For the unaware, there is a white man in sandals and a long beard and robe, walking around the streets of Philadelphia calling himself Philly Jesus.
Anyway, folks around here loves this guy. He is kind of the unofficial mascot of new Philly (He’s like Ben Franklin, but without the alcoholism and a bit more religious indoctrination). He’s been on television and in the newspapers. Local politicians and celebrities love to take pictures with him. So do tourists. You can even catch him up in Uptown doing the peculator.
Yesterday he was caught – and arrested – inside of an Apple store.
According to Philly Daily News:
“Court records show that the Philadelphia figure, a 29-year-old whose name is Michael Grant, is facing charges of defiant trespassing and disorderly conduct.
He was released from custody after an early Tuesday arraignment.
Officers were called to the store at 1607 Walnut St. after he refused workers’ requests to leave shortly after 6 p.m. Monday, according to police radio reports.
Witnesses reported that the dispute was over the cross Grant frequently carries with him around the city. Images of Philly Jesus being placed in handcuffs were widely shared on social media.”
And shared they did.
The news of Philly Jesus’ arrest could be found everywhere on my timeline. And folks had plenty of jokes.
There were clever little postings which mocked and highlighted the irony of “Jesus” getting tempted by the iApple. Local newspapers and magazines couldn’t wait to zing us with headlines of biblical proportions. I even saw a couple of folks initiate a #FreeJesus hashtag.
Everybody loves Philly Jesus. His sacrilegious cosplay is treated like a colorful little quirk on the monotone of life. Like a three-legged puppy. Or a White Jesus.
But for real, there’s nothing really amusing about him.
Quite the opposite.
For one, none of these quirky little news articles, which are playful reporting on his arrest, even bother to mention that Philly Jesus is a raging homophobe and has occasionally tried to “pray the gay” out of some people. That might not bother some folks, particularly the homophobic kind, but I just feel like in a city that props itself up as “gay-friendly,” why do we want to associate ourselves with someone who is low-key the poster child for the same kind of folks who are actively trying to disenfranchise people legally?
Secondly, the “real” Jesus never had a GoFundMe account. In fact, the “real” Jesus was too busy chasing the money-changers out of temples and turning a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine into a buffet-style meal to feed hundreds of starving people, to panhandle out on the streets. Meanwhile, what is Philly Jesus actually doing for the people?
And third, I highly doubt that if Philly Jesus were Philly Black Jesus, he would be getting away with half the shit he’s getting away with now. No one would be amused. No one would stop and pose for pictures with him. Hell, most of us would barely stomach the idea of a Black Jesus at all.
I mean, can you imagine what would happen if a Black man in a long rob and beard approached folks and said some shit like, “Behold. I am your Lord and Savior Black Jesus. I’ve been sent to earth to spread a message of love, peace and hair grease. Now take this picture with me and give me three dollars…”
Most folks would be like, “Nigga, if you don’t get your nigga-ass the fuck out of my face before I call the police. Get a job you lazy, welfare-eating bum…”
It’s hard out here for a Black Jesus. Just ask the Express Train to Hell Lady.
Who is she?
But for the sake of information: the Express Train to Hell Lady was a Black woman “prophet” in a horrible auburn-colored wig who used to ride the Broad Street Line Express train from Broad and Fern Rock all the way down to the Stadiums – and back – while carrying a huge sandwich board plastered with Bible verses and screaming, “You’re on the Express Train to Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeellllll….”
This happened every single day.
In fact a typical train ride with the Express Train to Hell Lady went like this:
Express Train to Hell Lady:
All of you are sinners. You know why? BECAUSE YOU’RE ON THE EXPRESS TRAIN TO HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLL….”
Random Angry Black Man in construction boots and a Carhartt jacket:
“Man, why don’t you shut the fuck up. I ain’t tryin’ to hear this shit early in the morning. I’mma angry Black man. I gotta go to work.
Express Train to Hell Lady:
“Well, you might not want to hear me. But you are gonna hear the word of Gawd. And the word of Gawd says, YOU’RE ON THE EXPRESS TRAIN TO HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLL….”
Listen, I know she sounds awful. But between 1990 to ’93, the Express Train to Hell Lady was exactly how I knew if I was running late to school or not. Plus her daily battles with passengers were divinely entertaining and made the train rides go faster.
In spite of her acclaim (she is well known by residents over the age of 35) there are no newspaper articles or whimsical profiles about her. No tourists wanted to take photos with her. And most time, the only people who ever interacted with Express Train to Hell Lady were the police who harassed and chased her off the trains daily.
And like any good martyr, The Express Train to Hell died alone (technically, she died along with a Prophet whom she was mentoring to carry on the sandwich board tradition) from carbon dioxide poisoning in a row-home in Germantown.
Meanwhile we prop up Philly Jesus while Bill Cosby’s murals are being painted over left and right.
As they should. But I feel that we should also shun Philly Jesus.
Because he sucks.
And because if Philly Jesus were Black, he would be arrested for panhandling and 302ed for illusions of grandeur a long time ago.