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)