On Wednesday, Sept. 22, a crowd congregated around Cindy Smock, their jeers and laughs punctuating her passionate anecdote. Some stayed for five minutes, others for the whole hour-long show. Regardless of the time each student spent watching Smock, they were all curious about what this rising social media star, known to them as “Sister Cindy,” had to say about the “hoes” of the world.
Smock visited Drake’s campus — one stop on a four-week tour that includes campuses across America — and preached a message against premarital sex and the LGBTQ community, including many warnings about sexual activity.
“There are a lot of diseased penises out there,” Smock said during her presentation.
This platform has drawn her wide criticism, however, with the help of a TikTok account that has garnered over 300,000 followers, it has also brought fame to the 63-year-old preacher.
Before becoming a preacher and later a social media figure, Smock was a journalism student at the University of Florida. In her presentations at college campuses, Smock tells of her past as a “sinful” college student who, before discovering her faith, engaged in a variety of what she calls “naughty” behavior, including alcohol consumption, drug use, and sex. She then offers her life as a converted, born-again Christian as a model for those to whom she preaches.
“Right there, in that parking lot, I was born again,” Smock said. “I became a ho no mo!”
Becoming a “Ho no mo,” Smock’s catchphrase for the duration of her tour, and related sayings such as “Stop the war on anuses” are featured on items in the preacher’s merch store. Smock’s promotion of the store during her presentations has been a topic of controversy, with some claiming that Smock is financially rather than religiously motivated. Others speculate that the attention and popularity she receives also play a role.
“I think she’s doing it for attention. She talks about how much of a hoe she was but now she’s turned into a born-again version. I don’t know — it seems a little fishy,” Drake student Logan Myurs said.
“A following is always a dangerous slippery slope that can cause people to make compromises and do things just for the sake of the show instead of doing it because it’s true or right,” Dakota Jackson, the leader of the SALT Company group at Drake University, said.
Regardless of how genuine Smocks’ passion is, she has certainly drawn a broad crowd. Some are attracted by curiosity, others by comedic interest, and still others by a genuine interest in her message. Some laugh at her stories and assertions, but others believe them to be hurtful.
“I would never use my religion in a way that excludes or disrespects other individuals, especially when they have no control over who they are. I wish that they used the Bible in a more positive manner and not in a negative one,” said Reyna Ailene Gutierrez, Chair of Events for the Rainbow Union at Drake. “I think it helps with the stereotyping of Christians being homophobic, racist, and not good people when not all Christians are like that.”
As a leader in the Christian faith, Jackson also finds Smock’s portrayal of Christian values troubling. He felt that her delivery was ineffective, as well as potentially damaging to Christianity’s reputation.
“That is the picture that a lot of people get of Christians — someone standing on a sidewalk yelling at you that you’re gonna go to hell, and what she’s doing is focusing so much on the judgment and the condemnation side of things,” Jackson said. “I think what’s so much better and so much more right and so much more biblical is to help people understand the love of Jesus that he has for them.”