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Opinion

Student response to street preachers lacks maturity

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September 20, 2007

Last week, incoming freshmen were treated to a highly anticipated annual event here at River Falls: the traveling ministry of Brother Jed.

As a perpetually outraged preacher bent on saving America’s youth from the dangers of Caligula-style orgies and Miller Lite, Brother Jed uses a unique style of confrontational evangelism to spread his angry message. Full of bluster and rage, one thing this zealous Bible humper is able to do is attract an audience.

I joined the horde for awhile, mostly to observe the interaction between Brother Jed and his listeners.

I have to say, I am embarrassed and disturbed by the reactions of many students. Some tried to out-shock Brother Jed by saying atrocious things about Jesus. Others blew cigarette smoke in his face, called him names, chucked debris at him and generally acted like nine-year-olds. I was saddened by these behaviors—they were insulting to everyone except the intended target. Combating Jed’s hateful venom by lowering the standards of decent human behavior to his level serves no purpose other than to satisfy his craving for controversy.

Soon, students began to speak up and fight off Brother Jed with different words. Some people foolishly tried to employ logical argument, which, of course, failed pathetically. It should be immediately obvious that Brother Jed and his traveling circus don’t subscribe to anything like logic. It is naïve and stupid to assume that everyone respects the rules of reason. Historically, humankind has been a species of irrational beliefs and illogical pursuits. Nobody embodies this idea more that Brother Jed. In my opinion, trying to use logic with him is a pointless and tired tactic. Sure, everyone knows Jesus preached love, compassion, and tolerance. If Brother Jed doesn’t know that, screw him. He doesn’t deserve to know, and confronting him on the point will accomplish nothing.

After those people made their attempts at logical argument with Brother Jed, the old preacher was then confronted by a group just as obnoxious and immature as himself: River Falls’ own piratey Pastafarians. These so-called worshippers of logic donned buccaneer costumes (for whatever reason) and marched next to Brother Jed, preaching with equal zeal about the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This make-believe god is the figurehead of a satirical religion created to illustrate the logical gaps and irrationalities of Christianity and other major faiths. The way it is employed by the Pastafarians of UWRF should embarrass free thinkers everywhere. This type of reaction plays right into the hands of Brother Jed, who thrives off the attention of protesting college students. It is especially embarrassing to see the level of discourse degraded so much that it consists only of red-faced zealots marching around like angry toddlers, spouting off nonsense about oppression and Nazism (!?).

While some students acted in a way that I think is immature and absurd, I must say that there were plenty in attendance that remained cool and detached. Most spectators were able to listen to Brother Jed and laugh at his jokes without taking his venomous insults personally. I also admit that hate is a hard thing to listen to, but in this case, it was as easy as walking away. If everyone disregarded Brother Jed and made sure his sermons fell on deaf ears, only then perhaps the cranky old prune would stop coming to our school. Maybe next year our freshmen will be part of a strong, united campus that can rise above Brother Jed instead of sinking to his level.

Joe Hager is a student at UW-River Falls.