To reach my home on the east side of campus, I walk right through the heart of it.
Quite often I am greeted by the bellowing of slurs, hurled from the mouth of an old man in overalls, spewing toward his common crowds of 10 to 15 people.
This fanatic is Brother Jed, and he’s glad that you’re listening.
George Edward Smock Jr., better known as “Brother Jed,” is an open-air preacher that plagues campuses across the Midwest with his toxic rhetoric. He’s been a fixture on academic grounds since 1974 and formed Campus Ministry USA to further his messages. While he identifies with the United Methodist Church, his practices are far-flung from that of the church.
As of late, Brother Jed and his wife were issued a trespass warning following an altercation with an IU student. This warning banned Brother Jed and his wife from the west side of Woodburn Hall for a year.
Nevertheless, the two have reappeared to this area and have continued irritating any and all who pass by. While some believe their First Amendment rights are irrelevant following the violence and trespass, they are still here.
Regardless of whether or not they are trespassing, Brother Jed and his wife are not welcome. Students did nothing to receive vilification for living their lives. Comments made by Brother Jed in the past have been homophobic, racist and mysoginistic, further attacking already disenfranchised groups in our community.
I know that it is so tempting, but I implore you to keep walking. Taunts and jabs from students are momentarily gratifying for some, but they simply fuel his vitriol. His entire “shock and awe” approach hinges on people being offended. Don’t let him waste your time.
Brother Jed’s unreasonable statements stem from his belief that he commits no sin, and he claims that he is of an unorthodox position called “sinless perfection.” He also holds the view that goodness is not an essential attribute of God. In short, he’s a complete heretic to both religious and nonreligious groups.
Students shouldn’t be expected to relent from retorting when they feel targeted, but unfortunately it appears this is the only approach that quiets him. Efforts from the campus to keep them away since the trespass warning have either gone unmet or have been forgotten by those who enforce it.
The behavior exhibited by Brother Jed and his ministry are volatile, disruptive and serve little purpose other than to jostle his crowds. If Brother Jed was interested in true discussion, he wouldn't look to irk all who are listening.
The only means we have to bury Brother Jed’s message for now is to ignore it, as we always, unfortunately, should.
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