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The psychology of a street preacher

November 6, 2013 5:32 pm by: Category: Opinion, Top Stories 11 Comments A+ / A-

IMG_2097By Hannah Bleau | gargoyle@flagler.edu

I walked down the library steps to approach the now infamous Flagler College street preachers. My heart was filled with so many emotions. Intrigue. Curiosity. Disgust.

I quickly read their signs.  “Fornicators, rebellious women, money lovers, sinful Christians, pot smokers, religious people, sports nuts: judgment. Trust Jesus and stop sinning you sinners!”

Great, I thought to myself. This is exactly what this campus needs. Unbalanced religious people who misrepresent the character and nature of God and Christians everywhere. This is the version of Christianity the media eats up. This is why they call me a homophobe, Bible thumper and Jesus freak.

I have no problem being challenged for my beliefs. Yes, I love God and have moral values that are unmovable. Call me whatever you like. But take it from me: I’m not that.

I went up to them and it just blurted out. “Do you guys seriously think you’re spreading the love of God this way? Standing on a street corner, telling gay people they’re going to hell and telling Christians they don’t really love God if they slip up and tell a lie?”

We calmly debated. He distortedly quoted more scriptures than I could count. He held up the Bible to my face. He litigated his case, but something was missing from every word that came out of his mouth.

We don’t need a sign shoved in our face to show us our faults. We instinctively know what’s right from wrong. What man can’t comprehend is the extravagant love God has for all of mankind, and I guess that message wasn’t coming across with the sign saying “Trust Jesus and stop sinning you sinners!”

The Bible is a love story. It’s a story of redemption. It’s a story of the human race screwing up time and time again. It’s the story of God’s unmerited love for you.

I hope others do not misunderstand me. I’m not saying that everything is permissible. I have strong core beliefs of what is right and wrong, but I also think yelling at people who don’t know or understand the nature of God (screaming “judgment” and “hell bound”) is wrong too. Why? Because it’s misrepresenting the very character of God.

I was trying to understand the psychology of the street preachers, and I realized they really believe they are shining God’s light on our campus. They really believe they are out there saving souls for the kingdom of God. At the same time, I watched students walk by, rolling their eyes and telling them off under their breath- and I couldn’t blame them one bit. I’m a Christian and I practically was.

These guys have zeal, but their perception of God is all wrong.

God is love. It’s the goodness of God that brings men to repentance, not the fear of judgment or threat of going to hell.

It got me thinking. If it rubbed me the wrong way as a Christian on campus, how much more did it make the non-Christians feel? Why would they want anything to do with this God who was so condemning and harsh? After all, if it’s about being perfect, why even bother?

The street preachers really think they’re doing the campus a justice, but making people feel like God hates them is not the message of Jesus at all.

The reality of God is this: “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2:4) It’s His goodness that brings us to Him. Not the fear of punishment or threat of going to hell.

So “Christian” or “non-Christian,” hear me out when I say this: The way the media portrays Him. The way fanatic street preachers portray Him. It is not so. You want to know what God is like? God is love.

People tend to represent God the way they see Him. I want Flagler College to know that those fanatics don’t represent the other Christians on our campus, and they certainly don’t represent God. I have always been the person who gets upset when another person or group misrepresents a set of beliefs, but the other believers stay silent for the sake of peace. I wasn’t about to make the same mistake. 

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The psychology of a street preacher Reviewed by on . By Hannah Bleau | gargoyle@flagler.edu I walked down the library steps to approach the now infamous Flagler College street preachers. My heart was filled with s By Hannah Bleau | gargoyle@flagler.edu I walked down the library steps to approach the now infamous Flagler College street preachers. My heart was filled with s Rating: 0

Comments (11)

  • Sue

    God is loving and merciful, but He will condemn unrepentant sinners to spend forever in a really nasty place, which is described by Jesus Himself. Unfortunately, most people reject the Lord – many go for other “religions” where the belief systems are all about what the wonderful things the self can do – these “religions” have a little god who behaves himself.
    The REAL God (of the Bible) is sovereign.
    PS, i’m not one of those happy-clappy perfect people. i am just another Christian struggling with sin & frankly, shaking in my sandles over it.

