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Sep 24, 2018
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A preacher from The Campus Ministry USA and a Fresno State student argue Tuesday, March 20, 2018 during a campus visit by the ministry group. Jed Smock, the preacher in the brown coat, said the visit was successful after several students gathered to listen to him speak. Students shouted their arguments. (Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado/The Collegian)

OPINION: Preaching to the wrong choir?

A group of fired up Fresno State students may be the wrong group to lecture to about the Bible — or maybe not.

On Tuesday, amid dark clouds, a group of Fresno State students surrounded Jed Smock, a preacher from The Campus Ministry USA as Smock tried to get in a few words about the Bible. One student whipped out a megaphone and scolded Smock. The crowd of students, recording the event on their cellphones, laughed and cheered their peer.

Though the confrontation seemed like Smock was wasting his time in “teaching about the Bible,” as he told Collegian staffers who walked to the Free Speech Area, Smock said it was actually exactly what he wanted. At one point, he sat back on an elevated folding chair placed on a concrete block near the Henry Madden Library. With a Starbucks drink on his lap and one leg folded over the other, as if to indicate he was taking a break from preaching, Smock watched a fellow preacher scream her words at students who stopped and listened — or argued with her.

A small student protest adorned with LGBTQ flags and cardboard signs popped up. The protesters stood between the two preachers. And Smock said a professor had come out to ask what the screaming and yelling was about. Some of her students had missed class, she said according to Smock, and she found them at the Free Speech Area.

Asked if the visit to Fresno State was successful — despite protests by students — Smock said it was absolutely successful, and the protest was just what he wanted to see. According to his thinking, it was a success because the students stopped what they were doing and paid attention to what words came out of the preachers’ mouths. Some of the shouts included denouncing LGBTQ individuals over “sexual immoralities.” Other words included scolding remarks by the preachers toward the students because they don’t know much about the Bible, according to Smock.

There was likely some outcry from students and faculty beyond the Free Speech Area. University President Dr. Joseph Castro promptly issued an email message in which he told students to remain civil and to respect the visitors. He included that the message of the preachers did not necessarily reflect the values of the university.

The focus of the group, Smock said, is to visit campuses across the United States and engage students on the topic of Christianity. It raises one question: Are devout, religious students the target of these religious group visits? Or is it angry students resisting the message? If Smock’s words indicate anything, the answer is the latter. It appears the mission of the missionaries was accomplished Tuesday at Fresno State.

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