Photo by Matt Hembree (C’20)
By Rebecca Gorodetzky
Recently the Sewanee campus was visited by two protesters making a stop on their journey from Oregon on a mission to preach exclusively to college campuses.
On November 28 at about 12 p.m., two men showed up in front of McClurg Dining Hall, dressed well and carrying black briefcases. One of them was carrying a sign, the words “Jesus,” “sin,” and “Hell” on display. They appeared to be focused on the individuals and their personal beliefs rather than the University as a whole.
One of the men began speaking about homosexuality, touching on feminism.
“[Women] are Chihuahuas, talking all the time and speaking their minds when the Bible says women must submit and be silent,” or “they are vixens, women are out to steal a man’s virginity.” He seemed to speak on controversial topics in order to get a rise out of his audience.
A little after 1 p.m., the two men were still continuing their diatribes. When students asked them where they were from, they explained that they hailed from Oregon and were travelling to various liberal arts schools to protest and preach. He would not specifically say what church he representing, only stating, “a Baptist church in Oregon.”
Peacefully protesting on public property is perfectly legal in the United States, but there were several police officers present to make sure that everyone was safe and that the protest remained a non-violent event.
“We may not agree with everything these protestors said,” Assistant Chief Officer Troy Huffines said, “but they can share their views anywhere. It’s part of what makes our country so great.”
When asked if Huffines thought that these protestors were really here to preach, or if they were possibly here to try to cause trouble, he replied: “Some professional protesters try to incite their rights being violated, such as being denied the right to protest peacefully or being assaulted, so they can sue individuals or universities.”
The second protester was Brother Jed Smock. He told the audience that he has a book published on Amazon, and he had a website explaining his cause. On his website, he detailed why he visits college campuses in particular: “I am convinced that if the Son of God had come to the United States in the twenty-first century…he would have gone to college campuses. The universities control the mind of America.”
Sewanee fosters the growth of knowledge and supports the ability to discuss complex ideas, so this is not unwelcomed. As the University of the South’s Facebook page read, “In the best of liberal arts tradition, there was an exchange of ideas…when a visiting street preacher…drew a crowd of students, including several who were eager to debate some of the finer points of Biblical exegesis.”
Huffines commented, “Sewanee was cordial, and did engage in a healthy manner that was beneficial to everyone. A positive interaction occurred and it was pretty cool.”
If the men do return when the weather gets warmer, then they will still meet with the same kind of community, no matter their intentions or expectations. And in the true Sewanee spirit, students will be ready for the excitement of visitors to this community and the opportunity to discuss their views in knowledgeable ways.