Preachers tell students they are going to hell


There is an issue with religious culture that needs to be addressed. It is in your face and down your throat and, for lack of a better phrase, I am going to refer to it as “bible thumping.”

Last Monday, a small group of evangelists stopped at Shippensburg University on their trek across the country. Some of them traveled all the way from California; they stop at universities across the nation to “preach about Jesus Christ.” At first glance, they looked no different from any of us. Then you saw the signs reading, “sin awareness day, what will you do with your sin on judgment day, [and] evolution is a lie”

You have seen these people before. They show up on your doorstep and punctuate public places with their pamphlets, prayers and promises of life everlasting. The issue is not so much the message, however. The issue is the form of delivery. It disregards target demographic, it is unbelievably outdated and it is antithetical to the message in the first place.

My first argument is that these people do not take their target audience into consideration. Like any type of communication, the message needs to be catered to a specific audience. For example, an amusement park cannot use dull colors on its advertising campaigns; it needs to use bright, exciting colors to support its message: amusement parks are exciting! Similarly, evangelists cannot stand on a stool in the center of a busy walkway and yell at college students if they want to convince students that the evangelists’ ideals are “truth.” College students are independent freethinkers. They are opinionated, but they do not oppose passive reasoning. Yelling at passerby college students only incites defensiveness and resentment.

What is more is that there is a moral quandary here. Universities are places of academia. It is about enrichment of students and exploration of new ideas. While topics like religion and philosophy might be discussed in college classes, religion remains, inherently, a private affair. One’s religious affiliation should not be targeted when one is enroute to the library or a lecture.

It also needs to be addressed that yelling at college students, or “heralding,” as one of the evangelists corrected me during our discussion, is outdated. These are not the Dark Ages. Heralding in public might have been an appropriate form of communication in a time when the majority of many populations were illiterate, but the times have changed. “Bible thumping,” as it is colloquially called, is the definition of outdated. In today’s connected world, messages are communicated through mass media, including social networking platforms. The fact that these evangelists are not willing to evolve with the times suggests, to me, that I should question their credibility in the first place. Any college education would deter a proper evangelist from taking to the streets with fire and brimstone.

Another point of discussion is that their message, in and of itself, works against the evangelists’ mission in the first place. Instead of sharing the love that Christianity is based upon, they preach, aggressively, against topics such as evolution and abortion. This is hypocritical. These evangelists are trying to win people to their faith so that others can experience God’s love and, yet, God’s love is not the message they are sharing. Arguing these topics is absolutely an inefficient way to win people over to the faith. Discussing these topics simply reduces evangelists to nothing more than angry, uneducated zealots.

Those who are not properly equipped with the knowledge or tools to spread the religion they are so passionate about are invading our personal space. People get restraining orders when their personal space is invaded and, in this case, these people are making students take out restraining orders on God. This form of communication is downright inconsiderate of those who would otherwise want to explore religion unabatedly – on their own terms.

The amount of content shoved down my throat on Tuesday was unparalleled by any college lecture or parental rant I have ever endured. I will not remember any of the numerous verses or dates or proclamations thrown at me on my walk to the library. What I will remember is how I felt to be told I was going to Hell, that I was a “sinner,” that a woman does not have the right to make decisions about her own body, that science is dishonest and that I should take the messages of unequipped, unknowledgeable evangelists to heart.

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