Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Picketers preach near PLU

by Kelsey Hilmes, Opinion Editor
Seven minutes.

That’s about how long two Evangelical picketers were on campus last year before campus safety asked them to leave.
But today, Jody Raplee and Jeremy,who would not disclose his last name, came prepared, setting up a table and signs on the sidewalk in front of Harstad Hall. After talking with campus safety and a local sheriff officer, they were allowed to stay because the sidewalk is off of the campus perimeter.

Two Evangelicalists talk to passersby while set up
outside Harstad Hall today. Photo by Kelsey Hilmes.

Spreading the gospel on college campuses is not an unusual event for them. A couple of days ago, Raplee was at South Puget Sound Community College, and was at the University of Alaska Anchorage Campus a few weeks before. “We’re very grateful that most of the students here believe that the Bible is the word of God,” Raplee said. “We just want to help them understand that obedience to God is a part of salvation.”

Raplee added that his first visit to a college campus was a couple of years ago. Before that, he picketed in downtown areas. Raplee said going to campuses was intimidating at first because he doesn’t have a formal education. “I realized that people who are in colleges need to hear the gospel just as much as anybody else,” Raplee said. “This is the future of the church. There are future disciples here.”

Students expressed mixed feelings about their presence on campus. “I don’t mind them exercising their freedom of speech or anything, but when they’re trying to tell me something that affects me personally it’s not ok,” sophomore Sarah Bennett said. Upon seeing a sign that read “he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery,” Bennett was upset and called her mom. “If that were the case and people didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be here today, and my parents live better lives because of it,” Bennett said.

Evangelical picketers handed out pamphlets
while set up near PLU. Photo by Kelsey Hilmes.
Sophomore Erica Hagan expressed concern about their conflict with PLU’s Lutheran heritage. “We are a Lutheran school so we are open to a lot of different views and I feel like they are kind of discriminating against other views,” Hagan said. Although they are technically off campus, Hagan said that it still feels like they are on campus, and would prefer they went to Garfield street, where it is more public.

Both men are married with five children and own their own businesses. Raplee owns a stump grinding and landscape services business and Jeremy owns an IT business. “That gives us some flexibility to take some time off during the week to come to universities,” Raplee said.

They held black signs with scriptures written on them in white text. Propped against a cement block was a sign that read “define necessity”with a picture of a starving child next to a picture of shoppers with full carts. A white collapsible table displayed books, pamphlets, and CDs of teachings they appreciate. One of the books was a critique of Martin Luther and other reformist theology. Others focused on topics like the sinful nature of divorce and remarriage. All materials, except for the books, were offered to passersby for free.

The two are acting independently of any organization, but affiliate with a Menonite and Baptist church in Rochester, where they live. Although the church didn’t commission them to visit campuses, Raplee said the church would approve for the most part of what they were doing.