Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for full event coverage in our upcoming issue on September 17.
Students stood outside the Berry Performing Arts Center (BPAC) to protest against the invitation of conservative American author and radio host Eric Metaxas to speak on the John Brown University campus.
On Tuesday, Sept. 8, the Center for Faith and Flourishing hosted the event “Should Christians Vote for Trump?” which aimed to offer a voice to Christians who either support or oppose the reelection of President Donald Trump. Representing the affirmative side was Metaxas and the opposing side was David French, American attorney, political commentator and author.
In response to Metaxas’ involvement in the event, a group of students decided to form “Love Activates Action,” a university movement which advocates for marginalized students on campus, according to its Instagram profile, @love_activates_action.
Before the event began, students gathered with signs outside the BPAC that expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the LGBTQIA+ pride. Attendees who arrived at the recital hall could read their signs laid on the grass next to the sidewalk.
According to a statement released by Love Activates Action, student protesters aimed to “create awareness surrounding the harmful, toxic effects Eric Metaxas can have on our student body.” At the scene, students—some of whom expressed support for Metaxas—also gathered to share their views and engage in discussion with the group.
A few minutes after the event wrapped up, student protesters held their signs high for Metaxas to see as he walked out of the building. A couple of students even requested answers from Metaxas, but he did not comment.
On Sept. 1, a week prior to the event, the Center for Faith and Flourishing addressed students’ concerns with Metaxas’ invitation to campus. “JBU knows how to respectfully and reasonably engage with those with whom we disagree. We also trust that no one in our community will use the past statements or behavior of an invited speaker as an excuse to harass or act offensively toward any other member of our community,” the emailed statement read. “Verbally aggressive or violent approaches are not in keeping with principles of civil dialogue or engagement, nor are they consistent with JBU’s core guiding principles to support and care for individual uniqueness.”
Students shared their opinions on the event through The Threefold Advocate’s Instagram page. Responding to whether or not students supported events like the debate at issue, Ria Brown, sophomore communication major, said, “Yes, I think it’s vital to learn to have tough conversations and hear opposing views.”
“Yes, I think it’s a part of healthy political dialogue, but I’m not a fan of one of the speakers,” Lea Hart, senior psychology major, said.
Anna Butler, junior art and illustration major, responded, “Absolutely. As a Christian I support a diversity of thought and freedom of speech.”
The debate gathered the attention of a large population and sparked political conversations among the student body, faculty and staff. These conversations will potentially continue online and offline for weeks to come.
As an additional space and time to reflect on the ideas presented during the debate, Residence Life will be hosting a talkback session on Sept. 9 from 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. with JBU faculty and staff serving as facilitators.
Photos: María Aguilar, The Threefold Advocate