A 68-year-old woman stood on a hill at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Tuesday afternoon holding a sign that read, “Stop the War on Anuses.”
Joining her husband and a man named “Gooner,” the group shouted at students that they must repent and forgo sexual promiscuity and sin for the love of Jesus Christ. The couple strays pretty far from the typical image of preachers, raising their voices with vulgar and highly sexualized language as students flock to listen.
When Sister Cindy Smock and her husband, Brother Jed Smock, preached at UNL in 2012, they were simply evangelists. Now, they’ve also returned as a meme. Both Jed and Gooner were on campus Monday, with the potential for the group to return Wednesday.
Cindy has become a TikTok sensation in the past year, notably after an appearance at Texas Tech University last March. With her “Ho No Mo” platform, colorful phrases and signs, including “You Deserve Hell,” “Sl*t-Shaming Time” and others, the movement has been proclaimed at campuses across the country, gathering audiences and stirring up controversy.
With internet fame came bigger crowds, and hundreds of students were waiting for Cindy when she began her self-proclaimed “sl*t-shaming class” around 1 p.m.
“I'm more popular now because of TikTok. And also, it's easier to get a crowd,” she told The Daily Nebraskan. ”We always got a crowd, but we would get the crowd when the classes were breaking. Now I just have to announce it, ‘I'm going to be here,’ and people will show up.”
Cindy said she had considered visiting campuses in North Dakota and South Dakota this week, but messages from UNL students convinced her to come preach in Lincoln instead.
Cindy explained she started preaching to students because she was once in college and didn’t believe in the Bible. After meeting Jed for the first time at church and hearing him yell, “repent of your sins, you wicked woman,” she immediately knew she needed to change her ways.
“I like to explain to students that being a ‘ho no mo’ is more than just giving up your sex,” Cindy said. “In fact, virgins can be in hell. There are virgins in hell. Bein’ a ho no mo is turning from all sin. There are spiritual hos. So, if you are committing sin or putting anything before God, you are a spiritual ho.”
Opening with a bang and jumping straight into uncomfortable topics, Cindy met the shock, dismay and laughter from some in the audience.
“Some of you girls act like you’re trying to major in oral sex,” she shouted within the first few minutes to a mixture of surprised laughter and applause.
That tone, from both Cindy and the audience, continued throughout the afternoon. Students heckled and Cindy egged them on, ranging from anal sex and masturbation to evolution.
But some students, including Wren Shawhan, a sophomore forensic anthropology major, believed the entertainment went too far.
“It's kind of ridiculous that it's come to this,” she said, “that we're glorifying these theatrics. The only reason this gets popularity is because people keep giving attention to it and the global sensation of the internet, and that's the only reason she's popular is because of TikTok and social media stuff.”
Jay Mingo, a freshman construction management major, said he came to the crowd to see if Sister Cindy and Brother Jed lived up to the hype.
“So far they have,” he said. “It’s kinda funny.”
But as a Christian, he said it was concerning.
“Makes us look like a bunch of lunatics,” he said. “Sure it’s plenty entertaining, but it makes us look kind of silly.”
Some students showed up with the expectation to joke about Jed and Cindy’s ideas. Uri Herszbaum-Harding, a senior computer science major, showed up to humor the ideas of the preachers. He said the group supposedly wants to spread their faith, but it just feels like they want attention.
“Spread the word of Christ, but that's not really what they're doing, they're really just creating a theatrical spectacle to garner attention for themselves,” Herszbaum-Harding said.
Moments throughout the afternoon were tense as some students vehemently disagreed and raised their voices at the couple, but, overall, the mood was jovial.
When Cindy finished her speech she handed the area over to Jed, and he started “Sex Ed with Jed.” His education was based on his “laboratory experience” as he admitted to never being taught sex ed. He eventually asked those in attendance if they were virgins.
“Do we have any virgin girls here?” Jed asked. “Are you willing to subject yourself to Brother Jed's virgin test? Have you ever had a penis in your hand? Question number two: have you ever had a penis in your mouth? Have you ever had a penis up your anus? Fourth and final question: is it because you’re a lesbian?”
He later asked, “OK boys, are you ready to subject yourself to Brother Jed's virgin test? Just one question: are you a virgin? Are you a virgin because you don't want any or can't get any?”
Jed stated he had studied “whoreology” and that he calls himself a “sexologist” because of his experience with the topic.
Humor is key to Jed and Cindy’s ministry, he said. The loudness and vulgarity are part of their way of grasping attention and getting through to college students.
“Satire has just enough truth that sometimes you don’t even know if it’s satirical or not,” he said, “but that makes it even more effective in my opinion.”
Humor can be memorable, and the goal is to get students to even consider the gospel for a moment and get it stuck in their heads for when they might need it later, according to Jed.
He and Cindy are headed through the midwest on a nationwide tour but are based in Indiana, Jed said. Over the years, he said they’ve gotten pretty used to what they hear from college students, so very little can still shock them.
“We’re not the least bit surprised,” Jed said to The Daily Nebraskan of the comments students make. “We’re orchestrating all this, believe me. I’ve been doing this for over 50 years. I don’t usually say things off the cuff. When I ask a question or they’re making a comment, I know what they’re going to say before they finish. So, we want to stir them out of their spiritual indifference and apathy.”