According to the College’s Campus Ministries Web site, there are 10 registered student religious organizations on campus: Catholic Campus Ministries, Gospel Choir Ministries, New Jersey Christian Fellowship, the Islamic Society, Hillel/Jewish Student Union, Presbyterian Campus Ministries, Protestant Bible Fellowship, Chabad, Coptic Orthodox Fellowship and Unitarian Universalism Campus Ministries.
Each one of these groups has a perfectly legitimate right to exist at the College. I am personally an atheist, but I recognize that many students are spiritual and desire an outlet in which to express and practice their religious beliefs. People certainly have the right to freedom of religion, and this right is no less valid for members of our own college community. There is a point, however, where legitimate religious activity crosses the boundaries of propriety.
Several times since the start of my academic career at the College, I have been approached by members of two particular religious groups: New Jersey Christian Fellowship (NJCF, formerly Intervarsity Christian Fellowship), and Protestant Bible Fellowship (PBF). I found the representatives of both NJCF and PBF to be quite aggressive in terms of their proselytizing techniques, and this made me extremely uncomfortable.
Despite my expression of disinterest in joining their respective groups, these evangelists remained militantly persistent, even going so far as to ask for my personal contact information. To put it in polite terms, this strongly annoyed me.
Obviously, I cannot discuss the experiences of all students on campus, but I have never encountered such objectionable behavior from any of the other eight campus religious groups, be they Christian, Muslim, Jewish or otherwise. NJCF and PBF seem to be alone in their not-so-hidden lack of respect for personal religious (or non-religious) preferences.
From what I have observed, they feel the need to try to force their particular brand of conservative Christian theology on individuals, whether these individuals want the theology or not.
The insidious behavior of NJCF and PBF is not limited to one-on-one encounters, though.
As many readers of this publication know, these organizations co-sponsored two seminars on “intelligent design” last year. Intelligent design is almost universally rejected as pseudoscience (at best) by the modern scientific community.
Nevertheless, NJCF and PBF promoted these seminars as legitimate inquiries on “alternatives” to the big bang theory and evolution, which have heretofore proven unrivaled in terms of both supporting evidence and explanatory power for “origins.”
I attended both of these seminars, and I cannot recall any specific mention of “God” in either one. Notwithstanding this, it was clear that the two events were hardly anything more than thinly veiled attempts to convert people to Christianity and induce them to join NJCF or PBF. The dishonesty and deception on the part of both of these organizations was as plain as day to most individuals present.
Is any of this to say that NJCF and PBF should be prohibited outright from trying to convert people? No, not at all. All organizations should be able to promote their ideologies, viewpoints or belief systems to others.
A problem only arises when this promotion is conducted in a super-aggressive and disingenuous manner, as has been done consistently by NJCF and PBF. If they were more reasonable and forthright in their recruitment strategies, I would not have had to write this article.
Religion is one of the most sensitive of all issues, especially for young people who are still in the formative stages of developing their personal identities. By evangelizing in the way that they do, NJCF and PBF demonstrate a deep lack of respect for the intellectual dignity of the College’s students.
They do not take students’ personal beliefs that seriously, so they feel justified in speaking to people with an air of ignorant pushiness and chicanery. The conduct of NJCF and PBF truly insults independent young adults’ abilities to decide things for themselves.
Christianity is a religion that prides itself on respect and honesty toward others. In light of this fact, the hypocrisy that these two self-proclaimed Christian groups display is almost too much for any sensible person to bear. NJCF and PBF should be ashamed of themselves.