By Patrick Doty
For the record:The photo below ran on page 18 of the Sept. 5 issue of the Gateway. Nicholas Burnett (right) was misidentified as Nicholas Gunia. The photo ran in conjunction with photographer Patrick Doty’s guest column about evangelical preachers on the UNO campus.
The Gateway apologizes for any inconvenience this may have caused.
Freedom of religion is just one of several brilliant ideas our American forefathers dreamt up that is a large contributor to our nation’s present-day power and world prominence. An idea so brilliant it is envied by some and hated by others who can’t comprehend dozens of religious groups living harmoniously in the same community. Thousands upon thousands have flocked to the states to avoid religious persecution in their homelands in search of a better life.
This is the beauty of America, being able to walk down the street without fear of oppression. However, we are not perfect, as some Americans still judge others on the color of their skin or the title of their holy book. On Wednesday, August 30, Michael Woroniecki and his daughter Elizabeth stood in the plaza of the Milo Bail Student Center and did just that.
“You think you’re so individual,” Woroniecki yelled across the plaza. “You’re all the same. It’s like that movie ‘The Matrix.'”
I am not writing this to judge Woroniecki’s beliefs. I respect his passion and knowledge of what he believes in. If he wants to believe that Satan is controlling all of us like the machines in The Matrix, he can and I have no right to tell him he is stupid, or that he will go to hell if he does not convert to Catholicism. Yet this is exactly what he was shouting into the ears of every passerby that cared to listen to a man holding an enormous sign that read, “Last Days! Satan Rules! Turn to Jesus, not church!”
My reason for writing this is to try to get across to people like Woroniecki that it is not up to him to decide what everyone around him thinks about Jesus, God, the afterlife; and to do this without shouting and arguing. Anyone who knows me knows my mellow nature, my aversion to conflict and my severe fear of group discussions. There were a lot of comments I would have liked to shout back to Woroniecki when he was saying things such as “Do you want to be a hypocrite like your mom and dad?” But I refrained. I decided using my pen would be a much more effective response to Woroniecki’s attack of everything I have believed in and the way I have lived my life for the past 22 years.
Roger Garcia, a UNO student, was also in the plaza listening to Woroniecki’s often insulting proclamations. He and I were talking about the group that came to the campus last year with signs that were even more controversial, causing things to get almost violent.
“I’m too much of a Christian to get up in this guy’s face,” Garcia said. “I’m a Presbyterian; I go out and help people, not tell them they are going to hell.”
If people like Woroniecki would listen when told things like what Garcia said, instead of spouting off a bible passage and a witty insult, perhaps people would be more inclined to listen to them. Another piece of advice that Woroniecki could benefit by listening to comes from Ryan Lankin, another UNO student that stopped to listen to Woroniecki after his morning classes ended.
“Actually preach God’s love instead of using this anti-rhetoric,” Lankin said.
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Instead of coming to the campus, setting up your controversial signs and yelling to the masses “join us or go to Hell,” maybe you should tell us why you think we should convert.
But is that why you are here, to get us to convert? I am not so sure. It seems to me that you love the conflict. You love the adrenaline rush that pumps through your veins when you anger someone to the point of near-violence; getting a boisterous young college student to stand up in your face, inches away; one insult shy of throwing a fist. You’re just the bully on the playground during recess, the troll in the online forum, the Germany of World War II.
Thankfully, not every group that comes to campus is like Woroniecki. Plenty of religious groups come to UNO and simply hand out bibles or flyers with a smile and a “God bless.” I only hope that groups like Woroniecki’s will read this and learn from the polite ones.
And if you do read this, Mr. Woroniecki, please don’t judge a holy book by its cover.
Editor’s Note: Doty is a senior journalism major. He serves as the assistant photo editor and line editor for the Gateway. If you are interested in serving as a guest voice in the Gateway, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.