This type of message is often displayed in the free-speech area of college campuses. ( www.flickr.com/photos/ari CC-BY license.)
Every semester it happens, almost like clockwork, one of them shows up on the Saddleback College campus. You know the guy I am talking about; he usually carries signs and is very in-your-face about condemning you to Hell while denouncing various students as sinners. It is impossible to lump him as being part of an organization, but he generally appears crazed and looks like he has not bathed in weeks. He claims to come in the name of Jesus, but I have to question whether his message coincides with that of the man whose name he invokes.
As a reporter, I know the First Amendment and I know that he has the right to speak freely in public places. Of course, he has the right to be here and discuss his beliefs, but as someone who is trying to get a message across, he should think about how he is presenting his point.
Is openly condemning people to fire and brimstone the right way to get people interested in your beliefs? No, it just makes them angry and confrontational. From that point on they will probably not be listening to a single word of your message.
Will carrying a giant sign listing sins this self-proclaimed preacher declares will condemn you to Hell, such as boozing and girly men, make students see the error of their ways? Another resounding no—it will only make them angrier. In addition, some other sins found in the Bible are curiously missing from his waving placard; one that comes to mind is how you shouldn’t judge others. That, however, would rather eliminate his job.
Instead, he should focus on the messages of the revolutionary Jesus who preached about feeding the hungry and loving your neighbor as you love yourself. Showing mercy and kindness to the least of people while caring less about material pursuits and being jealous of what others have could also be emphasized.
Maybe if he focused on those things, people would listen. Maybe they would be interested to learn more about the kind of radical lifestyle based on love and serving others for the common good. Maybe there would be no more violent arguments and hateful dialogue.
But as long as his message remains the same, the same results and same ineffectiveness will follow.