Cindy Smock has 300,000 subscribers on TikTok. Gen Z loves it. She has iconic slogans and is asked for selfies wherever she goes. But Smock isn’t a teenage LA renegade girl at her content creator house. She is a 63-year-old evangelical Christian preacher from Indiana.
âWelcome to Sister Cindy’s Slut-Shaming Show,â she says in one of the many videos that catapulted her to TikTok glory. After discovering that students had shared videos of Cindy online and frequent preaching sessions on her husband, Brother Jed’s campus, she opened her own account in March.
Now, the #sistercindy hashtag has 194 million views on the app, while Smock sells its own merchandise, and for $ 59, subscribers can purchase their own personalized videos. “I am in celebrity status among the students,” she said News week. After spending five decades preaching on campuses across America after reforming herself from being a “bad girl at the University of Florida,” Smock says she wasn’t popular on campuses before, but now everything has changed.
âThe crowd started to be there when I got there. I just had to say on TikTok when I came, and there would be 100 to 1,000 people waiting for me,â she said.
So how did a previously hated religious preacher âwin over Gen Z and influence peopleâ? Linguistically becoming one of them, Smock asks his listeners to be a “ho no mo”, amid references to a “Hot Girl Summer” and anecdotes of dating boys from the fraternity.
In a viral video, Smock recites the lyrics to Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B’s record-breaking hit, “WAP”, the lyrics need no explanation. “When I read the words I was appalled, it wasn’t empowering women. The woman said the man was hurting her. And she was happy about it. So I just wanted to speak their language,” she explained.
“Some Christians are very critical of me, because I will say wet a ** p ****,” Smock added, without stuttering present. The WAP doesn’t bring to mind the word of God, but she explains that, âI use the term sort of for shock value. But I think when they’re called that, it sounds cool. But when a 63-year-old man – the old woman says that, it cuts their hearts a bit. “
It was that shock value that earned him a place in TikTok’s metaphorical Hall of Fame, says Riley Pereya, who reached more than ten million views with a video of Smock preaching at California State University Long Beach. âFrom a marketing standpoint, it’s genius. She takes what Gen Z likes, shock value, and she just gets over it. And if it’s a little controversial, too, that’s the formula. perfect. So what she does is successful, because it’s wrong. “
But when are his methods of preaching, and the fame that comes with it, not so wrong, that is, and just plain wrong? “She said ‘You have to cover up the young woman, you are an accomplice in the crime of rape on campus’, and at that point my jaw dropped. I think that’s when I thought to myself ‘people like that actually exist, because you see on social media victims blaming the assault, but i didn’t know people actually made those kinds of comments,’ said Jenna Gosz, who fell on Cindy preaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2019 and, although that is of little importance, says her clothes were far from revealing anyway. In another video of Gosz, Cindy tells a man he must repent after asking him if he was a “gay”.
Reagan Lowden, who regularly shares Smock clips on TikTok, had a similar experience at Auburn University in 2019: âI had less than an inch of skin visible and because of that and the fact that I ‘had my hair dyed, she called me a bitch and said I would burn in hell. ” Pereya also saw her in 2019 and described her comments as “bordering on hate speech.”
Lowden, who considers herself a Christian, managed to speak with Cindy afterwards and “had a deep conversation with her. We talked about a lot of things, biblical and personal views, and we came away with a mutual understanding of it. everyone’s opinion. “
Meeting in the middle was not possible for Gosz, however, who decided to post the video of the “crime of rape” after a few of his funniest ones went viral. “There are messages, like kinky porn [in one video, Cindy dubs someone a ‘porno pervert’] we can all laugh and shake each other, but in addition to these funny comments she says things that are very messy. “
In a statement to News week, Purdue University, where Smock preached in April and was thrown a sex toy by a student, said, âPurdue University is public and the publicly accessible spaces on our campus are open to visitors. commitment to free speech means that we maintain an environment where individuals are not protected from views and opinions with which they may differ or find undesirable. Our public spaces on campus – one aspect of this environment – are designed to be places of free and open expression and debate. By law, we cannot allow certain points of view to be expressed there while prohibiting others, even those that the vast majority of our community may find deeply offensive. “
Purdue also pointed out News week to a video they show students during registration on how to deal with preachers.
Pereya said News week that he feels a bit responsible for Cindy’s fame, after uploading a video when she only had 10 million views and didn’t have an account yet. Now, with 300,000 subscribers, he thinks it’s got out of hand. âThere are people out there who genuinely support her without really understanding the seriousness of what she preaches because even in some of the comments on my video they say, ‘She’s a queen, kill Sister Cindy’ it’s like ‘you listen ? “
But maybe the question here isn’t whether it should have a platform, but whether it actually has one. Beauty gurus can sell palettes in seconds, but does Smock have that kind of influence? âFrom the comments and responses to my videos, I have a feeling most of them are just for entertainment,â Lowden said.
âThey were saying ‘I love this lady,’ in the sense that she’s hilarious, not that they took her seriously and loved this lady for preaching what she preached. They love this lady like a comic figure,â said confirmed Gosz.
Smock’s in-app fame is apparently also an in-app joke, but it’s a joke she says she is too. “I’m not saying everyone suddenly believes like me, and I know there’s still a big element following me or coming to hear me just for the fun of it,” Cindy told News week.
“I watch them go up and take pictures, and sometimes they try to act like they’re sincere, because they think I don’t want them to take a picture or a video if they’re not sincere. , but I can see through them most of the time, âshe added.
But that’s not something that bothers Smock, who says that even though “the liberals want to silence [them]”she is confident that if they listen long enough, jokingly or not,” the truth will touch them. “
She does think, however, that only a small portion of her audience is there for a few cheap chuckles, especially when it comes to her paid video cameos: âI’d say only 10-20% are a joke. More like 80% are real. . They want humor, because maybe their friend follows me and is crazy about Sister Cindy, but still celebrates too much. “
“I even had someone who a friend of mine uses crack cocaine asked me to make a video,” she added, convinced that it was a sincere request.
“These kids are tired of their parents partying, doing drugs, leading an irresponsible lifestyle and they realize that there has to be something different. So even though I’m doing good old bitch-shaming , they are drawn to me as a mother and a grandmother figure, âshe said.
Judging from her comment sections, it might be hard to believe, but Cindy has some sort of follower converting power, although apparently not 80%. With the help of her TikTok account, Cindy regularly hosts Zoom Bible study classes where no filming is allowed, and âno slut stuffâ.
“I had this guy from New Zealand, and he was 19. He had been an atheist for 10 years, since he was nine, and just the first week he became a Christian, by the Bible, and that it’s been eight weeks now, âSmock said of one of his Zoom attendees.
Of course, converting to Christianity is not a bad thing, but there are questions in the community about how they perceive it. âI think she’s a gentle woman, but I feel like she could get along better with the way she preaches. Some of what she says is biblical, but a lot of it is imbued with his own political and personal opinion, “said Lowden, who brought a bible and read the verses Cindy quoted aloud during her preaching,” so people could hear it straight from the bible. “
Moral dilemma aside, Cindy’s year-long reign on TikTok may soon come to an end, she says. âI expect I will be kicked out of TikTok,â she predicted. “Even though I try to conform to the norms of their community and not say anything that they don’t want to say and it remains age-appropriate, I think people are really upset that I am loved by the generation Z. “
His answer ? “Your hater today is your Christian tomorrow.”