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For park preachers, same story, different day

In these last few extremely beautiful days, I think it’s safe to say that we all want to spend a few extra minutes outside. The sun is shining, the leaves are still on the trees, and the weather is still warm enough for shorts. The rains will soon come and we will be caged inside Smith Center, polluting the air with our body odor and becoming grouchy with cabin fever.

However, there are a few mean-spirited individuals who wish to undermine our final days of outdoor pleasure. These people are largely non-students who come up to campus, clutching Bibles and adorning themselves with sandwich boards, with the premise of converting the unsaved.

It’s been more or less traditional to refer to these people as “Bible Jim,” even though there’s Preacher Ron or Bible Bob, or whatever their proper titles are. It does not matter. To me, they are all one person.

They stand in the Park Blocks by Smith Center and name those who will be Eternally Damned. Usually, if you aren’t them, you’re screwed. You will burn in the fiery pits of hell.

These people seem to like to taunt gay people and liberated women. Liberated meaning those females who do not choose to be barefoot and pregnant all the time. Of course, this elicits a heated response from those of us who are liberated women or gay or support those who are.

Surprisingly, this is what the Bible People want. If we argue with them, we are paying attention to them, and therefore, give them a reason to keep coming back and ruining perfectly beautiful sunny afternoons outside. It is difficult to hear some of the language these hate-mongers use. No one likes being called names or even being told they are going to hell by people who give most mainstream Christians a bad name. It makes you angry, right? You want to scream at them, or try to reason with them, or tell them how wrong they are, don’t you?

Don’t do it. They do not care what you have to say. They do not care what your opinion is. You cannot convert them, just as they cannot convert you. What you are doing is fanning the flames. You just make it worse. It is fine if they stand there and holler about salvation for 10 minutes, and if no one notices, they go back downtown until the police tell them to move. But if they receive any sort of feedback, usually in the form of a shouting match, they will stay there and shout right back.

Of course, I am regurgitating a concept that has seen the Vanguard’s pages before. However, I feel it is necessary to regurgitate it for all the new students who may be shocked and disgusted by what happens in the Park Blocks when these folks show up. These Bible People have caused some interesting scenes on our campus. In spring term of 1999, a whole group of women decided not to walk away. Instead, they tried to shock the shockers. In protest, a few of them ripped their shirts off and waved their glorious mammaries at the preacher people. Campus security decided (wrongly, in my humble opinion) to cart away a few of the shirtless ladies. Of course, one did slap someone, but she had a reason. It made front-page news for the Vanguard, along with a photo of the Shirtless Ones.

Last year, a young member of the preacher posse actually got arrested for an unrelated offense.

Even though it wasn’t for noise pollution, it was still satisfying to see campus security finally haul one of those guys away.

The bottom line is, these guys want you to react. By not reacting, you will drive them from our campus and we all can enjoy the rest of the good weather.