It’s truly a marvel of modern thought, or lack thereof, this tendency to draw parallels between the most incongruous of characters, such as a career criminal who met his end in the midst of criminal activity, and Stephen, the first Christian martyr. It’s as if the goodly patrons of logic and reason took a much-needed vacation, leaving behind an open field for audacious comparisons that are as wildly imaginative as they are far-fetched.
Picture this for a moment, if you will. On one hand, we have Stephen, an individual of unimpeachable character, who devoted his life to the propagation of the gospel, living out the principles of grace, forgiveness, and righteousness. His martyrdom, a direct result of unflinching devotion to Christ, is etched into the annals of Christian history as a testament to the power of the Holy Spirit. On the other, we have a habitual offender with 42 prior arrests, multiple assault charges, whose demise came not as a consequence of standing up for righteousness, but as an unfortunate end to erratic and threatening behavior on public transit.
To equate these two situations is akin to comparing the brilliance of a diamond to the fleeting sparkle of a shard of glass under the sunlight. It’s like comparing the roar of a lion to the squeak of a mouse and expecting the world to applaud the audacity of the comparison—sadly, they do. It’s not just that these two characters reside on opposite sides of the moral spectrum; it’s also that the circumstances of their respective ends are so radically different that even entertaining such a comparison is a bewildering exercise in intellectual gymnastics. It’s a masterclass in absurdity, a spectacle that blurs the line between audacious creativity and comical delusion. It’s, in short, quite the show.
Yet, that’s exactly the mantra being preached in church services around the nation this past week. One preacher, Pastor Gerald Elston, Sr. of Good Hope Union United Methodist Church, compared Jordan Neely, who recently died as a consequence of his erratic and illegal behavior on a New York subway train, to Stephen the martyr.
“Our text says, the proud covered their ears and with a loud shout, all rushed him,” Elston preached. “And they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. You know, this story of Stephen reminds me of what happened to Brother Jordan Neely up in New York on a New York subway.”
“All he said is this: I’m hungry and I’m thirsty, and I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired of having nothing but the proud on the train,” he continued. “So we got to stop this guy from talking. And so they took it upon himself to put Brother Jordan Neely in a troubled and he died.”
“Y’all remember that story? It just happened. Yeah. We’re so quick today. To give death. That’s what happened to Brother Jordan Neely and so many others. But we have no right to give death.”