If you’re like me, you avoided South Patio like a plague this week. It might as well be one considering how much time, energy, and student will it saps every year. Of course, it’s the Preachers.
For those of you who don’t know, the preachers are a group of Christians from Kentucky who put the fun in fundamentalism. After they sued the school a few years ago for the right to demonstrate and witness to students, they’ve come back ever since. It’s like feeding a stray cat, one that happens to be mean and bite a lot.
The preachers are incredibly hateful – literally full of hate – and hateable, and it’s hard to determine if they genuinely want to evangelize or are just looking for another opportunity to sue.
I’ve stopped once to listen for a few minutes every year and always have to leave for my mental and spiritual health. For the rest of the day, my inner monologue is “Help me, Liberal Jesus, not to punch a conservative in the face.”
I get itchy for a fight. How dare you say that about my Liberal Jesus, let me quote some Bible verses back at YOU, SIR!
Why? Because being around that much hate, so strong and pervasive, is simply not good for us. Just like secondhand smoke will still hurt your lungs, so does secondhand hate hurt our compassion and innate longing for peace. Our longing for peace gets overturned and interrupted a lot.
I’m not a peaceful person by nature: I’m competitive, snarky, and God help us if somebody is WRONG about something — and that means my personality flaws are no less than the preachers’.
What separates us, though, is the feeding of those negative emotions. What we can do as a community is NOT give them what they want. They want us to rally around them and mildly martyr them. They want to disrupt the flow of our growth as human beings and ruin any sense of compassionate community we have with each other.
By avoiding them, I feel that daily struggle for peace and compassion with others is less interrupted. Why go somewhere where you know you’ll get sick or possibly put in danger? Why even give them the opportunity to harm our spirits?
By having one less ear to harangue and “convert,” the preachers’ hate will grow less. They’ll still cause damage, of course. They’ll attack students as they walk by and their words, like daggers, can still wound. But if we don’t give them an audience, they’ll have less of an outlet for their hate and it will begin to wound them.
As Buddha said, “Holding onto hate is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
Let’s not give them what they want. Let’s take away their audience — can’t be a martyr without an audience — and foster our compassion with each other despite them.
Did they insult a classmate that you might not care for? Tell them that their sweater is rocking anyway. That will make your classmate feel a little better about him- or self, and increase your innate compassion.
Praising the all-mighty Ramen noodle isn’t going to do anything. Being the kind of people they fear and seek to destroy? That might do everything.