By Derek Legette
Edited by Sara Leary
David Hallman leans on a brick wall near the corner of Bull and Greene streets with one arm clenching a sign about Yahweh – the Hebrew version of God – and the other holding out sheets of spiritual messages for passers-by.
Most people ignore him. Some avoid him. But he stands there anyway, because he says he's doing what God told him to.
Hallman, 65, has been advertising his religion at the University of South Carolina as well at other East Coast colleges since 1986, but he wasn't always so tranquil.
He says he used to holler at people to get their attention when he first started, but then stopped when he realized that didn't work. When asked what he was like before he found God, Hallman just says, "You wouldn't want to know me."
Hallman says he already lived the American dream – a production management job with PET Milk and a house – but he was miserable. "Get a good job, get a good education, blah blah blah," Hallman says.
After realizing this wasn't what he wanted, Hallman changed his life and began to share his religious beliefs with others, specifically college students.
Hallman says he targets college students because they're "at a crossroads" where they will make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives.
Some students, such as second-year psychology student Josh Blue, approve of what Hallman does.
"I always read what he gives out. He must have something important to tell," Blue said. "I should do a favor to myself to read what he promotes."
Others like Kelley Freeman, president of the campus chapter of Pastafarians, doesn't care what Hallman does even though she usually takes his pamphlets.
"If he thinks God told him to do it, he may be a little crazy, but he's not hurting anyone. So by all means, he's free to continue to do so," she said.
Forty-eight-year-old Terry Nine, Hallman's oldest daughter, said she has also been following Yahweh for about 25 years.
"Anytime I have a problem I talk to him about it and listen to his words because he knows the Bible inside out," Nine said. "He can tell you everything."
The Carolina Reporter sat down and chatted with Hallman about why he continues to spread the word of Yahweh. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What prompted you to find God?
I was a miserable man … I had done everything they taught me from a child up to get a good job, get a good education … married, blah, blah, blah. I think in this country we call it the great American Dream. I call it the great bust because I had all that when I was 35 years old and I was a man most miserable. Something was missing in my life, and I heard some evangelists on TV talking about Jesus dying for me and I said, "Well, I never heard about that before, so if that's what I'm missing I want to know about it." And that's what begun my walk of faith.
Why has it been important to you to spread your religious message?
Because it changes lives. It's why we were created. If we're out here doing what we're not created for, we're destined for doom. And we are destined for doom as a society, because we're definitely not doing what He created us to do. You were never created to get a good education so you can get a job so you make a difference in this earth, because all you're going to be doing is promoting their system. I don't know if you've read the paper lately, but it ain't working. The system that we have, which includes education of course, and governments and religion and blah, blah, blah, it ain't working. … Ask yourself, "Is it really working?" …
If you were a young college student, or at that age, what effect would someone as spiritual as you have on your life?
At my age? Nothing. I'd have given the same insults I get out here. "Get a job!" … Hopefully you don't have to wait until you're 36 to experience what I did. See I didn't have somebody to really get into my face, as y'all might say I do y'all, but I really don't get in your face. I'm a very nice, kind guy. If you don't believe it, ask me.
What role do you serve to all these college students as they eventually move off campus and on with their lives? …
I am a reminder. No more. I will remind you what you were put on this earth to do and it was not to be doing what we're doing now. …The ultimate goal is not to be doing what you want to do; it's whatever it is He created you for. …If you read Genesis 1 through 3, you see what He put us here for. Now, it's not my job to tell you how to do that either by the way. That's the problem I see with religion … "You ought to do this, do that." No, you ought to seek the one who created and you ought to ask Him what to do. That's my job, just to remind you.
What would you have encouraged your kids to do if they were in their late teens and almost done with high school? You obviously wouldn't have encouraged them to go to college; what would you have done instead? …
We would actually be doing scripture. At least I would be showing them Abba's will in His scriptures. Now whether they ever did it … this still boils down to an individual thing. It's still left up to the individual. The ultimate decision lies within the person. Not within daddy's saying it, mommy's saying it, preacher's saying it. Not even if Yahweh's saying it.
Q: Describe your worst day being on the street with people. How did you handle that day?
A: I can't say that I've had a "worst day," because any day that you're walking on top of this earth, how can it be a bad day? No doubt, there are better times than others, especially when the children are more responsive to you. …But even where they're out there telling me bad things, and they do, you know, "Get a job," rah, rah, rah "God is dead." …Those things are not very pleasing to me, but still at least I know … they're not dead because they're reacting. …For you to tell me that, I done something, I had an effect on you because as you watched out there yourself, a lot of people have just walked on by. … I love response. I really don't like reactions. Reactions usually are not positive. Response is usually positive, usually.
What impact do you think you made on those people specifically, the ones that actually talk to you more, that actually build some type of friendship?
Again, I think it reminds them because like I said I've told you many times kids, young people come back and say: "You know I'm glad you were standing there today and handed me that paper. It reminded me to go home and read and study the word." So see, that's why I said I'm a reminder because that's probably the response I get a lot of. "I'm glad you were there today, man. You reminded me I hadn't such and such." … I've become to understand that is my job. Just to remind you.