Kyle Koch / The Daily Evergreen
The Glenn Terrell Mall turned into a public forum about Christianity on Wednesday when four traveling preachers engaged students in an impromptu debate.
The four preachers, members of an unnamed and unaffiliated group, have been traveling across the country on a two-week mission to teach Christian values and inspire people to think about their faith.
More than 100 students gathered around as the preachers took turns speaking from atop a step-stool between noon and 4 p.m.
Some students asked questions or shouted comments. Others stood silently and listened. And a couple students looked up Bible verses on their smartphones.
Michael Keown, a senior humanities major, said the preaching did not accomplish anything.
“I think it’s ridiculous,"he said."You’re not going to convert anybody by yelling at them.”
Keown identified himself as an atheist but not against Christianity.
As the debate unfolded, Keown ran to The Bookie to buy a poster board and marker and made a sign that read, “Please don’t pay attention to my loudmouth friend."
Keown said he wasn’t challenging the preachers’ facts but their method of communication.
Evan Weber, a sophomore history and anthropology double-major, said the preachers were at times intimidating. As Weber stood among the crowd, one preacher pointed at and approached him, he said.
“I don’t remember exactly what he said, but he was talking about how I was going to die,” Weber said.
But overall, Weber said he appreciated the event because it engaged students. He later shook the hand of another preacher, who Weber said was the nicest orator of the group.
That preacher was Scott Smith from Raleigh, North Carolina.
“I’m sounding the alarm today,” Smith said to the crowd.
He told The Daily Evergreen the group’s goal is to give students a chance to hear the truth about Christianity and answer their questions.
“I found there were a lot of nice students," Smith said. "The heckling was no worse than any other campus.”
At another speech, someone punched one of the preachers, he said.
Jessica Roegner, senior animal science major and Christian, spoke up in support of the preachers during their speeches and asked students not to heckle.
Roegner said she admired the group for standing up to talk about Christianity, which she feels is a minority ideology on campus.
“(The preachers) use a step-stool to stand up and talk, but it’s not literal," she said. "(They’re) not trying to talk down to students.”
The group stopped by the UI on Tuesday and will visit Seattle University on Thursday.