Travis Willmore:How to clean up the Park Blocks

One of the main side effects of possessing a strong faith in something – whether it be Christianity, Islam, Wicca or whatever – is the need to pass your spiritual insights on to others. This can take many forms. You can become ordained in a church, mosque or synagogue and help like-minded individuals to better understand the teachings of your chosen faith. You can travel the world as a missionary and spread your beliefs along with a healthy dose of humanitarian aid. There are also more morally dubious methods, such as going on TV and “healing” people for as long as the donations come in or sitting on a street corner ranting at people.

In the latter category is longtime PSU fixture “Preacher Dan.” Strangely, I haven’t seen him out on his perch in the middle of the Park Blocks in the last couple of weeks. Maybe he’s taken a sabbatical or maybe I just haven’t been walking through at the right time, but pretty much everybody who’s been on this campus for any length of time knows who I am talking about.

People all make use of their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion in different ways. I myself am a Seven-Day Adventist. Not a Seventh-Day Adventist, a Seven-Day Adventist, the distinction being that I believe every day is a day of rest. There are a wide variety of other faiths in evidence on the PSU campus. The problem is when people take this freedom of religion to the next level and feel as if they should be empowered to choose other people’s religions as well.

This causes a tendency to lash out at those with differing opinions.

Preacher Dan is legendary for his tirades against naysayers. Toward the end of last term, I witnessed him wrapped up in a debate with a somewhat full-figured girl. He responded to one of her criticisms with (and I quote exactly), “Shut your mouth, you fat Jezebel!” In my opinion, this is pretty high up in the running for international Best Quote of 2003. However, it was probably of dubious effectiveness in converting anybody who was listening.

His overall message shows heavy symptoms of living in an intellectual vacuum, as if the only book he’s ever read is the Old Testament. This is probably why he has staked out the PSU campus, of all the available locales in Portland, due to its focus as a center of heathen learning. His views definitely create an eye-opening contrast on our liberal campus.

Did you know, for instance, that masturbation doesn’t just cause hairy palms or blindness? According to one of Preacher Dan’s recent sermons, “the masturbators of today are the homosexuals of tomorrow, and the homosexuals of today are the pedophiles of tomorrow, and the pedophiles of today are those who will be having sexual congress with animals tomorrow.” It is never wise to generalize about humanity based on one’s own personal experience. Just because one person starts out with masturbation and ends up with a sheep, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the rest of the world will experience the same downward (or upward) spiral.

Naturally, people with opinions on the other side of the fence are always trying to start debates with him. This is a waste of time. What is really called for here is willful ignorance – letting him rant and rave, and pretending like he isn’t there. There’s no arguing with someone who believes that anyone with an opinion contrary to his is going to hell.

Or, if you haven’t passed your anger-management class yet and feel the need to do something , the thing to do would be to create a world-class distraction. I wrote last week about the futility of local protests to influence national events like the Iraq invasion – whoops – liberation. But here is where the old “think globally, act locally” aphorism really rings true. With small-scale local issues, civil disruption can be a very effective tool.

For instance, how hard would it be to overwhelm the volume produced by one person, really? Take residence in the middle of the Park Blocks with a 10-piece brass band. It doesn’t matter if the 10 people you round up know how to play their instruments correctly or not. In fact, it might be better if they didn’t. This would be far superior to strutting up and barking your opposing opinion at him, which is exactly what he’s expecting and hoping for. The element of surprise is crucial. What somebody really needs to do is hire a crack team of cross-dressing midgets to run up and energetically hump his leg.

I have nothing but respect for people who try to disseminate their beliefs in a respectful way. Those who go through years of seminary school to learn the most effective way of spreading the word, whatever word that might be, have certainly done something more constructive with their lives than I have (my greatest professional accomplishment thus far is using the phrase “crack team of cross-dressing midgets” in a sentence). But when someone’s sole purpose seems to be attracting the ire of college students, well, there’s no choice but to bring out the band.