Preach

Column by Hallie Beard, Opinion Editor

Recently, “Preacher” Ross Jackson visited our campus again to spew what he calls the Gospel in the free speech zone.

You either already know this or will hear it, but let’s just get this out of the way: what Jackson yells is not the Gospel. Elements of it may be there, but his understanding of Christianity is skewed, and one that is completely void of grace or redemption. So, if you listened to his speech because you were truly curious about your spirituality, don’t let Jackson’s performance make a real impression on you. His message was a caricature of Christian belief.

That aside, I want to talk about what bothers me most about the Jackson event, and you’ll need to bear with me.

When I logged onto Facebook days after his visit, I saw countless friends sharing a petition to remove him from campus in the future. Here’s the rub: removing him from campus would be a problematic ordeal that might do more damage than allowing him to be here.

Jackson’s message was hateful and judgmental, homophobic, sexist, etc. – all the things we want to rid from our campus. Even though he was in the free speech zone, his message is not one Murray State students want to give opportunity to. I get that, and that’s fair.

However, if we remove people like Jackson from campus, we also should have removed the white nationalist group. Once we start forbidding people to come based on their beliefs, the line between what’s acceptable and what’s not becomes extremely murky and hard to maneuver. Creating a system for determining if someone’s views are harmful enough to put them on the blacklist would be a nightmare for university administration, and probably impossible to do. What one person thinks is harmful may not seem significant to another.

I might be in the minority here, but I don’t trust the university to have my back. Sorry to any administration reading this – I have a skepticism and wariness for you all that I can’t shake. It’s nothing personal. Trusting the university to determine who will emotionally hurt me or not is a dangerous game, and one I don’t think we should give them the power to play. It hinders free speech, however offensive, and makes policy depend on the value judgments and biases of our administrative members.

What’s my solution, then? It’s a tough one: just don’t listen to Jackson.

Do you think Jackson would come back year after year if he didn’t think there would be a crowd of angry students surrounding him? Jackson is a performer, and he craves an audience. His show is reactionary – it relies on the audience’s participation and emotions. If you want him to stop speaking to you, don’t address him.

Don’t be upset that you feel hurt after looking Jackson in the face for an hour and being one of his audience members. There’s a way to avoid that anger all together: don’t give it a source. Don’t encourage him. Don’t poke the bear, feed the fire, whatever lame cliché you prefer. Follow your mom’s advice from when you’d get in fights with your brother or sister: just ignore him.

If you’re a Christian who’s offended by Jackson’s misguided rants, don’t use his error as a vessel for fruitless rage. That’s not Christlike, either, and it doesn’t do any good. If you think his message is incorrect, then take it upon yourself to share the right one.

If you’re not religious and only attended Jackson’s speech for entertainment, stop doing that. Jackson wants to see laughing, crying, smiling, angry faces in his crowd, and if you’re one of them, you’re giving him the wink and the nod to come back again soon, y’hear? You might as well be setting a table and giving him a glass of sweet tea.

To wrap up: just don’t.