Put down your sign and know me.

The fire and brimstone preachers in Free Speech Alley break my heart. Actually, I feel a large range of emotions about them. I get very defensive of the people they're targeting, then I get overwhelmed by all the yelling, then I get sad. Very sad. I get sad about the lies they're screaming, the people around that don't know the truth and are most certainly getting confused. And I get sad that these men and their families will most likely never know the truth and will always live their lives in this ultimate darkness.

A lot of the time when I stand and listen I can't keep my mouth shut (surprise, surprise, right?). I've gotten into conversation with them many times, and I typically say something in the same general thread. "What about love?" They never hear me. Today my reaction stemmed from being straight offended. The preacher man started in on a harsh and embarrassing comparison of sorority girls and prostitutes, and how sorority girls are the worse of the two. {Side note: I have to be very honest and admit that I've had my own struggle with judging sorority girls, even though both my best friend and roommate are both in sororities. God has been actively stripping this away from me.} But this man's ranting was too much. My ears were ringing I was so frustrated and offended and disgusted. In an effort to calm myself down I started reading the sign he had around his neck (he was also holding a skull, just to paint the picture for you). This was a big mistake. It read something along these lines:

Adulterers Socialists Abortionists Gangster Rappers
Jihad Muslims Fornicators Pornographers Homosexuals Murderers
Dirty Dancers

It was over before it started. I couldn't stop the words from coming out of my mouth. "I have a question." The man stopped screaming from atop the bench he was standing on. People walking by stopped. Oh shoot. Welp...might as well see this through. "Rather then judging and pointing the finger at these people on your sign, why not tell them the truth? Why not preach the gospel? Why can't you say 'even if you're one of these things, God still loves you and wants you to abandon all this and walk with Him'?" He looked at me for a second and then asked "what's that you're blasting from your headphones?" Lucky me. I was just jamming out to the Passion CD, and was currently on Tomlin's "Our God". Confused where he was going with this, I answered. He then started in on how it's okay for me blare that, but I wanted the preacher to shut up? At this point I was unaware that a crowd had began to gather, until the guy behind me stepped in. "Dude. You didn't answer her question at all. Why don't ya'll preach love rather then condemnation?"

His answer shocked me. "Because I like it." My jaw almost hit the ground. "Oh, okay. So this is about you?" I asked as I took a step forward, feeling my temper flare a little bit. "No, God told me to do this.", he shouted back. "What exactly did He tell you to do?" "To show LSU their sin. How can you look around LSU at all the sin and not be angry?!"

"It makes me sad", I said. "Sad?!". He was confused. "Yes, it makes me sad that they're missing out on a better life. But do you really think people are hearing you and are changing their lives as a result?", I asked. He answered "It doesn't matter if they hear me." Someone behind me took the words right out of my mouth, "WHAT?! Then why are you here?! Do you KNOW how much damage you're doing!?" The preacher seemed totally shocked that someone would suggest he was doing damage rather then good. He asked how he was doing damage. This time I spoke up. "I just don't see how you can think you're doing good. How often do you have people come up to you and tell you they've been encouraged by your message? When do you people tell you they've changed their sinning lifestyle because of your yelling?" At this point he started to try to yell over me, but I continued. "I just wish you would put down your sign and know me. I wish that rather then condemning me for the length of my shorts or the fornicating you've assumed I'm doing, that you'd stop hiding behind your volume and the weird skull thing you're holding, and know the person I am." I heard someone behind me go "whoa." The preacher man didn't say anything.

The bell tower started tolling and I realized I was about to be late for class. I reluctantly started to back out of the crowd, somewhat impressed by the number of people that had gathered. But what struck me even more then the number was the diversity. The second guy who had spoken up had two rings in his nose and tattoos all up his arm. I recognized someone from the BCM in the group as well as a guy I know from class who basically lives at Fred's. But there we were, all standing together listening to this man and disagreeing in unison. I felt a little encouraged for some reason.

As I walked away, all I could do was pray. Pray that some of the people there had been able to find truth in the things that we had said over the man's lies. Pray that God would protect people from getting totally turned off from Christianity. And pray that God would bring change to LSU. The man wasn't wrong about the depravity of LSU, he was wrong to be pushing people away from the only thing that can save this city.

I have hope. I have hope for my school and my city. God is here and at work. God wants to take this place, and I have faith that He can. It can get disheartening when you realize that we're not just working against the evil one, but sometimes against our own as well. If I'm thankful for anything about hellfireandbrimstone people, it's because if Christians who are willing to speak up are there, it's a perfect forum to prove that we're not all like that. We're not all spewing judgment and hell. Some of us actually want to get to know you for you. Not because you're a project, not because you're "lost", but because we love people. And you're people.

I mean, in all honesty, who would you be more inclined to talk to?

That's what I thought.

In this world, we have to be

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WOW! I don't know you very well, but I certainly do love you for this. You're awesome.

Sarah Miller