“I have become a preaching machine!”
Thumping a well-worn blue Bible, Jed Smock – or Brother Jed, as he likes to be called – is one of the new faces generating controversy around the EMU Amphitheater for his confrontational preaching method. Sporting a bowtie, a sweater vest and a blue blazer, Brother Jed addresses individuals in the amphitheater audience and calls out to “wicked” and “promiscuous” students about how to “change their ways and follow Christ.”
A self-admitted “former hippie” who “found Jesus on a hippie commune in Africa,” Brother Jed is usually met with disdain, mockery and impassioned debate from students, groups such as the Alliance of Happy Atheists and random people walking by the amphitheater.
I had a chance to sit down with Brother Jed and talk about his presence on the University of Oregon.
Oregon Commentator: Why did you decide to preach in the University of Oregon amphitheater?
Brother Jed: I mean, you’re not going to get college students to get up and go to church early in the morning. So we need to go to them.
OC: Would you say you’ve made an impact [on campus]?
BJ: Oh, yes. I was just talking to someone who recently started reading the Bible. I get letters on my website, brotherjed.org, letters I’ve received from student over the years. They go something like this: “Dear Brother Jed, Your preaching made me so mad that I started reading the Bible to prove you wrong.” And then they find the faith!
OC: So is provoking people the main way you get your message across? It seems very in-your-face, very uncomfortable.
BJ: Yes, you need to engage the audience. I call it confrontational evangelism. The radical left [in the 1960s] talked of “confrontational politics,” really challenging the establishment. Whether you agree with their position or not, it worked… So yes, I want to stir up controversy and dialogue and debate… all college students are thinking about is mundane. They’re not asking “What is our moral foundation?” They aren’t the true questions, the right questions. They’re just focused on “Oh, I’ve got a test today” and “I hope I get laid tonight.” You’re distracted from God.
OC: Let’s talk a bit about how you became a Christian. You mentioned that you lived on a hippie commune in Africa…?
BJ: Yes, I did. One day a man who was dressed in Arabic attires – you know, a turban, a robe, all that – came preaching Jesus to us on Christmas Day, 1971. And we all laughed at him! But as a historian I had to admit that the Bible has great literary qualities. I mean, I was the son of an English professor and some of the greatest works of literature have been inspired by the Bible. So I thought I should read it for academic and spiritual purposes. I was going to study under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India but I thought “Why don’t I study my religion instead?”
OC: So Judaism, Islam and Christianity all recognize Jesus as a prophet.
BJ: Well, the Jews don’t.
OC: Right. But still, all three religions come from the tree of Abraham. Would you say there’s kinship between Jews, Muslims and Christians?
BJ: Islam denies that Jesus died on the cross. The Qur’an says that “God had no son”… so really Islam is an attack on Christianity. They deny Jesus’ sacrifice. We’re different. No, we believe in the Trinity. We believe Jesus is God!
OC: Has being in academia informed how you preach?
BJ: Yes. I remember reading the Bible and wanting to tell the good news to people! But there’s only so much you can do inside a building, so I decided to go outside.
OC: Would you say you appeal to reason in your preaching?
BJ: It’s about preaching but it’s also about teaching. It’s an appeal to man’s conscience, recognizing this party lifestyle and trying to get them thinking about their life. Most students aren’t thinkers, they’re feelers. So I appeal to that emotion.
OC: Let’s talk about Satan. Do you believe in Satan, that there is an evil force out there?
BJ: I do believe in a fallen angel, Lucifer does mean “bringer of light.” He was perfect in all of his. But they found sin in him. So he rally one third of the angels to rebel against God. Now that took a long time, that’s not an overnight thing… I do believe Lucifer became frustrated with God because God governs the universe not by sheer force but by love. And love puts restraints on us all. It’s like our soldiers over in Afghanistan… if we didn’t have this Christian morality, we’d just wipe ‘em all out, get it over with, y’know? [Laughs] But God is about love, so we can’t do that. God is gonna demonstrate that love always wins. The Devil has all this experience in the realms of hate and power, but what looks stronger than Jesus hanging on the cross? Love defeated hate on the cross. Love will defeat evil.
OC: Would you say the devil is on college campuses? How do you reason that?
BJ: I do believe in demonic possession. I don’t think any students are possessed, but the Devil does influence us with temptations.
OC: What kind of temptations?
BJ: The drugs, the alcohol and the sex before marriage… they all make us morally weak. Drugs and alcohol puts our conscience to sleep. And the music! They’re listening to this decadent rock music, or hip-hop and this music is seductive!
OC: Thank you for your time, Brother Jed.
A story on the controversy surrounding Brother Jed will be available in the forthcoming Commentator.