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Why Is TikTok Turning a Hateful Radical Evangelist into a Viral Star?

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Usually, when a crowd forms on a college campus, students can expect to find a protest or performance at its center. But every so often, they will be bombarded instead by sign-toting radical evangelists who promise eternal damnation for “porno freaks,” “fornicators,” “non-Christians,” “feminists,” “masturbators,” and “baby killers.” While a rotating cast of characters have taken up the mantle of preaching to America’s college students, none are more infamous or persistent than Campus Ministry USA, an organization headed by Brother Jed Smock and his wife, Sister Cindy.

Many current and former American college students have unwillingly become familiar with the evangelical stylings of Brother Jed and Sister Cindy. The Smocks, sometimes accompanied by their five daughters and other open-air preachers, roam the country, attempting to proselytize students to abandon their lives of sin. They have gained notoriety for their intentionally aggressive and inflammatory style of preaching in which they attempt to draw a crowd by getting a rise out of students.

The Smocks’ presence on campuses has always garnered attention, as students are equally horrified and entertained by their sensationalized sermons. But thanks to social media and the deep irony of stan culture, their religious zealotry has gained a much larger audience than they could ever achieve on foot. Now, as Sister Cindy has amassed nearly 320,000 TikTok followers, a Cameo account, and a merch store, the joke is growing not only stale, but poisonous.

Though Brother Jed may be the ringleader, Sister Cindy is undoubtedly the star of the family’s traveling circus. Her grotesque descriptions of sexual acts and other “sinful” behaviors (notably one recurring fable about the dangers of taking college women to a Mexican restaurant) have turned her into a meme both on campuses and the internet. On TikTok, the hashtag #SisterCindy has amassed over 178.9 million views and scores of videos raking in millions of likes.

It was really only a matter of time before Sister Cindy reached internet virality. She carries a sign that demands, “Stop the war on anuses,” and has adopted the catchphrase, “Be a ho no mo.” She exudes youth pastor energy but sprinkles in her own personal brand of Bible-thumping theatricality that makes it nearly impossible to believe that she isn’t carrying out an extreme act of satire.

But Sister Cindy’s zealotry comes at the expense of students. Many of her sermons paint women as harbingers of their own doom and deserving of sexual and gender-based........

© The Daily Beast

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