‘Tom the Preacher’ evangelizes on campus during First Amendment Week


Tom Short speaks about birth control, abstinence and sex education Monday, April 9, in the free-speech zone in front of the Hub. Short answered audience members’ questions as part of his visit.

Megan Swindell

The breeze may have been rustling the leaves on the trees and blowing down signs, but an influence other than the wind was stirring emotions the Monday of First Amendment Week.

Tom Short, commonly known as Tom the Preacher, stood his ground in Iowa State’s free-speech zone while emphasizing his three main points: “God is real, the Bible is completely true and Jesus Christ is Lord of all and the only way a person can come to know God.”

“I started preaching at the University of Maryland in the spring of 1980,” Short said. “My primary motivation was simply that I saw this is what the evangelists did in the New Testament and I wanted to follow their model.”

Short is a familiar, annual face to the ISU campus, but he travels elsewhere as well.

“[I travel] mostly on campuses, although I do speak at some high school retreats and in churches on Sunday morning,” Short said.

Many students passed by, but some took a seat in a semicircle outside the Hub to both listen to Short and challenge his ideas.

Chris Cox, sophomore in journalism and mass communication, said, “I came because Tom has been on campus before, and the ruckus he causes isn’t a bad thing — he crystallizes opinions.”

On the other side of the sidewalk, in addition to doing it “for fun,” the Ask an Atheist group gathered to “present an alternate view,” said David Masover, junior in computer science and a representative for Ask an Atheist.

“The Methodists sitting over there are saying there are Christians who believe differently than Tom, and we are saying that you don’t have to be Christian at all,” Masover said.

In between expressing his views to those who asked, cartwheeling and heckling Short’s introduction to his view on evolution, Mark Chivvis, senior in insect science, explained his view on Tom the Preacher.

“My problem with Tom is he is spewing these vial words and has a lot of really hateful claims,” he said. “There are so many beliefs and punishments, and I haven’t been convinced of any of them.”

When asked about the type of feedback he receives, Short said, “The negative feedback is far more verbal and willing to interrupt me when I’m speaking.”

Short ended his preaching for the day with a prayer circle and the opportunity for one-on-one conversations. Here he experiences the other side of the spectrum of feedback.

“Most of the positive feedback comes to me in private conversations at the end of the day or emails I receive sometime later,” Short said. “Ultimately, I hope students listen to what I say, consider it and decide to believe in and follow Jesus Christ with their whole being — to be a disciple of Jesus.” 

Until next year, Tom the Preacher said, “I’m willing to engage in conversation and address any and all issues that stand in the way of a person loving Christ with their whole being.” 

Short will be on campus again Tuesday and Wednesday.