When they exited their classes on Tuesday afternoon, University of Massachusetts Boston students were greeted by Mike Stockwell and his group of Evangelists, who were loudly and energetically preaching their message on the quad.
Students engaged the group, loudly and vigorously interrupting their messages with their own, which ranged from, "If Jesus loves everyone, then he should love homosexuals just the same," to "Did you vote for Romney?" to the outright ridiculous, "Let's take Bikini Bottom, and PUSH it somewhere else!" The crowds came in waves, with varying levels of intensity as the day went on.
The group had a menagerie of signs that had messages proclaiming it to be "sin awareness day" and claiming that "evolution is a lie." While the messages on the signs were relatively tame by the standards of a religious group that recently claimed that homosexuals were responsible for hurricanes, it was obvious that students took offense to their messages.
On multiple occasions, certain students grew very hostile towards the group, at one point one even stood on top of a table so he could get right in Stockwell's face. The general attitude was almost joyous as students were given a rare chance to unite and mingle with one hell of a conversation piece.
A man wearing a joker mask got behind the preachers at around 2:50. Around the same time, a student stood behind Stockwell, who was yelling bible verses at the time, with a sign that had "Butthole$" painted on it in bright red. At one point, at around 3 p.m., a thunderous "Let's Go Red Sox" chant broke out among the 200 or so students in the quad. Needless to say, Instagram and Snapchat were being heavily used.
One might wonder why an Evangelical group would come to such a liberal campus and preach? According to Stockwell, they came here to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
"The reality is that our lives are temporal. We're here for a very short time and then we die," he said. "The Bible says that it's a point for men once to die and then the judgement, so we come out here to share the good news of the Gospel because we've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God because we need Christ as our savior."
Stockwell and his crew have been touring campuses over the northeast for the past few days. They plan on going to Salem next. He claimed that they were received very warmly at UMass Lowell.
What is odd is that although they were cursed out and screamed at by dozens of students on campus, he believes that they were well received. "We were received very well," he said. "We enjoy engagement with the student body, even if it's negative in nature."
He added, "We're not here being hateful or anything, we just wanted the Gospel to be proclaimed here. We want people to come in and have a spirited debate about what they believe, and we're just showing them that without God, they can't know anything."
Stockwell knows that his group is fighting an uphill battle when it comes to northeast campuses. When asked if his subject matter makes it difficult to speak in front of people, he said, "Sure, especially when we come out here and tell people that Jesus is the only way, people say 'that's intolerant.'"
He quickly added, "Even though we say that, there's no reason to get offended. Everyone has their own beliefs, but the problem is that there's really only one way, only one way to life, and that's Jesus Christ."
You can see how the student body would be frustrated while listening to Stockwell preach, as he constantly contradicted himself throughout the demonstration.
At one point he said that a questioner "knew nothing" and five minutes later, he proclaimed that he was not trying to insult anyone. He made it clear during the interview that although he acknowledged that everyone had their own beliefs, there is only one way to believe. At a campus that prides itself on diversity, you can imagine how far that message got the group, who had trouble getting a word in edgewise throughout the entire afternoon.
When asked about students who express different beliefs to him during his speech, Stockwell said, "There's only one absolute truth, Jesus said it, and everything else is false. Students can come up and try to give their best defense for it but it's still not true. There's only one truth."
It is obvious what Stockwell's goal was in coming to campus today. The group thrives on conflict, even the banner photo on their website (crosscountryevangelism.com) is of them being accosted by an angry crowd. Their goal was achieved, because their surfacing on campus created a communal environment that is rarely seen at this commuter school, as the entire student body banded together in their disgust.