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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Columns

Counterdemonstrating students burdened with moral consequences


Students should be held accountable for their actions against confrontational evangelists like the Consuming Fire Fellowship. | Nabhil Ahsan/The Cougar

The Consuming Fire Fellowship practices what is known as confrontational evangelism. When groups like the Consuming Fire Fellowship come to campus, they bring signs and camp out in the middle of the free speech lawn, or more recently in front of the library, and they engage in all the elements of spectacle.

As they stand among a sea of students who are walking from class to class, CFF members shout condemnations, which quickly draw a crowd of students who either have the time or make the time to tell members of the Fellowship that they are the ones in need of salvation, often in colorful language.

These guests of the University come to interact with the UH’s student body, but these interactions seem more like disingenuous attempts to convert college students to a fiery brand of Christianity that emphasizes punishment over salvation.

These displays too often gather the attention of students and become a dangerous source of entertainment that negatively implicates both sides of the crowd.

It is difficult to say, however, that students have a moral obligation ignore the spectacle, being that they are students who should be interested in getting to the bottom of the issue.

They should try to understand the psychology of the group and refrain from taunting. Failure to do so can lead to equally offensive and extraordinarily unproductive counterdisplays.

CFF protests a lack of faith and morality in college students while advertising its ministry by declaring that if students do not repent soon, their eternities will be forever lost and — even worse — that students will earn every cent of retribution they receive.

While it’s easy to be critical of the CFF, students who engage in the more controversial elements of counterdemonstrating are particularly burdened with the moral dilemma that their actions present.

The CFF understands that while their method might be controversial, they are ultimately engaging students in the right way.

The director of the UH Baptist Student Ministry, Shannon Rutherford, said that the CFF has not reached out to any other Christian groups on campus.

“If you want to help students advance in their faith, showing that you are compassionate is the first step,” Rutherford said. “We are all sinners.”

The BSM recently held its 72 Hours of Prayer event that engaged students more subtly, but the impact was felt strongly by the ministry.

“There was a lot of support from students who wanted to say a quick prayer, and talk about their faith,” Rutherford said.

Although the demonstrations might attract some students who are genuinely interested in furthering a discussion about faith and morality, far more students find themselves entertained by antagonizing a group that is encouraged by dissent.

While it is important to hold a group like the CFF accountable for the effectiveness of whatever method it employs, it is nearly as important to hold students accountable for contributing to the spectacle that these groups seek out.

Though it is important to seek opposing viewpoints, the value of our discussions is lost to the allure of spectacle.

Assistant opinion editor Mia Valdez is a creative writing senior. She can be reached at [email protected]

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