Dorothy Cummings McLean

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I’m Catholic. Here’s what I learned from a Christian street preacher

Dorothy Cummings McLean Dorothy Cummings McLean Follow Dorothy

EDINBURGH, Scotland, December 15, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – On a wet Saturday this past January, my husband Mark and I were running errands in Edinburgh’s Old Town. As we were walking up the Royal Mile, we heard loud shouting outside Saint Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh’s so-called High Kirk (Church).

Standing on a stool before the ramp to the West Door was a 30-something Scotsman in black jeans and a black jacket, his hood pulled up against the sleet. He was testifying that salvation comes only from Jesus Christ, who died for our sins. 

The preacher was interrupted by a heckler in a leather hat standing on the cathedral’s ramp and jeered at by a knot of people in rain gear standing on the far side of the Heart of Midlothian.

"Jesus said, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life," shouted the preacher. "No-one comes to the Father except through Me."

Despite the sleet, we stopped and listened. Not only were we offended by the anti-Christian scoffers, we admired the preacher’s counter-cultural guts.  

“Mohammed is dead,” he yelled. “He cannot save you. Buddha is dead. He cannot save you. Jesus Christ is alive, and only Jesus Christ can save you!”

"I wonder how long he will be allowed to say such things," muttered Mark.  

Eventually, the heckler disappeared and the jeerers lost interest. Mark and I crossed the street towards the cathedral and stood at a reserved distance, right at the Heart of Midlothian. We continued to listen, trying to telegraph solidarity: Yes, this speaker is worthy of attention. Yes, shouting the Gospel in the street is a good thing. Yes, we believe in God, in our Lord Jesus Christ. 

And, you know, it was wonderful to hear the beloved verses shouted into the Royal Mile: "God so loved the world that He send His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not die, but will have everlasting Life!"  

"Are you ... with him?" asked the fifty-something Scot who suddenly popped up beside us.

"No," said Mark cheerfully. "We're Catholics, actually."

The man looked confused for a moment but relaxed and explained his interest. He was in Edinburgh to research the Covenanters (17th century political Presbyterians), and when he heard the preaching, he was amazed and delighted because it was just like in the Edinburgh of seventeenth century: “He’s even wearing black!” 

Thus the historian chatted with Mark, and they laughed with shared historians’ delight. I hoped the preacher didn't think they were laughing at him as I listened with interest to his confession that he had been a drinker and a womanizer. I also watched the tourists ignoring his Christian preaching as they streamed into the Christian church to gaze at its relatively dull interior. 

Finally, we decided that we had shown enough solidarity. Rain was glistening on Mark’s hair, and the preacher had come to the end of his sermon and started again.

"Amen!" shouted Mark to our separated brother. “God bless you!"

"God bless you!" I chimed in.

"God bless you!" shouted the preacher.

I waved; he waved: ecumenism in action.

“We have made enough of a spectacle of ourselves for the day,” Mark cheerfully murmured.  

"Obviously we are in a civilizational crisis," I joked. "Edinburgh Catholics applauding the Protestant preacher outside Saint Giles’?! But who was it who said, If we don't hang together, we will surely all hang separately?"

"Hmm," said Mark. "I don't remember."

"I think it's from the American Revolution," I said, and I was right, for the speaker was Benjamin Franklin, only he actually said, "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."

And although I do not anticipate actual hangings for British Christians in the near future, I am concerned that the rather shadowy and subjective definition of “harassment” in the “hate crime” guidelines used by police in Britain to arrest Christian street preachers will be used against us all. For the moment the police confine their arrests to Christians who preach Christ on the street. That’s bad enough, but how long before they begin to arrest Christians who preach Christ indoors, in churches, schools, and newspapers, on television, online and over radio?  

Editor's note: A version of this article was first printed in the Toronto Catholic Register in January. It is used here by permission of the author. 

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Dorothy Cummings McLean

Dorothy Cummings McLean is a Canadian journalist, essayist, and novelist. She earned an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Toronto and an M.Div./S.T.B. from Toronto’s Regis College. She was a columnist for the Toronto Catholic Register for nine years and regularly contributes to Catholic World Report.  Her first book, Seraphic Singles,  was published by Novalis (2010) in Canada, Liguori in the USA, and Homo Dei in Poland. Her second, Ceremony of Innocence, was published by Ignatius Press (2013).  Dorothy lives near Edinburgh, Scotland with her husband.