The issue of allowing persons to preach the gospel on the state-run Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses has resurfaced with last week's urging by Christian Brethren Assemblies of Jamaica (CBAJ) for the lifting of the ban.
The CBAJ put up frivolous arguments about freedom of speech, Jamaicans to resist foreign influences, and "Jamaica should continue in this Christian tradition". The group seems to have little clue that bus preaching was an industry where people utilised their skills for money, while disturbing others who paid to travel on the public transportation system.
During the debate last year over the ban imposed by JUTC head, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, the Reverend Peter Gath advanced an argument that most of the bus preachers do more harm than good to the gospel. I agree with him and all who have experienced these people on the busses.
With the exception of those who, for different reasons, believe that once you call on the name of the Lord you are on a ecclesial mission, bus preaching is all about money, and it is practised, on occasions, with vulgar overtones.
I will never forget one morning while travelling from Spanish Town to Kingston, on a bus, a man came singing "yuh better get right with God, come and do it now. B.... man, yuh better get right with God. Dash whey belly, yuh better get right with God."
A number of persons on the bus, including elderly females, objected to words he was using to show his opposition to homosexuality and abortion.
When one man told him that he was mocking God, the preacher -- with his finger pointing in the man's face -- declared "Mr b.... man, you don't want me to preach, but I am going to preach."
Everyone knows the likely consequence of calling a Jamaican male that name. Persons of goodwill had to calm the man and prevent him from doing violence to the preacher.
For most of my life I have used the public transportation system, and there are many evils that occur on the busses that could be recounted. The banning of preachers should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and tolerance. Overzealous Christian people would not tolerate a Rastafarian, Muslim, or persons of other religious faiths shouting out their beliefs to them.
I say to the authorities, make the public transportation system one which provides relief from any form of noise while passengers are travelling.
The CBAJ needs to take the wise counsel of head of the Anglican Church in Jamaica, Bishop Howard Gregory, that persons have misunderstood Jesus' command in Matthew 28:18-20, that His apostles should go and make disciples of all nations.
"These are sad chapters in the life of the church and to which the church in this age should not lend its support. This kind of approach to the exercise of the mission of the church is inconsistent with the way in which Jesus exercised His ministry and how the early church of the New Testament exercised its mission as recorded in the book of the Acts of the Apostles," the bishop said in a recent Sunday Observer column.
Two questions that continue to be asked are, why the bus preachers don't preach on National Transport Co-operative Society (NTCS) buses, and if they are on divine missions, why collect money to impart the word of God?
One should remember that the NTCS buses are constantly accused that they observe their own rules and play the worst "music". These righteous servants would do well for the society if they can straighten out things with the NTCS buses.
Garfield L Angus