Silence is a source of great strength." -Lao Tzu
Today one of my friends posted the video below of a time when an evangelist came to my grad school and shared their beliefs. By no means do I expect you to watch the entire hour and a half video, but if you have never seen these kinds of talks on a college campus, it is worth at least watching the last five minutes or so to get an idea how much of an uprising this can cause among the students. For a campus police officer or staff member (like myself), these days are some of the most dreaded days because there is no telling what the students will do. Although it did not happen in this video, there are often times when the preacher gets attacked and then sues the student for battery. (This is usually how they can afford visiting so many campuses). There are even a couple of times in the video when the speaker asks a student not to touch him. By getting this on film and then having the student touch him again, this can hold up in a courtroom that the physical touch was unwelcomed.
So why am I bringing up this video? I'm sure some of you can already imagine that I will talk about about how this man needs to be silent or maybe even having me share my religious beliefs, but I'm going to go in a different direction.
I think it is good for this man to come to campuses. Let me first be very clear that I do not necessarily believe in what he is teaching, but I do believe that he teaches some of these students a valuable lesson that many students weren't willing to learn. It is very easy to think that this man is a crazy person who doesn't know what he is talking about and appears to be under-prepared with only a thin sign, bottle of water and bible. This appearance invites students into "the arena" and they think they can easily "take this guy" in a battle of morality and religious discussion. What they don't see is that he has a bachelor's degree in religion, 12 years of experience as a pastor, experience going to different college campuses since 2004, and is more knowledgeable about state and federal laws about the freedom of speech than most college campus police officers! With this being said, he easily knows what he is doing! For almost all of the students who aren't even half way done with their schooling, they honestly don't know how to react when talking to this man and figure out they are actually the ones who are under-prepared.
For my higher education people out there, this is where an inability to manage emotions comes into play. This is the first time some of the students come into contact with someone of a different belief system who is set in their ways, and they don't know how to handle it! Some students try to interfere with his talk by annoying him, some treat it as a joke, some try to show love, and some resort to yelling at him or calling the police reporting that he "harassed them" (which he actually never does!). He is simply sharing his beliefs that contrast drastically from most students on a college campus. With the help of a large crowd, the students feel they have the support they need to confront him and know if they fall short, there will be another person right behind them to pick up the ball. Of course the preacher has seen all of these tactics done before, he has learned who to ignore and who to confront. He is also skilled in using certain phrases which will immediately be misunderstood or misread to help further his point. There are at least ten times in the video a student hears what they want to hear or misreads the sign and attack the man with these incorrect ideals only to be overturned with a simple response. Although it does not appear the preacher is listening and talks through questions and counter arguments, in reality he has his speech down and is saying it all off memory while he is also listening very intently to what is being said and is patiently waiting for an ignorant comment to come up where he can easily overturn the student's argument. The students on the other hand immediately jump into the argument without really listening to what is being said first.
So why do I think it is important students come in contact with these kind of people? To be straight and forward, it gives them an opportunity to realize that they don't know everything. Faith is a very difficult subject that can be interpreted many ways. There have been countless wars fought to simply prove a religious point and the reality is that the point will never be completely proven! When it comes to religion, it becomes very difficult to "win" an argument because there is not any way to get a "correct" answer. It is simply an argument between two or more different people's opinions on how to interpret a broad set of beliefs or set of books which were created hundreds (if not thousands) of years ago! As I have talked about in other posts, the world is made up of very different people, no two people are the same. You can talk to someone until you are blue in the face, but there is a high likelihood that they will still hold on tight to their beliefs and what they stand for if they feel like they aren't being heard.
It is important for us to simply be silent and listen to what is being said instead of overpowering the other person and trying to speak over them. None of the students seemed to care, but the man had two people who were completely open for the majority of the video to talk and discuss their different ideals. It is very easy to hone in on the "easy target" "crazy guy who spouts off hate", but it is completely different to have a discussion with the other two people who are interested in your beliefs and might even teach you that you might not know as much about your faith as you think you do. The key to it all is to be open to new ideas and be willing to listen without inserting your own agenda. That is the fastest way to peace. Of course there will be a time in the conversation where you reach your limit on what you are willing to let go of and agree to disagree. In that case, you can go on your way and know that you had an educational conversation with someone and you are now more knowledgeable of the world around you. That can only happen once you are silent and listen to the other side first. Goodnight all :)
Question time: Have you ever come in contact with someone of a different idea system than you? How did that conversation go? Leave your response in the comments section down below :)