  • Username*

    I would very much like to talk to FlaglerAlum.
    My son is doing this type of campus and street preaching in Fort Myers although
    I do not see him going to the campus any longer. I have grave concerns.
    Thank you

  • VicB

    I see a LOT of “man” opinions/emotions/feelings being spoken here (on both sides), and very minimum precise contextual scripture to support long paragraphs being written. If we are going to speak on what we feel is God’s will, it would be more logical to reference those opinions based on exact scripture found in God’s Holy word.

    2 Timothy 4:3 ESV

    For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,

  • wordoftruth

    Joeroads said “Christians traded in the word *fear* for *love*. In the Old testament there really wasn’t a clear concept of hell. It was called ‘Sheol” or “the pit.” The words “Hell,” or “Hell fire,” are primarily new testament words introduced by Jesus under the occupation of the Romans government. Before you attempt to make a point, make sure you understand what you are talking about or you’re in danger of looking like a “fool.”

    Psalm 14:1-The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

  • joeroads

    As an Atheist, you’d be surprised at how little the street preachers bother me. I am firm in my non-belief in God, and I am able to write off their hatespeech and slander as the fanatical ramblings of person who believes in fictional beings. That being said, I have immense respect for reasonable Christians; Christians who live in the same reality as I do and accept that there are people different than them.

    The problem that the street preachers have is that they haven’t yet grasped the concept that the old testament is simply outdated. At a time in history when civil codes for the most part did not exist outside of execution by whim of their lords, the strict codes set by the Old Testament played an important part of keeping people civil. The people during this time had nothing; the promise of an everlasting paradise, no matter the costs, was sought after by everyone.

    In today’s society, people don’t need the fear of God to keep them within society’s laws. The belief in God adapted into something different than the fear of Hell. Christians traded in the word ‘fear’ for he word ‘love’. The belief in God is now meant to comfort people and to point people in the right direction of good and self-sacrifice. While this does include the spreading of God’s word, it is meant to be through love, forgiveness, and a passionate desire to bring others into God’s love. Obviously, this does not entail harassment and reprimanding for one’s sins.

  • Username*

    As Christians we are called to love one another. We are to be the example. This was not done in a loving manner. I find the sign to be rude and offensive. Yes, I believe that we are called to warn others, but we are not to judge them. Love is patient. Love is kind. It is not rude. It is not self seeking and it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4

  • Oscar

    The love of God is attractive. Your witness is repulsive because you lack love. The redemptive story of Jesus is beautiful. Your witness is ugly because you don’t enjoy it. The grace of God is humbling. You have not yet been humbled by it. You know many scriptures but you have only the power to anger. When the world sees you, they are supposed to see the Jesus in you.

  • wordoftruth

    Oscar, I don’t respond to liars and slanderers; nor does god hear their prayers, so save your breath..

  • Oscar

    The young lad who commented as the word of truth is the angry young man named Jesse who is one of the ” Christians” who shows the wath of God by holding signs on the streets and telling young people whom don’t yet know Jesus to kill themselves…… I follow Christ… Jesse doesn’t know Him… Jesse does not know the love of God or His Grace… it’s the goodness of God that leads men to repentance….Jesse only knows an angry God…. pray for Jesse..

