Wednesday, February 15, 2006

CRU Crime

Just a quick disclaimer - you may have noticed that I try to come up with clever titles for my posts, and I really couldn't pass up this one, as it rhymes so nicely with "True Crime." But seriously, I'm a little worried that the CRU people are coming after me anyway, so listen, folks, I'm not accusing anyone involved with CRU of having committed any crimes. So please don't start stalking me...OK? (That's a joke! A JOKE!)

And a more serious disclaimer: I'm sure what follows will offend someone. That's not my intent, but I'm writing from my experience, and I'm not going to censor myself. So if you don't want to read anything that is critical of Christian fundamentalism or evangelism or Campus Crusade for Christ, you might want to stop here.

We have this organization on our campus - Campus Crusade for Christ, or "CRU," as it is known here. I'm not sure whether to be glad they've chosen a cuddly nickname instead of the heavily burdened "Crusade" or to be freaked out because they have actually made "Crusade" into a cuddly nickname. But anyway.

It's important from the outset to understand what CRU is about. They purport to be very much the typical Christian campus fellowship-type group. But a look at their mission statement makes plain that CRU is about saving the "lost college students." Some of you may have no problem with that. I'd argue that the lost college students are perfectly capable of finding their way on their own, and that those who aren't need CRU along on their journey like they need a flat tire. But that's probably a post for another time (and it's more than a little informed by my past experience with similar organizations, and as a former "feisty Christ-y," myself (thanks to D. for that great phrase!)).

So I was sitting alone in the campus coffee shop today, and - let's call him CRU Guy, or CG for short - came up and started talking to me. Now, I am pretty sure he knew exactly who I was when he came over to strike up a conversation, though it's possible that he didn't, and I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but again, my experience with feisties and as a feisty reminds me that there are no coincidences in situations like these, and I am not talking about God's intervention, either.

Anyway, so CG came up and introduced himself and tried to figure out where he knew me from, and oh, surprise, it was because I was the teacher who brought my class to the CRU-sponsored talk last week on "Pure Sex." (In case you're wondering - "pure sex" would be sex within marriage, preferably after abstaining until marriage. And I was just a wee bit rude to the speaker, I am sorry to tell you.) CG and I had a short discussion about how students reacted to that presentation and how they react to CRU in general. And I said, as politely as I could, and without malice (really!), that the problem that I saw lay in CRU's belief that its notion of how to be a Christian was the only way to be a Christian, and by extension, that Christians behaved only in the ways that CRU thought Christians ought to behave. Central to this, of course, is CRU's mission of evangelism (in the hardcore sense). And that students didn't appreciate being invited to a discussion about, say, sex, when there was a larger agenda of soul-saving behind it that did not allow for honest conversation.

CG heard this with that wide-open facial expression that young evangelists often have. I'm not sure how to describe this except to say that it's a cross between joy and puzzlement. It looks like they might be hurting themselves a little because they are just trying so darn hard. This is the expression they use when they are trying to draw you out into conversation.

Tangent: There is another expression that I used to get a lot, which is the one they use when you say things like, oh, I don't know, "my lover," and that one is a little less open and a lot more furrowed brow. This expression is frequently accompanied by the question, "what do you mean?" as though the speaker has never before heard the term and therefore is completely bemused as to what you could possibly be talking about. If you don't know any better, you will explain that you are talking about your same-gender partner, and then you are in for it, because you've just opened the door to an argument about what Jesus thinks about your sexual orientation. And at this point in the conversation, you will think that the evangelist with whom you are speaking is really learning something new from you, so you might well have an honest discussion and allow that yes, you have struggled with the whole sexuality/spirituality thing, in which case you will find that you have made a new friend who will track you down on a regular basis to work on your relationship with Christ. But I digress.

So CG gave me one of these wide-open looks, and I could feel my guard go up because I knew exactly what was going on in his mind. And then he started asking me about my sexuality class, making him the third CRU person in a week to ask me about it and therefore letting me know that CRU is gunning for the souls in my class. (It is only a matter of time before they track us down and start sitting in on the class, at which point we will have to find a new place to meet because that would make discussion difficult to impossible.)

And then he told me that CRU had a lot to learn from my viewpoint. And I felt that he was being genuine, but at the same time, I had the sinking feeling that what he meant was that I had some fresh ideas about how they could more effectively witness to the students. What I was thinking, but did not say, is that there was no way in hell I was going to hand the students over to him.

You know, I really want to believe that the poor guy was being honest and straightforward, and I do hold out hope for that possibility. But he's on CRU staff. And what I know about CRU staff and their duties suggests otherwise.


Anonymous said...

So it's okay for you to take your class to the CRU talk and be "a wee bit rude" to the speaker, but it's not okay for CRU people to come sit in your class?

blacksweatpants said...

i prefer to call evangelism extremists the CWC - Christian Warrior Club.

BRi said...

You know, last Thursday night, one of my friends was at our coffee/class hangout, and she came up to me and said, "Oh! Is that your Bible study??" Hahaha, I had to laugh a little. If CRU members were in class, I don't think I'd mind it, but I may get rude. And scream "gynecological finger!" a lot. Have you talked to the lady about CRU yet? I'd personally like to know about their marketing (and why they feel compelled to put their name on the posters in the smallest font possible--are they ashamed of themselves or just trying to get non-CRU members to come? It seems a little fishy to me). But I know that sinking feeling when a CG approaches! I have gotten no new offers for the salvation of my soul, but I'll definitely let you know if my spiritual redemption goes up in stock and I become a hot commodity! ARGHH!!!

plain(s)feminist said...

In response to anonymous:

The CRU talk was a public talk to which the campus was invited. It was not ok for me to be rude, though I did make light of my behavior in my post. (I also apologized to the speaker afterward, FWIW).

My class, however, is not open to the public. Further, given some of what has been said to me by my students re. their interactions on campus, I am concerned that the visitor(s) in question will create a hostile environment for the students in the class.

Anonymous said...

I misunderstood, but now I'm confused. If the class is not open to the public, then it should be a simple matter to tell any/all visitors that. Are these CRU folks likely to stage a sit-in?

plain(s)feminist said...

No sit-in - but we meet off-campus in a public place, and the CRU staff might track us down and accidentally-on purpose bump into us. Probably, they won't. It sounds a little conspiratorial, even for me! It just feels odd to be getting so much attention from CRU all of a sudden (which, to be fair, may also be how CRU staff feel about getting attention from some of us).