Perdios: DOs and DON’Ts of dealing with visiting preacher Tom Short

Tom Short, while answering questions from students, accepts an apology from Marquis Rochelle, who disrupted his preaching Wednesday outside Parks Library. 

Tom Short, while answering questions from students, accepts an apology from Marquis Rochelle, who disrupted his preaching Wednesday outside Parks Library. 

Tom Short is scheduled to come to Iowa State on April 9 and 10, according to He comes about once a year to preach in front of Parks Library. Some approve of his evangelical message. Others are offended, especially by his views on homosexuality. Short is a member of the Great Commission Churches, an evangelical organization founded in 1970. Short has been active with the commission for more than 30 years, preaching on college campuses throughout the country.

For the past four or five years, I’ve watched Tom Short speak even though I find his message offensive, because I enjoy observing how he attracts both supporters and hecklers. He brings controversy with his anti-gay message and nobody likes being told, implicitly or explicitly, they are going to hell for their beliefs (or lack of beliefs). In 2009, members of both the Atheist and Agnostic Society and the Collegiate United Methodist Church teamed up to protest him. At another time, police showed up because some guy mooned him. But despite the animosity Short receives, he is fairly tame when compared to other campus preachers I’ve seen.

Even so, if you plan on showing up out of support, protest or simple curiosity, this list of DOs and DON’Ts will help you deal with Short’s message. Even you don’t show up, the following information will be helpful if you ever get involved in a discussion about Christianity.

DO wear sunscreen if you plan on staying for the whole afternoon. Short often preaches for five hours at time, starting at noon. You don’t want a sunburn if it’s a warm and sunny day.

DON’T try to out-preach Short with your own religious message. He has the endurance, the suntan and the people to fetch him Mountain Dews, to outlast you.

DON’T be uncivil. If Short makes you angry enough to throw something at him, he wins.

DON’T cite inconsistencies in the Bible to prove him wrong, even if he says something about the Bible being literally true. Yes, Genesis chapters 1 and 2 indicate two stories of creation when read literally. Yes, Mark 14 and 15 show that Jesus died after the Passover meal (“the Last Supper”), while John 19 says that Jesus died before the meal was eaten. And yes, while Joseph and Mary take baby Jesus and flee to Egypt in Matthew 2:13-18, Luke seems to neglect this story.

But these inconsistencies, like many others found in the Bible, do not matter to Short. He’ll just say you don’t really know the truth and continue preaching.

DON’T tell him that there are many versions of the Bible, with each version containing its own peculiarities and different translations of the ancient Hebrew and Greek scriptures of which the Bible is based. For example, some bibles contain the Apocrypha, others don’t. Using textual criticism to explain this is beyond the scope of this column. Suffice to say, the books in the Bible have seen many changes since the beginning of Christianity to make them part of official canon, in concordance with one another, or both.

DON’T accuse Short of not being a true Christian. Anybody who professes to follow Christ’s teachings, even if they are of a different denomination than yours, is a Christian.

DON’T point out Short’s hypocrisy when it comes to valuing the New Testament over the Old when it comes his stance on homosexuality. The New Testament contains what many have called the Golden Rule put forth by Jesus: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31, New International Version). But this does not stop many Christians from using certain Old Testament passages to justify the persecution of homosexuals or the enslavement and destruction of entire races and cultures. Such scripture includes, but is not limited to, Genesis 9:18-28, Genesis 19:1-29 and Leviticus 18:22.

DON’T cite Numbers 5:11-31 if Short preaches his pro-life stance. This scripture states that a jealous husband, who even suspects that his wife has slept with another man, may take his wife to a priest. The priest then performs a ritual where the woman, if guilty, has an abortion. If you cite this passage, be prepared for swift and harsh reprisals from the crowd and perhaps even Short himself.

DON’T, in fact, cite scripture at all if you have no idea as to its context. Doing so will lead to needless confusion and page-flipping.

DO explore and research your own religious beliefs before coming to watch Short speak. Furthermore, ask questions and discuss issues with people in the crowd and develop your own opinions and religious perspectives. This is important, because Short is paid to preach, not to listen to you.