Tuesday, Sept. 28, hungry Southeastern Louisiana Students making their way through the War Memorial Student Union Park in search of lunch were met with signs and warnings of hellfire and brimstone.
As indicated on the Southeastern events calendar, members of the Consuming Fire Fellowship had gathered by the flag pole to evangelize students through open-air preaching. Carrying large signs with messages such as “Warning to all unbelievers,” “God hates sin,” and “Stop sinning call on Jesus or hell,” the members of the fellowship called students to turn from a variety of sins or face the eternal damnation of hellfire.
“You want to be God,” one of the men yelled at students. “You cannot do that. God commands you to stop it today.”
Nursing major John Darby said the group was telling students they were going to hell for partying.
“Half the stuff we do we’re going to hell [for],” he said.
“The fact that they were condemning individuals just showed the level of ignorance on their part,” freshmen Jennifer Rees said. “The religion that they’re preaching is really the opposite of their actions, and actions always speak louder than words.”
Student reaction to the group has ranged from ambivalence to disgust to outright anger. Some students responded by making their own signs and yelling, “Prove it!” when the group declared that God had created their bodies. Most students approached Thursday stated that they believed the group’s method of confrontational evangelism did nothing to win people to the Lord.
Tricia Adams, a senior biology major, said she felt it was a sad situation because people such as the Consuming Fire Fellowship give Christianity a bad name and will only deter people away from Christianity.
“Basically if you’re not one of them you’re going to hell,” her friend and fellow biology senior Amanda Wells said. “I think they should actually read the Bible if they want to preach about it.”
General studies major Danyelle Sanders agrees that everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), but feels that the group could have chosen a different way to approach students with their message.
“You can only tell a person, you can’t make a person,” she said. “God has to put it on their heart. That was a big commotion for nothing.”
Four-year bookstore employee Nona Cochennic said the group’s message was scripturally sound, but that she didn’t approve of their method.
“As a Christian I didn’t necessarily agree on their tactics, but they were getting their message across,” she said. “Their signs were scriptural, they were quoting scripture.”
She felt that the students who reacted angrily to the fellowship were acting disrespectfully and rudely and could have chosen not to make such a scene by yelling in return.
“If they didn’t agree they just could have walked on. They didn’t have to make such a scene about it,” she said.
Drew Dupont said he was not offended by the group, believing their message to be nonsense.
“You can believe what you want to believe,” he said. “That’s what this country is all about.”
Rees said the group seemed to be presenting a God of hate and fear rather than a God of love.
“All the Bible really is, is a love letter,” she said. “It’s just a message saying yes there are rules and regulations to help you live but at the same time it’s just Jesus saying I love you.”
Rees said she was reminded of the story in John chapter 8 when a woman trapped in adultery was brought to Jesus to see if he would have her stoned. As the people questioned him, Jesus responded that the person without sin should cast the first stone (vs. 7).
“All those people are [doing] is casting verbal stones,” Rees said.