Sunday, October 16, 2005

Multi-Faith [Celebration?]

So I just learned that one of the on-campus Christian groups, InterVarsity, does not want to participate in our Multi-Faith Celebration because they do not find it celebratory to have an event exposing the diversity of religion on our campus (it's like a showcase opportunity during which each group does a ritual, rite, or similar that is representative of their worship). In fact, such an event "makes them sad." The student who was seeking their participation handled it very well, explaining to them that the celebration is of their own faith, and the opportunity to share it with others (in the context of 15 or so other faith groups doing the same). They have not responded in a clear way as of yet.

This got me thinking that it's pretty ignorant to refuse to even acknowledge the existence of other faith traditions - to just pretend they don't exist (you're either Christian or Heathen). It's like, oh God! If they aren't worshipping our God, we can't possibly let them show anybody what they do! What if it's *gasp* sincere?! What if it forces us to think they might actually have faith? They might believe in God?! That would screw up our whole theology!

Of course the goal of InterVarsity, Campus Crusade, and most of the Christian campus ministries is to convert people. It's very focused on decision-making and quickly, at that. This goes along with the "last days" theology which is part of the foundation of much Evangelical belief. That is, there is no time to waste, Jesus could return at any moment, so you simply must get all your friends and family saved as quickly as possible. It also focuses heavily on the after-life, the next world. I notice this even when talking to my family about my belief system, and they are so completely obssessed with "well, does this person or that person go to heaven" that they can't even speak to my concerns of discipleship, pluralism, etc.

All in all, as a budding campus minister, I would have to say that I have trouble with the tactics of these organizations - I think it leads to shallow Christianity, and following school will these students have the roots (think parable of the sower) to continue in discipleship or will they populate the Evangelical churches which require very little of them, very little change (beyond surface do's and don'ts, of course), very little commitment to healing the world or to becoming Christ-like. I worry they won't.

"Christianity has been reduced to a choice, not a life. [True] Christianity is not 'have you accepted Jesus?' but rather 'how are you today with your Lord?'" (Prof. Todd Johnson)

And also, the fact that a sophomore Hindu student wanted to approach them at all and encourage them to celebrate who they are - despite the fact that she deals with some rather obnoxious and offensive proselytizing from them pretty frequently - that says a lot both about that student and about the power of interfaith dialogue. Those Evangelicals who do join our interfaith group have their minds expanded and their faith enriched.

And in the end, couldn't we be happy that these dozens of college students who will participate are all seeking relationship with God at all? And that they haven't disowned organized religion (even if it's not Christianity)? That they are willing to follow the conservative path of religious and spiritual, not just the latter? That at their age, in their generation, in their life experience, they still believe in a God at all and they actually want a relationship with him or her??

So they are not Christians - they are not InterVarsity's type, that is. So what? They want to know God (or enlightenment or whatever it is for them).

And that is something to celebrate!!


Samuel Bills said...

I am weary of all organizations that invoke the spirit of the crusades in their name.

Anonymous said...

Last year on our campus, Campus Crusade (Just yesterday I want thinking on how horrible that name is, really) invoked a controversial publicity "Do you agree with Byron?" campaign. That was not the best idea.
The multifaith celebration sounds like a great idea! I wish we did that here. That's really too bad that they don't want to be enriched. Its like its their way or well, you're going straight to hell. If only their perspectives could be broadened.

Ellen said...

Not all InterVarsity chapters are like that. InterVarsity is a very diverse organization, due to its philosophy of student-driven, not staff-driven, leadership.

I'm curious as to which campus this is on, because I've only heard good things about greater LA IV chapters, especially in terms of what they are doing about racial reconciliation - in the here and now sense, not in the "when we all get to heaven everything will be wonderful sense..."

-former IV staff

Stasi said...

Yeah, fair enough. Let me clarify. I'm obviously assuming a lot about why they're rejecting the offer. Maybe they just don't want to do it because they don't think they could properly represent themselves in 4 minutes. And I know the leaders of IV here, and they are pretty cool people. There are groups with much worse tactics and reputations. So I didn't mean to single out IV. There are 50 Christian groups on campus (why, oh why, can't we have unity??), and the majority are of the "notch in the Bible" ilk. At least, that is what my students tell me. But IV is more into Bible study, I know, and they are less offensive in their proselytizing (I"m sure my Hindu student wouldn't have approached them if they were scary).
So again, didn't mean to pick on IV in particular, just a general type of campus ministry that doesn't put discipleship first. And it's not just campus ministries - it's most of Evangelical Christianity. So people are only modeling what they've been taught.