Looking up from an essay I was writing for a world religions class comparing the story of Adam in the Quran and the Bible, I heard a woman on the Diag screaming phrases like: “God is looking for sluts and whores like you” and “You can fool your teachers, you can fool your doctor, you can fool your parents, but you can’t fool God.”
In a liberal institution like the University, religion, a personal choice, is being forced out of the private sphere and into the public sphere. Preachers Michael Venyah and Chris Lemieux’s involvement last week at the LGBT Affairs Office rally has come under intense scrutiny. What did they hope to achieve by antagonizing an integral part of the community that the University strives to build for diversity? Did anyone on the Diag that day even listen to them?
“God will send Jews and gay people to Hell,” they reportedly said. Well, too bad for them. Enjoy your ride to Heaven and let other people live the way they want to.
Almost every Christian student would feel embarrassed being connected in any way to Venyah and his cohorts – just as almost every Muslim student feels unfairly judged when identified with a radical Islamic hatemonger. Venyah has no right to judge people on their religious beliefs, sexual preferences or point of view.
If Venyah’s intentions were as noble as he claimed, and if he really did want people to realize that Christianity was the correct way of life, his approach was certainly not the way to go about it. Presenting the ridiculous notion that Christianity is concerned solely with condemning “Jews and gay people” to Hell did not help him in his goal of making Christianity an attractive option for all “non-believers.” It’s little wonder that Venyah faced the furious reaction to his views that he did in both last year’s LGBT rally and the one last week.
Venyah’s organization, “Soulwinners,” is the most vocal radical religious group to appear on campus at any point during the year. The group’s website, soul-winners.org, boasts its Save Our Students (S.O.S) program, with the description, “Daily, on college campuses, this country’s future presidents, pastors, professionals, are spoon-fed the strychnine of Satan’s soul-damning, Christ-denying, lies, beneath the sugar-coated guise of ‘science’ and ‘secular humanism’.”
As Venyah continues on his 27-state, 64-campus tour to “spread the message of the Lord” to universities all across the country, it seems students in Michigan are, as always glad to see him leave – just like they would be in the case of any other radical self-righteous preacher. In fact, this is one of those rare issues that the Spartans from Lansing and the Wolverines actually find themselves agreeing upon. In 2006, Venyah protested at both Michigan State University and in Ann Arbor, receiving similar backlash from both groups of students, showing exactly how strongly the students feel about his portrayal of Christianity as a reflection of his personal views.
Venyah is just one example – albeit the one we can most relate to – of the attempt to needlessly impose a religion onto others. The mode of conveyance that groups like Soulwinners use insults everyone else’s knowledge, because they assume that the rest of the population has never thought about what it believes in. They think we are blindly following something that society has imposed on us. The assumption that extremist religious groups make about the inherent ignorance of the country’s students is as far away from reality as their idea that “diversity is a pretext for encouraging homosexuality and sodomy.”
Instead of pointlessly infuriating young adults all over the country, Venyah would do more good, for himself and everyone else, by just sitting in on a few Religion 201 lectures.
Emad Ansari is an LSA freshman and a member of the Daily’s editorial board.