UTC, Free Speech, and Stupid

I don’t often do “current events” type commentary here, but a local event has triggered a lot of very strong reactions. Many of my friends at UTC (some of whom are not believers) have asked me questions about this situation, and, as the answer is universally applicable, I thought it would be a good idea to address it here.

Chattanooga, TN – On November 15, Cole Montalvo, a UTC student was arrested for disorderly conduct. That’s not so unusual, right? A college student making a little ruckus is not really newsworthy. What made this topic leap to the front page, though, was the reason he was being “disorderly” in the first place.

A female “Christian Evangelist” has been… preaching, I guess???, on the campus of UTC for a while. Reports are that she has been “haranguing students at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.” Due to incidents that occurred during previous visits, the University erected a perimeter of orange cones around the “evangelist.”

There are two things that make this story sensational: 1) A 3:58-minute video of the arrest was released on YouTube, apparently shot with a cell phone, titled “Police brutality on UTC campus” (be careful. This video has LOTS of NSFW language and is horribly shot – for a different perspective, you can see the “evangelist’s” video here. For the relevant bits, skip to 7:15) and 2) the lengths to which campus safety officers had to go to restrain Montalvo.

Now, there is no question that it required a lot of force to take down Montalvo. There’s also no question that Montalvo was belligerent and refused to comply with the directions given to him. But that’s not my topic today.

Nor is my topic the frighteningly ignorant petition on change.org begun by students at UTC. Not because I agree with them, but because Susan Kruth has already addressed the issue wonderfully. (Though it is concerning that so many students don’t view what they are doing as a willful relinquishing of their own rights)

It’s not even my intent to discuss free speech and the difficulty in being an American Citizen. (Even though it means I don’t get to use my very favorite Aaron Sorkin quote of all time.)

My topic isn’t even Angela Cummings’ remarkably flawed theology (some of which can be viewed here.)

No, my topic here is the “evangelist” Angela Cummings herself.

(James… seriously, what’s with all the quotes around the word evangelist? It’s getting annoying.)

Let me explain.

In her “sermons” (sorry), Cummings often says things like “sinners are going to hell” and “you’re all fornicators and fornicators will have their place in Hell.”

All of this is true – and this is a topic for other posts – but this “evangelist” is no evangelist. I read last night (I haven’t found a ton of evidence to support this, but it isn’t vital to the point) that she is part of a group that goes to public places, becomes a nuisance, people respond, her rights get infringed and then the group sues (much like those fine folks at Westboro Baptist). You see, it’s not the things that she is saying that are wrong, but, quite literally, how she is saying them.

The word “evangelist” is from a compound Greek word euangelion. The word “eu” means “good, well, normal; happy, or pleasing.” It’s always used as a prefix. The word “angelion” means, “messenger” or “message.” So, literally this word means Good Message.

So, what message does Cummings preach? She preaches a Hell for sinners and then – again, much like her WBC counterparts – exudes a happiness that sinners are going there. The good news is not that sinners are going to Hell. That’s not good news for ANYONE!

There is a good message: Jesus died so that we could be made right with God.

The Apostle Paul said that we can have the gift of prophecy, and even understand all mysteries (one would infer that we could also evangelize on street corners every day until Jesus comes), but if we don’t have love we are nothing. Without love, we serve no better function than a “clanging cymbal.” (Or, perhaps, imagine a toddler banging on pots and pans.) One need only listen to this woman one time to know that there is no love in her message.

I absolutely defend her right to speak. But, please, UTC students, faculty, staff, news media bloggers, countrymen… don’t call her a Christian Evangelist.

She is nothing of the sort.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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