University of Akron students do not put on a good showing when, as happens every semester – I mean literally every semester – that familiar Christian group takes positions outside Bierce Library to proselytize.
They came on Tuesday of this week (see the front page for pictures and quotes). You’ve undoubtedly seen them; if you’ve seen them, you’ve seen their signs; if you’ve seen their signs, you’ve probably heard them; if you’ve heard them, you probably also know that they make a lot of people angry.
When these men come to campus, students get frustrated, and they show it. Sometimes they yell, sometimes they kick signs, and sometimes they get in ferocious arguments. Others show their censure by confronting them then ignoring what they have to say. Still others walk by in silent indignation.
But frustration is only a problem for those who allow themselves to be frustrated. To blame those men for one’s own frustration is like blaming a needle for piercing one’s skin.
I do not believe in what most of, perhaps all of, the proselytizers believe. Yet I do believe they have an important spot on our campus when they come around each semester. Their spot is to shock and make us reflect on our own assumptions about life and society. Discomfort may be, even should be, felt at first; but if their claims are not then considered with a fair, unperturbed mind, reflection is impossible, and no one gets anywhere.
Not listening to what they have to say also makes us look bad. For example, a common comeback to them goes something like this: “God loves everyone – don’t listen to these lunatics who tell you otherwise.” But if one were to listen, one would find out the men are in perfect agreement, and they’ll tell it to you.
Here are others: that they are insensitive, that they are preaching hate, that they have their religion wrong.
In fact, they are very sensitive. They will tell you they care deeply about you, and that’s why they are on campus. Then they’ll say that they would never preach hate – they are preaching God’s love. To those who say they have their religion wrong – they’ll respond with the same claim, and quote the Bible to prove it.
In total, their entire perspective on the world is different.
My aim is not to discuss theology, however. All I hope is that when the proselytizers come to campus – or anyone or anything else in life appears to make one uncomfortable – students recognize their beliefs for the four things that they are: beliefs just as strong as students’ own, beliefs that must be considered before ignored, beliefs whose holders’ intentions are not hateful, and lastly, beliefs that have no bearing on the immediate wellness of a person, so long as that person does not allow them to.