Campus preachers make walk to class "interesting"

By Eric Seymour

If you've been to IU for a semester or longer, you've undoubtedly seen them. If this is your first year here, you'll see them by the first frost, if you haven't already. They are the campus preachers, and they are usually spotted in the areas between Ballantine and Woodburn Hall.

The campus preachers come in 3 general categories: the screamers, the pamphleteers, and the sign-holders.

Of the screamers, Brother Dan is the most prominent. He is easy to spot with his trademark hat and knapsack, but even easier to hear from as far away as the Chemistry building or Lilly Library. Brother Dan usually attracts quite a crowd around the lunch hour when he's on campus, with many students watching, some asking questions, and quite a few laughing.

Mad Max is the second-most spotted campus preacher, and falls into the pamphleteer category. He stands by the sidewalk and passes out papers that contain Bible verses and talk about U.S. and foreign politics and events in doom-and-gloom style.

The sign-holders come around about once a year. For some reason, their group usually includes a couple children. Their huge signs proclaim the sinfulness of students and the coming end of the world.

What can we learn, though, from these events? If you drop your cynicism for a few moments, there is plenty to be seen through these shows. First of all, it brings to the surface the spiritual condition of the campus. Some students openly mock the speakers, showing their hostility toward religion. It stands to reason that for these people to react so strongly, they must be involved in a sort of struggle with their own beliefs. Others ask questions (and some of these are even honest questions), and show that they are seeking truth. Perhaps all that separates the askers from the mockers is honesty about their own feelings.

But most students ignore these people and the crowds they draw, just as they pay little attention to any matters of faith, preferring instead to go about their pursuit of a degree that will bring them success and wealth. These are the most endangered and pitiable souls, because they are losing touch with what really matters in life.

The next time you see one of these people on campus, with or without a crowd gathered, stop and participate. Actually listen to what they're saying (rather than being distracted by how they're saying it), and see if you agree or disagree. Ask questions of the people and the other students gathered around.

You might find that you do believe in what they're saying, or you might have your beliefs seriously challenged by something they say. This is good, because beliefs that you investigate are worth far more than what you accept just becuase you've been told. In any case, you'll learn something from treating the situation as an opportunity, not an annoyance. And for people of faith, you can show the cynics that not all believers fit the kind of stereotype that the campus preachers tend to fill.

Eric Seymour

Robert Schiener

Joel Corbin