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Friday
Oct041996

Travelling pastor shouts scriptures about sin to crowd

A preacher who travels across the United States from campus to campus came to SIUC this week and faced a mostly unreceptive audience as he spoke about the Bible.

At about 4 p.m. Wednesday, the atmosphere was hostile as Tom Short, a former pastor of Mountain Community Church in San Diego, preached about sin to about 30 people outside of Wham Hall. About five individuals in the crowd gathered around Short and shouted questions and comments as Short walked back and forth replying to them and quoting the Bible.

Sin brings a moment of pleasure but a lifetime of regret, Short said.

Phillip Anderson, a sophomore in creative writing from Springfield, said he did not agree with Short because he thought God would forgive him for sinning anyway.

People like you constrict my life, Anderson, yelled eliciting laughs and cheers from most of the crowd.

Why don't you leave then? one person yelled back to Anderson.

Because I love to argue with the guy, Anderson answered to more laughter and applause.

Anderson said Short's words were shallow and close minded.

I thought his basic message was to deny any experiences you've had in your life, to close your eyes and to listen and believe me', Anderson said.

Short said he preached in an open forum to the group, which at one point consisted of about 100 people, regarding the Bible's view of creation, homosexuality, premarital sex, other religions and Jesus being the only way to God.

Short said these discussions often become shouting matches.

In a given group, usually 10 percent hate to hear what I have to say, 20 percent love what I have to say and 70 percent consider and think about what I have to say, Short said.

He said his goal is not to argue but to bring the students to God.

Ultimately, it is my goal to convert people to Christ, but I realize that is a process, Short said. Mainly, I want to get people to think and ask themselves what they really believe.

John Hever, the pastor of the Abundant Life Campus Church that meets at the Student Center, said Short was invited to the campus by Hever's church to provoke thought.

Most people in their life have never given any thought to what the Bible says, Hever said. Jesus made one of the most politically incorrect statements when he said that he is the only way to Heaven, and Tom challenges them with Christ's claim to be the only way to God.

Neil Kring, who is a member of the Abundant Life Campus Church, said Short wanted to spread the word of God.

Tom wanted to get a spiritual discussion on campus and to get people to talk about things they might not ordinarily discuss, Kring said. But it is hard for people to be confronted with the words, Jesus is the only way'.

At about 5 p.m., Short decided to end his day of preaching with a prayer, and he invited all those who followed Jesus Christ to come and pray with him. About six people joined Short, and they prayed in a circle while joining hands.

At this same time, Tara Nelson, a senior in zoology from Chicago, said she wanted to say her own prayer. Nelson is the founder of a group called Universal Spirituality that is interested in non-traditional religions.

About five people gathered around Nelson, and some began to chant Goddamn through Short's one-minute prayer.

Nelson said she was not one of the people chanting, but she was encouraging the others of the group to do so.

I was encouraging them because we weren't damning a particular god, but we were using the word he can't deal with, Nelson said. We showed he made no impression on us at all.

Anderson said he probably was the one shouting Goddamn the loudest during the prayer.

It seemed to me like it was the 60s again, Anderson said. It was an indication of rebellion and opposition to his views.

However, Hever said he was saddened by the chanting because he believed the group was feeding off each other and revealing contempt toward God.

They've shown they have great hostility towards God, Hever said. The thought of us closing in prayer enrages them because they think we are self righteous and condescending. They think, How dare you pray for me as if I need praying for.'

Hever said there were quieter periods during which people asked good questions of Short. However, he said there was a fair amount of hostility much of the time.

I'm sure other people will say Tom is closed minded and judgmental when he said Christ is the only way to heaven, even though Jesus is the one who said it, Hever said. Anytime sinfulness is addressed, people will act hostile just like they did with Jesus.

Matt Guenette, a graduate assistant in English who teaches at Wham, said he heard the preacher as he was going to teach his class. He said he decided to have his students write an informal paper focusing on the language used by the preacher and those speaking with him.

Erik Schaefer, a student in Guenette's course and a freshman in art design from Rockford, said Short tried too hard to instill his ideas in the crowd.

It was interesting, but he just wasn't open, Shaefer said. I think he was narrow minded.

Travis Henry, a 22-year-old resident of Carbondale, said he has recently returned to Christianity. He said Short seemed down to earth and interesting, even though Henry did not agree with everything Short had to say.

I thought it was good, Henry said. I took it as do what you believe is right, but listen to everyone else's opinion. Now, when I go to church, I'll be thinking differently.

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