Students flock to TikTok "preacher"
November 1, 2023
Cindy Smock, or Sister Cindy, as she is better known, addressed a crowd of UW-River Falls students and faculty on Sept. 12, 2022, as part of her “Ho No Mo revolution.”
Smock is a Christian preacher known for her provocative campus sermons, in which she condemns sexual promiscuity and homosexuality among college students, particularly women. Smock introduces her sermons as “Sister Cindy’s sl*t-shaming show.”
Smock travels to universities around the United States to present her “sl*t-shaming shows.” Many have denounced her and her demonstrations as hateful.
Smock’s renown has been credited to viral content on social media, especially TikTok, where she has 430,000 followers and 9.4 million likes. This success on social media has been attributed to the “shock value” of her content, which is often explicit in nature.
When Smock arrived in River Falls, she was asked to leave the University Center lawn by University Center staff, who told her she needed to have a reservation to use the space, as per UWRF policy. Smock didn’t leave the campus, however; for the next four hours, she addressed students and faculty outside of the SciTech construction site.
“We're Christians, and Christians have a message, that God saves, Jesus Christ saves,” Bill Landerholm said. “Sometimes we use the methods at our disposal, which is the popular TikTok and other things, to launch into that message.”
Landerholm is a campus preacher as well, and he said that he has known Smock and her late husband, Jed Smock, for 25 years. Landerholm is a non-denominational Christian, and he said that he believes Cindy Smock is as well.
“We're here to tell the college student there's a different way to think,” Landerholm said. “There are different worldviews worth considering, and one of those is Christianity.”
Another demonstrator, Francisco, who said that he didn’t have a last name, explained the sign he had brought. “The sign says, ‘Ask me why you deserve hell,’” he said. “It’s a magnet to create a conversation. It doesn't say you're going to go to hell; it just says you deserve to go.”
Another sign said, “Warning. Hell awaits,” and included abortionists, rebellious women, sports nuts, party animals, cowards, and Catholics on its list of people who, according to the sign’s creator, Vijay, are going to hell.
“If you are on this list, you're in trouble with God, because this is how sinful people are. You don't want to sin,” Vijay said. “Jesus died for the sins of all the people…. But salvation is not automatic…. So if you continue to sin, you're not a Christian. You may be a fake.”
Allen Torian, a UWRF student and football player, mentioned Vijay’s sign, and its inclusion of “sports nuts.” “Sports is something that's driven me to be the man I am today,” he said. “Just because I like sports, I'm going to hell? I feel like that's kind of messed up.”
“It’s a great example of free speech,” Dean Vesperman, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education at UWRF, said of Smock’s demonstration. “It's part of Jefferson's marketplace of ideas, that people can say things and do things in the marketplace.”
“The marketplace will decide what sayings, what things, have value and what don't have value,” Vesperman said. “….You shouldn’t suppress it.”
“I feel like if they had more clear points, it would make a little bit more sense,” Torian said. “But she's over there rambling, and it really didn't make any sense to me.”
Another student, Carter Huffman, said, “I think she's a hilarious person who is completely wrong, and I'm here for the joke.”
Bill Landerholm said, “You’re always going to have your mockers. The Bible says some mocked, some thought about it, and some actually believed. There are many testimonials of people who said they were changed because [Sister Cindy] came to their campus.”
“[The students] are here for the theater, not really the religion,” Vesperman said.
Austin Eldeen, another student and football player said, “I'm Christian, I believe in God, but you're not going to reach anybody with any [expletive] like that.”