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Students debate with pastor

Pierrette J. Shields
Associate Editor

Tom Short wants your soul.

Rather, he wants you to give your soul to Jesus.

Short, a traveling nondenominational pastor, spent Wednesday and Thursday preaching to MU students from Speaker's Circle. He began preaching at 11:30 a.m. both days and spoke through the day. His visit, his third to MU in two years, was sponsored by MU's University Bible Studies.

"I am out to persuade people to have faith in Jesus," Short said. "I make no bones about that."

Short travels to colleges and universities most of the year, returning home to Columbus, Ohio, on weekends. He has a high school education but dropped out of college after one semester to become a pastor. He was ordained in 1977 and has traveled to colleges since 1980. His wife and five children stay in Ohio. 

Some students didn't appreciate what he had to say.

"I respect him for his views, but I can't respect the fact that he's trying to force his religion down my throat," said sophomore Adrienne Abright.

But Short said his methods do not force Christianity on people.

"I think forcing my religion on someone would be if I had some sort of power or authority over them," he said.

Though Short had a consistently large audience, some heckled or challenged his views.

"Whenever you asked him something, he changed the subject," said freshman Wes Thompson.

Short said he enjoyed the challenges and said he speaks loudly to gather the crowd to hear his message.

"In all honesty, if I went out there all namby-pamby, this-is-what-I-think-what-do-you-think, no one would have stopped," he said.

During his visit, he said he focused on three main areas: theology, morality and the history of Christianity. He said morality and issues of sexuality generally get the most attention.

"Over the years I have led many homosexuals to Christ," he said. "Often, I am the first one who's told them there is a way out of homosexuality and that is through Christ."

He said he has led at least 20 people away from homosexuality, and they now lead straight lifestyles.

"I think God loves everybody, but he doesn't condone what they do," he said.

Many students supported him and gathered in a circle of prayer before he left campus.

"I thought that a lot of people were very rude in their comments, in the way they interrupted him," said freshman "Critter" Firestone. "If they don't want to hear it, they don't have to be here."

John Drage, campus director of University Bible Studies, said the group will bring Short back to campus.

"Sometimes he may say things that kind of raise eyebrows, raise the hairs on people's back," Drage said. "Yet he's doing that because he wants to get people's attention so that he can talk to them about the most important things."

The Maneater (University of Missouri), October 24th, 1997