Campus Epidemic

December 03, 2005

There is a nationwide epidemic of sorts on college campuses—street preachers. These individuals portray a hateful and distorted picture of God and likely drive many students away from the love of Jesus. Having seen one in action several times and read about many on other campuses, I am going to start dealing with them on this blog and elsewhere because I believe that, despite being mostly under the radar, their blasphemous portrayals of God are doing more damage than nearly anyone else.

One campus preacher recently wrote a guest column justifying himself in a student newspaper of the University of Missouri. He included his email and so I sent a response. Here is his column:
The Maneater - Students should debate at Speaker's Circle Here is my letter to him (I call him "Mr. Smock" instead of "Brother Jed" because I do not think he deserves the title):

Mr. Smock,

This is in response to your recent column in the University of Missouri’s The Maneater. I found some of your claims quite questionable, much as find much of your comments at speaker’s circle. My concerns come from my understanding as a Ph.D. student in communication (and instructor of the Introduction to Public Speaking course) and as a Baptist minister. Thus, I view you as not only ineffective and unethical as a communicator, but also as a preacher. Here are a few thoughts based on your column and speeches.

First, you call what you do “confrontational evangelism,” a term I find as being contrary to the love and “Good News” of Jesus (and based on your article it seems to me that you root your preaching more in the secular 1960s society than in the Bible—thus leaving you with a scary and unstable foundation for your ministry). Yes, you definitely are confrontational, but I do not see much evangelism. Please try the move loving (and biblical) approach of Jesus. After all, He showed love to the prostitutes, tax collectors, and other sinners. He only confronted the Pharisees and other religious leaders who were too judgmental (therefore I believe He would confront you and not the average MU student).

Next, you claim that you are a good example of how to get people’s attention as a public speaker. While it is true that you get people’s attention, you are not an effective speaker. Your over-the-top antics only work to undermine your credibility as a speaker and you are reduced to being merely entertainment. Thus, I have often used you in discussion in my intro classes as a great example of what not to do (and nearly all students agree). You are not effective because you are actually driving more people away from God than you are bringing toward God. Remember, as a preacher the goal should not be to put on a good show but to lead people to God.

Finally, you claim that more students need to know “the laws of logic” so that they can respond “rationally” and not “emotionally.” I found this comment quite ironic (as did most of my students) since you seem to suggest that you are logical and rational. If you took my intro class you would learn that you often violate “the laws of logic.” You use the logical fallacies of Ad hominem attack (attacking people), hasty generalization (jumping to conclusions without evidence), circular reasoning, and others nearly every time you speak. You, once again, are a great example of what not to do as a speaker—both in terms of ethics and logic.

As a minister I beg you to either drastically change your message and method (to follow that of Jesus) or shut up and not come back. Please consider this so that you will stop driving people away from God.

Brian Kaylor