Tag Archives: CRU

Dispatches from Campus Ministries: Anti-Black Racism & Cru

 

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So recently, I’ve been catching wind of various cult-like tendencies of Cru – in terms of theological assimilation- this is especially problematic and hypocritical considering their aim to be an INTERDENOMINATIONAL campus ministry. You wouldn’t know of their (apparently forsaken) goal from their wholesale endorsements of their “holy” trinity – Piper, Platt, and (insert any number of young , reformed Calvinistas)

Cru, in all its attempts to function like theological gate-keepers, ends up having rather terrifying implications for race. What one will find in looking at the type of Christians that Cru draws – they tend to have this passionate, missional (uggh), relentless zeal to reach the lost and spread the gospel according to John Calvin. If you aren’t already that way upon entry to the ministry, then prepare to be whipped into theological shape! They tend to have this really youthful, politically naive spirit about them. Well, imagine a black student trying to join a theoretically interdenominational campus ministry. The leadership at CRU teaches that in the black community [and for other communities of Color], the Christian faith is more likely to be a religion that is “handed down” from generation to generation- it’s more like an inheritance or an ethno-religious community- part of their cultural heritage. This is may seem  especially true given the history of black churches in America ( and I know this being a part of the community and some facts and figures) and its heroic legacy and connotations it has in the black community and even the U.S. at large.[1] Now contrast this with the fresh, young, “on the verge of something new” , “being missional”, atmosphere that tends to engender Cru.

The narrative of Cru members tends to be one that ignores the institutional outcomes of Cru as a ministry or even the historical context of Christianity and instead would like to think that what they’re doing is somehow outside of history, politics, etc. and instead they’re commissioned by God to spread the gospel throughout the campus. This of course does not allow much room for  historic black American churches. While Cru-ites have a zeal not only on campus but globally ( Spring Break trips to the Dominican Repub, etc.) , the black churches are more focused on saving the black community and its burdens. But to the mostly white Cru, this looks like a lack of zeal and passion/focus for “the things of God”.

Many people in Cru ( at least the Blue Ridge region) tend to be more or less recent converts to Christianity who likely grew up in the church all their lives and so it did not mean anything to them . They’ll next tell you, in their testimonies, that they had what is essentially an existential crisis with the meaning of Christianity and its use to society and the purpose of church. So their “salvation experience” tends to be these really individualistic, “I prayed the sinner’s prayer and Jesus saved me from hell” sort of stories and so their resolve is to do the same for other people – spread this message of escaping hell fire. They behave as if they’re on to something new and revolutionary and even “radical!” (hint David Platt) and it essentially can be reduced to spiritual hedonism – again, contrast this to the historic black American church.

Additionally, I must note that in all my four years in Cru ( I stopped attending around last semester, but I still attend men’s bible studies every now and then), in all of the authors we’ve read and church pastors we’ve invited to come speak, not ONE has been black. And there is not at ALL a shortage of black churches in the Asheville area. Cru doesn’t realize how their problematic approach to theological assimilation is not only hypocritical but ends up being anti-black given the nature of the black church in America.

Additionally, a friend of mine at Cru notified me that they are launching a ministry (requiring more money and resources/staff) for the specific purpose of drawing black people- I think it’s called something like “Impact” or some similar type name…. It would be a whole branch dedicated to black student ministry – talk about separate but equal!  The fact that you aren’t drawing black students in is telling in and of itself. Have they ever stopped to think that the fact that they aren’t drawing in the number of black students that they want into the MAIN Cru ministry is indicative of a shortcoming in their approach to ministry – instead of spending all this effort to making this ludicrous extra black student ministry? 

Have you worked in a campus ministry setting and experienced racism? Are parachurch organizations located at colleges and universities speaking out against institutional racism at their schools? Are these groups working towards racial reconciliation? 

[1] EDITOR’S NOTE:  The false racist mythology that the religious habits of people of color are remnants of things passed down rather than a “genuine” conversionist form of Christianity is part of the colonial legacy that is Orientalism. People of Color are categorized as *naturally religious* and therefore more like to be submissive in a national economy.  When white evangelicalism teaches that Christianities from African-American, Asian- and Pacific American American, and First Nations contexts are not “real” Christianities, that is part of the White Supremacist gaze. It is one of the major reasons why racism blocks good evangelical organizations like the Gospel Coalition from recognizing that religious revival is going on in the North East, particularly Boston.

Dispatches from College Ministries: On Meeting Cornel West

Dispatches from College Campus Ministries:

I hesitate to state that I’ll be starting a new post series that will essentially be my journaling of various interactions with (often problematic) Christian ministries on my campus. I’ll try to keep them brief and succinct.

I GOT TO MEET DR. CORNEL WEST!!!!

I'm on the left.

I’m on the left.

