In December 2015, I was walking between classes, one earbud in with music blaring. It was clear that I had somewhere to be: finals were coming up, and as a freshman, I had worked them up in my mind to be so disproportionately difficult as to drown out all other things in life.
My anxiety had begun to consume me, churning my stomach at even the thought of my economics final. But the North Plaza preacher called out to me. He said “hey brother, good luck on your finals. I’m praying for you.”
As a Christian, the man’s words spoke to me: he had reminded me of the love of Christ and it helped take my mind off the finals. In that moment, I was thankful he was there.
That’s the only moment I have ever felt anything other than resentment for the hate-mongers that patrol North Plaza, taunting George Mason students with their signs.
This isn’t an article about the legality of these preachers. The Constitution is clear on that front. Nor is it an article with the intent of “selling” Christianity to the people reading it. Fourth Estate is not a religious organization, and that’s not the point of this newspaper. I want to explain to you why I, as somebody who on paper has the same beliefs as those men in North Plaza, completely disagree with them when they preach hate.
The Bible, the document from which all Christian theology should derive, as Christians believe that it is the direct word of God, is very clear about the purpose of Christianity. In the book of 1 Peter (that’s “First Peter,” lest you make the same mistake Donald Trump did in a recent speech), Chapter 4 Verse 8 reads, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins” (New Internatioal Version). If these men claim to belong to a religion that values showing love to others “above all,” their methods are completely wrong, as I believe they are.
In mis-representing this, the preachers in North Plaza have become no better than the Westboro Baptist ‘Church,’ a group that travels the country protesting military funerals with signs of gay slurs as a way of protesting advances in same-sex policies in the military.
Through people like these, Christianity is in danger of becoming a religion and a culture founded upon the hate of everybody that is different than its members instead of being one known for love and acceptance of all.
John 1:17 says that “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came from Jesus Christ” (NIV). If the Bible is to be believed, Jesus was the kind of man who spent his time trying to get to know some real scum-of-the-Earth types. The tax collectors that Jesus would eat dinner with were some of the worst of the worst.
However, these were the people that he wanted to minister to, so he brought them close and treated them with grace or forgiveness and told them the truth. He didn’t scream at them from the center of a plaza, but rather welcomed them in.
The word “Christian” literally comes from the name of Jesus Christ, and its followers purport to want to be able to live their lives more like Jesus did. Jesus would not stand in North Plaza, holding up signs telling people that they “deserve Hell.” Jesus would welcome them with open arms and spread love, just like the preacher did to me that in the one solitary instance when he offered encouragement instead of hate.
That is the path that they should be going down. Any other one is inauthentic and misrepresents not only Christians, but also our beliefs. I beg you to not allow the preachers who spew hate to become your mental image of Christians. That’s not us, and I resent them for making others think that it is.