Recently, Iowa State University’s Atheist and Agnostic Society heard that a certain Christian preacher, Tom Short, was visiting their campus. Short is one of those guys who thinks everyone who doesn’t believe exactly what he does is doomed. Listening doesn’t appear to be one of his strengths.
So what is an atheist group to do? You might expect them to stage a protest — Short would be allowed his free speech, but nearby, you’d hear the atheist group offering a different point of view.
That’s not exactly what AAS did…
They staged a “(Mostly) Silent Protest,” choosing not to debate Short as a group. Instead, they held up signs for passers-by to see. They even invited religious groups to join them — several did.
Members of the group sat around Short while he talked in front of the Hub, holding signs advocating acceptance of different viewpoints, among other things.
Brian Gress, junior in psychology, said the protest was a change of pace for the group.
“Usually we try and speak with him, but that doesn’t seem to accomplish much,” he said.
Jim Shirbroun, pastor at the Collegiate United Methodist Church and Wesley Foundation, said Short’s combative approach to non-Christian viewpoints is ultimately doing more harm than good.
“I’ve heard a lot about him, but today is the first time I’ve heard him speak. He definitely comes at theology from a very different angle than I do,” he said. “I think he’s really just turning people off of Christianity.”
Not everyone chose to remain silent, but the president of the atheist group, Anastasia Bodnar, still says this was a very successful event:
… AAS supplied both protesters and supporters of Tom with cardstock and crayons on which to express their own ideas. We also handed out quarter sheet flyers advertising our upcoming Your Choice, Our Voice event.
Some of the attendees didn’t stay silent, as was their right. Some attempted to engage Tom in debate, but these attempts often ended with Tom saying “stop distracting me”. Some members of the Alliance spoke out in favor of equality regarding to LGBT rights. There was also a young self-described Christian prophet who attempted to use humor and his skateboard as a counterpoint to Tom’s speech, but ended up being escorted away by police.
All in all, the members of the AAS that attended were quiet, choosing to converse among ourselves and fellow protesters, displaying our signs…
Tom Short wrote up a piece of his own on the event. He doesn’t seem to understand there was a protest going on:
… Literally hundreds of students sat respectfully and listened as I presented why I believe Christ rose from the dead, why Jesus is different from all other people who have ever lived (including all other religious leaders), why I believe God created us, answered questions about the Bible and publicly portrayed Christ as crucified. I actually had quite lengthy times to simply preach on topics like my testimony, the nature and tactics of our Adversary (Satan), the importance of God being at the center of our worldview, how God has blessed my marriage in both good and bad times, what Judgment Day will look like, hell, heaven, grace and a whole host of other topics. It was difficult to bring each day to a conclusion as the students simply wanted to keep going, but I called it quits each day around 6:00 or so in order to make it to my evening meetings.
I’m sure the students loved him…
On a side note, I *really* like this idea of how to passive-aggressively deal with a campus preacher:
“About five years ago, some students came up with Tom Short bingo cards. Each card had a mix of the same words, phrases and ideas that he uses… When Tom showed up that year, they distributed the cards, played bingo, and gave candy to the winners.”
It’s a win-win for everybody!
(via the Secular Student Alliance)