White signs plastered with biblical verses and statements like “Evolution is a lie” were the props of preaching men who shouted to students outside the Brower Student Center on Thursday, April 14.
The group, led by Shawn the Baptist, who has previously visited campus and has his own website, attempted to spread its spiritual message to the student body.
“My friends,” a man identified as Rob said, addressing the gathering group of passerbys, “We are here because we love each one of you.”
Urging them to “worship the creator,” Rob said that students needed to look to a higher power instead of doing what he believed was “smoking marijuana in their dorms” to get what he classified as a new twist on the term “higher education.”
“Turn from your drunkenness. Turn from your homosexuality. Turn from your beer bongs,” Rob said, from atop the brick ledge. “Turn to Jesus.”
At one point, Rob stated, “I am gay … for Jesus Christ. The word gay means happy.”
His poster, however, condemned the “effeminate,” saying that this group, along with “fornicators,” “idolors” and “drunkards,” shall not “inherit the kingdom of God.”
Some students voiced outrage at the group’s messages.
“This is ridiculous,” Alexis McLaughlin said, with a laugh. “I’m a Catholic. I believe in love and that we are designed for a purpose.”
The freshman English major also mentioned how homosexuals were put in the same group as pedophiles by the preachers and viewed this as an unfit categorization.
“I feel like love is the purest thing and anyone can share it. It’s not sinful,” she said.
One of the men, Don from Virginia, explained their coming to campus by saying, “We’re just believers in the Lord Jesus Christ,” and said that they were Christians that joined together from different states, including Idaho and New Jersey.
Jeny Nirappil, senior biology major, identified herself as a Christian and said, “I don’t think this is the way to get the message across. They’re turning people away.”
“You can live the life of a Christian and show that and not garner hate or turn people away,” Nirappil continued, until the interview was cut short when a member of the group of preachers approached her with a video recording device, attempting to videotape her, despite her disapproval.
Other students found different means to react to the protestors. Two students showed up with saxophones and drowned out the noise of the protestors with George Michaels’ “Careless Whisper,” in the style of the YouTube sensation, The Sexy Sax Man.
Some students found themselves unexpectedly in the crossfire of the protestors’ discussion, as members of the Progressive Student Alliance concurrently gathered in an unrelated protest, rallying against a Neo-Nazi group’s plan to speak in Trenton about immigration policies this Saturday, according to Lou Klein, senior sociology and statistics double major and co-treasurer for the Progressive Student Alliance.
“Imagine my surprise when these guys showed up,” Klein said after explaining that the two group’s opposition in physical space — as the groups inhabited the opposite sides of the student center entrance — was not intentional.
While the Progressive Student Alliance chanted about being “against hate in the Garden State,” some of the men with Shawn the Baptist responded with remarks questioning how the Nazis are hateful and that “Darwin gave birth to Nazism.”
As some students began to realize that interacting with the men only added fuel to the fire, they encouraged their peers to leave the scene. Nevertheless, the preachers were on campus from approximately 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
“The basis (of Christianity) is brotherly love and that’s being twisted and manipulated to fit this agenda,” McLaughlin said.
After some thought, she added, “As much as I disagree, I find it interesting to hear both sides. To be honest, I’m more entertained than angry.”
Katie Brenzel contributed to this report.