This week, Brother Jed came to campus.
Jed Smock (that’s his wikipedia page; his actual website is here, PLEASE NOTE THE SWORD COVERED IN BLOOD THAT IS HIS LOGO) is an evangelical preacher who makes an annual circuit of campuses around the U.S., where he stands with a crucifix as tall as he is and the sign pictured above, and shouts at passing students that they are going to Hell. He comes to the University of Oklahoma every year, in the week week of April. He hates homosexuals, party-goers, dope fiends, feminists, sodomites, democrats, whoremongerers (god, he loves this word), and premarital hand-holders with a fierce and fiery loathing. He is among my favorite human beings in the world.
See, we get a lot of preachers on campus, and a lot of religious groups. We have a group of people who call themselves the Abolitionists, who silently pass out pamphlets explaining why the modern pro-life movement is an exact moral equivalent to the anti-slavery movement of the 1800s. We have a group who are always present at the outdoor intercultural fair, sternly passing out to every student who is not sufficiently white a pamphlet about the dangers of eastern heathenry. We have a self-righteous young man in a flat cap, who, if he is not receiving sufficient attention, will start shouting SLUT at passing women wearing pants cut above the knee, until either they or a man angry on their behalf come to tell him off. I was once accosted by a stranger fresh from Bible study, whom the Holy Spirit had lately moved to tell the very next person he saw about a mystical connection between Revelations and Isaiah that no one had ever seen before, concerning the marriage of Christ to the Church and the impending end of the world at the hand of monsters from the sky.
There are always people arguing with them. No matter how cruel, how senseless, how stupid their rhetoric, they will be surrounded by bystanders angry about being insulted, and atheists angry about their Christianity, and Christians equally angry about their Christianity. There are always people trying to knock their points down. There are always people shouting at them. There is always an audience. I don’t stand and listen to those preachers, no matter how ridiculous they are, because I can’t stand to hear everyone else getting angry. He’s getting off on this! I want to bellow over the crowd. In his mind your anger is the Holy Spirit’s work! Stop making him think he’s being successful! Stop making other people think he’s worth arguing with!
When Brother Jed comes on campus, the word spreads faster than I have seen potential campus bomb threats disseminated. Professors have canceled class so students can go and listen to him. People drag couches out onto the South Oval. The LGBTQ student association sends around a mass text declaring a day-long picnic on the lawn in front of him. Everyone comes, brings chairs and blankets and homework, and this year, bingo cards!
“Come play Brother Jed Bingo! Exercise your right to free speech and help protect his!”
No one argues with Brother Jed. People have tried, particularly those who’ve never seen him before; people come up and stare at him, and at us, and demand to know how we can listen to him. The answer is simple: We can listen to him because Brother Jed is fucking hilarious.
Brother Jed preaches that homosexuals are doomed to a life of eternal torment. He preaches that God is coming to judge the wicked with a flaming sword, and that he will not hesitate to see it run red with blood. He preaches that American colleges are the most hideous pits of sin on the planet, that all sorority girls are prostitutes and all fraternity boys are drug addicts, and that God came to him personally when he was in his early twenties and commanded him to save our souls by pricking our hearts with fear.
Brother Jed also instructs us, finger held aloft, in the exact same way he intones that God will smite the wicked, that for inexperienced men, the vagina and the anus are extremely difficult to tell apart, and that it is the duty of women to ensure that their husband (with whom they are never to have held hands before their wedding night) is looking for the right place when eventually they are joined in coital union. He tells us gravely that just because penises look a lot like cucumbers does not mean that they are edible. He tells us that he wrote his graduate thesis about the effects of smoking seven straight joints of marijuana, from personal experience. He says that he has not once sinned since he was saved. He reads to us from the Bible a passage from the Proverbs which he claims is God’s own voice declaring His own preference for large-breasted women. His wife, when she is allowed to speak, points at random men in the audience, shakes her finger and shrieks loud enough to be heard in nearby buildings that she knows they MASturbate to POOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRRRRRRNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN.
Everyone comes to hear this, and everyone cheers and claps and hoots and shouts, and no one argues with him at all. It’s one of the most wonderful places to take a same-sex date; to sit and let his vitriol wash over the scene and take hold of no one and nothing, to watch it borne away with his voice on the Oklahoma spring breeze. Sitting and listening to Brother Jed, we are united in not giving a single solitary damn about his opinion. There is power in sitting and listening and laughing and not giving a damn.
Preachers have ruined my day by inflicting damns on me I didn’t have any intention of giving them. I’ve come inches from slapping the pamphlets out of the hands of the fucking Abolitionists; I’ve crossed campus a different direction to avoid people looking into my eyes and shoving New Testaments at me. I’ve felt like I had eyes on me when I walk by the crowd around the self-righteous man in the flat cap and heard him condemning me to Hell six different ways (Catholic, queer, liberal, wearing boots with a heel….). I’ve never felt angry at Brother Jed. He is such a ball of conflicting hyperbole, so cartoonishly hateful, that there is no need to turn any hate back on him. There’s nothing there to defend against. There’s nothing to fear.
I didn’t get Brother Jed Bingo this year – I only stayed for his sex ed talk, I cleared out before someone brought up Jihadists – but he brightened my week, like he does every year. I sat on a picnic blanket and got a mild sunburn on my nose squinting up at him while he pointed heavenward and swung his Bible back and forth with furious motion. It was the only injury I suffered.