The Free Speech Plaza has been reduced to rubble and has instead been replaced with Jesus’ Junction.
Nearly every day since school began we have been inundated with the worst kinds of proselytizers, proclaiming the infallibility of the only book they’ve ever read and enlightening us about the impending doom we face unless, of course, we do what they say.
This is nothing new. It happens every year, and by now some of these righteous faces have become quite familiar. Good old Tom the Preacher was back again last week, one day with huge posters extolling the twisted logic of creationism and the next day swaggering around and screaming his tired tales of brimstone.
This year is different, however, because it is no longer possible to skirt the edges of the plaza to avoid being blasted in the face by Jesus’ irate followers. Instead, anyone taking a north-south journey through campus is now funneled into a cramped corridor where camped-out Christians can conveniently assault our ears with their sermons.
As a university we seek to expand knowledge, and in order to facilitate that ideal a high standard of free speech must be upheld. For some reason, the only people particularly interested in expressing that right loudly and in public are the very people who want to stifle any sort of intellectual enlightenment.
On the first day of school a group called If Anyone Is Thirsty posted up on said corner with enormous signs displaying insightful sayings like “Discover Jesus: He Will Blow Your Mind!” while screaming at pedestrians that our education is useless, that we can get a job without going to college, and that the only worthwhile life endeavor is to dedicate our entire selves to Jesus.
Their ideas were reinforced by the nonsensical, rambling pamphlet they handed out entitled “The Anatomy of Ego.” This screed discussed ego and monsters in my soul and seemed to claim that the desire to be educated and get a decent job are selfish goals implanted in society by Satan to distract me from the True life of intellectual enslavement and the wholesale abandonment of reason. Such an inane diatribe could not have been written by an individual with anything that could reasonably be considered an education, so at least we have some ideological consistency here.
Tom likes to preach in a similar manner. He struts around raving against anything not emblazoned with the cross of evangelism and prides himself on the anger he sees reflected in the faces of the crowd. His motto, according to his website, is “takin’ it to their turf.” He doesn’t “mince words or only say things that people want to hear.” I’d guess that the number of people he’s converted with these tactics over his 30-plus years of preaching hovers in the single digits.
If the goal of these angry apostles is to convince us to join them in their religious practices, they are failing miserably. Actively insulting potential recruits for nothing more than trying to move beyond mopping floors and waiting tables is not a winning strategy. Religious or not, anyone trying to sway a crowd does little for their cause by immediately stoking anger in the audience.
These people should copy the Mormons, who I think try to kill you with kindness and the cherubic smiles of sheltered adolescents, and who are oddly endearing in their white shirts and bicycle helmets and innocence. Or, they should take a page from the book of those who practice what my friend has coined the Sneaky Jesus.
The Sneaky Jesus has been perfected by the people who stop you to “ask you a question” or to take a survey as way to begin a religious conversation. This innocuous technique doesn’t bother me and really shouldn’t bother anyone. Although they attempt to disguise themselves as students by wearing backpacks and CSU gear, the same dudes have been doing it for years and are easy to spot and avoid if you are so inclined. Plus they are local guys who seem to have altruistic intentions, rather than the out-of-town antagonists whose preaching is predicated on self-gratification and confrontation.
Regardless, we shall soon be free of this nuisance, as most preaching seems to stop once the leaves turn and the snow begins to fall. While Jesus may light a fire in the soul, he apparently has little ability to warm our bodily extremities. Until then, I will continue to wield the impenetrable shield of headphones and sunglasses and generally try to steer clear of Jesus’ Junction.
Zane Womeldorph hopes people understood his Talladega Nights reference last week, because Eleanor Roosevelt didn’t really say that. Send responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.