It’s unavoidable at Colorado State University: you’re walking to class, jamming out to the music flowing through your earbuds. Suddenly, you enter the Plaza with a religious crusader yelling Bible verses at students and condemning them to hell.
I hate it as much as you do. The difference? I don’t stop to confront their blatant ignorance and bigotry.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been tempted to give these speakers a piece of my mind. It can be incredibly difficult to let it go when someone blatantly offends you or your belief system. You have to say something, right?
That’s the first problem. You have your own personal belief system, and, clearly, the people screaming about hell and the wrath of God do too. Is having a religious debate, likely in front of many other people in a loud and crowded area, really going to change anyone’s point of view in this scenario?
Arguing with a religious activist is not going to change a thing on either side, except maybe your attitude from neutral to frustrated and angry.
This topic came up in May, when the Westboro Baptist Church decided to protest CSU graduation. Hundreds of people RSVP’ed to a Facebook event, aimed at counter-protesting the Westboro Baptist Church, with mixed reception.
A little background: The Westboro Baptist Church is a small, unaffiliated Baptist church from Topeka, and, as of 2011, the church had about 40 members, mainly made up of the now-deceased founder Fred Phelps’ family. With these facts in mind, why is this tiny, arguably cult-ish church so well-known?
It’s because we give them the attention they want and need.
If there wasn’t the absolute guarantee of uproar when the WBC announces their next victim, then they wouldn’t thrive. We all know that this “church” is a small group of people full of hatred, ignorance and bigotry, but we still act like we care about what they have to say.
This is the same problem we face on campus.
If we can expect a woman’s crazy rant about bloody tampons and sin to result in a useless chant to drown her out, while also garnering a gigantic crowd of listeners, it is these people who are promoting hatred and intolerance that become the winners. Whether students in the crowd agree or disagree with the speaker’s sentiments, the religious activist is front and center, preaching to a crowd of listeners on their own little stage that you are giving them by stopping to hear what they have to say.
Think of how pathetic these people would look if they were just screaming to no one, frivolously preaching to students who pass quickly, reluctant to even entertain their medieval thoughts. That, unfortunately, isn’t the case.
So, stop crowding around the religious activist as if they are some sort of celebrity. Stop trying to argue with them, when you know you will never change their minds. Stop enabling these people with your attention.
Just know that when you pause to listen to the nonsense spewing out of their mouths, you are part of the problem.
Collegian Columnist Keegan Williams can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @keeganmw.