One of the more troubling aspects of our local university culture is the phenomenon of “Preacher Bob” – that is, an assortment of characters who have taken it upon themselves to “evangelize” the student body by hurling all manner of invective at whatever poor souls happen to walk past.
As far as I can tell, there seems to about five or six of them – ranging from one wet-behind-the-ears young fellow (who appears to be barely out of college himself) to the wily Gary Bowman, who has been causing such trouble on college campuses since the late 1990s.
What do these men think they are accomplishing? I have lingered amongst the throng that gathers around. Many snicker and roll their eyes, amused by the spectacle – others seem to merely take advantage of the gathering to socialize… and then there are the contentious ones.
I liken myself within the broader category of the latter, but I try to keep much of my probing mind and tempestuous wit restrained beneath a calm veneer. Of course, I am not always successful – and sometimes a situation warrants a response. Other times, I think it best to hold my tongue.
O`er the first couple weeks of classes, the South Oval has been beset by a steady barrage of these soapbox bullies, pointing at passers-by and screaming insults and accusations.
“You whores in the sororities and you whoremongers in the fraternities,” rails one of them, “if you don`t repent of your sexual perversion and turn to God, He will pour out His wrath upon you and all that you love!”
Now this may or may not be true (depending on just what exactly the “preacher” might be referring to) but frankly I find this sort of rhetorical scattershot approach offers nothing in teaching or compassion. Though Jesus Christ was never one to mince words, neither did He ever fail to demonstrate His love or offer sound instruction. As Paul wrote, we are to always reprove, rebuke, and exhort with complete patience and teaching. (II Timothy 4:2)
I have a hard time seeing how insulting college students is going to do much in convicting them, especially when it is accompanied by an attitude of self-righteousness and wild claims of personal Sinlessness. One will either be ignored as a fool or be used to harden one`s heart towards any things of GOD, even if the speaker of this bile is nothing more than himself a charlatan and his teachings, lies.
Early last week, as I passed by the South Oval on my way from one class to another, I heard one of these men claiming to be perfect, holy and without Sin – a statement that is as blasphemous as it is heretical, for there is none that are holy or perfect… save for the LORD.
I hesitated for a moment, my hackles raised and my brow flushed in sudden anger and sadness. How dare he, I thought to myself.
For a long moment of nanoseconds, I stayed rigid where I stood – considering what I should do… what was right, and what was loving.
In a single deliberate motion, I reached into my satchel and pulled out my broadsword. I wove through the crowd until I was facing him and close enough to attack.
With a soft voice, I asked the young man if he claimed to be “without Sin” and if claimed to not commit “any” Sin. Lifting up his arms and turning aside from me, he acknowledged loudly that it was so.
Stepping even closer, and raising my own voice to be heard above the din I read from the first epistle of the Apostle John:
“If we say we have no Sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our Sins, He is faithful and Just – to forgive us our Sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
If we say we have not Sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
Repeating the first and last verse from that phrase (for rhetorical emphasis), I addressed all the people surrounding: “This man speaks a fallacious gospel and does not speak the teachings of Jesus Christ. I encourage all of you to pay Him no regard but to seek the risen LORD that is revealed in His Word.”
The man looked at me half-dumbfounded and speechless – for what seemed the first time all day.
Silence from all, until some murmurs of assent spread throughout the crowd.
Turning my back to him, I continued on to my next class… the clamor of voices fading behind me with each step. Immediately, I began to question my intentions and my actions. I question them still.
Even though I walk the same paths at the same times each day, I have not lately seen him.
As far as I know, he has not returned to the campus since that afternoon.