A man garnering a sign with the words “You deserve Hell” showed up on the Plaza and preached to students on Thursday. In response, a group of students gathered and debated with him.
Brother Matt speaks in public areas, mainly Old Town and the CSU campus, in an attempt to reach a few people who seek salvation. In addition, he is a family man with four kids, a veteran, a recovering alcoholic, and mostly importantly to him, a man of God. He carries the same message, day after day — “You deserve Hell”.
“It’s shocking. You can talk to anyone who does advertisements, they want something that’s provocative,” Brother Matt said. “They want something that really grabs the attention of people. If I just had a sign that said ‘God loves you, have a wonderful day’ … no one’s going to stop and talk.”
Many students disagree. Freshmen Alex Santarelli and Logan Relp disagreed so much that they made a sign of their own.
“He’s using scare tactics, instead of promoting love,” Santarelli said.
Their sign said “You deserve Love.” The two held their banner next to Brother Matt’s and within moments the crowd cheered in support.
Brother Matt emphasized that no one is going to hell, only that people deserve hell. As the debate on Thursday thickened, his message began to get harsher. At one point, he pointed to a line of women and asked, “how many virgins do we have here today?”
Sianna Gomez, junior human development and family studies major, was a part of that line. Her face registered shock.
“I’m a virgin, but I don’t think I have a right to judge anybody else in their lives and they shouldn’t judge me,” Gomez said. “That’s not our job, that’s not for anyone to do … it just kind of hurts my heart; everyone deserves love.”
It is moments like this that cause Brother Matt to do a double take.
“Sometimes I say I wish I didn’t say that or maybe have said that in a different attitude,” Brother Matt said. “I try to be my biggest critic.”
Most students believe he has every right to be present on campus, but many believe the way he is preaching is wrong. For Brother Matt it is the only way.
Three decades ago, Brother Matt embodied the party life, much like the students he disapproves of now.
“I was just doing the whole sinner, sin, wine, women and song, dance, fornication, violence,” Brother Matt said. “You know, what you see in the bars.”
While Brother Matt was on active duty in the Air Force, he went on an acid trip. The people he tripped with gave him an extra hit without him knowing. He started to panic.
“I said, Lord if you get me out of this one I’ll give my life to you,” Brother Matt said. “At that moment the acid trip went down, down, down and became very controllable. I could of easily gone to jail. Nothing happened. But I didn’t give my life to the Lord instantly. Actually, my sinning got worse and worse and I got more vile.”
Three months later, he looked in the mirror.
“I was quickly in the process in destroying my life,” Brother Matt said.
Thirty-two years passed and he is still sober. As a thank you to who he believes saved him, he preaches daily. But, his speeches have received a fair share of criticism from those he knows.
Brother Matt said that when his fellow employees and bosses witnessed what he calls his passion, he was asked to leave his job. He also said he had to leave his next job due to a similar instance.
He refuses to provide his last name to anyone who asks, in part to protect him and to ensure his families safety.
“I really don’t expect the majority of people to welcome me,” Brother Matt said.
Yet, everyday he gets up with his bible in hand, ready to preach. He cites his early life as his inspiration. According to Brother Matt, he wants to prevent people from traveling down a similar path.
Collegian Reporter Lawrence Lam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.