As many UNC students know, the Pit is essentially the center for activities on campus — so many people pass through it every day. UNC’s website boasts that in a single day, every UNC student passes through the Pit.
Even if the previous statement isn’t true, the Pit’s popularity attracts many on-campus and off-campus groups who try to take advantage of the high volume of foot traffic to try and reach as many people as possible.
However, in a bid to make sure their message reaches and stays with people, many groups and individuals often resort to very extreme messaging or incendiary phrasing, which, while memorable, also tends to drive people away from the original goal.
Many religious groups tend to make this mistake — instead of showing and spreading love or empathy, they tend to try to scare people into their beliefs.
Just a few days ago, I was walking through the Pit and someone handed me a small comic book that essentially said if we don’t believe in God, we would all be going to hell.
As a Christian myself, I know it can be hard to share our beliefs without feeling like we’re trying to impose it on others, and an apocalyptic form of messaging probably doesn’t give the religion a good light in the eyes of non-Christians.
We all know Gary Birdsong, the infamous Pit Preacher who travels to public schools across North Carolina and “preaches” about Christianity. However, his extreme beliefs and messaging only drive people away from the Christian faith and give it a bad appearance.
Furthermore, whether he realizes or not, Gary has become a source of derision with the few actually taking him seriously. There are videos on YouTube with people turning his phrases into a song, purposely asking questions that will get an outlandish response and even a Rate My Professor page for him.
Recently, Sister Cindy, a well-known TikToker and evangelist, also came to UNC and started an amusing show at the Bell Tower where she asked random students about their sex lives and asked that they “hoe no mo'.”
I’m unsure of what Sister Cindy expects to accomplish on these campus visits, or whether she realizes college students are making a joke out of her messages, rather than taking them to heart. Especially the “hoe no mo'” catchphrase, which makes it hard to know if she’s trolling or being serious.
Even outside UNC’s campus, I’m sure that we’ve seen some Christians hold up signs that can also be summarized as “believe, or you’re going to hell.”
I come from a small, rural town in central North Carolina, and I have definitely seen things like this throughout my life. While people who do this are completely within their rights, it can become very uncomfortable for non-Christians, and even some Christians who don’t agree with the way these groups are sharing Christian beliefs.
These methods that are employed by some Christian groups seem so contradictory to me, especially when love, not fear, is supposed to be at the center of the Christian faith.
Extreme messaging isn’t exclusive to Christian groups, and it extends far beyond religion. Political entities and other organizations also regularly rely on extreme messaging to get their point across by exaggerating issues, telling incomplete truths or outright falsehoods in an effort to drum up support.
I hope groups who choose to speak on campus or elsewhere will at least tone down their messaging to be less incendiary. That way, we can open up a constructive dialogue rather than a shouting match or a source of entertainment for those wanting to get a response out of them.
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