Vriezen: Speak out against hateful views

Claire Vriezen

It is not an uncommon sight: A slightly older man standing outside the Parks Library, a worn and aged book in hand, speaking loudly to people passing by about God, Jesus, and the faith of Christianity.

While most tend to continue on their way, occasionally someone will stop to ask questions, argue or just listen to those that preach. 

Normally, if time allows, I stop and listen to campus preachers. This is mostly a matter of curiosity. I find it interesting to see the perspectives of different preachers as well as the variety of reactions they elicit from their audiences. Occasionally I become involved in the discourse, but normally there are enough other vocal members of the audience that I needn’t bother.

There was a particular traveling preacher a few weeks ago who took a rather unusual and extreme stance on the Bible and some of its teachings. In my opinion, he truly fit the stereotype of the “crazy preacher” that stands on sidewalks condemning students to Hell. 

During the course of several hours, this man stated that non-Christians have no way to tell if an action is moral or not, non-Christians have no reason to oppose imperialism, and “slavery’s not all bad” — referring to biblical indentured servants. He later said that beating a disobedient indentured servant was acceptable as well.

When discussing religious conflicts or wars, he claimed that Christians under attack should be pacifists and essentially let themselves be killed “as a lamb led to the slaughter,” an extreme version of turning the other cheek.

Oh yes, and when a woman who had served in the military informed this preacher that she had lost her faith in the war? He told her “you shouldn’t send women to war.”

Apparently women shouldn’t be allowed to volunteer to protect and defend their country alongside the men.  They’re probably supposed to be home taking care of the children or something, rather than have a courageous and selfless sense of patriotism. 

Later in the day, when talking with members of the Atheist and Agnostic Society, someone asked this man if he lived in Old Testament Biblical times, would he stone adulterers, homosexuals and obstinate youth as God commanded?  In his mind, “[he doesn’t] think it’s unreasonable at all.” 

It wasn’t just the skeptics, non-Christians or atheists that objected to many of these statements. While I stood and listened, there were other Christians in the crowd that were appalled at his blatant judgment of the audience and his extreme claims.

Many simply objected to his condemnation of the audience, saying that Christianity should be focused on acceptance and love. At one point, a young lady spoke up, saying that she was pro-choice, supported gay rights, and was also a Christian. Without asking for her reasoning or further information, the preacher immediately declared her ideas to be wrong and moved on. 

Not only did this particular preacher show himself to be homophobic, sexist and judgmental, but he also showed complete closed-mindedness to the differing views of his fellow Christians.

Now, I can appreciate valid, thoughtful philosophical discourse as much as any rational person; but when people refuse to take an honest look at the ideas of others, I take issue with that. When people can accept Bronze Age ideas about stoning adulterers because of their religion, I take issue with that. When people tell me that morality can only come from a Christian standpoint, I take issue with that. 

Given that Christianity only makes up 33 percent of the world’s religions, it would seem that this man views the remaining two-thirds of the planet’s population as immoral nonbelievers. Remember folks, this means that Gandhi was immoral too. I could be wrong, but last I checked, most people thought Gandhi was a pretty nice, upstanding guy. 

This man was promoting his views in a public place dedicated to free speech and censoring certain views does nothing to promote honest discourse, and there is nothing to prevent him or others from continuing to preach this way. I only hope that both believers and non-believers alike can listen to people like this and see some clear errors in these views. 

This particular man was spouting hate and judgment, presuming to know the hearts and minds of those listening. The next time students have the opportunity to listen to someone like this, regardless of their faith, I would hope they still speak out against views that may promote violence, oppression and inequality. While this nation allows for the freedom of speech and religion, we needn’t let messages such as his go unchallenged.