About 100 GW students gathered in front of J Street to witness a spectacle that could become a regular occurrence on campus, University of Pennsylvania students said.
Brother Steven, a self-proclaimed born-again Christian, clutched a Bible and preached that college students who drink, smoke marijuana or sleep more than 10 hours a night are all sinners who will go to hell.
Brother Steven created similar spectacles on a daily basis last year on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus, said Binyanin Appelbaum, the executive editor of the Daily Pennsylvanian.
Students in the increasingly rowdy crowd laughed, threw food, walked away in exasperation and debated with the stranger to campus.
He was just funny at first, saying random stuff, senior Francisco de Miranda said, while Brother Steven fended off verbal attacks from students. Now everyone has become confrontational, creating chaos.
Brother Steven verbally attacked Jews, Catholics, Hindus, minorities, homosexuals and anyone who does not fit his description of a born-again Christian.
Stop getting wasted.stop masturbating.I’m a saint, Brother Steven said to the crowd. Who else here is a saint?
Sophomore Carl Benincasa said the performance gave students something to rally behind.
It’s uniting all the other students against him, Benincasa said. Jews, Muslims, Catholics, gays – everybody.
University Police officers arrived on the scene to clear the sidewalk for pedestrians, and Marvin Center staff called in Metropolitan Police, UPD Officer Miller said. Brother Steven did not violate any laws because he remained on public property, but MPD was on the scene to make sure no physical confrontation resulted, said Corporal Sligh, an MPD officer.
Students participated in heated debates with the clean-cut stranger to campus.
Graduate student Sapna Pandyn spoke out when Brother Steven told the crowd that Gandhi was in hell because he believes in 30 million gods.
I get really fired up when someone says something like that, said Pandyn, a Hindu.
Wally Akinyele, a 1999 GW graduate, debated with Brother Steven about the Bible’s teachings in front of a swarm of GW students.
I felt that people needed to know that God loves them, Akinyele said.
Akinyele said he is not a confrontational person but was compelled to speak up because Brother Steven was spreading misinformation to students.
Brother Steven also spoke out against homosexuals. Gays and lesbians are worse than minorities because they choose to be sinners, he said.
If you really love your homo friends, you’ll tell your homo friends, `Do not put the gerbil up your ass. Stop doing it,’ Brother Steven said.
Freshman Martin Smith walked away from the spectacle after listening to Brother Seven for 10 minutes.
It pisses me off that he is able to stand there, but I realize his right to stand there is the same as mine, Smith said.
Many students said they did not take Brother Steven’s message seriously. Students threw food, laughed loudly, participated in mocking cheers at the sound of fire and prompted Brother Steven to offer more judgements on them.
He was telling us we were all going to hell, where Elvis and Tupac are waiting, sophomore Alyssa Mastroianni said. He’s ridiculous, but it’s entertaining.
Sophomore Jon Ziegler, who took part in a debate with Brother Steven, said he was initially impressed by the stranger’s exuberance. He said he was soon turned off by Brother Steven’s message because he damages the religion that he claims to promote.
If I was someone who was looking for direction, and I saw that, it would completely turn me off from Christianity, Ziegler said.
There were different reactions on the UPenn campus to Brother Steven’s presence, Appelbaum said.
Some people laughed it off and drummed it up to entertainment, and others were offended by him, Appelbaum said.
Appelbaum said Brother Steven sometimes crossed the line when he confronted students about their sins.
While students could not do anything to stop Brother Steven from spreading his message, some students announced a message of their own.
The most important message is that Jesus died, and he loved us, not that you’re going to hell, Akinyele announced to the crowd.
-Francesca Di Meglio and Grant Wernick contributed to this report.