The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Check this Alumnus Out: Mezu Ofoegbu’s Podcast Explores Sexuality and the Church

In a conversation with the Torch, Ofoegbu talks about issues that some Christians normally steer away from
Alumnus Mezu “Zu” Ofoegbu has his own podcast called “Forget the Noise” available on Apple Podcasts.

Mezu “Zu” Ofoegbu, 23, is not a pastor. He stands in front of students and teaches them the gospel, he reads directly from the Bible to them. He jumps up and down when he’s excited about what he is preaching. He wears trendy or rare sneakers, and skinny jeans with big jackets — like a lot of hip youth pastors do.

But call him a pastor and he will cringe and beg you to stop. After all, he says, Jesus only had one title among his disciples: Teacher. He sees himself more as a studier of people.

Zu has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and a masters in sociology. He completed both at St. John’s University in five years, walking across the stage for the last time May 2018. He has a job at an after school program. He also does research for Yo Re Mi, a program that teaches musical yoga to young children.

Even though he’s busy post-grad, he still serves as a counselor for the students at EDEN, a faith and creativity student organization on campus that he helped start in his junior year.  He led Bible study sessions for around 30 students of different denominations every Tuesday night.

Now, Zu developed his new passion project, the “Forget the Noise” podcast. He spent a month praying about it before publishing it on Apple Podcasts — the first episode debuted in July. “I wanted to pray that my mindset be ‘God, I just want anybody to hear it,’” he said. That was a requirement, not caring about numbers.

His main fan base is the students at EDEN, who have heard him teach similar lessons that they can now listen to on their phone for free.

“I really think that God has given me a gift to simply teach the gospel, simply,” he said in an interview with the Torch. He’s turned his side of the ministry into 29 episodes that claim to debunk myths that Christians have believed over the years.

“I’ve seen peoples’ walk with God suffer because they believe God is watching them like a security guard, waiting for something bad to happen,” he said.

That inspired “Episode 4: Rolling The Dice on God’s Love.” A fight he had with his mom became the focus of “Episode 8: Still…”

Three months after the first episode aired, Zu invited a friend to his recording studio, which is just the kitchen counter in his best friend’s apartment. He and his guest, Sean Sweeney, sat on opposite sides of the counter to discuss sexuality and the church on the first episode of “Street Lights.” Sweeney believes that radical messages against the queer community come from those who don’t understand what they are talking about.

Sweeney introduces himself at the beginning of the YouTube video as Seany Bravo (his Instagram name), the former president of Spectrum SJU, and he identifies as bisexual. Spectrum serves the gender and sexual minority community at SJU.

“‘Street Lights’ is about inviting people in for a conversation. People that I think that I know so well… people that the church has overlooked,” Zu said to the Torch. “I realized that me, and for the most part, the rest of Christian culture is homophobic. Our homophobia slips under the radar cause it’s like, I’m not homophobic, I’m just afraid to be homophobic. But I define that as homophobia as well.”

Sweeney touches on this toward the end of the video, saying, “Can you blame someone for being homophobic if they don’t know that they are being homophobic? No, but you can still be [held] accountable for it.”

Luana Bowers, a senior and a member of EDEN overheard the recording from another room. She has also listened to a few of the podcast episodes. “I appreciated the conversation because these types of conversations usually don’t happen. These topics are controversial, but they’re topics that need to be spoken about,” she said.

Sweeney and Zu agree on a lot, in part, because they are friends. But Zu makes it very clear: He is straight. He identifies as male, and he has erred on the side of homophobia many times.

“I think a lot of times we see within the church, these radical messages from people who fully don’t understand what they’re talking about, to make the argument that they’re trying to make,” Sweeney says in the video.

“I wanted to actively fight against any homophobia in me. I wanted to put us so close together that other homophobic people would be weirded out by it,” Zu said in the interview. He posted a series of photos promoting the first “Street Lights” episode, of himself and Sean with their arms locked and rainbows painted on their wrists.

Suddenly, the texts from pastors in his life started coming in. “Yo, what are you doing?” That’s how Zu summarizes the messages.

But Sweeney was completely open to the experience. “Zu and I have had similar discussion in the past, so it just felt like two friends having a conversation honestly,” he said in an interview with the Torch.

He wants the video to encourage others to be more open minded, and to ask questions where they don’t fully understand the situation. “While the Bible is a great text to refer to, and definitely to look at for guidance, there’s more to being a Christian than that,” he told Zu during their conversation. “You can’t tell me that I’m not blessed, and you can’t tell me that I’m not favored, and you can’t tell me that I don’t have a relationship with God because that’s my relationship with God.”

While Zu agrees with some of what he calls “the church’s view” in the discussion, he makes it abundantly clear that being heterosexual is “not the goal.”

He believes the Bible to be completely true, saying, “If a [gay] couple asked me for example, ‘Hey Zu, could you marry us?’ I couldn’t. and I wouldn’t. And my reasoning for that is not because I don’t love y’all. My reasoning is that I haven’t seen it in the Bible.”

Some famous pastors and evangelicals such as Rob Bell have openly stated that they believe marriage can be between a woman and a woman, or a man and another man.

Zu says all this knowing that he has friends who have come out to him as gay, who believe in the Bible in the same way that he does. During the video, Sweeney says that the problem lies in those who tell queer people what to do with their lives without knowing their full story.

The difficult conversation they had on-screen isn’t happening very often in public, according to Zu, and he wants other Christians to say how they really feel about the relationship between the LGBTQ+ community and the church.

“There should be more of [an] understanding…on the church’s end, but there’s some understanding to be held on the queer side as well,” Sweeney says toward the end of the video. Zu agrees, and he also told the Torch that there are points where what he believes can really discourage Sweeney, and even himself.

He wants to continue challenging himself and others through “Forget The Noise” and “Street Lights,” because he’s interested in the lives of those he interviews. “I’m able to relate to how Jesus Christ or the lack of Jesus Christ is reinforcing things in your life that you don’t want to be there. Or even if you are satisfied, how that is temporary.”

His latest episode aired on Apple Podcasts and on Youtube Oct. 22, where he and senior Kennisa Ragland discussed the feminist movement.

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About the Contributor
Morgan C. Mullings
Morgan C. Mullings, Editor-in-Chief
Morgan is a senior journalism major and has been with the Torch since her freshman year. She served as opinion editor for Spring 2018 and helped create the Human Resources Manager position (formerly known as Outreach Manager). She is also a member of Sinai's Radiant Liturgical Dance Ministry and has held internships with Her Campus and Metropolis Magazine. Her goals for this year include publishing quality stories, holding SJU's leaders accountable and educating the community on media literacy. You can reach Morgan at [email protected].
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