Friday, April 17, 2009

Please, be careful how you talk about religion. This is a university.

Yesterday I went to see Cliffe Knechtle talk on campus. Cliffe is an open-area apologist for Christianity. For 20 years now, he's been going to college campuses around the country, and at the center of campus he gives a short talk about Christianity. He then opens it up for questions and challenges, which he invariably gets.

Here at UConn, he drew crowds of 30-50 students, at least when I walked by, and he was always in an animated discussion with him. Cliffe has been doing this for so long that he's very polished. He has a thoughtful answer for everything, and he has a smooth presentational style. Nonetheless, some of the students were getting very, very agitated with him.

In thinking about why, I started to wonder if there's an unwritten norm on campuses that it's okay to express your worldview, and you can have any of a wide range of views, but it's not okay to tell somebody that their view is incorrect or otherwise wrong.

Religious interaction on campus sometimes seems to be like show-and-tell. People state their religious preferences and beliefs, people react politely, and that's it. The idea of exclusivity--that one religion is more right or factual than others--really has no place in this model. As such, some of the reactions to Cliffe were of the "how dare you" variety, attempting to shame him for his outright declaration of Christianity as Truth.

What do you think? What are the norms on/off campus about discussing religion?


Mark said...

When I was in college (which was some time back in the Mesozoic era) a prim and proper older gentleman and a young lady wearing puritan attire spoke on the lawn at my university. Had they talked about what they believed and what their faith did for them that was good it would have been fine, but unfortunately they chose instead to criticize the crowd calling them "dirty sinners". That's when the audience began throwing things at them and one enterprising student walked up and tried to take the bible out of his hands as he was speaking. I have found that in general its when you give out a nasty attitude that you get nasty back from the crowd.

Brad Wright said...

Yes, I've seen preachers like that... depressing and way unhelpful. Makes Cliffe all the more impressive!