In the Canadian city of London, Ontario, they are notorious. Few know their names, but everybody has heard of them, and many Londoners have tales to tell of unpleasant encounters in the downtown core.
They are simply called “the street preachers”: Steven Ravbar and Matthew Carabella, two men known for standing on a street corner near London’s busiest intersection wearing Bible-themed sandwich boards and speaking into a megaphone, often addressing specific passers-by with messages about their sins.
Now they’ve taken their show on the road, appearing in Waterloo (about an hour’s drive from London)… where they promptly fell afoul of police after harassing a woman on the street.
Waterloo resident and retired preacher Karen Nancarrow called the Waterloo Regional Police Department after the men began shouting abuse at her and others, including a group of young women. (Waterloo, like London, is a university town.) Nancarrow observed that the men primarily targeted young women, pedestrians as they waited to cross the road:
They started yelling at me, calling me all kinds of names. They said, “I bet you’re a whore, I bet you’re a prostitute, you’re probably one of those feminists. You should be home serving your husband’s needs instead of out working”… They were starting to harass other women as well, and they were all younger women. They were all university students, because these two were parked right outside the university.
It’s a familiar story for the women of London. The two men often target women in particular, attacking their hairstyles, clothing choices, and the company they keep as sinful and unbiblical. Some women report avoiding the downtown area altogether after unpleasant encounters with the men. Others, like London resident Kira Rader, describe fighting back:
I consider them harassers. I saw them once eating and I stood next to them, telling, “These are the asshole preachers!” and followed them down the street, like they do to me. [One time] I walked up to them during the harlot rant, said: “Look, wearing pants and showing my tits!” and flashed them. The reaction was too good, and I kept doing it when I saw them. As a humanist, I want religion to be free, but it cannot justify harassment.
In 2018, the City of London amended its public nuisance by-law specifically to address the problem of Ravbar and Carabella’s antics. The two men were charged under the new law after City Hall received 75 separate complaints about the duo within the first three months of 2019.
Their trial has been delayed as the two try to argue that their freedom of religious expression has been violated by the new by-law prohibiting them from yelling invective at total strangers trying to go about their day.
Carabella and Ravbar have a peculiar history: the former is a scion of privilege, the son of one of the city’s most successful real estate developers, while the latter was his seventh-grade teacher. Carabella describes himself as giving up a life of partying and debauchery to serve Jesus, claiming that he had become aware of “a calling.”
The pair’s particular brand of Christianity echoes the teachings of American doomsday preacher William Branham, who ran a fringe movement called Latter Rain before his death in 1965. Carabella confirms that Ravbar introduced him to recordings of Branham’s sermons, which inform his current beliefs. Many of Branham’s teachings focused on women as instruments of Satan, in need of strict control to avoid tempting men away from the righteous path.
Certainly Carabella and Ravbar believe things that most Christians wouldn’t stomach. They have been banned from more than one local church for verbally attacking female parishioners and were arrested and charged in Louisiana after being kicked out of no less than three separate churches.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Natalie for the link)