Our lovely campus is very likely to get visited by some religious protestors soon, according to Patti Klein, Hamline University’s Dean of Students. If you were on campus last year, you probably know what to expect. A few people will come and stand on the sidewalk in front of Old Main (where they are legally allowed to be). They will have signs that say something about how sinful and degenerate Hamline students are, probably with some good old anti-LGBT rhetoric thrown in. They will preach or yell at any student that passes by them.
It’s safe to say that no one enjoys getting a visit from protestors. The things they say are very hurtful to many of us and it feels like an invasion of our campus. Last year, there was a lot of backlash from students. It feels a lot better to do something than just ignore them. But ignoring them is absolutely the right choice, and here’s why.
They Will Never Change Their Minds
Literally nothing you could possibly say will change their minds. Asking them why they spread hate when Jesus said to love your neighbors is not going to spark a moment of deep self-reflection where they realize that this isn’t what Christianity should be about. That’s because they are absolutely convinced that they are doing the right thing. They are spending hours on a sidewalk in the cold and snow, yelling at us – and it isn’t for the purpose of sparking a productive discussion with logical points from each side. They don’t care about what we say, and it won’t change their minds. Questioning them, even in a respectful manner, is just giving them what they want. Which leads to my next point…
You’re Giving Them Exactly What They Want
As Patti Klein said in her email, the protestors may film the reactions they get from our community. This is because they want reactions from our community. They want you to yell back at them. They want you to get mad. They want you to engage with them — it is the only reason why they are there. Don’t give them the satisfaction. If everyone pretends like they don’t exist, they’re going to have a really boring time and probably leave sooner. If they’re getting lots of awesome videos of students yelling at them, they’re going to stay longer to get more.
Making your own counter-protest signs, yelling at them, chanting, asking pointed questions, playing music, trying to block their view of campus, kissing someone of the same gender, etc. is not helping. When you do that, it just reinforces their belief. This is why they are so inflammatory. They want to make you mad and they want attention. Just don’t give it to them.
Is it hard to ignore someone spreading hatred? Yes, it is. But the sooner we all accept that no reaction is the best reaction, the better off our community will be. If Hamline becomes known as