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Retracting the tracts

A small, thick-set, wiry-looking guy in his 60s trolls the aisles of the Red Line in his Mets cap and Navy T-shirt, muttering to himself the whole time.

Religious_tracts He bends over and places a religious tract on every empty seat. He doesn't hand them to anyone, and avoids eye contact. He finishes plastering the entire car with the tracts and exits at Argyle.

As soon as he leaves, a woman in her mid-40s gets up and starts collecting each tract off every seat, not missing one. Then she sits back down and starts tearing them all in half. There are so many, it takes three or four tries to get them all torn.

Then she places the torn tract bits in her red messenger bag.

Clean freak, or non-Jesus Freak?


I do that whenever I get the chance. Not only is it cleaning up littering, but it's also stemming the spread of viral Christianity.

Same here. Anything that slows down these mindless drones helps.

If Barbra Streisand were to rewrite one of her songs,the lyrics would be:People that hate people---participate in public transit blogs.

I stole an idea from Mimi Smartypants (she's a local blogger). Anytime someone tries to hand me a tract, I hand them any old random piece of paper I have in my bag. There's always a Target receipt or gum wrapper or something they get in exchange for that thing they give me that I'm about to throw away.

what a waste of paper..

James, how is cleaning up litter and stopping religious soliciting "hating people?" Everyone is free to believe whatever the heck they want to believe, but when they start ACTING in annoying, intrusive ways based upon those beliefs, they lose whatever respect they might have.

The CTA is a lot of things, but I don't want to be sold on Christianity any more than I want someone from Wrigley going from car to car putting packs of free gum on the seats. There's no difference.

I take that back, there is a difference. Gum is easier to clean off than evangelical religion.

Sorry,I'm just fed up with the constant venom directed at people that probably don't deserve it.

Good for her!

Nice job. Even better would have been to follow him through the car and pick up the tracts as he put them down, letting him know he was wasting his time. Tracts are the most offensive form of litter I can think of.

It's one thing to stand on a street corner trying to hand it out. At least someone can refuse to take it. (which I do) But to go onto a train and consciously place one on every empty seat? Come on? Besides littering, it's only a few steps away from forcing your beliefs on people.

Besides, is this not a form of soliciting, which happens to be forbidden on CTA Trains?

Maybe the guy was not malicious in his intent. Maybe he was not trying to solicit anything. Maybe he just wanted to share with someone an opportunity for real freedom and peace. Maybe he wanted someone to find out how to experience real reconcilation. Maybe he was hoping that a rider would find out for the first time that someone loves them so much that he was willing to give his own life as a payment for that rider's offense (big or small). Maybe he wished a rider would have a chance to then enjoy a relationship with the Father to the fatherless. Maybe he wanted someone to have an opportunity to be freed from the bondage of the things of their lives that are holding them captive. Maybe he wanted to share something beautiful with someone who needed some beauty. Maybe the tract man should not have left loose papers on the train, but maybe his heart was really broken for those on the train that did not know about these things.

Oh, give me a break. No, he probably wasn't being malicious, but he was being offensive as hell. In any case, all he was sharing was lies.

Joy, maybe his idea of "real freedom and peace" doesn't fit with others' ideas of it. As far as I'm concerned, there's no one right way to live a life and for anyone to tell me that there is means that that person is conceited, arrogant and deluded.

Well, part of the truth is that we all have to make choices about our beliefs. Maybe the tract man wanted others to have the opportunity to have as much information as possible in making this decision. Not all analogies are exact, but if you were a visitor to Chicago and running to catch an Orange Line train to Midway, wouldn't you appreciate someone noticing you with all of your bags about to get on an inbound Loop train and letting you know that the train leaving from the other side of the platform is the one that will get you to the place you need to be before your flight leaves. Again, it is the individual’s decision to make, but for some, a little bit of saving information is greatly appreciated. I am just curious as to how many people have actually thoughtfully and objectively studied a map to make an informed decision on their chosen route, or whether mapmakers make them so angry that they are unwilling to even consult one and go it alone. What is the best way to present the information?

I can understand your point, but I don't believe that anyone should be forcing their beliefs on anyone else. I wish the tract man would tend to his own soul rather than worrying about others'.

