Like some sort of migratory bird returning to our northern lands along with warmer temperatures, it seems lately that Temple’s “favorite” visitors are back, only this time they have somehow multiplied. I’m talking about the guys who camp out by the Bell Tower waving Bibles in the air and trying to lecture to students about Christianity.
I have no problem with their presence on campus. I think it’s great that they’re so passionate about what they believe in and want to spread their vision with Temple’s students. They believe that they are doing students a service in trying to change them, and I can definitely respect the effort.
However, the way that these people sometimes go about doing this is completely wrong.
First, their tone when talking to students is too often harsh and confrontational. Sometimes it’s just downright condescending. Instead of calmly having a conversation, they repeatedly point out the flaws in other people and tell them that they are going to hell. I can only speak for myself, but I definitely do not think anyone is going to listen when they are being called sinners and having their beliefs ripped to shreds.
I was walking to class about two weeks ago when one of the guys stopped me and handed me a pamphlet. For the first time, I actually looked at it. Right on the front of it in all capital letters and, in bold face, was: “Muhammad is a liar.” He tried to talk to me and I tried to listen, but everything he had to say was a direct attack on everything I believe in. I am not one to force my religious beliefs on anyone, but it shocked me that he really thought he would get through to me this way.
Furthermore, talking to anyone in such a manner completely contradicts what they are trying to convince us is the truth. As far as I know, many of the teachings of Christianity are based on love, compassion and peace. The provocative manner in which they often address us indicates that they are either unfit to do such a job or are misinformed about their own religion.
At the same time, I see students that don’t know how to handle this situation. The way to deal with this is to just keep walking, especially when you know that whatever is being preached will not change your mind. However, many Temple students find other ways to deal with them, and while it can be entertaining, I have to admit that it is sometimes wildly inappropriate.
For example, I was by the Bell Tower and actually listening to something interesting that I heard one preacher say when a student got up next to him and started yelling the lines from Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham.” I felt a little bad for laughing, because it really was unnecessarily obnoxious and rude. I truly respect the preaching man for ignoring him instead of creating a fight.
Another one of the preaching gentlemen was by the Student Center, and when I passed by I found six cops standing around. One of them told me it was because they had to make sure the crowd did not get violent. I think that it is extremely sad that we need police officials to make sure our student body doesn’t turn into a mob. From where I was standing, it definitely looked like it had the potential to turn into one.
Even though I do not think that it’s necessarily a bad thing that they come to visit, it still creates tension on campus. Both the preachers and the students act in ways they should not, and there is no right side in this situation. It can be entertaining, but all the amusing moments I’ve witnessed have been a little too mean.
I myself am at fault for stopping to listen. I didn’t realize how pointless it really was until I was leaving and one of the preachers yelled: “Thanks for drawing a crowd.”
You’re welcome, sir. That’s exactly why I stopped to listen to you personally attack me, to draw you a rude and unkind crowd.
Hend Salah can be reached at email@example.com.