Sun Devils

Unbelievable. The unrelenting sun of Arizona is unbelievable. Even a “cloudless day” back east is only an approximation. Here it is literal. And like all things literal, it attracts the Fundamentalists. I spent the day on the campus of Arizona State University, the country’s largest university by enrollment. Outside the student union, a couple of bands were banging away in the heat, but when I passed by in mid-afternoon they’d been replaced by a street preacher. He was nattily dressed and provocative. When I first walked by he was talking about students being either “a wicked homosexual, a wicked pot-smoker, or a wicked feminist” and went on to throw in some choice words such as “Obama-loving sinner.” Nobody seemed to be paying him much mind. I went on to a couple of appointments and when I passed that way again, at least ninety minutes later, he was still at it. Now he had a small crowd. Students virtuously challenged him as he claimed that he was without sin, “yes, I am Christ-like” he said to one question, and proceeded to tell anyone that challenged him that they were not children of God and that they should run to Hell because they would enjoy it so much.


The more I watched this charade, the more trouble I had believing that the preacher was sincere. He quoted, out of context, of course, chapter and verse. He literally thumped his Bible. His hatred for anyone who disagreed with him was plainly evident. I felt embarrassed on so many levels. This is a state university, and the man had a clear agenda of hatred and intolerance. I was here to meet the religion faculty. Everything students were being taught in their classes was being shot down by an ancient book that had relevance only by being quoted out of context. And all of this on a campus whose mascot is the Sun Devil. Devils abound on campus, but the worst, it seemed to me, preached loudest.

Somewhere along the way to enlightenment, this kind of Christianity slipped the rails to become its own self-righteous force. What right had this man to tell students they were wicked? To me they seemed hospitable, peace-loving, and kind to the stranger in their midst. The preacher, self-fascinated, claimed to be without sin. I guess that gave him the scripture-sanctioned right to cast the first stone. Good thing he wasn’t in the crowd when Jesus rescued the woman caught in adultery. When a few students pointed out his flaws in reasoning, which were many, others applauded before he flew back to his out-of-context biblical backbone. More quoting, more thumping. The sun was out in full force in Arizona, but somehow it failed to fall on one man who proclaimed himself better than all others.

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