunman in the theater because the preacher stood and shouted, “If you die tonight, would your passage to heaven be guaranteed?” The preacher’s shouting caused a panic inside of the packed movie theater which had people running for their lives, one witness described the scene: “That’s when the kind of chaos happened in the little exit, where people were jumping over the railings, and kind of falling over, twisting their ankles and hitting their head.”

Two people were seriously injured in the chaos created by the Christian terrorist. One woman was trampled after jumping over a railing and falling 20 feet attempting to get away from what she thought was a gunman about to open fire on the theatergoers. So far, Webber has been charged with a misdemeanor, and he claims that he has “preached” in theaters before without incident. He excuses his behavior by saying he “was unarmed.”

To be fair, I don't know that this rises to the level of "terrorism" because I never attribute to malice what can adequately explained by stupidity. But seeing as there have been mass shootings at movie screenings, it's pretty damn stupid. What did this guy expect would happen? People weren't just going to sit there for some sort of impromptu spiritual revival. Of course they were going to make a run for exits en masse. He's actually pretty lucky that only two people were hurt and nobody was killed. Human stampedes like this can all too easily turn deadly, and it would have been entirely his fault.

I realize that Christians are supposed to "spread the good news," but I sure don't think that this is what it looks like. If Christians feel oppressed by the general culture, it's often because they get pushback when they refuse to leave people with beliefs that differ from theirs alone. Nobody who belongs to a minority religion cares that you're Christian. We don't even care if you're what we consider a flat-out crazy Christian - as long as you don't try to convert us or work to impose laws that limit our rights to believe and practice as we see fit.

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