Atheist Undergrad to Christian Pastor: Don’t Be a Dick

Atheist Undergrad to Christian Pastor: Don’t Be a Dick April 29, 2013
A student at St. Cloud State University protests the preaching of John Chisham on campus on April 23, 2013. (Photo by Molly English)

When I first arrived on the campus of St. Cloud State University in January to teach Introduction to the New Testament, a couple of the students mentioned the preachers who come to campus. It seems that, as a Christian minister myself, they thought I should know how Christians are seen on campus.

Last Thursday, as class was about to begin, they asked if I’d been around the previous day to see the traveling preachers make their annual appearance. I hadn’t, so one student began showing me photos she’d taken on her phone.

You can imagine my surprise when I recognized one of the preachers: John Chisham, aka, “Pastorboy.”

Longtime readers will remember Pastorboy. He used to comment on this blog regularly (he was banned from commenting by me in 2009), and to post about me and others on his various blogs. He allowed me to interview him on video when my book, The New Christians, was coming out. And he was the lone protestor outside of JoPa’s event, Christianity21 – we had 21 women preachers speak at that conference, and he preached 21 sermons on the sidewalk outside (since, of course, women are not capable of preaching the gospel in his twisted theology).

Chisham is a Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) pastor in Marshall, Minnesota at River of Life Alliance Church. But he regularly travels to preach his hate-filled “gospel” message at gay pride parades and college campuses. The StarTribune covered him at a gay pride parade here, and when he preached at Mankato State University in 2010, a bunch of students took him up on his invitation for them to come to his church — they came, and stood silently in front of the church bearing signs of their own. Of course, Chisham did not take this in stride but called on the university to sanction the professor who advised them.

As you see in the photo above, and the uncropped version below, this year the students at St. Cloud State also fought back against his hate.

Students at St. Cloud State University protests the preaching of John Chisham on campus on April 23, 2013. (Photo by Molly English)

The photos were taken by Molly English, a student in my class who is double-majoring in Women’s Studies and International Relations. She’s also an atheist who is taking my class on the New Testament. I asked her about the incident, and she wrote the following, which I post here with her permission:

These takes place on a tiny “hill” right outside Atwood between Atwood and Stewart Hall. It’s a huge main point for students to pass by.

Apparently, they stand on a piece of public land that can be rented out, and that’s why the campus cannot do anything about them, unless they “disturb the peace” by using a megaphone or by singling out students (which they do anyways).

Anyways, they are like bugs that crawl out when the sun comes out. I’ve been told that they have been doing this at SCSU for at least 10 years or more? I was also told by my (openly queer) Women’s Studies teacher Beth Berila that they go to several campuses.

Many repeat a common rumor: “They aren’t even pastors. They just say that shit to get people to punch them, and then they sue the university for money. That’s how they keep their livlihood and make an “‘income.’” I personally doubt this.

They are known to single out students. From what I’ve heard, it tends to be women who are pointed out as whores for make-up or low-cut tank top shirts.

Obviously, the other main concern is their direct attack on homosexuality as a sin and in need of repentance. Then comes non-Christian believers = sinners and damned and in need of repentance. Then he speaks of smokers and how he saw the light and was a sinner himself, ect…

As an Atheist, I already am quite aware that I am in the minority and that Christians have more power in this country. So to come to school and be forced to hear and see this shit, it makes me livid and disgusted. I can only imagine it is the same for anyone who is queer or other non-Christians. I just want school to be a safe place where we don’t have to feel this way, not when we have to feel it every other moment of our lives in Minnesota.

John Chisham’s companion with a sandwich board of sins at St. Cloud State University on April 23, 2013. (Photo by Molly English)

So, why post about this? Why bring more notice to this hate-monger who misunderstands the gospel?

Because his hate must be be countered with love and respect. His bad version of the gospel must be countered with a better version of the gospel.

Because when we crawls out from under his rock to preach hate and judgment, many undergrads are pushed one step closer to forsaking the Christian faith altogether.

Kudos to the students who protested Pastorboy’s preaching, and kudos to Ms. English for writing to me about how it feels to be an atheist and a GLBT ally when these idiots come to campus.

And to those of us with a better version of the gospel than Pastorboy, let’s figure out ways to counter their hate.


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