Standing on San Diego State’s Free Speech Steps holding his large white sign, which read “God is Love / God Hates Sin,” Neal Konitshek is difficult to ignore.
Since 1988, the year he proclaims he was born again as a Christian, Konitshek has been “street preaching” full time in dense areas such as SDSU, UC San Diego and the Gaslamp Quarter. After 23 years of preaching, he hasn’t seen behavior he would constitute as praiseworthy.
When asked about the most noticeable changes at SDSU throughout the years, he points to “A lot more drug use, partying and hardness of heart.”
These are problems Konitshek has personally struggled with throughout his life. Admitting to have been riddled with rage, drug abuse and materialistic greed, he said he partly owes his zeal for Evangelism to these problems.
“Had not God allowed me to go through that stuff, I wouldn’t been so self-sufficient. I would not have called out to him,” Konitshek said.
Despite this admitted vulnerability, Konitshek prides himself in his uncompromising message. Because of this, he doesn’t wish to associate himself with the “watered-down” preaching of organized churches. He feels 90 to 95 percent of modern churches are insincere because they present a more accessible message in order to gain members.
“We see all their (local churches’) people downtown drunk,” Konitshek said. “They tell me they love Jesus. Then I ask them, why are you paying $25 to go see naked women and throw beads at them and get drunk?”
On his online blog, he speaks about his preaching at the Gaslamp District during last year’s Halloween.
“The immorality gets worse every year and the crowd was massive,” Konitshek wrote. “Many Christians dressed as vampires, zombies, bikini dancers, etc. were warned and exhorted to turn from sin and walk in holiness.”
Some SDSU students don’t view Konitshek’s message as rigid and direct, but rather as antagonizing and aggressive. Psychology sophomore Monserat Hernandez felt verbally attacked by Konitshek after she was told her Christian faith and upbringing were “wrong.”
“I felt attacked,” she said. “Telling people that what they believe is wrong is not the way to spread a message. People just laugh at him.”
Interestingly, Konitshek feels atheists aren’t the ones who get in the way of his preaching.
“Biggest critics we have are the nominal Christians,” he said. “They only want to preach love and ignore the requirements of God. They’re hurting us more than the atheists.”
Despite his less-than-warm reception here at SDSU, Konitshek remains undiscouraged. In his view, the true path of righteousness is not an easy one and therefore not a popular one.
“Jesus said the way is narrow and difficult,” Konitshek said. “Wide is the gate that leads to destruction and many go in through it.”
Konitshek has never had any trouble with the police at SDSU. He manages business websites on the side and his wife works full time so he can preach full time. They are economically stable and have no reason to suspect that will change.
As for his popularity at SDSU, “They probably think I’m crazy and that I’m wasting my time, but it doesn’t bother me,” he said.