GW’s reaction to Brother Stephen speaks volumes

Spring is in the air. The birds are back, people are starting to play sports on the Quad and the freaks are out.

Now, I don’t mean the Student Association candidates, but you’re on the right track. I mean the countless number of people who believe that they could change your belief in anything as long as they could hand you a flier on the way to J Street.

By now, we all know about Brother Stephen and his bellows of sin and redemption that graced our campus last week. I must say I was very happy to see him there. No, it wasn’t because I learned I am going to hell for several different reasons (sorry, Mom, but if Brother Stephen says so, it must be true). It was because his presence gave GW the opportunity to put its best foot forward.

I was very impressed with the performance of GW students this week. For the most part, Brother Stephen, a born-again Christian who condemned most minority groups in an outdoor sermon on Wednesday and Thursday, was met with intelligent arguments and constructive debates. We showed Stephen and all his cohorts that GW is a place that truly is of higher learning.

Now, that doesn’t mean some of us didn’t act a little inappropriately. Whoever threw the water balloon from atop the H Street Terrace, we need to have words. But most of us kept our retorts topical and respected the right of Stephen to be there and share his thoughts. And to his credit, he did allow some of us to challenge his dogma.

I am a firm believer in freedom of speech, and sometimes it means having to let people who have completely off the wall views get their turn. To prevent him from having his say would bring this University, and this society in general, down a slippery slope that would be unhealthy and could lead to destruction.

But it is our duty to put people such as Brother Stephen in their places. And we could do that in one of two ways, either by ignoring him or debating him. A lot of people said they felt we should just walk away and not listen to him. It makes sense. But when people are making such viscous claims that hurt you and the ones you love, it is easier said than done. Staying to watch Brother Stephen is like slowing down to watch a car accident in the other lane. You know you shouldn’t be doing it, but you just can’t help yourself.

Even this newspaper realized that it couldn’t ignore Brother Stephen. Were we egging him on by putting his picture on the front page? Probably. But, he was the hot topic of the week, what everyone was talking about on campus, so it only made sense to have him there.

So that leaves intelligent debate, and that is what we had. I think Brother Stephen did a positive thing for this campus. He united us against him. I have not seen students so boisterous in Foggy Bottom in a while – not even at the Smith Center. And to mix enthusiasm with intelligent conversation says a lot for our student body.

It is sad that Brother Stephen and his organization, Soldiers for Christ, feel the only way to get their message across is to act like a carnival barker on a college campus. Religion is not something that should be a result of peer pressure. We must each find what we believe ourselves and not listen to rhetoric from someone who tours college campuses and creates a ruckus.

Yes, college campuses are full of sin, no matter how you define it. But what gives anyone the right to determine how the rest of us will live our lives? We each have to make our own decisions in life, and many of us have been influenced by the wrong things. But no one will see the light by being told they are going to hell by someone blocking the way to their next class.

If you want to influence my opinion, talk to me like a human being and treat me with respect. And anyway, what religious organization would want a bunch of members that are so easily influenced that they can be bullied into changing their beliefs about something so important?

-The writer is special projects editor of The GW Hatchet.

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