The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Sunday, Oct. 4, 6:03 p.m.

Op-Ed: Fire-and-brimstone evangelicals need new angle

Anyone deprived of a good amount of sleep is going to be a little out of it when they wake up in the morning. Still, this morning when I stumbled out the door much earlier than usual I was not expecting to walk past a group of sign-wielding protesters. As I came around the bend at South Stevens Hall, I was stopped when a flash of green hit my vision. In front of me was the largest handheld sign I have ever seen. It said something along the lines of “The end is now, Turn to Jesus.” Another person was wielding a sign near the Union.

I walked off to my class, not giving it much thought. All around me, people were commenting on these boisterous evangelicals standing in the rain.

I find myself generally open to others’ religious views. I told myself to avoid them and to avoid conflict, which I did by going directly to where I needed to go and bypassing their catchy pamphlets. Still, when I got to the union after class, I asked my friends what they thought about the religious protesters.

I was quickly barraged with stories about how my friends were harassed by these people. One of my friends even said that one of them told her she was “going to hell with all of the unbaptised babies.”

Overall, the tone of their warnings was a dark one, and I couldn’t help feeling like the people standing out in the rain were not there to stand up for their beliefs, but to guilt people into becoming a member of their religious group.

Modern day tactics of gaining personal acceptance include being warm and welcoming. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t allow myself to hang around people who don’t accept the way I look or the way I act. Verbally mirroring the closed-mindedness that was common during the crusades won’t get people to join any organization, let alone one of the biggest organized religious groups in the world. The only time I have ever seen such an angry display of fire-and-brimstone hate is when I witnessed a Westboro Baptist Church protest.

Maybe I am sheltered, but it just makes more sense to be nice to people. Imagine for a second that someone is selling the ideas of Christ to you like they were cookies. Would you rather be approached by a grumpy, angry salesperson, or by a sweet little Boy or Girl Scout? Who wants to buy something from a mean salesperson?

It makes me sad to think it is these types of people who give genuinely nice Christians a bad name.

No one deserves to be belittled because of what they believe in — or for what they don’t believe in. Our society really likes to stereotype people no matter how hard we try to fight that tendency. So when a non-Christian is presented with a fire-breathing evangelist, that becomes the image they place on all Christians. The truth is most people are not out to get you because your beliefs differ from theirs.

If all these visitors were trying to do was gain publicity, then they unfortunately succeeded. Perhaps if opposing bystanders had really wanted to make an impact, they would’ve ignored the harsh words that came from these people.

I can only hope the place I end up in after this life will be a place away from bantering and signs telling me to repent. Maybe I’ll end up with my accepting friends and the unbaptised babies. As my friend said to her messenger of damnation, I always have liked children.

Denise Bickford is a sophomore English student.