The semesterly tradition of “Sin Awareness Day” was started by retired veteran Don Karns. The recognizable event features a group of young men on the University of Connecticut’s Fairfield Way, promoting their message with religious chants and signs.
“Sin awareness is simply a concept or an idea which stems from the observation that so many colleges are always having an awareness day, such domestic violence, cancer, alcohol awareness,” Karns said. “My hope is that people will think about some of the things that are going on in the world around them. That they will consider why these ills arise and acknowledge these problems as sin.”
Karns is a retired veteran, who said he has dedicated his time to spreading the word of God.
“I retired so that I could be a part of the mission to reconcile people to God. I do so for the following reasons: out of love, gratitude [and] obedience to God and Jesus Christ,” Karns said. “Also because I love those I preach to. I want them to experience peace with God, freedom from sin, forgiveness of sin and assurance of heaven.”
The group travels to colleges mostly in the northeast, occasionally travelling outside of the country.
“I prefer to preach at colleges because the students who successfully graduate may go on to important jobs in science, politics or serving humanity. Some will even be leaders and judges that influence the future of our country,” Karns said. “I prefer the northern schools where students are more honest about their feelings about God and their love of sin. The students in the south behave much the same, but they attempt to hide the truth behind all the Christian words they learned in Sunday School when they were young.”
Karns and his followers do not organize their visit with UConn, since it is an open campus.
“UConn visitors have the same free speech rights as students and employees,” Stephanie Reitz, UConn spokesperson said. “The University doesn’t bar anyone based on their beliefs or the ways in which they express those beliefs, as long as their actions are legal and don’t compromise anyone’s health, safety and regular campus operations.”
Karns said that he receives mixed reactions from students at any campus they travel to.
“Some students get angry, there are always a few who are encouraged, some disagree peacefully and many just walk by apathetically,” Karns said. “There is a forgotten aspect of free speech today in America. Not only are people free to speak in public, but people are also free to walk away. No one is forced to stay and listen.”
Karns recounts an experience with a UConn alumnus that approached him while he was demonstrating in Boston last year.
“A young girl stopped to listen and later we had a nice conversation. She said she had been one of our worst hecklers at UConn while she was a student there. She would miss class and spend the entire afternoon trying to ridicule us,” Karns said. “She was very sorry for her behavior while at UConn and asked us to forgive her. She said she could not believe how mean she had been and she also felt she had been with a bad crowd at school.”
Karns said he thinks some UConn students will change their beliefs after graduating and getting away.
“I believe that there are other students who will think and behave differently when they get away from the crowd and are no longer pampered in their self-centered world,” Karns said. “So I try to share the Gospel with as many college students as possible during the times when the schools are in session, the weather is tolerable and no exams are being given.”
Karns said that he and his group have one message they try to share during their demonstrations.
“Jesus Christ saves His people from their sins. That is what the very name Jesus means…Those who believe in Him are granted eternal life [assurance of heaven] not because they are good or worthy but because they have been graciously granted saving,” Karns said.
Naiela Suleiman is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.