Practice before you preach

By Stephanie Youssef

Raise your hand if you have ever felt personally victimized by Brother Jed.

Brother Jed Smock, leader of Campus Ministry USA and Confrontational Evangelist, had planned a visit to the University on April 16, but decided to go to Eastern Illinois University instead. Most of us know of him and his family from the persistent yelling and hateful rhetoric we hear during passing periods and through the brick walls of the Quad buildings when they come to visit.

“You deserve Hell!”

“College girls should focus on finding a man and not studying.”

“You, sir, are a pervert!”

“This is the God Hates You show!”

While I fully recognize and respect Brother Jed’s first amendment rights to freedom of speech, I find his confrontations and constant pestering counterproductive to his mission. Despite the fact that he wants to spread the word of God, his tactics are ineffective and tend to conflict with prevalent Christian ideals of gentleness and kindness.

Some may argue that there really is no one right way to promote Christianity. To a certain extent, that is true: There is no chapter in the Bible that I have found where biblical authors explicitly spell out the steps of how one should go about promoting Christianity. But I don’t think this exonerates Brother Jed from criticism about his methods.

I myself was born and raised a Christian and I think his desire to spread Christianity is an innately noble cause. However, most people promote Christianity without condemning or threatening others.

Father Luke Spannagel, head chaplain of St. John’s Catholic Newman Center, emphasizes mutual respect when engaging in a conversation about Christian doctrine, “I would much rather build a relationship, and then as we grow in that relationship, share truths (about Christianity).”

Father Luke’s method illustrates a successful understanding of the difference between merely getting a student’s attention and getting them to listen.

Approaching a student and yelling at them that they are going to hell for their sins is not an effective technique for recruiting students to the Christian faith; I would argue that it does the opposite. We have to credit Brother Jed with the fact that his tactics of utilizing shock value do quickly garner a lot of attention, but he should be more critical of exactly what kind of attention he is receiving.

In addition to directly offending students with his accusations and name calling, most students feel that his incessant yelling and dependence on inflammatory words make him look crazy and turn him into something to post about on Yik Yak rather than someone to listen to.

He claims that a handful of students have listened to him and converted, but I and many agree that this is at the cost of the majority of his listeners laughing at him or plainly being turned off by the insulting nature of what he chooses to say.

Additionally, I don’t think I am alone in my suspicions that his actions don’t come off as being very Christian. In fact, there is a long list of biblical passages that directly conflict with his actions.

2 Timothy 2:24-25a says, “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed.”

1 Peter 3:15b says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

The Book of Galatians lists gentleness and kindness as two of nine main attributes of a true Christian life — qualities that Brother Jed doesn’t seem to practice or preach.

Overall, his actions reflect poorly on other religious students and, in my opinion, makes Christians look bad. His antics on campus perpetuate the false notion that Christian students are condemnatory, intolerant and judgmental in a very extreme way.

Father Daniel Gifford, assistant chaplain of St. John’s Catholic Newman Center says that, “God is love … I would certainly never say that hatred is a word of the Bible.”

Brother Jed should realize that there is an innate wrong in disregarding major doctrines of the exact philosophy he advocates for just because he thinks they slow the achievement of his immediate goals. In the eyes of many students, the biggest factor that hinders his progress of promoting Christianity is the fact that his teaching techniques don’t seem very Christian to begin with.

I personally recommend that Brother Jed further educate himself on the Christian principles of gentleness and kindness because, despite his current occupation, he doesn’t seem to know much.

Stephanie is a junior in LAS.

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