The University of Missouri is the place I’ve called home for the past nine months. “Mizzou,” as it's so famously called, is split into two areas: red campus and white campus. In the heart of the white campus is a circle lined by brick pavers. And in that circle, people can say whatever they want, whenever they want. It is a First Amendment gathering spot where pretty much anything goes.
A college freshman last year, I had to get used to the constant slandering, fundraising, protesting, and campaigning that occurred in that famous radius. I could not walk by without feeling pressured to sign a petition, take a flyer, or give money.
As a Christian, there were some things I did appreciate: The random Christian worship groups that would sings songs of praise as I was walking to class. But raised as a fiscal and social conservative, there were some things I did not appreciate: College students exclaiming that a woman should have the “rights” to her own body, and that “love” should not be decided by the government. But, I got used to those. If I wanted the good things, I must also put up with the bad things.
There was one thing, however, I never got used to: Some Christians harshly slandering non-Christians, condemning them to hell.
In Romans 1:16, Paul says he is “not ashamed of the gospel,” and in 1 Corinthians 4, Paul urges us to imitate him. Thus, as Christ’s followers, we are also called to not be ashamed of the gospel. We are supposed to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), unashamedly proclaiming the name of Jesus. After all, it does have the power to save.
The New Testament also, however, mentions the word love over 600 times. And Jesus tells us in John that all men will know His disciples by their love. THEY will know US by our LOVE! Love must be a pretty powerful tool, then.
While I commend the pastors in Speakers Circle for their passion in spreading the gospel, I can’t help but think that there must be a better way to tell people about Christ, like the worship bands who peacefully share their beliefs. After all, the basis of Christianity is Jesus’ love for humanity, and how can we convince others of the crazy love and grace that Jesus showed, and continues to show, toward His people if we don’t show it?
Another part of me does sometimes think that if even ONE person is convicted after hearing these speakers, then it’s worth it. After all, Jesus would have died for even ONE sinner. I am then, however, reminded of something that Mr. Colson said in his Doing the Right Thing series: God will never ask us to do anything bad to bring about anything good. Is this -- screaming at people that they will go to hell if they don’t repent -- doing something bad to bring about good? I can’t help but think that the answer is yes.
The preachers at Speakers Circle slightly remind me of the picketers at Westboro Baptist Church, who are famously known for their protests at soldiers’ funerals. I do not agree with Westboro’s theology -- that God hates America, “fags,” or the military, or that we should “thank God for IEDs.” This churchis definitely a disgrace to the Christian faith. Though I do agree with some of the ideas that the Mizzou speakers are conveying -- that non-believers will go to hell (I mean, it’s true) -- I don’t agree with the way they are spreading this truth.
I shouldn't have to be embarrassed as a Christian when I walk by Speakers Circle, ducking my head to shut out my brothers and sisters in Christ. While God does call us to be radically transformed by the gospel rather than “lukewarm” Christians, he also calls us to love others and worship Him in the right way. And, yes, there is a right, and a wrong way, to worship God.
So, while I don’t necessarily agree with the beliefs of the students who stand up for themselves against the preachers, I can’t help but defend them, even though I'm a Christian. I would be offended too.