TikTokers Sister Cindy, Brother Jed preached controversial sermons to students on campus

The Campus Ministry USA, Cynthia D. Lasseter Smock — Sister Cindy — aggressively preaches in front of a crowd. Their open-air preaching ministry is concentrated on college campuses. Jed and Cindy engage in confrontational preaching with students gathering at Bosco Plaza on Oct 11, 2021. (Marshall Sunner| Collegian Media Group)

Cindy Smock — better known as Sister Cindy — and her husband Brother Jed Smock preached to students “Be a ho no mo” and many more controversial topics outside the Student Union at Bosco Plaza on Monday and Tuesday. The couple asked students to repent and forego their sins and sexual behaviors for the love of Jesus Christ.

Although the couple presented on school property, their views do not associate with Kansas State or the student body as a whole.

“These individuals do not represent the views of the university and are in no way affiliated with KSU,” Alayna Colburn, Center for Advocacy, Response and Education survivor advocate, said.

The couple has a different style of preaching compared to other preachers — yelling into crowds and using vulgar and highly sexualized language, signs and shirts.

“Our basic approach has been the same, we call it confrontational evangelism, but sure, we grow and mature and tweak things,” Smock said.

Smock showed up on campus Monday with a shirt that read “Hell is Hot, Don’t Be A Thot,” giving viewers a taste of what was to come.

Smock came to K-State and preached over 40 years ago at Memorial Stadium, but started her preaching career after listening to her now-husband preach while she was a student.

“I have been preaching on campuses for four and a half decades, and I actually became a Christian through campus preaching while my husband was preaching at the University of Florida,” Smock said.

Although Sister Smock has been preaching on campuses for over four decades, she did not always have the following she has today. College students started posting videos of her to TikTok, where #sistercindy began and now has over 220 million views.

“So I’ve been around a while before TikTok, in fact, we were around before internet, at least before regular people used internet, before we had computers, certainly before smartphones,” Sister Smock said. “I plan to be around when TikTok is gone too. Nothing lasts forever except the truth.”

Sister Smock and her husband shared many messages throughout their sermons on campus this week — most notably their lesson and chant, “be a ho no mo,” where they tell students how they can be successful with the help of Jesus.

“There is only one way to be a ‘ho no mo,’ and that is to believe in Jesus,” Smock said.

The couple travels from campus to campus nationally, continuously preaching about their thoughts on what college students should and should not be doing, as well as “slut-shaming” for the students attending.

Colburn said people like the Smock’s come to college campuses to engage with students and intentionally upset listeners, then pack up and move on to the next campus.

“Spreading victim-blaming messages aimed at survivors of sexual assault should never be tolerated,” Colburn said. “What a sad life these people must lead to believe that what they are doing is helpful and good.”

During the couples’ selfie time, Jeff Storms, graduate student in English, went up and challenged the Smock’s messages and approach, but found Sister Smock unenthusiastic to respond — much like her and her husband while being interrupted with questions during their sermons.

“I went to confront her and talk to her about that and just asked what about this way of ministry she sees as being Christ-like, and she wasn’t really willing to engage in a conversation, and students didn’t really seem willing to have a conversation about it, people just kind of wanted to get selfies,” Storms said.

Smock said she typically has a mixed crowd of students that agree with her while others find it comical. She said posted videos either spread her and her husband’s sermon or make fun of them.

“A lot of what I said was ringing true with a certain element of people, so it went viral and it was, of course, a mixture of those who agreed and those who just thought it was funny,” Smock said.

While some might connect with the Smock’s message, many still find the sermons disrespectful and victimizing. Members of the CARE office gave statements over email regarding the demonstrations on Monday and Tuesday. Monday was also National Coming Out Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which were both celebrated on campus. The coinciding of Smock’s sermon might have negatively affected the civil awareness events.

“Our words matter. Spreading harmful victim-blaming and misogynistic messages normalizes gender-based violence, promotes the belief that it is acceptable, and in certain cases, contributes to the ongoing perpetuation of violence against others,” the CARE office said.

While many feel that the approach the Smock’s takes is damaging, they find that it is successful and choose to keep the approach the same over the years.

“I see that this approach works, and I believe in it, and we’ve been doing it a long time now,” Smock said.

Although the messages can be offensive, many come to see the Smock’s because of their popularity on social media with college students.

“She’s iconic in pop culture, and I just feel like it was an educational and valuable experience for me to have before I got out of college,” Darius Skillen, junior in architectural engineering, said.

Many find the acts over-exaggerated and damaging to the perception of Jesus and his messages.

“I think there might be some short-term gain in running a spectacle like this, but ultimately I think this is damaging,” Storms said. “I think that what she is saying and is claiming is misrepresentative of the teaching of Jesus — is just objectively not true if you look at what the new testament says.”

K-State’s CARE office offers all students and staff members that have had experiences with sexual, dating or domestic violence, stalking or sexual harassment free confidential and voluntary services.

Advocates help process experiences with survivors, explain options and rights, support if reporting, give referrals for therapy, offer resources for academics and provide access to the CARE healing fund when a grant is available.

“CARE is here to remind Wildcats our services are available if anyone becomes activated by the harmful content being shared by Sister Cindy and Brother Jed. Witnessing and hearing dangerous rhetoric can be activating for some, especially for folks who have already experienced violence. CARE’s Survivor Advocates are available to provide crisis intervention and support,” the CARE office said.

CARE is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., except for some university holidays. CARE offers appointments via phone, Zoom or in-person.

“Like many others, we were appalled and upset about the hurtful content she and Brother Jed were sharing. Misogynistic, transphobic and homophobic comments should not be tolerated,” the CARE office said.