Tusinski: Crowding the campus preachers shows CSU’s community

Dylan Tusinski, Collegian Columnist

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Keith Darrell and Shawn Holes have become recurring characters on the Colorado State University Lory Student Center Plaza. They show up at the start of every semester to preach their bigoted interpretations of the Bible, spouting homophobic, sexist and racist rhetoric at students on their way to class.

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The preachers almost always draw a big crowd. People show up to earnestly ask questions, shout back at the preachers and — most importantly — make fun of their hateful rhetoric.

Spider-Man has made appearances; people in blow-up unicorn costumes have played out dance routines; breakdancers have come out and performed. CSU students have started taking the preachers less seriously, and the crowds have become less about the preachers’ bigotry and more about the antics surrounding them as a result, which is a very good thing.

By making fun of the preachers in such creative and unique ways, the CSU community has undermined any credibility the preachers may have had. Rather than playing into the preachers’ apparent savior complexes, CSU students have found a uniquely creative way to subvert their apparent bigotry.

I’ve written before about how comedy is often the best response to bigotry, and I stand by that. The university has repeatedly affirmed the preachers have the right to be on campus, which has drawn lots of scorn from the student populace. If CSU’s administration doesn’t care enough to act on the hatred students are experiencing on campus, it makes sense for students to take matters into their own hands.

“Not only does the lighthearted response undermine the preachers’ homophobia, racism and sexism, but it also builds a stronger community than almost anything else on campus.”

Now, to be fair, in a perfect world, the preachers wouldn’t have a crowd. In a perfect world, the preachers wouldn’t even be there to preach bigotry at all. But we don’t live in a perfect world — we live in a world where people want to argue and yell over whether or not gay people are going to hell, and we live in a world where people want to laugh at and make fun of the preachers.

I think we ought to embrace the reality of the situation. I think we ought to focus our efforts on making people smile rather than ignoring the problem altogether.

Not only does the lighthearted response undermine the preachers’ homophobia, racism and sexism, but it also builds a stronger community than almost anything else on campus.

Students come together to rally against hate more than they rally for sports teams, campus events or school spirit. Canvas Stadium often empties out by halftime, Moby Arena spends most of its time with empty seats and many other school-sponsored events have relatively low attendance. The preachers, on the other hand, keep people out there all day.

People skip class to hold up signs, make treks on and off campus to grab their pride flags and sit for hours in the hot sun to poke fun at the preachers. I can tell you firsthand I felt a stronger sense of community within the preachers’ crowds than I ever have at a CSU football game, frat party or other local event.

That sense of community simply doesn’t exist without the campus Spider-Men, the unicorns or the crowds surrounding them. That sense of community is also the strongest antidote to the bigotry the preachers are trying to instill in our student population. And truth be told, I’d much rather see a united crowd of smiling faces and funny signs than a rush of students refusing to stomp out hate on their campus.

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Reach Dylan Tusinski at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @unwashedtiedye.