Students reacted to ministry members inappropriately

Angela Pagan

A traveling religious group preached its harsh message in the Martin Luther King Jr. Commons this week, and NIU students responded strongly but inappropriately at times.

A group called the Campus Ministry USA arrived on campus at 11 a.m. Tuesday and stayed until the late afternoon. They came with signs, bibles and a specific goal to warn students to repent their sins and turn to Jesus Christ.

The messages Campus Ministry USA preached were extremely harsh and conservative. Some of the signs they carried said things like “Repent or Perish,” “Whore Whore Whore,” and my personal favorite “Be a Ho No Mo.”

Students did not sit silently and listen, but rather came with their own goal of acceptance and signs that said things like “God Loves Everyone.” But not everyone was as polite in their response; students need to be respectful of religion even if they don’t agree with the message.

Cindy Smock, a member of Campus Ministry USA, said they preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Bible on campuses all over the country. Smock said she started her preaching that day with a verse from Psalm and then began to tell students about their sins.

“The fornication, the drunkenness, the marijuana smoking, the party-animal lifestyle [will] bring them sorrow,” Smock said.

Smock said although they do not represent a specific church, they are well-connected with three churches in Rockford. David Coke, a pastor at Living Faith out of Rockford Church, was in the crowd with them.

Some students criticized the group’s interpretation of the Bible and their beliefs overall. Others gathered around one of the Campus Ministry USA members to debate his message, but also to heckle him.

While these discussions were interesting to hear and it was good to see students making their points in an educated way, students also yelled inappropriate and religiously disrespectful remarks at the group’s members, looking to get a rise out of them.

Those moments were disappointing and uncomfortable to listen to. I support those who debated with the group and held up their own signs, but I do not appreciate the people who responded with comments like “God is your imaginary friend” and vulgar things about Jesus Christ.

Adam Vasquez, sophomore business marketing major, said he was in the Martin Luther King Jr. Commons when the preaching began and was not happy about what Campus Ministry USA was saying. Vasquez said he heard students’ reactions and the words of the Campus Ministry USA members.

“What I heard was people shouting, … “If you have sex you’re going to hell,’” Vasquez said. “‘If you get drunk you’re going to hell. Being gay is wrong; you will go to hell.’ Students were all for supporting the sexuality of all people, and they knew the way [Campus Ministry USA] came at them was wrong.”

Vasquez said he eventually got fed up and left.

This whole incident was disappointing to me in terms of what was said by both sides. I agree that the messages were too judgmental and far too radical for my taste. However, everyone is entitled to freedom of speech, and this occurrence was a clear example of people exercising that right.