Last Thursday, three men from various ministries positioned themselves in front of the Ezra Memorial Library in the academic quad to preach their religious beliefs. They delivered several stump speeches, but also spoke with individual members of the crowd.
While they gave provocative and crass stump speeches, the three were very personable and polite when spoken to one-on-one. And despite the fact students reacted negatively to their lectures, the discourse was civil, if at times stand-offish and confrontational.
At least 100 students gathered in the quad to see what was going on. Some brought signs saying things such as “ok boomer,” “sinner and proud.” One sign even indicated one person to be a Christian and a single mother of two.
Plenty of students passed on their way to class and many stopped to engage the speakers. A potential student, open house folder in-hand and father in tow, was observed passing through the bantering crowd.
Some might not see a reason why this event should be covered. After all, the demonstrators come every year, and many suspect they are merely attempting to gain media attention.
I see their point — I don’t want to advance the cause of those with whom I disagree more than the next person. But my job is not one of advocacy or support; it is one of reporting. To ignore the demonstrators is a worse action in of itself.
When evil men take up arms and commit atrocities, the newsmedia are often criticized for giving their hateful ideologies a platform by reporting on the events. The fear is that those of a like mind will attempt to copy what they see on the news and replicate the harm caused.
At other times, the newsmedia are painted as disrespectful and gratuitous in the face of tragedy and only concerned about “the story” and not the people involved. At other times, they are accused of promoting radical agendas.
But the media reports the facts anyway, and they must, because a public that is unequipped with the knowledge of these events is one that cannot possibly find solutions to the problems that plague us.
Are we to pretend mass shootings do not occur? And are we to ignore the religious demonstrators, or the homicide or racial slur incidents that occurred on or near campus?
If we cannot speak on these issues at an informed level, we cannot possibly think about them, debate on them and find a resolution for them.
To ignore the religious demonstrators would be to ignore the issues that were raised as a consequence. How do we engage with those with whom we disagree? How do the Christians on campus who disagree with these evangelists reconcile their reputations and separate themselves from the extremes? What can we do to combat hatred and exclusion? What is the role of the First Amendment in protecting speech such as what the demonstrators showed?
These are all questions readers hopefully ask themselves as they read the news about what is going on within the community.
The Slate’s goal is to serve the community with information, entertainment and education. Our mission is not anti-Raider — it is the highest form of service we can offer a campus community.
Droves of people saw the demonstrators. Are we to pretend as a community that this thing didn’t happen? Are we to pretend a student was not driving around shouting the N-word at black students? Are we to pretend someone didn’t get shot?
It would be a severe dereliction of duty if The Slate turned a blind eye to the demonstrators, even if it means advancing their ideology in some small way.
But hopefully, The Slate’s reporting on the event also provoked others to think about how to grapple with this issue of public concern. And maybe it encouraged readers to take action and join public discourse themselves to fight for what they think is right.
"Your World Today" is a weekly column written by the editor-in-chief of The Slate. It represents solely the subjective opinion of the individual who wrote it. For Staff Editorial opinions, see this week's "The Slate Speaks."