Downtown berkeley: Merchants say they're losing business as customers flee fire-and-brimstone preachers who use PA systems What would Jesus do? He'd probably tell them all to shut the hell up. And thank God that during the Sermon on the Mount he didn't use a public address system, which is what the Bay Area Outreach Ministries' preachers are using, to great annoyance, in Berkeley at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street. The free newspaper, the Berkeley Daily Planet, recently published an article about how these fire-and-brimstone-spewing clowns are force-feeding their version of redemption to whoever crosses their sidewalk-blocking paths. Get out of the way. While they're trying to save souls, they're also gumming up the pathways in front of the local merchants trying to sell their goods. Listen to Jesus. The Bible says he didn't yell much. Sure, he got ticked off at the money changers in the temple one day and knocked over a few tables, but that was about it for bad behavior. Berkeley residents don't seem much interested in the message of eternal damnation for their "wicked" ways. Or having religious pamphlets shoved in their faces. Crazies are a part of street life. But they're usually unamplified. These purveyors of the New Testament's "Good News" might want to try getting their message across in a genteel way, rather than through a bullhorn blast. As a local florist said in an apt sign: "Why crucify me?" That local florist is Gwynn Coffee. And she is fed up with it all; it's hurting business, Coffee said, and chewing up her work day. "It's not only putting a damper on things," she said, "it's also taking up my time. Nobody really wants to walk on that side of the street when they're there." So what does she think Jesus would do? "He'd look down and say, 'That's not what I meant,' " she said. " 'You're misrepresenting me.' " Larry Rosenbaum of the ministries group doesn't see it that way. He said they're just there "to share the gospel of Jesus Christ." But he does admit it's an amplified message. Rosenbaum said he doesn't mean to drive away business, just preach Biblical teachings. And he said it's in the way of Jesus. "I think Jesus, when he was on Earth, he did preach the gospel. He was very loud, because thousands of people could hear him at one time. So he must've been loud with his voice." Yeah, maybe so, but Rosenbaum and his ilk ain't Jesus. They're not turning water into wine; they're not raising the dead; they're not casting demons into pigs. He and his colleague apostles are just annoying the hell out of everyone, particularly Coffee. "I'm a third-generation Berkeleyite," she said. "And if there's something we covet here, it's our freedom of speech. The problem is when it's so loud that me, a loud person, can't hear my customers on the phone." Complaints have also come from Amoeba Records, which Rosenbaum finds puzzling, since they blast their own music inside the store. OK, I'll give him that. Good point. He said they're usually out there just on Saturdays, but recently stepped it up to commemorate the supposedly evil "Summer of Love," the 1967 San Francisco freak-fest. Coffee, who has tried to call the cops, said the preachers always turn down the decibel level by the time they arrive. So she's started a petition drive to shut them down, a very grassroots Berkeley kind of thing to do. It's "so when people are out here plugging their ears, cringing, we can offer them a petition," she said. Rosenbaum says they all play nice. "We certainly try to be considerate of the people in the area there," he said. "I'm not aware that we're driving away any business. I guess the flower woman is the most disturbed with us." Well, yes. So, how about this? Take away the amplification. Just talk loud as Jesus did. And all will be at peace and the meeker you are, the more of the Earth thou shall inherit. Dan Reed is a Bay Area freelance writer. Contact us at [email protected]. http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/09/02/INNTRRTTC.DTL This article appeared on page E - 2 of the San Francisco Chronicle San Francisco Chronicle Sections MagazineStyleSportsBay AreaTravelBusinessInsightReal EstateDatebookBook ReviewsCommentarySunday DatebookNews I do not believe these people are going to win many to Christ.