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Arthur Blessit preaching

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posted on Dec, 8 2019 @ 04:03 PM
According to Wikipedia, Arthur Blessitt “is a traveling Christian preacher who is known for carrying a cross through every nation of the world.” I knew about the cross, but I admit to being surprised about that “is”. I heard him speak on one of his tours, but that was in 1972.

The account that follows is as much “social history” as theology. I went to hear him as an atheist, having had my arm twisted, and I came away as an atheist. But I was also a student of History, and I always felt that recording what was happening around me went with the territory. So the report in my diary was as accurate and detached as I could make it. More recently, I stole the summary of Daniel for my thread on that chapter.

“When I arrived at the Town Hall where Arthur Blessitt was supposed to be speaking, there was a queue composed of young children from ten upwards, as well as middle-aged people and university people, stretching down the street and a long, long way up the next side-street. I was intercepted by John Mitchell who was standing with others partway up the queue. He went up to the front to investigate and came back telling us to abandon the queue immediately, because they had started diverting an overspill into the church. Being quicker off the mark than the rest, armed with this information, we were able to get into the church fairly early. John Mitchell and his friends were just in front of me at the inner ends of our respective pews.

The whole thing began with a hymn, which was followed by Arthur Blessit speaking from the Town Hall itself and seen by us on two or three television screens stationed at the front of the church (which were adjusted occasionally by attendants). He began by saying how glad he was to be here, paid some compliments to the university town, mentioned the high regard he had always had for the town and then launched into an account of his early experiences in the missionary line, first asking the Christians in the audience to hold up their hands so that they could be seen.

The atmosphere built up during the course of his preaching was generated by a variety of qualities, one of which was the unceasing flow of speech and the high pitch maintained which helped to excite the emotional sympathy of the audience. There was also the massive injection of humour into the narrative and the later exhortation, which helped to attract their sympathies, helping them to laugh at his own self-confidence, as he wanted, and at those who first came across him and didn’t know what to make of him. The man has the gift of talking in a continuous flow without stopping to think or shape his words at all, something I lack so much that I don’t even understand how it works. It was very instrumental in maintaining the emotional tension, as was demonstrated when the sound connection was briefly cut off. There was then a mild breaking of the tension, some exhalation of breath, and a girl’s voice a little behind and to the left said “Ay-men”.

His account had begun with his first acquaintance with a revivalist missionary at a meeting at which his mother had at first stopped him from going to the front, “And I said ‘Why wouldn’t you let me go to the front, mother’, and she said ‘Because you don’t know what you’re doing’, and I said ‘Yes, I do, I do’”. Finally he had been allowed to go back to the minister who got down on his knees and taught him all about Jesus. N.B. the immense emphasis on the first syllable of Jesus and the drawing out of the whole word, as an expression of the great importance of it. When he had got home he had asked his sister if she knew Jesus and if she was saved, and so she asked him if he would teach her, and he asked his dog if it was saved and it wagged its tail. His first conversions seem in fact to have been suspiciously easy.

Later, when he was older, he received a calling to become a preacher, and he had said “Lord, I don’t want to be a preacher, I don’t want to be one of those miserable, long-faced [graphically illustrated, for the sake of amusement]…Lord, I want to live!” But the Lord had told him to go out and preach and so he did. He recounted his first reactions to Sunset Strip, his delight that the sinners were so conveniently assembled and ear-marked for the benefit of anyone who wished to preach to them and surprise that no-one had followed it up before, his plunging into a night-club to talk to the customers, the approach of the manager who was converted, his own entry into the office of the owner , who said “Why come bothering us, I don’t bring my dancing girls into your church”, and his reply “Bring them along!” In any case the owner was converted and allowed him to preach at the next show, at which one tough had raised a bottle as if to throw at him, a soldier had got up and said “If you throw that blanketty-blank bottle at that blanketty-blank preacher, I’ll blanketty-blank you”, and Arthur had known exactly what he was going to do, raised his arms and said “let us pray”. (Laughter, but he didn’t complete the story at that point) The dancing girls appear to have been converted too. Later his appearance after the wrestling show, which was immediately after the last bout, when he leapt up and cried “And now for the main bout of the evening, God versus Satan!”.

