Tempers flare, cool in Free Speech area

Rigoberto Lopez

Robert Mullen, Sports Editor

Nathaniel Runels, a former Bakersfield College student who preaches weekly at BC, was back on Feb. 19, drawing a major crowd, that at times seemed on the verge of rioting. A crowd of hundreds watched Runels’ activity while other student debated him. Some students offered support or encouragement to Runels and a couple attempted to debate with the debaters, some members of the crowd instead hurled insults at both. At one point six officers from Campus Safety stood between Runels and the crowd. Chris Counts, director of public safety, was also on hand.
Marketing major, and Eclectic Neo Pagan, Patricia Castro was one of the more fervent debaters, and is critical of Runels’ activities on BC.
“When he first was on campus he was somewhat quiet, he was at least ignorable. Now he’s created this public display and last Wednesday it nearly caused a riot,” she said.
Castro feels that the campus at large is against Runels and his activities. Particularly because she feels that he has been disrespectful to other religious groups. “He directly told a group of Catholics out there that the Roman Catholic Church is an abomination from the pit of hell. Now, if he had attacked my religion that way, I’d likely get mad at him. I’m fairly certain about half the people out there, if they thought that they could get away with it, would probably try to attack him physically.”
Richard Shriver, a former veteran of the army and Marine Corps from 1988-’92 and ’93-’06 respectively, also spoke out against Runels that Wednesday, specifically about how he believes Runels was talking about veterans and other groups.
“He has the right to do what he’s doing, but he does not have the right to belittle people or make them feel small,” said Shriver.
Shriver thinks Runels is causing undue problems on the campus and distracting students from their courses and school activities.
“[Students] don’t need the stress of someone telling them that they’re going to hell,” he said.
Shriver says that his involvement with Runels began on that Wednesday when he overheard Runels talking about gay people.
When he engaged with him he says that Runels started to comment on the military.
“One thing he said is that us military guys are murderers. We’re not murderers. We’re saving them from what could happen in the future.”
Shriver says he believes that Runels has the right to speak as he wishes, but judging others shouldn’t be tolerated. “I don’t think its right for people to come up here and judge people and make them feel worse then they are. They’re college students they need to concentrate on what college is doing for them.”
Runels denies he called veterans murderers, and in an email said that he had been misinterpreted by rumors. Runels had this to say on review of his own audio and video recordings. “After [Shriver] stated that he fought for my right to speak freely I reminded him that Jesus died so that he could have eternal life. He went on to say that who was I to say Jesus was the only way. I pointed to scripture. John 14:6, Acts 4:12 and through the conversation it was revealed by his very own words, ‘I hate everyone.’ I reminded him that in 1 John 3:15 says, ‘Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.’ This is to say, because of his admission to hate everyone I pointed out that it qualifies him as a murderer and no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. Also, I was careful to make this clear that it was his hate for others, not the fact that he served in the military.”
Runels went on to say that he does not harbor any ill sentiment towards the military. “I have many family members that have served and even some that are still serving along with some friends and I deeply respect their sacrifice to protect the rights that we have already.”
He also said that his goal is to spread the gospel and not debate emotionally as he says some students tried to.
Runels says that those who wish to know more about his mission or ask him questions may go to Psalm51ministries.org
In contrast to that day’s activities, when Runels was on campus a week later on a rainy Feb. 26, there was a much smaller crowd and no shouting incidents