(Photo credit: Alya Nowilaty/Fourth Estate)
Nearly every week, DCforJesus founder and preacher Jorge Piña can be found spreading his message in North Plaza near the Johnson Center.
“Any time, any place, any way; proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ!” is the message Piña said he attempts to spread every time he comes to Mason’s campus.
Piña’s preaching has also been known to get negative reactions from many who pass by. Just last semester, he ended up in a physical confrontation when his sign that states in all capital letters, “YOU DESERVE HELL,” offended a student
When asked about that confrontation, Piña smiled and said that he is used to people shouting and screaming at him, and added that it will not stop him from preaching his message.
On one of Piña’s most recent visit to Mason, he said, “Ladies with your short skirts, repent! Nobody wants to see your vagina! That’s right, I said vagina!”
Piña spreads his message this way not only at Mason’s Fairfax campus, but also at Northern Virginia Community College’s Annandale campus. Online, Piña uses Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media to broadcast his opinions. Though the venue may change, Piña’s rhetoric is consistent.
When another Facebook user questioned Piña’s message in a post, his response was direct, graphic and provocative.
“You are a Hypocrite! REPENT of your cursing, porn watching, masturbation, fornication etc… or YOU will PERISH!” Piña’s post read.
Though Piña’s message is accusatory and offensive to some students, he claimed he only preaches in this way to convince others to repent and be saved. He said he is less concerned with the method than the outcome. However, as Christian students have said on campus, Piña’s way is not the only way to spread Christianity.
For students who are not Christian, seeing Piña on campus may be the only time they hear about the religion. Emily Huegel, president and student involvement liaison for Mason Cru, a nondenominational Christian student group, offers an alternative message about Christianity for students.
“Personally, I do not agree with the methods used by the preacher in North Plaza. When you understand Christianity, you understand that we have all sinned, and none of us deserve to go to Heaven, but we get to one day experience heaven because of Jesus,” Huegel said via email.
Huegel explained that she believes that the messages being preached should be about love and acceptance, not about judgment or condemnation. She said she strives to make sure every student knows they are in a welcoming environment at Cru, regardless of their religious background.
Though she does acknowledge that Piña’s message of non-believers going to hell is not wrong according to scripture, she said the delivery of that message needs to be more refined.
“As a Christian, I understand this. As a Christian I want other people to understand this. But, I also don’t believe the best way to convey that message is by screaming hate and negativity at random people on this campus just trying to go to class,” Huegel said.
Huegel’s emphasis on inclusion was something that was echoed by Stephen Tully, president of Young Life. Young Life is another Christian student group that leads weekly meetings on the Fairfax campus.
Tully summed up the essence of what Young Life offers students, saying via email, “Our goal is to have an inclusive place no matter what our attendees believe in. … we have fun and build relationships with students on campus and explore the things that matter most in life: meaning, purpose, and truth with no strings attached.”
When asked what part of his message he wanted Mason students to hear, Piña named two points: repent or you will perish, and trust Jesus. As with many of his answers, Piña added a Bible verse to support his two points. In this case, he chose direct quotes from Jesus in Luke 13:3 and Mark 16:16, respectively.
Though both of these verses do say that those who do not believe in Jesus will perish, Tully explained that that was not the end of the message.
“As Christians, we are called ‘to speak truth and love’ [from Ephesians 4:15], and when we want to know how to do that and how to live that out, we look at the life of Jesus found in the gospels,” Tully said.
Huegel summarized how to combine the message of love with the perceived truth about salvation.
“Christianity isn’t about being trapped in a cycle of always having to live a good life where you follow all the rules. It’s about understanding that we are going to sin, but there is forgiveness and redemption for that sin and a God who still loves us infinitely,” Huegel said.
Though Piña, Huegel and Tully are all worried about the salvation of non-believers, Huegel and Tully also expressed concern over how Christians were perceived today. Huegel and Tully both wanted to make it clear that they believe that openness and acceptance are fundamental values in their faith.
Tully said, “I could allow hatred and bitterness to be in my heart at these preachers for how they are presenting Jesus, but I would be doing the exact same thing that they are doing. Instead, I would love to sit down with them and have a conversation with them about how the bible calls us to share our faith.”