Return of the perennial Oak Grove preachers

Keith Darrell, an itinerant preacher from Ohio, spoke to a responsive and occasionally angry crowd on Monday afternoon in front of Stapleton Library at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Photo by Logan Hullinger.

By Logan Hullinger

INDIANA — A group of traveling preachers drew a crowd in the Oak Grove on Monday, and some students gave them hell.

Christian itinerants perennially visit the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus to preach the Gospel and test the public institution’s acceptance of the First Amendment right to free speech.

Three preachers were present during Monday afternoon’s raucous revivalism, but only one attracted an animated — and occasionally angry — crowd. That was Keith Darrell, a self-proclaimed “Christ ambassador” from Ohio.

“I’m not out here for things like sexuality, because the root issue is worship,” Darrell said during his sermon. “If I had an agenda, Page One would be ‘who’s a living God?’”

Darrell, however, did emphasize sexuality. He spat out a sermon condemning the “sins” of homosexuality, drug use and premarital sex.

“You guys who are fornicating, lying, getting drunk, being thieves and being greedy are in just as much trouble as homosexuals,” Darrell said. “If you’re really worshiping the living God, He would transform you.”

 

His student audience scoffed, laughed — and responded.

“I think the preacher was absolutely ridiculous to bring a one-sided religious debate to such a religiously diverse campus,” said Kody T. Williams, a senior marketing major following Monday’s Oak Grove sermonizing. “He’s just trying to get a rise out of people with his views, which honestly are just malarkey. He’s just close-minded; that’s how those people are. If you disagree with them, they get defensive and say more ridiculous things in an attempt to validate their opinions.”

Other students were less judgmental but still opposed to the message.

“I don’t think that his preaching was necessarily meant to be hurtful,” said Lindsey L. Gibson, a senior philosophy and political science major, during the sermon. “He was telling people what his religion teaches honestly. But I think that it created a tense atmosphere. The things he was saying about homosexuals and those who practice something other than Protestantism was divisive at the least. It’s not the kind of environment that IUP claims to want to have.”

The experience helped unite students in some ways, she added.

“It was really awesome to see my fellow students get so involved in something,” she said. “Some people were being kind of rude, asking to take his Bible and such. But most people were making good counter-arguments like the educated adults we’re supposed to be.”

 

UNLIKE A MORE FAMILIAR Oak Grove preacher, Timothy Metcalf, pastor at the Lord Jesus Christ Assembly church two blocks north of the Oak Grove, preacher Darrell and his companions didn’t seek a permit from Sutton Hall, according to university spokeswoman Michelle S. Fryling in a Tuesday email.

“He was unaware of our policies about getting a permit,” Fryling wrote. “As has been done in the past when individuals are in the Oak Grove without permits, a member of the Center for Multicultural Student Leadership and Engagement team spoke to the visitor to let them know about the permit process.”

Darren and two companions stayed well into the afternoon, under the watchful gaze of two university police officers on the steps to the campus library.

Logan R. Hullinger, a senior journalism major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a staff reporter for The HawkEye, is from Clarion. He may be contacted at L.R.Hullinger@iup.edu

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