After an organization called the Bible Believers visited Montclair State University to preach their own interpretation of the Bible on March 14, members of the Newman Catholic Church have expressed their frustration over the group’s misrepresentation of the Christian faith.
“I just want to say that what happened the other day with the Bible Believers, that was horrendous,” said Sophie Ouellette, a missionary worker that works with the church through a nonprofit group called Focus. “Everyone was so upset even just being there and hearing what they were saying. That is not a representation of Christians as a whole whatsoever.”
According to Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life Dr. Karen Pennington, the organization was permitted on campus with the authority of the university as the federal law does not allow it to prohibit content based on the message.
Many declared that the preaching of the religious group veered more toward sexism, homophobia and intolerance rather than actual views of the Christian faith.
“It was very heartbreaking to know that there were so many people on campus that thought that God hates them…,” Ouellette said. “Or that women are not valued or that the church hates gay people. All very false things… [but] there were people on campus actually believing this because of these people. It was just awful, but those things are not true.”
Junior marketing major Erika Rademaker was disgusted as she watched and heard the demonstration put on by the Bible Believers with her friends, including an openly gay student and a Muslim-American student.
“It’s so sad to see people like this still exist,” Rademaker said. “I’m very open-minded like I think most college students are in 2018. I was really proud of the group of students and faculty who defended their views and tried to stand up to the men preaching negativity and hate.”
Another student who watched the preachers was junior communication and media arts major Katherine Braunstein, who is currently the secretary of Newman Church. Braunstein mentioned that upon hearing that the organization was on campus, she was frightened.
“I was like, ‘oh no’ immediately and [felt this] sense of dread because this campus isn’t known for being religious,” Braunstein said. “And it is also hard for me to find a home here being very religious myself. It’s just difficult more than anything, but one of the reasons why I was so scared was because people that aren’t religious and want to find something to say against Christianity, they will find anything possible to speak against it. And the [Bible Believers] made it even more intense and worse.”
Braunstein explained that this organization did not represent all Christian faith members, only a slim minority. She hopes that people will not judge the religion simply based on the misinterpretation of these men. In her attempt to discredit the group on the day of the demonstration, Braunstein asked students with questions and concerns about Christianity to reach out to her via her Instagram.
Sean Grealy, the Newman Catholic Campus minister, also discredited the group’s views.
“Obviously, there are certain stances the church has regarding certain things like gay marriage and things like that [that] are talked about in the media,” Grealy said. “There is a lot of background to that, but the basic message is and will always be love coming from the Catholic Church. The Bible Believers that were on campus, they were not preaching love. They were preaching hate. They said that if you were a member of LGBTQ community, you were damn[ed] to hell forever. That is not true.”
Even though a wide-range of students were offended, Pennington wants students to know that the university understands, but that everyone has the right to freedom of speech.
“To those who are offended, they should try to remember that others won’t always share our opinions,” Pennington said. “We cannot control what others say or do, but we can control our reaction to it. We can walk away and not give offensive people an audience. We can fight by providing programs and activities that provide an alternate view.”