It's Wednesday. Wednesdays are long: a TA class, office hours, a lecture, and working on the dissertation before going to chase the GA's until 7:30.
Wednesday is also the day I usually don't bring my lunch to work, so after office hours, I run over to the Drag to pick something up. And by the time I remember that it's Wednesday, it's too late to turn back.
Wednesday, you see, is the day the Angry Christians show up. To yell. They aren't part of the university, so they aren't allowed on campus, but they can stand on the sidewalk and yell whatever they want, so long as it's not incitement to revolution or the like.
Yelling is what they do. Two men, one on each side of the street, stand on the sidewalk and yell, sometimes one at a time, other times simultaneously, while their companions try to talk to passersby. Which is kindof difficult, given all the yelling in the background.
What they yell varies from week to week, but frequent topics include judgment, brimstone, debauchery, and the end of the world. They also like to yell about sexual ethics, clothing choices, and the ever-popular lake of fire in which we're all going to burn. Did I mention judgment? In five years on this campus, I have never once heard the Angry Christians talk about God's love, hope, or anything...not angry.
My typical response to the Angry Christians is to avert my eyes, keep my ipod on, and say, "No, thank-you," when one of the conservatively-dressed women offers me a handout. The Angry Christians know nothing about my heart, but apparently the fact that I occasionally wear pants and keep my hair shoulder-length incidates that I can't possibly be a Christian. I suppose they assume that if I were a true believer, I'd be out there with them, yelling at the top of my lungs about the rapture. (Well, technically it wouldn't be me yelling, since I'm a woman, but that's another topic.)
Now. I know that the Angry Christians genuinely believe they are doing the right thing by proclaiming their version of the truth from the sidewalk. As much as neither of us might like to admit it, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. And I'm certain that they pray fervently for this campus. For that I am grateful.
But. But. I just wonder. I wonder if they have fully considered the effects of their actions. I wonder if they've thought about the effect their activities have on those of us who are both Christians and part of this university community. I wonder if they understand how quickly they can undo years of efforts to build relationships with our colleagues, to make them understand that it is possible to be both a rational adult and a believer. I wonder if they realize how difficult they make it to prove that it is possible to be both a serious scholar, fully engaged in the pursuit of truth, and to be a committed person of faith. I wonder if they know that it takes years of building trust for most academics to even be willing to have a conversation about faith.
I wonder if they understand that propagating the stereotype that Christians are intolerant zealots obsessed with sex and pharisaical moral codes doesn't make it any easier for those of us who are not. I wonder if they understand that on our postmodern campus in a postmodern world, "they will know we are Christians by our love" opens a lot more doors than does informing someone they're going to burn in a lake of fire in which that person doesn't believe anyway. I wonder if they understand how hard we work to treat undergraduates as persons worthy of dignity and respect, instead of pests that interfere with our ability to work, and that treating students as people created in God's image means that those students come to us for advice about their problems and fears.
I wonder if they realize that they never say anything about love. I wonder if they realize that yelling rarely makes anyone want to listen, no matter the context. Because I have to say, if the Angry Christians were all I knew of this faith, I sure wouldn't want to have anything to do with it.
Maybe I should pray for them, too.