Conversing with the extremists

By Jack Graham

When we enrolled into college, most of us wanted to learn about ourselves, others and the world around us. And while these goals are praiseworthy, I believe we need to continue to ask ourselves how we might achieve these goals outside the classroom. I would specifically like to suggest an area in which this sufficiently applies: religious extremism.

Heated arguments aren’t going to change the mind of protesters. (Ashley Long / Photo Editor)

When I passed by the student center this past Thursday I heard “those religious extremists” preaching the “word of God” and accusing students of being “sinners.” As much as I wanted to stay and watch peoples’ reactions, I unfortunately had to run to class; but two hours later, when I was let out, the speakers were still standing by the Stud. On returning, rather than still screaming the word of God, the two extremists were having “debates” with a few students. But what became evident within the few seconds of listening was that, with few exceptions, most of the students reverted to one of three types of responses: comedic mockery, angry verbal retaliation or simply repulsion.

Anyone can see how easy it is for someone to react with anger or some other intense emotion when you truly believe that what the opposition is saying is entirely false. However, what I propose we do instead is accept the fact that we may not agree, just as a professor may say something that does not agree with our internal belief system (to which we always reply with interest), embrace our interest in ourselves, others and the world around us and actually question what these speakers may have to say. And they do have something to say.

Yes, this may sound like promoting a cause with which you most likely do not agree. However, you might actually learn from a few people that do have some good reasons for standing outside all day, preaching like madmen. There must be some story. How can we just pass these guys off as a bunch of crazies? Are we to really say that we have all the right answers? To be fair, how sure are you that you have any answers?

You may talk, think, conjecture and then eventually leave still disagreeing, but if you had a fair and honest conversation, perhaps your own views may grow stronger. Why not, as open-minded, eager TCNJ students, embrace those views which are drastically different from our own. We can learn to accept and embrace diversity that we usually don’t get to see at a pretty liberal college.

So if you came to college to become both more knowledgeable and wise, I would only humbly suggest conversing with these speakers; and to be entirely fair, they are both reasonable and intelligent, and frankly, have some interesting things to say.