YES he was as awesome as I thought he’d be- perhaps even more so, actually! Got to attend the reception ( which is where the photo above was taken). I was told by ( some obviously bitter people) that West wouldn’t take photos, sign books, or talk about personal life with people –  HE DID ALL OF THE ABOVE. Granted, it was tough trying to get to him,there was a SWARM of people (students, faculty, community members) wanting to speak with Dr. West, get their copies of Democracy Matters signed, and a picture. He actually asked me how school was going, but I was too tongue-tied and star-struck to give an articulate answer so I said something to the tune of “School’s going well, you’re such an inspiration to me!!” LOlz….

English: Cornel West, keynote speaker at the M...

English: Cornel West, keynote speaker at the Martin Luther King Jr. Week. University of Utah. Contrast enhanced, sensor noise filtered, saturation adjusted (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

            West’s lecture was INCREDIBLE. Everything I hoped and more. I can not articulate how happy I was for the predominantly white college I attend to be exposed to someone like West. As many noted, his “lecture” , in his delivery, histrionics, and content was more like a “sermon” – a social justice sermon. He name-dropped so many blues/funk artists, it was jarring. He made me want to listen to the Blues in describing it as “the music of the oppressed” – it wasn’t optimistic, but in recognizing the hell they were living in due to their status of being despised people, they simply sang about it, yet refused to compromise their moral character in the process and retained a high premium on the notion of unconditional love for one another. I had posted a FB status the day after his incredible speech, that essentially sums up many of his quotes throughout the night –

– Never cease Socratic questioning of the American empire; – Never cease self-examination and self-questioning (dying so that we might live) and evaluating the extent to which we are colluding with imperialistic patterns and forces of our own nation; -Become a prophetic voice in the age of empire, as the Negro national anthem says “lift every VOICE (not echoes of empire) and sing!” – Dr. Cornel West

*AND THE CROWD GOES WIIIIILD!*

– This semester, while I haven’t been attending Cru “large group” ( a Christian campus ministry- interdenominational ((only not))), I have been attending men’s bible studies. We’ve always been outnumbered by the girls of Cru by quite a bit, and so our men’s bible study has been just as intimate- 4 or 5 guys ( the same 4 or 5). It’s been good  for the most part, but I am annoyed by an attempt to make Hebrews 9:26 -28 refer to/support the “P”in Calvinism’s TULIP (perseverance of the saints). That in addition to the general theology of “God hates the people who end up in Hell b/c they didn’t trust Jesus as their celestial firefighter” … is it rude to offer drastically differing theological lenses as a bible study where everyone else seems to be on the same accord?

Also, every year, Cru at UNCA does this program called “Blanket America” where we ( and other Crus students , sometimes, in the W. North Carolina. E. Tennessee region) travel to the 3rd poorest county in the nation – Clay Co. Kentucky , to this clothing shelter , sponsored by a local church , where we then distribute blankets, winter coats, (fattening) snacks, bibles,  etc. But before any of this happens, we take the lined up poor/homeless folk to this room ( each of us are assigned someone in line) and we share the “gospel” with the aid of this tract supposedly depicting us before and after Christ. We start out by asking them “Do you have a relationship with God” and then depending on their answer we share the “gospel” or talk about it a bit more, and then we proceed to get them their winter goods. I only did this my freshman year and have not participated ever since.

Besides the problematic “gospel” they want us to share, I was so happy the other day when a student (whom I’m good friends with) who had gone on the trip pointed out that we’re not really helping them or showing long-term support to these impoverished people. They wait every year for that one day and then we leave and they’re left to be dependent on our will to come and volunteer. At this point I chimed “solidarity over charity!” – she was essentially pointing out that the Blanket America operation doesn’t force us to show long-term solidarity with these folks, but just cheap, short-term charity ( for one weekend of a year!). She then said “yes!” and proceeded to ask where I heard that from, at which point, I shared  Rod’s post on solidarity being preferable to charity.  Broken down to its core, Blanket America is essentially a chance for a mostly white , middle-class kids who profess the Christian faith to feel good about themselves without being too closely associated with the downtrodden because they can then go home and tell mommy, daddy, friends, and pastors back home that they “ministered to the physical and spiritual needs” of the poor. After this short weekend, however, they’re relived of this and while these people are left dependent on this short day, the privileged are left with a good, magical feeling in their hearts of having done “the Lord’s work”.  Mind you, 1 in 6 people in W. North Carolina don’t have access to basic needs or have ample food security  or may live in a food desert – but no, let’s travel 4 hours away to Kentucky and forget about ( and never interact with) the issues in our own backyard. In the time they have all these retreats, parties, hang-outs, game nights, etc.; I am sure a good bit of it could be spent showing solidarity with marginalized groups in the Asheville area ( there are PLENTY) – for these reasons I have ceased attending Cru as often – I want para –Church, NOT para-entertainment. 

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