Shannon Cason - "The Street Evangelist"

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Shannon spends his days on the street corners preaching to the masses, but his biggest temptation is his partner in salvation.


Our next guest tonight is the second best-looking baldheaded black guy in tonight's show. All right, he's the first best-looking. A former Grand Slam Moth champion - it is my distinct pleasure to introduce Mr. Shannon Cason.


SHANNON CASON: If you died today, where would you go? I used to do what's called street evangelism. That's when you go out into the crowded streets, and basically you annoy people for Jesus.


CASON: I wasn't raised to be a Jesus freak. My dad is an original Detroit player - Gator shoes, women, money, running the streets. He had heard that his dad - he never met him - was a fast-talking, womanizing preacher who ran the streets. So I guess it was in my blood to run the streets in some way, except I was on the corner - hey, you want to talk to me about Jesus? I started going to this church in my early 20s, and I sold out - at every service, an usher or armor-bearer, reading my Bible, living the celibate life, no women, a kid just trying my best to please God. I loved evangelism. We would go out in twos. I was paired up with the church secretary. Her name was Ethel (ph). I love old-fashioned names. My mom's name is Betsy, and I'm a mama's boy. Ethel was fine, too - tall, long legs. That's my thing, Amazons with vintage names.


CASON: I had been celibate for six years at that point, but I still knew if a woman was fine. And she was. We would be out annoying heathens for Jesus together, and we weren't making people uncomfortable so much as getting comfortable with one another. And people at the church noticed that we had this chemistry together. But it was one of these churches where, like, the women at the church were Jesus's girl until you put a ring on it. So they split us up in evangelism, and the pastor told me, stop hanging around her. But stolen water tastes sweet, and bread eaten in secret is delicious. That's Proverbs 917 if anybody brought their Bibles. I don't know. So we were in a mutual friend's wedding, me and Ethel. And the bride paired us to walk down the aisle together because we were tall. And I remember I spun her around, and she laughed. The whole church laughed - something about weddings. After the reception, we found ourselves alone, just me and Ethel. And we forgot about celibacy. We forgot about the pastor's rules. We forgot about sin. We kissed. We touched. We held each other. And after it was done and that six-year jones had ended, I felt defeated. I felt like I had let God down. I remember I sat at the end of the bed while she dressed, and I felt naked. I mean, I really was naked. I hadn't put my clothes on yet, but you all know what I'm talking about. She went to work the next day, and she worked at the church. She was the secretary, and she told the pastor what happened. He calls me and tells me come meet him at his office. I remember I walked past Ethel. She was acting busy at her desk. I went in his office and sat in this big chair. And this is a man I respected. I know he knew how bad I felt. He came in. He was like, that's why I told you not to hang around her. I knew this was going to happen. The next Sunday, at the beginning of the service, he calls me and Ethel to the front of the church. And the pastor says, tell them what happened. Full congregation, even in the balcony, and we confess our sins to everyone in detail.


CASON: Ethel just stares at the ground. She says a few words. Me, I say, hey, everyone, I'm sorry for committing the sin of fornication with Ethel here. We went to the wedding. It was a nice wedding, and we were rubbing against each other. And then we had sex, and we're not married. And that's not right. I was crying and everything. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. Ethel was accepted back into the fold. She was a good secretary, I guess. I was pushed out, dis-communicated. Ethel never spoke to me again, ever. The pastor never spoke to me again, ever. After no communication with anyone at the church - my friends, roommates - I got the picture and left. Now about six years later - and I'm going to be honest with you, I wasn't celibate for those six years. I was getting it in, as they say. But about six years later, I saw a news report that the church went bankrupt. All the property was foreclosed on, and the church closed down. Now I'm not saying that happened because the pastor did me wrong. I'm not saying that. It was one of these prosperity churches. The pastor was buying helicopters, jets, big houses, BMWs, stupid stuff. All this stuff, I don't know that really - if that really helps people. I wonder if the pastor went in front of the whole congregation and confessed for ruining the church's finances. I doubt it. I think he just moved to Florida. If you died today, where would you go? I think heaven has to be more than just good timing with asking forgiveness. It has to be. The other day, I ran into this kid, and he asked me to talk about Jesus. And I stopped and talked to him. And I could see myself in him, trying my damnedest to live right for God and for the approval of the people around me. I prayed with him, the whole nine. And after it was over and he was going go off to annoy other people for Jesus, I said, kid, don't be afraid to live a little. Trust me, God will still love you. And before he left, I said, hey, hey, inside scoop. If you mess up, don't tell the whole congregation.


CASON: It's really none of their business. Take them to church, folks.

WASHINGTON: You're listening to SNAP JUDGMENT LIVE in Ann Arbor. To get tickets for a brand-new SNAP JUDGMENT LIVE in San Francisco on August 1 and 2, get tickets right now at SNAP JUDGMENT LIVE will be back in a moment. Stay tuned.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from