“Brother Jeb” is a fixture on our campus; he and his crew visit a couple times a year to warn of the dangers of sin. Holding a crucifix on a sturdy hickory pole, he looks every bit the modern prophet, telling onlookers that God knows when they smoke pot, watch porn, or have impure thoughts. Eternal punishment awaits!
The crowd gathers around him, laughing and jeering. Some put on performances of their own; one fellow preached a whole sermon about how leprechauns were going to destroy you unless you have Lucky Charms cereal for breakfast every morning.
If you’ve been reading my stuff for any length of time, you know I have no problem mocking hypocrites and fakers. But this guy and his followers… I am less inclined to ridicule. I actually feel some sympathy for him.
Something drives him, year after year, to stand face to face with college students while they yell and sneer at him. He seems genuinely to relish the invectives thrown at him. To me it looks more like mental illness than actual piety or prophecy.
There are truly harmful religious people, like Ted Haggard, Franklin Graham, and Josh Duggar. With their powerful connections in the political right, they drive legislation and prejudices that impact the lives of minorities, of people who have different religions, or no religion, or who just want to marry the same-sex person they love. Jeb is not one of them; he doesn’t have much influence.
I wonder what he would do if he came to campus, and people just ignored him and went about their business?
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- Some people in the crowd do get pretty hostile. There are often police nearby, perhaps to remind citizens that it’s all in good fun until someone throws a punch. And that crucifix is mounted on a decorated shovel handle which could, if necessary, be a potent weapon.
- His immunity to ridicule may be driven by Matthew 5: “11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
- Ted Haggard used to have a weekly phone conference with the President Of The United States. That’s power.