UCF students creatively cope with outspoken preachers
When she heard the religious preachers in the free speech zone, Jessie Pantazi was moved to make a change.
No, she didn’t convert or start open-air preaching to her fellow students. Pantazi, a freshman social work major, printed Bingo cards to play along with while she listened to the preachers.
“Other people had done it and they were really proud of it. They thought it was so cool. They had pictures of it on their Facebook, so I just thought, ‘These would be cool to bring tomorrow,’” Pantazi said.
With the same basic rules as normal Bingo, players mark off each time the preachers say “fraternity,” “fornicate” or “fried eggs,” or simply wave their arms at the crowd or ignore a question. Five spaces in a row and you win.
The “lighthearted” game, Pantazi said, was a way to show that she and other students didn’t agree with what the preachers had to say and how they said it.
“I definitely disagree and I wanted to get a point across that I disagreed,” she said. “But it wasn’t too serious.”
Miah Shefer, a freshman majoring in digital media, was one of the students who played along. She said that the Bingo cards, in addition to making a statement to the preachers, helped bring students together.
“In a weird way it was kind of nice to see that it brought the students together. They were all backing each other up and cheering each other on,” she said.
Pantazi and Shefer both said that although they disagree with the preachers, they acknowledge the fact that they have the right to speak their minds on campus. Most take to the free speech zones on campus, located by the Student Union and Reflecting Pond.
“I obviously disagree with what they’re saying,” Pantazi said. “But I guess they should have a right to say it.”
Shefer also noted that the protestors were much calmer when they weren’t preaching.
“Me and my friends talked to them individually just to see how they were, and they were completely different by themselves,” she said. “They were really kind and they wanted to pray with us, which you wouldn’t guess when you’re just watching them preach. It was pretty interesting to see such contrast.”
Some of these preachers practice what they call “confrontational evangelism.” They tour the country preaching on college campuses. According to one preacher’s website, they will have visited nine states — spanning from Florida to California — by April.
Allison Miehl is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.