Who Will Rise Up?: A Call to Confrontational Evangelism
296 pages • Campus Ministry USA • 1996 [PB, 2nd ed.]
In America, there is a phenomenon known as “street preaching” where angry old men vent their frustrations on the American youth on college campuses. While gaining few, if any, converts, their antics often draw crowds and press. One of the most infamous campus preachers is “Brother Jed”, the alias of George E. Smock.
Not merely content to yell insults at college students and hold up banners that tell them the horrible punishments they deserve, Jed further fed his ego by writing Who Will Rise Up?, a mix of autobiography and political ranting.
It reads pretty much like a political manifesto. Jed has a new vision for America and unlike any form of democracy or hell, even communism, space is limited and the criteria for entry is more strict than a high-end nightclub.
In order to be allowed into this version of paradise, you not only have to be a Christian, but you have to be a Christian by Jed’s definition, which according to his book means that you are grossly ashamed of your own humanity and the weaknesses that come with it, you can’t sin at all, for if you sin, you’re obviously not a true Christian.
Sex? Not on your life, unless it’s in the strict confidence of marriage and only in the missionary position. Here’s what Jed has to say about something as harmless as masturbation: “Your masturbator of today is very likely to be your homosexual of tomorrow”. Now considering that approximately ten percent of the population is GLBTQ, yet well over ninety percent of the population either currently masturbates or has done so in the past, the math just isn’t adding up. But why let something such as the facts get in the way of good rhetoric?
In further regard to homosexuals, Jed shows no pity, no mercy, no love, making such outlandish statements as, “In fact, universities are graduating more queers than Ph.Ds.”. And of course, stating that AIDS is God’s punishment for homosexuals: “In other words they got what they deserved. The cursed AIDS disease is a natural consequence of such perverted behavior”. He can’t even talk about them like they’re human beings calling them “sodomites” and even stating, “A favorite trick of homosexuals is to get young men drunk and seduce them”.
Rock ‘n’ Roll of course isn’t spared as Jed spouts off about the Rolling Stones, claiming that the only song Mick Jagger can sing well is ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’ because according to Jed, it reflects how “empty” Jagger is. Rock ‘n’ Roll is further demonized in what Jed describes as what makes a “real man”: “Real men don’t listen to Michael Jackson, Boy George or other rock freaks”.
When it comes to men and women, Jed of course states that women are by nature inferior to men: “God saw that since the woman is a more emotional being and more prone to be deceived by her sensibilities, she needs the leadership of a man who is governed by reason”. Now, isn’t that nice? Saying that a man governed by “reason” has to basically hold the hand of his lady because by her nature she can’t be trusted to make rational decisions in her life.
One of Jed’s most outlandish statements is that a true Christian is one who doesn’t sin and if you don’t sin, you are a true Christian and thus a “saint”. But he does allow a bit of mercy to shine through when it comes to faults, saying, “A Christian may have faults. For example, he may worry too much; but only if his worries or even fears prevented him from doing the will of God, has he sinned”.
When it comes to matters of government Jed is wrong in this book, stating that the First Amendment to the US Constitution is the only mention of religion or church in it. He is incorrect. In Article Six, Paragraph Three of the United States Constitution, which states, “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”.
Jed also has no respect for civil rights or even the idea of civil rights, saying, “Rather the outcry has been for civil rights. Civil rights are ‘rights’ created and granted by human government but unalienable rights are in the nature of things and cannot be endowed by man”. I’m not 100% sure what to make of this, most instances of civil rights in this nation were about granting the unalienable rights to those who had been deprived of them, granting rights to own property, to marry, to vote, etc. to women, Native Americans, African-Americans, etc. Is Jed saying that the idea of equality across racial, gender and nationality lines is immoral?
And of course, what would a strong manifesto be without some good, strong language, a call to Revolution? Jed doesn’t disappoint, uttering a string of phrases in all caps, “JUDGEMENT DAY IS AT HAND. TURN OR BURN! REPENT OR PERISH! SALVATION OR DAMNATION! HEAVEN OR HELL! JESUS OR THE DEVIL!” And going beyond that, spouting the idea of “ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS” Jed calls for preachers to never rest, “If a revival spirit truly prevailed, every state university would have a regular campus preacher. A voice of repentance would be crying out daily in the streets from each city across the nation. There would be no parade, festival, demonstration or rock concert without a number of Christians witnessing and some preaching. Abortion clinics and pornography stores would be systematically and relentlessly picketed. P.T.A., school boards and city councils would have diligent Christian watchmen attending meetings”. I like how he uses the term “systematically and relentlessly picketed”. Perhaps Jed is a prophet of sorts as it seems as though he is foretelling the “systematic and relentless” picketing of another fringe religious group, the Westboro Baptist Church out of Topeka, Kansas who would come to prominence after the brutal murder of a “sodomite” in the late ’90s. Like Jed, the Westboro folk have shown no mercy in their relentless picketing of “sodomites”. Maybe Brother Jed and Pastor Fred Phelps should get together for a cup of coffee.
This book is a shocking insight into the twisted, distorted and flat-out hateful mind of one of the most well-known street preachers in America. Jed’s vision is cruel, demented and most definitely, un-American. We should be equal regardless of race, sexuality, gender, creed, nationality or religion. Jed’s vision of America would destroy the freedoms and liberties we’ve enjoyed for the past two-hundred and thirty-five years.
I’m not sure exactly how to feel about this book, the writing honestly isn’t that stellar in my opinion and I can’t say I agree with Jed’s vision of America (it sounds extremely totalitarian to me). The only reasons to read it would be either for the gonzo factor, the camp factor, you know, reading the babbling of a man too far lost in his ego, convinced that God is on his side or if you want to know what the American Religious Right really believes. It’s a book for collectors of ‘strange’ as well as the morbidly curious. It won’t convert anybody, if people are this easily swayed by the testimony of a madman, maybe they should give Scientology a try. At least with that you get spaceships and aliens.