Thursday, April 08, 2004

Okay…..over the next few days, and being that I live amongst and share life and home with collegiate young adults, I shall offer a treatise on the weaknesses of campus Christianity as it relates to community building and missional penetration into the lives of pagans. If I had publishing prowess and the wherewithal, this would be a pamphlet. I’ve always wanted my progeny to say of me that I wrote several important pamphlets.

Anyway, what I have to say is much so it is broken down for your digestion should you swaller.

Collegiate Christian Consumerism

Part 1

I was once a college student. I remember campus ministry at East Tennessee State University. I remember being invited and going to an event and not really connecting to the scene as a first timer. Maybe it was one of my more anti-social nights.

After almost four years in and amongst the Christian scene at Miami University here in Oxford, I faintly detect the same taste in my mouth.

I have had these sentiments for some time now and in some form or another. They have never been haughty and intent on battering or attacking specific campus ministries or the people in them. I just have questions fueled by a perspective that could be totally off base. They are questions nonetheless.

What I want to say could be taken offensively by those involved in various campus ministries (granted, 99.99999999999998 % of these won’t read this post). This is not my intent. There are those in my faith community who participate in them and whom I love and respect very deeply and I would never seek to hurt them. I am not blindly railing against campus ministries per se. Many effectively carry out good works and I applaud that. I am not saying those within them are bad or misled or less of a person. In general, there is an unstated or accidental philosophical approach undergirding many of the campus ministries I’ve seen that run counterproductive to what they purport to be about.

In qualifying that last statement, I should say I am not intimately aware of all the inner workings of every individual within every campus ministry that falls under one vision or another. Some of my questions stem from what I see on the large scale of things, or rather, on events carried out publicly in the name of one campus ministry or another. I also see the disconnect in the masses. Perhaps my musings err in trying to understand and ultimately siding with these on the peripheral fringes…...those in whom the campus ministry organizations are failing to reach.


There was a time a few years back when I was seriously considering and being considered to serve as the campus minister for our local denominational association on the campus of Miami University. Turns out, the direction of Veritas would have been in danger of being absorbed by the campus ministry if I had assumed the position. Additionally, I was more of a pariah amongst the established pastors around our association than me or my director of missions EVER dreamed I could have been. Simply put, I am told some of my pastoral “brothers” in Christ detest me and they have never even met me. There is a camp that is adamantly opposed to our presence here and they have been from day one. Even if I had wanted to go that direction, it would have never happened in such an environment. These misgivings I have stand irrespective to my views that I will continue to outline regarding campus ministry philosophies.


The Western version of the university education has been hijacked by free-market consumerism, breeding such a consumerist approach from the onset of the college experience. The promising and alluring equation is: a degree= worth+maturity+success. The university itself no longer caters to the formation of the soul -(as opposed to the university’s prime directive of the acquisition of information/experience, as it is now)- but it reluctantly contracts it out to a hodge-podge of suitors of every type. The public demands the choice and the university must be all things to all people. The student and his/her family are expertly sized up and marketed an academic, social, cultural and religious experience- the best their money will buy (or so they’re told). One need only choose the brand and the experience involved and pay up.

Eventually, we herd the new masses like calves before a new gate and parade them before our information tables with table-top ministry commercials. The spectacle may not be as subtly lost on the percipients as we might suspect…..perhaps they intuitively sense the pressure we rarely admit to being operative behind such a scene…..namely, the burden to prove why “we’re” so much better to be a part of than the campus ministry two tables down. Maybe the incoming frosh aren’t cognizant of as much and in as many words, but for the campus ministry, it’s all in the name of recruitment, which you have to do to stay afloat on the sea of significance. (More Tomorrow)