The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.
Yesterday afternoon, Miami University students gathered in response to the arrival of three Official Street Preachers for the second time this academic year. Official Street Preachers is a national organization that utilizes public preaching to spread a radical interpretation of the word of God.
The Street Preachers are seasoned professionals when it comes to eliciting a response out of the crowd it gathers in response to its homophobic and anti-abortion signs. They shout profanities at people walking by on their way to class and claim to have the key to sending students to heaven and saving them from the path of sin they are on. They utilize harsh, hurtful rhetoric to personally offend people, inciting conflict and confrontation.
But the student response was no better.
The student-led counter-protest was marred by screams and shouts of “Go home” and “Fuck off.” While there were some students present who simply wanted to be there as an ally or to engage in civil discourse, the general undertone was one of outrage, loud and forceful as the gusty wind.
We at The Student do not condone the rhetoric or behaviors of the Street Preachers. But we also do not condone the behaviors of fighting fire with fire.
Physically assaulting a Street Preacher by kicking a gallon of water out of their hand, standing an inch away from their face and shouting at them that they don’t have the right to stand on a public sidewalk and voice their beliefs isn’t the way that we should combat their oppressive messages; it’s giving them what they want.
We, as citizens and at our very core as human beings, have the responsibility and the right to acknowledge that the radical ideas of the preachers don’t hold water. If we don’t debate the roots of those ideas, then nothing will ever change.
But we should never shut people down.
These preachers come on a regular basis. We know their messages. We know what they do and how they do it. They aren’t really preachers at all, but thrill-seekers in constant search of an altercation.
Having a constituent of students that are out there combating these radical views is of the utmost importance. But our response needs to be visible, not aggressive. Every single person has the right to state their beliefs. It is the manner by which we discuss and debate these beliefs that concerns us today.
What are we accomplishing by doing that?
While arguing with radicalized persons such as the preachers may be futile, that doesn’t mean that we can completely ignore their perspectives and opinions. Engaging in discourse is undoubtedly important, and the way we engage in political and ideological debates needs to be in a respectful manner all around.
As students at this university, we are constantly being exposed to different views that oppose our own. It’s time to turn down the volume. Don’t fight aggressive rhetoric with aggressive rhetoric and argue about their right to be there. Try to understand, no matter how outlandish the argument may seem. Don’t let them get the reaction they seek out of you. We as a community and as individuals are better than that.