I would like to start my blog series with an issue that is very close to my heart and is poorly handled on campus; in general ‘soap boxing’ in specific ‘spreading the faith’.
There are a variety of groups with a point of view on campus and many employ poor contact strategies. This is evident as the results do not positively correlate to the effort input. To illustrate this, I would like to recall two specific incidents this past year.
The first involved an elderly Presbyterian group handing out fliers at a high traffic corner on campus. The fliers included scripture verses warning of the dangers of hell and attesting to the love of Christ.
An important issue to consider when 'soap boxing'; does your efforts Positively Stand Out. UT students, on average, are handed 4-5 fliers everyday announcing some theatre group or new student politics initiative. I could have plastered my dorm walls with all these handouts and still had enough to build a paper airplane armada that could put the Luftwaffe to shame.A second issue to consider is Know Your Audience: I’m on my way to class and suddenly some older fellow is jumping in my path forcing a flier in my hand and warning of the dangers of hell; I’m tired, running a bit late, and it’s 98 degrees outside with high humidity. This isn’t the message I’m looking to hear, nor respond to positively.
The Second incident was of a Protestant pastor who began a soap box sermon in front of the UT tower, which serves as the nexus of campus and has a preponderance of foot traffic. I did not draw near enough to hear what he was preaching. I was close enough to see the student in a clown’s costume reading Moby Dick right next to him though. I seldom agree with lampooning an issue, but in all honesty, the pastor was in the wrong place.
Watching this pastor brought up a concern from some of my Christian friends and appears common in the Christian community. They seem to have a fear of “militant atheism". Militant in that if they are recognized as a Christian they expect there will be an immediate drive to bring about counter conversion.
This fear appears to generate from individuals found on mass media outlets or forum boards, rolling out massive diatribes to the “archaic” nature of the faith or the purported ignorance that it follows. I personally do not agree with the former statement but do believe there is some evidence to support the latter.
The question I pose to these friends and communities is this: how is this militant atheism different from our evangelical efforts? Could it be possible that people find us as annoying as we do these atheists? In my experience, these militant atheists never appear unless the militant evangelicals are nearby.I see the campus culture in this way; where once the political boundaries were drawn along the lines of “liberal” versus “conservative” UT seems to express a greater divide between Libertarians and Autocrats (for those unfamiliar, the Libertarian platform stresses personal rights and VERY limited government. Their principle candidate is Ron Paul). I believe this shift fundamentally changes the way evangelism should be carried out.
My generation values personal space and detests the invasion of such therefore instead of pushing into people’s lives ‘do something' and let them ask the questions. Rather than push pamphlets, perform acts of service. Don’t bring up Christ, show them Christ to such a degree that they ask what you are doing and why. Let them see we are Christians by our love.