Religion is never boring. At least not in the United States. Case in point: Evangelist John McGlone visited our campus yesterday to preach the true word of God: Hate. Standing across from the Student Union in an area cordoned off with police tape, Pastor John screeched at students to mend their ways.
Students in my American Spirituality class urged me to cancel class so we could go watch the spectacle. I compromised, sticking to my class schedule for the first hour and then going outside for the last 20 minutes. But it wasn’t playtime. Students were to observe and then prepare an answer to this question: Short of ignoring them all together, what is the most effective response to preachers like this? True, ignoring them may be the best response, but that’s no fun..
The first thing I noticed as I wandered around the crowd was John’s sign: “Warning! God hates greedy thieves, liars, drunks, fornicators, immoral women, homosexuals… “ You get the idea. I pushed my way to the front of the crowd to ask John about the sign. He was too busy yelling at some young fornicator, but I did talk to one of his assistants.
“What I want to know is why you put the qualifier ‘greedy’ in the sign. Are you saying God only hates greedy thieves and not all thieves? Is a greedy immoral woman a prostitute who over-charges? God’s problem is with keeping the cost of prostitution down rather than ending prostitution?” The man didn’t understand. He had no clue what a qualifying adjective was.
So one suggestion for John’s next visit is to recreate his sign emphasizing the word “greedy” and celebrating nongreedy homosexuals, thieves, prostitutes, and fornicators.
I noticed another student with a drum and urged him to strike up an African rhythm and I would try to get people to do a circle dance around Pastor John. But one drum was too soft, and I was too embarrassed to ask any co-ed to dance. Just like my student days. Next time I would suggest we bring lots of drums and dance ourselves into a near-immoral frenzy.
Several pastors from local churches were on hand trying to offer a less hateful view of Jesus by handing out lollipops. What, Jesus loves cavities? These people were so passive as to be totally ineffectual, but I liked the food idea. Man cannot live on hate alone.
What I would do is set up food stand with a huge signs that read, “God Hates Shrimp,” and “God Hates Pork,” referencing Leviticus and God’s dietary laws. The stands would give away little squares of Gefilte fish skewered on toothpicks, or maybe little Hebrew National kosher hotdogs wrapped in tiny buns.
Speaking of signs, I would also print up signs referring to other things that God hates: Amalek, Hittites, witches, rebellious sons, and the like. I would fill the quad with signs of God’s hate. True some people will prefer to focus on love, but that is so wimpy. Pastor John is on the right track. God hates as much if not more than God loves. To be fair I might add a few signs from the Book of Revelation and the Koran to my Hebrew Bible inspired hate speech.
And then, I would invite students and faculty to a discussion latter that afternoon focusing on the dangers of blindly quoting scripture, any scripture, and the need to uphold universal principles of compassion and justice that much of our sacred books decry.
I look forward to Tuesday when my students are going to share they ideas. If they actually do so, I’ll share them with you. But don’t hold your breath. I have been doing this job long enough to know that the chances are slim that listened closely enough or thought creatively enough. When it comes to defeating people like John McGlone, place your hope in apathy.