I have never been one to tell people their beliefs are wrong. Maybe it is the way my mother raised me, maybe it is because I love people and want them to feel accepted, but that's just how I am. I can not agree with someone all day long, but silence is golden, especially in situations such as this.
Everyone deserves to at least be heard when tolerance is practiced. No one has to accept another's beliefs, just tolerate. For the first time in my life, I came into contact with someone that I truly believed was wrong in how he spoke.
No matter where you go, there is diversity. Even though I have grown up in a place where the Baptist Christian dominates other religions, college has really opened my eyes to what else is out there. In fact, I have recently been experimenting in Taoism, and so far different denominational friends of mine have not judged me whatsoever.
This week, a man has decided to visit Tennessee Technological University and denounce those that believe anything but God's hate in Christianity. You read that right. He spouts condemnations at people as I type, saying that "God hates" them and that they "are going to Hell".
He says his goal is to spread the gospel and get people to accept God into their lives. That being said, I have never seen so many pentagrams on a campus in my life just due to this man's presence.
When I decided to write this article, I was going by the hearsay of other students. So instead of going by that alone, I made a motion to stand outside and listen to what this man actually had to tell us. I spent a total of about two hours listening to him and taking notes until my zen dwindled and I had to leave.
For the first hour and a half, it was a comedy show, my favorite phrase of the day being "Yoga pants are wicked". Again, you read that right. He said that it would be okay if women actually did yoga, but "80% of women don't even do yoga, and they know what they are doing".
In his eyes, it is wrong for women do to this because it tempts the eyes of men to look at them with seductive eyes. This prompted many students to pipe up with "Why can 'good Christian men' not contain themselves?" (He chose to ignore the comments). He followed this up with points like "To say a woman is greater than man is just bologna" and "My wife does not have to know where I am; she has to obey me".
Now, don't think that he only made comments against women. He made a few comments either to us all or no one in particular. One that really struck me was his saying that we only "get worldly trash" when we attend a university; there is nothing of importance that we will ever learn attending college.
Why this struck me is because it is through this college that his opinions are able to be shared. Sure, we as college students can disagree or counter the hate he promotes, but we do not force him off campus. I honestly believe that it is because of the "worldly trash" we have that makes us tolerant of what he does.
Even with these comments that left everyone aghast, there were people that genuinely wanted help. One man came up to him asking for advice because he knew of a young woman going through hard times. These hard times the student thought, might send her to Hell. All he wanted to know was how to help her. The religious man asked what religion the student asking for help was. The student ended up being Muslim, which the man responded, "Being Muslim is your problem" and walked away. It was at this point that I lost all zen and had to begin this article.
What is crazy is that in between all of these quotes, this man would make small statements of good. I am a positive person and try to see the best, so I picked up on those things. It was the way he delivered these statements by brushing over them so lightly that made them so insignificant. He said the phrase "God hates people" more times than any statement of love or acceptance.
Students can see negativity from a mile away, and even those with this man's same belief in God stood and debated with him. Those that debated from a Christian standpoint handled it in a calm fashion while he yelled at them; calling them all hypocrites. I approached one student that I met through mutual friends.
You could tell just by looking at him that we were horrified and embarrassed by the scene before him. I approached him and asked, "You are a good, Christian man, what do you think of all of this?". He smiled and said, "First off, there's not really such a thing as a 'good Christian'. We all stumble, fall, and sin. We are human. The only reason I would ever go to heaven is that I believe".
It was that sincerity and down-to-earth statement that made me feel a little more confident in humanity. I would be so much more willing to follow Christianity if that one student had a conversation with me than I ever would by the yelling of that man that continues on in the Centennial Plaza.
I write all of these words to make a couple of small points. First, tolerate. Not everyone is going to think, believe, or worship the same thing. You do not have to accept what another person says, just tolerate. Through meaningful conversation (Not shouting hateful words), we can reach others.
It was through meaningful conversation that I have started this journey into Taoism, and I am more than happy about it. Lastly, love. We have too many hateful things happening in our world not to love one another. Skeletons lurk in the closet of every person, and we have no right to judge those of others before first judging our own.
I wanted to save this happy detail of my day before I closed this article out, though. The Residential Life staff just so happened to decide today to have a fundraiser in the same area this man was preaching. For $1, you could pick a container and a plant. Plants have always been a love of mine, but what made it that much better was the sign attached to it.