By Cady Inabinett, Managing editor of content, with contributions by Wesley Walter, News Editor.
Traveling preacher Luke Beets made a four-day appearance on Montevallo’s campus beginning Jan. 23, posting-up on Main Quad in attempts to minister to students.
Wielding a sign reading, “Who must repent?” followed by a lengthy list that included “homosexuals, Buddhists, addicts” and “everyone,” Beets preached by yelling to passersby—methods he said draws attention to himself and his message.
Beets said he came to Montevallo’s campus to “warn people” about the actions he believes to be sins outlined on his sign.
“God loves everyone, he doesn’t want anyone to face his wrath, so I preach to warn people,” he said.
Beets was not a new face on Montevallo’s campus. The preacher stood on Main Quad with his signature sign and stack of Bibles last February.
Beets said he returned to Montevallo because he’s traveling the country to spread his message, a project he started last year and is continuing this year—visiting 19 different college campuses across 11 different states and approximately 62,000 miles last year, according to Beets.
“We travel the country and warn people everywhere we can,” he said, referring to himself and his wife and two children who travel with him.
The difference between this year and last: Montevallo’s student body’s response. Beets’s visit to campus last year was met with sharp backlash, with students swarming him in protest. This year, Beets was a solitary figure on Main Quad—few students spoke with him as several campus police officers lurked behind him.
Beets noted the decreased student engagement, saying that he had talked to less students than last year.
“Last year I talked to a whole lot more people. This year, thankfully, it’s been a lot more calm, thank the Lord,” he said, alluding to last year’s backlash.
Responses to his preaching had been mixed according to Beets, who said, “I’ve had a few people that have told me they weren’t real happy with what I was doing here, but for the most part it’s been pretty good. I’ve had quite a few people come and thank me for being here, take Bibles and even thank me for being here last year.”
When asked about push-back against his message, Beets responded by likening himself to Jesus and apostles, such as Paul, saying, “Nobody likes being told they’re wrong. I don’t even like it, but sometimes it’s good to be told you’re wrong.”
Beets may have gone largely unbothered but did not go unnoticed. Spectrum, campus’s LGBTQ+ alliance, organized a Queer Joy Crafting event in response to Beets’s presence on campus. The event featured arts and crafts, such as queer coloring pages and friendship bracelet making, along with activities such as nail painting.
Spectrum President Josie Shaw explained, “The university let us know beforehand that Luke Beets was coming to campus through Monday and Thursday, so we thought instead of doing a counterprotest in retaliation of what he was doing that we would promote a positive event, an alternate event, and a safe space for students to come to who were feeling stressed and pressured from having someone who was promoting hate speech on our campus.”
Shaw said hosting positive events is always a focus for Spectrum, and Beets’s arrival was just another opportunity to do that.
“Being LGBTQ+ and young in Alabama is a very hard thing to do so, in general, we try to promote events that help celebrate us in a safe-space and I think this was just another circumstance to do so while also deterring attention and negative attention away from him,” she said.
Avoiding last year’s chaos was also a focus according to Shaw, who said, “Last year there were situations where students were rowdy and things they did could’ve had charges pressed against them, and both the school and I were worried that if the same things happened this year then students would face consequences unlike last year.”
Shaw expressed happiness with the event’s outcomes saying, “I was really happy with the turn-out and I had a lot of students come up to me appreciating that we did something like this instead of interacting with a bigot.”