  • wordoftruth

    The article was totally unbalanced, slanderous, and just ridiculous. Hannah Bleau, (Who wrote this article) attends a non-denominational church in St.Augustine and her pastor preaches without a bible. with all due respect to the comment above; we are not Pelagianists. We affirm salvation by grace through faith, but the bible speaks about “Things which accompany salvation,” and lifestyles of people who “Will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor 6:9-10) (Gal 5:19-21) One “Christian” girl on campus openly admitted she was having sex out of marriage and affirmed she was a believer. Another guy openly claimed he masturbates and it’s not a sin because “everyone does it.” The man who wrote the comment above is a Calvinist. They believe Grave covers all sin and salvation can never be forfeited. We affirm (as scripture affirms) Christ forgives all our past sins and future sins one the condition we ask forgiveness for them AND turn from them (1 john 1:9) The religious leaders of Israel (who people slander us as being alike) would isolate themselves from the sinners and as Jesus pointed out and “obey the letter of the law but violate the heart of the law.” They would commit the same sins as everyone around them inwardly but not externally. They would look at a woman to lust after her in their heart but not commit the actual sin, which is why Jesus pointed that out to them. The heart of the law are the 2 commandments Jesus pointed out “love the LORD your God with all your heart mind soul and strength,” and love your neighbor as yourself. If you really believe the scriptures and you love everyone as yourself, you will not only feed the poor (as our Christian community does) but also preach the love God extends by grace through faith, but also warn about eternal judgment. I asked the group of about 100 students how many were going to continue in sin after we left. Most of them raised their hands and cheered. I affirmed God loves you all, and I love you all as well, but When your breath leaves your body, you will stand before God hand have to give an account for your sins, and without faith in Christ and turning from your sins you will go to hell. I will never apologize for that because it’s the truth. We never point at anyone and tell anyone “you’re going to hell.” We preach about the forgiveness God extends to all who turn from their sins and put their faith in Jesus, and the judgment that awaits those who don’t while God works on the heart. If you want to debate about why we list specific sins (which scripture does too) I am not on here for that. If you want to attend our house church branch of St.Augustine; you’re more than welcome, anyone is welcome who has an open heart to the gospel, contrary to the slanderous article you don’t have to be “perfect.” If anyone wants to debate with scripture i welcome it. We love everyone esp others saints of God. 1 John 2:3-5-And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. John 8:44-You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires..Titus 1:6-They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. 1 John 1:6-If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 1 John 3:6-No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. 1 John 3:10-So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God. I can go on and on…

  • FlaglerAlum

    I appreciate your heart in this article. People need to be made aware that the media charicature of conservative Christians is a tremendous distortion of the teachings of scripture.

    I’m a Flagler alumnus, and while I was there for the past four years I got to know this particular preacher quite well. I am certain that the core of his problem is not his psychology or even his attitude, but his theology. I preached with him a few times downtown and near campus, but he was very different then. We never would have held a sign like the one in the picture. We never singled people out or made personal attacks. We simply preached that all are guilty under the law of God and that through Christ alone we can be made right with God. We preached both law and grace, which I believe cannot be separated if we hope to fully communicate the gospel.

    The change came when this preacher began believing an ancient heresy called Pelagianism, which denies the Christian doctrines of original sin, substitutionary atonement, and imputed righteousness. Instead, this theology teaches that man can keep God’s law perfectly apart from divine grace. Thus, Jesus becomes nothing more than a good example, and the message changes from “repent and trust Jesus” to “just stop sinning.”

    Ironically enough, for as much as this preacher might scream about God’s law, he suffers from too low a view of the law of God. As much as he might yell hatefully at others, he actually has too high a view of man. To him, God’s perfect standard of holiness is so low that man has the power within himself to attain it. There is then no need for the cross or an atonement, and thus this is a different gospel than the one revealed in the Bible.

    Many Christians don’t view theology as very important. It is assumed that all we really need to focus on is the way God is love. Indeed, God is love, but without a solid theology and biblical worldview surrounding that truth, it can easily be distorted or misunderstood. On the one hand, bad theology that ascribes too much credit for salvation to man and not enough to God can result in preachers like the one on campus today. On the other hand, telling a fallen world that a God loves everyone unconditionally is very misleading. Sinners who hear this will assume that such a God would never judge them, and wonder if He already loves and accepts them, why follow Christ?

    Although nobody is drawn to God without tasting and seeing His goodness, mercy, and love, I wouldn’t agree that the threat of hell has no part in conversion. Our Lord Himself warned and taught of hell more than anyone else in scripture, and we’re told in numerous places to fear God. If we truly believe that there awaits a judgment for unbelievers, what kind of love would we have for people if we failed to tell them about it? Yet this must be communicated pleadingly, prayerfully, and lovingly. Of course if we do love people, we must also tell them the one way of escape.

    In reality, the campus preacher is right that we must be perfect to enter Heaven. Yet he’s wrong that we have the ability to attain that perfection. The good news of the gospel is that our perfection is the perfection of Christ, freely given by grace through faith to all who believe. Christians are saved by works. Yet not our own works, but the works of Jesus. By the Holy Spirit’s power and God’s grace then we are sanctified and progressively conformed to the image of Christ. Anything other than that is different gospel. In order to discern truth from falsehood, I once again assert that theology matters.

    Thank you for writing this article and defending the God of the Bible. I pray often for the relatively small but powerful Christian witness among Flagler’s students. If all of Christianity began with twelve men and Jesus, (who promises never to leave or forsake), how much more is God able to bring about revival at Flagler?

    God bless.

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