"You're too pretty to be a lesbian."
I overheard this phrase while passing through the student union a couple weeks ago. A girl next to me noticed my puzzled expression and gestured with her cigarette towards a man in the "Free Speech Zone" who called himself Brother Jed. Brother Jed is frequently seen on our campus in an attempt to convert our student body to follow his rigid Christian morals, morals that suggest that kissing someone before marriage is unholy, morals that suggest that consuming any amount of alcohol at any age is unholy, and morals that suggest that only unattractive women can be lesbians.
My personal doctrine is simple, "be a nice person," so hearing Brother Jed suggest that someone is "too pretty to be a lesbian" offended me deeply. The young woman to whom he was addressing was incredibly beautiful, but, more importantly, taken aback by this man's attack. Regardless of any religious beliefs, entertaining the idea that physical appearance can determine sexual orientation is asinine.
After asking a few students that had gathered to watch this man ramble, I learned that Brother Jed traveled to universities across the campus to spread his dogma. These attempts, for the most part, are fruitless. Most spectators are offended by his crude language and personal attacks towards students. In the twenty minutes I watched him, I heard him talk more about sex than he did about faith. He was on a college campus, but that doesn't mean the only way to reach out to students is by talking about sex and using slang terms for genitals. Mostly, that offends our intelligence.
In the week after my first encounter with Brother Jed, I saw him every day, repeating the same stories and insults as the day before. After one day, I was intrigued to find that instead of the crowd growing progressively smaller, more students came with mouths agape as the week passed. This puzzled me, mostly, as I couldn't see any reason why people would want to listen to a man insult our student body and spread misconceptions about Christian faith.
In the month since I've last seen Brother Jed, I've come to a few conclusions about Brother Jed. First, it seems counter-productive to spread a religion founded on love with hateful attacks towards young men and women. If anything, Brother Jed should have told stories of how the philanthropic teachings of his beliefs could better society as a whole. Stories and lessons of compassion and empathy reach people far faster than hate and condescension.
Second, I've decided that no one should be subjected to such a claim as "you're too pretty to be a lesbian." Even if someone's sexual orientation, religious beliefs, political doctrine, or lifestyle differs from yours, you should always strive for understanding and acceptance. The differences between all of us make our world the wonderful place that it is to live in.
Finally, I have come to the conclusion that religion is less about the rituals of going to church, celebrating the holidays, or reading from the holy books. Religion should be about a sense of wonder in the universe. Instilling that sense of amazement and beauty in our world is far more important than looking down on other people for being different.
Brother Jed hasn't made an appearance on our campus in about a month. While he was here, I appreciated that he remained in the Free Speech Zone and no one was physically harmed, though many walked away feeling insulted. In the time since, I've reached a few resolutions about religion that have always bothered me, and I am grateful for that. As long as we as a student body are aware that religion and the sense of wonderment that follows comes from within, it won't matter whether Brother Jed returns to our campus. If we live our lives with half the passion that we have for our education, we will inevitably lead happy lives.