Monday, August 1, 2011

CRU Cuts Out Campus and Christ

I wasn’t aware of the presence of many Christian groups on my college campus, excluding the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Young Life. Campus Crusade for Christ, recently having changed its name to Cru/CRU (?), might be even less recognizable than it was before. The name change was motivated in part, if not primarily, by the negative connotations of the term “crusade”. When someone says they’re crusading for a cause, it doesn’t usually suggest anything positive, especially for history buffs, since you think commonly of the Crusades, a series of campaigns against Muslims; among other heretics and nonbelievers; that ran at one point or another from the early 11th to late 13th centuries. The conflicts are brought up even today in terms of Christian-Muslim relations, such as the Cordoba House, renamed to Park51 because of negative associations with Cordoba mentioned by Newt Gingrich, amateur historian that he is. Supposedly the name has been dropped in many areas of the group already, but the official announcement is making people confused and in some cases angry. They claim the group is bending to political correctness in taking Christ out of the name. But they didn’t just take out that term. Apparently the word campus is not even pertinent to the more wide ranging mission of the group, associating with much more than just college aged people.

In one way, the name associates the word “Crew” in my mind: a group of like minded people. But technically, you could still easily associate the word crusade with this group and unless you go about 10-15 years in the future, people are still going to be able to see the new name and think, “Wait a minute…Cru…Crusade…You’re Campus Crusade For Christ, forget you guys,” This was probably another reason they shortened the name and took out Campus and Christ from the name, since they felt they were isolating people or pushing them away since the name was so explicitly evangelical in nature and had too narrow a field of vision. Apparently Cru is distinct enough from Crusade that people, for the most part, won’t automatically make the connection of Cru to Crusade and from Crusade to Christ, which seems more doubtful the more educated you become. In virtually any college, you learn in some part about the Crusades in a history course (I did, at least). And even if you don’t learn about it historically, it would no doubt come up at some point. The resultant association of the Crusades with Christianity would then resonate in some sense within a person’s memory. With that in mind, Cru was decided to apparently make for a more general advertisement.

It’s not completely dissimilar in some way from Catechumenate, at least at my college. I didn’t know, surprisingly, the definition of the term, which, had I known, I wouldn’t have attended a single meeting, which I, unfortunately, did go to before I realized the nature of the meetings. No, it wasn’t like a cult, but the historical basis of Catechumenate is a practice for Christians to learn more about the faith before their baptism. It was practiced a lot in the early church and is still done in more traditional denominations, especially Anglicans/Episcopalians and Lutherans in explicit use of the term. Roman Catholics call it Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults and the status of catechumen is considered a default of sorts with many Protestant churches, myself included probably when I was a teenager. The deception practiced in advertisement for Catechumenate that I observed was that it implied you could talk about any beliefs you had, even if they didn’t originate from Christianity, but, quite the contrary, that was the entire hour of the discussion, complete with prayer before and after and hymns in the opening. I don’t hold any grudge, but heck, I didn’t have much of any interaction with Campus Crusade for Christ, Fellowship of Christian Athletes (especially because I’m not an athlete) or Young Life, since they were invitation and yet they made it clearer from the start what they intended to do. The honesty involved can be a double edged sword, so one could understand why CCC changed its name to reflect a more neutral sounding idea of community and such and then slowly introduce Jesus into discussions after some time.

This name change was not unexpected and, technically, had been in the works for at least a year or so anyway, but now that it’s more official, the status of the group will probably have a boom for a time, even outside of campuses and in a more general setting of ministry and mission work that the group tries to do. But I also don’t see the group’s message necessarily changing at all, since the leadership seems to imply that they will still preach the Gospel, but will do it under a name that will attract more people. I have to wonder if this is what Jesus would do, though. He didn’t sugarcoat anything or try to make his message more appealing to people. He told it like it was, so I can see how some Christians could be understandably disappointed in this change. Either way, the evangelism continues with other groups, so even if Cru crashes and burns, others will no doubt rise from the ashes. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.

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