In a time not so very long ago, if a politician wanted to get his message across, he found a busy corner, put down a wooden crate to elevate himself above the crowd, and began pontificating. Union organizers used the technique outside factories. Leaders of the temperance movement used it outside churches to rile up women into storming the local watering hole. It’s where the expression “get off your soapbox” comes from.
Soapbox speakers are an anachronism in our twenty-first century, so much so that now, when one appears, we immediately suspect a personality disorder. That was my first thought when I heard about the “preacher” on the campus of James Madison University in Virginia. Watching a video of his performance didn’t do much to change that impression. He tells one young woman who says she is Catholic that she belongs to a “screwy” religion. And no one should ask a stranger if they masturbate.
You can judge for yourself in the video below.
I admit am not comfortable with confrontation. Even with the comments people leave taking issue with something I’ve written, I have a policy of replying once, and then letting the person have the last word – sometimes several last words. That’s because I honestly don’t think minds are ever changed by such exchanges, and all too often, it is just an opportunity to insult someone you disagree with. (“screwy religion”) Had I been present on campus last Tuesday, my cowardly inclination would have been to ignore the preacher and leave the area, so I give great credit to the students who tried to take him on with logic. But, watching that video, I didn’t think there was anything anyone present could have said that would have shut the man down.
I was wrong.
Shortly after the video posted above ended, the preacher went after a gay couple who had paused to watch his one-man show. The guys were holding hands, and the preacher told them they were going to hell. That’s when the students shut him down. Accompanied by one lonely acoustical guitar, the students of James Madison University began to sing. They sang about love – about a god who loves everyone – until the preacher’s message of hatred could no longer be heard.
See for yourself:
While the students’ success in conquering hate speaks for itself, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the irony in the choice of songs the students sang. How He Loves Me was written by John Mark McMillan, (right) a thirty-something singer-songwriter in the Christian music world and a repressed gay man. That’s not me diagnosing him from afar, he talks about his “journey” from living as a gay man to living as a married straight man in a biography he wrote for his Christian ministry website. Sadly, he admits that he still fights the urge to return to his gay life, but so far he has not found the courage to find his way back to his true self.
John Mark McMillan wrote that particular song in 2002, before he decided to live as a straight man, upon the death of his “best friend” Stephen, who died in an auto accident. Since McMillan says in his bio that he never had a platonic male friend before he decided to live as a straight man, it follows that McMillan wrote How He Loves Me to remember his lover. I doubt that the students knew that when they chose the song, but wow…