Joy, the difference is that the mapmaker is presenting the truth. The information on a map could actually be useful in some way, and can be verified. Now, as for religion... Personally, I'd call it BS, but at the very (very) least, it's certainly far more subjective than factual. As well, the map is passive, while the proselytizer is active; the helpful Chicago native is prudent, while the proselytizer is intrusive.

And to respond to the "moral" of your analogy, I was born an atheist, and after much study and consideration of the alternatives, that's the way I'll die.

The best way to present religious information is any way in which I can choose to access it or not freely, and (one of) the worst way(s) to present it is, well, see the original blog entry above.

Thanks Kimberli and Candice.
The thing about the person that is considering making the suggestion to you about getting on the right train to Midway, is that he is faced with a decision – to offer guidance or not. If he minds his own business, as some are suggesting he should do, he has to watch the person boarding the Loop-bound train knowing that the person is going to miss the flight. Now there was a time when the person would not have given a second thought to this. But what if, on a day in the past, he was given a CTA map by someone and instead of discarding it like usual, he finally realized that he had been riding the CTA for years without ever getting where he really needed to go. Sure, sometimes he ended up in what seemed to be the right place and met some interesting people along the way, but often he would think he was on the right track and end up disappointed, hurt, and frustrated when he would get to the end of another line only to find out that there was nobody that he could truly trust or love waiting for him on the platform. There were maps posted around the system, but he never really stopped to look at them because: everyone else was ignoring them; he kept hearing that they were wrong; he could always find another rider that was willing to suggest their own preferred route; and he did not want something like a map controlling him. All that time, even though it could be a real rush, he could never quite shake the anxious feeling of not really knowing for sure where he would end up every time he got on the train. But on that day, when a rider offered him a map, he sat down to look at finally acknowledging that he really NEEDED it. Suddenly, the system became clearer to him – he finally saw the whole system and found where he needed to go and how to get there. Not only that, every time he would go back to the map, he would realize something he had never seen before. Looking back at his previous journeys through the lens of the map, he was able to understand the design of the system in ways he was never able to appreciate. Having traveled the system so much in the past he was also able to verify that the map was indeed accurate. He was a new rider, and one of the profound results of this was the fact that he was never able to see his fellow wandering riders the same. Instead of standing by and watching them unknowingly (or in some cases even knowingly) board a train that would take them farther into their lost journey around the system, his heart cried out for you when he saw you, boarding the Loop-bound train, Southwest ticket and baggage in hand. Pushing aside his fears of rejection and possible embarrassment, he tapped you on the shoulder and asked you if you would like to look at a map – the same map that allowed him to see and experience the system in a way he never had. It wasn’t pride of knowledge that motivated him. It was a love for you that he never would have had before he finally turned to the map.

Look, outside of the fact that this is not really the place to air religious differences, the man is contributing to the litter on the El. Based on personal experience & observance, at least 75% (more likely 90%) of all riders are simply going to push those on the floor, where they get stepped on, and if they move into the aisle, they can be a mild hazard (slipping underfoot). Of those who look at it, whether pushing it off the seat or keeping it, even to toss at the end of their trip, the great majority again will not be interested in changing faiths, and some, esp after a long hard day, will be annoyed (yes, irrational, but I've seen it). And again, it hits the ground.
Joy, he may have meant well (or simply been paid, my cynical side says), but it was not thought through all the way.
I personally don't see how the few positive reactions/conversions they get are worth the cost of the printing or the waste of paper.

There are better and more appropriate places to air your religious convictions--or lack thereof--than the CTA. Leaving tracts behind, esp in that quantity, is a silent form of solicitation; I agree with that poster.

Wow, way to take an analogy to absurd lengths (and I do truly mean absurd -- only an idiot would get on random trains for years without ever considering checking a map).

But you're missing the point.

Maps are useful, and factual. Every holy book I've ever read was trash. In the case of the Christian bible, not only is it a book of myths and superstition, but it's a badly written one from a literary standpoint, as well (repetitive and dull, dull, dull). Unlike maps, nobody needs religion. It would not be helpful to me in any way to be handed yet another tract.

And Dee is right, this isn't the place for this discussion, so I won't be back.

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