The his narrative went on to talk about various other ways of spreading the gospel. This was where the sound broke down for a couple of minutes. He toyed delightedly with ideas for putting Christian stickers and leaflets in the most unexpected places, blowing people’s minds with exasperation at finding them ubiquitous; on the covers of dirty books, on lavatory paper rolls etc.. He urged people to go out and spread the gospel of Jesus. In fact his words were much more attuned to taking nominal Christians and turning them into missionaries than they were to taking on unbelievers as such.

edit on 8-12-2019 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 8 2019 @ 04:04 PM
He launched into an assault on a very American fear of being thought weird and failing to conform to the conventions of society. He gave a rapid run-through of figures from the Old Testament who had not allowed that to deter them from obeying the will of God. There was Noah who had built an ark in the desert and taken animals up into it (“weird!”), Moses who had spoken to God in a burning bush (“weird!”). There was Daniel, who had the habit of praying with his head out of the window every day because God had told him to pray like that. One day, while he was praying, the neighbours were entertaining local magistrates and other bigwigs in an open air dinner in his garden and said to one of them “That’s just my neighbour, he’s some kind of nut, prays with his head out of the window, do me a favour will you and pass a law against praying with your head out of the window.” When the police came to enforce the law, they said to Daniel “Look, why don’t you cool it ,mister, why not cut it out, pray indoors, and give us all some peace.” Then there were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who refused to worship the image set up, and had their girlfriends, mothers and fathers pleading with them not to make trouble., to think of their futures, and be normal people.

The climax was his appeal to those who were listening to give themselves to Jesus, to ask him to come into their hearts and fill their hearts with love. The crucial importance of these sentences was shown by the emotional stress on “Jesus”, “give”, “heart”, “fill”, “love”, whenever these words appeared. After this the fever dropped and it became more businesslike, as he asked and coaxed people who had decided they wanted to receive Christ into their hearts to come to the front of the chamber. In the church, the earliest movement I saw came from a girl in a pew on the left side of the church, a little behind, who got to her feet and made her way round behind the centre pews towards the front. The two or three girls there had their heads buried deeply in their hands, leaning forward, in the moment of prayer preceding the appeal, and one of those she left behind was leaning against her neighbour at this time. Others steadily drifted forward, although there was no movement from the large majority. We were asked to sing Amazing Grace. Arthur called out “You don’t need a song-sheet, you know all the words.” That rather gave away the fact that he was expecting most of his audience to be Christians already. I did not know the words at all, had not heard it before. As they sang, quite a number of people in the audience lifted one arm in the air with the finger pointing upwards. John Mitchell’s group in front did not, though a woman to the left of him did. Strips of stickers were being given out and collected by small children at the door.

posted on Dec, 8 2019 @ 04:05 PM
The entry ends abruptly, because I didn’t belong to the Pepys school of recording the obvious “went home and went to bed” details.

He came back the next year (I was a Christian by then) and spoke at the town’s football stadium. It was not a large town, so it wasn’t a large stadium, and people occupied one end of it. Dark thunderous clouds were building up in the background, and the announcement was made that the sound equipment would have to be turned off, for safety reasons. This did not bother him. He had no problem bellowing at us without equipment, and the fact that thunder and lightning were building up behind him only made the scene more impressive.

The catchword for that day was “stoned!”. The three main heads were; Jesus being crucified and buried in the tomb; stoned! The treatment of Stephen and the other early disciples; stoned! And the concept of being “stoned on Jesus”; stoned!

The heavy rain held off until we were walking back to the place where I lived. Ten minutes longer would have been nice.

posted on Dec, 8 2019 @ 11:24 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

I appreciate this account. What makes you revisit your memories of this person? Would you say he was instrumental in discovering your faith?

Catchy last name, for a preacher.

posted on Dec, 9 2019 @ 01:37 AM
a reply to: DictionaryOfExcuses
The reason for the timing is a little oblique. Next week is the fiftieth anniversary of the time I became an atheist (temporarily), and a commemorative thread is in the works. This memory was originally going to be included, as part of the atheist experience, but I decided to detach it and present it separately as something which might be of interest.

The connection with my becoming a Christian is also oblique. It gave me an excuse to visit someone of the opposite sex and say "I've come to report that I did go to hear Arthur Blessitt", and events followed from there.

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