Tag Archives: Purdue Exponent

Religious Liberty?

Purdue’s campus was graced on Wednesday by a visit from Brother Jed Smock. I was walking across the memorial mall in the afternoon when I came upon a crowd of students. Brother Jed, garbed in white and waving a cross-tipped staff, was shouting at a group of 50 or so students, who were shouting back. Nearby a circle of eight students stood praying.

Rev. Jed yelling at Purdue students.
Brother Jed yelling at Purdue students.


I don’t know what the students were praying for. It is possible they were beseeching God that the listeners would be moved by Brother Jed’s message. But I rather imagine they were wishing that Brother Jed himself be moved to somewhere away from where he was.

I’d never heard of Smock before, but he is evidently a fixture on college campuses across the midwest. Smock wasn’t even the only angry preacher on campus that day. The Exponent had a story about the visit that talked about another preacher named Michael who spent his time judging the students gathered around him. The student newspaper report focused accurately on the obnoxious manner of the evangelist. But it also paid notice to the the harm he was doing:

Chandell Adelman, a freshman in the College of Liberal Arts, hoped that people wouldn’t think Michael’s message represented all people of faith.
“I just want to say that is not how Christianity should be demonstrated,” said Adelman. “The whole basis of Christianity is love and forgiveness. And demonstrations like that are what turn people away from God. It’s heartbreaking.”


CS Lewis

I begin to wonder whether people of good faith don’t have more of an obligation to stand up for the good reputation of Christianity. In practice nobody does because we’ve been trained that freedom matters more than anything else. But it is just possible that we are wrong.

CS Lewis, than whom there was nobody humbler and more peaceful, pondered the same question and admitted the possibility that certain rogues ought to be stood against when they abuse their freedoms:

It can be argued that if the windows of various ministries and newspapers were more often broken, if certain people were more often put under pumps and pelted in the streets, we should get on a great deal better. It is not wholly desirable that any man should be allowed at once the pleasures of a tyrant or a wolf’s-head and also those of an honest freeman among his equals. 


Lewis wasn’t talking only about religious scoundrels, but they were surely one sort that he had in mind. But that is just a thought in passing. My main point concerning “religious liberty” is . . . . “What? Where did anyone get the idea that religion is about personal liberty?”

Here’s what the Bible says:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,


Here’s what the Bible says:

But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.


Here’s what the Bible says:

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.


Here’s what the Bible says:

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


Here’s what the Bible says:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbori and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


Each of these Biblical passages puts an obligation on the believer to do all the good they can and expect nothing in return (in this life). The freedom associated with true religion is freedom from the consequences of our mistakes — not the freedom to insult and disrespect others.