Church Pushes Hidden Agenda Onto Nonreligious

    ON CAMPUS — That midmorning stroll down Library Walk may begin innocuously enough — all you want, really, is to make it to Center Hall without being victimized by a careless, civilian-trampling bicyclist as you glance down at your iPod — but then, in that fleeting moment between tracks, you’re ambushed by a perfectly sweet-looking girl who has already extended a flyer your way without the slightest air of agenda, though it’s quickly established that there’s a free party on Saturday night and she wants YOU to be there!

    If you’re in a charitable mood (let’s face it, you didn’t have plans that night anyway), you decide not only to acknowledge the girl’s presence with eye contact, but to accept the little scrap of paper — hell, you even hold on to it for a couple hours.

    It’s not until later, as you actually read over the flyer, that your interest is piqued. Free pizza is a strong enough selling point in itself, but upon realizing that there will also be a dance party, you know you’re in. It’s not entirely clear what type of organization this UCSD InterVarsity is, as the flyer offers no hints of explanation — we’re merely promised a Saturday night worth remembering. To satiate curiosity you log on to the Web site, only to learn that the so-called IV (because the young and the hip always favor acronyms) is … the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship?

    The Christian Fellowship is only one of several campus organizations that aim to increase membership through less-than-upfront means. Nowhere is it mentioned, except perhaps in the most illegible of fine print, that we’re being recruited by a religious organization. Not even the most perceptive of lit/writing majors could possibly infer — from the glossy, carefree flyer — that the group of students, according to its Web site, is devoted solely to “developing ‘inductive’ ways of studying the Bible, making small-group Bible studies mainstream structures in churches, [and] training in relational approaches to evangelism.”

    Granted, the recruiters take a pretty pragmatic approach; they must recognize that revealing even so much as their full name on a flyer would turn off almost every unsuspecting student on his way to Center Hall, so instead they rebrand themselves as the catchy, elusive UCSD IV. They know that to most students, a “student Christian movement started by students in England in the late 19th century” holds about as much appeal as a post-writeup disciplinary meeting with the college dean. So instead (promotional materials don’t lie, exactly — after all, how un-Christian would that be?) the recruiters just withhold the truth a little bit. Bury the lead, if you will.

    But there’s something to be said for seeking membership through more honest means. Can a nonreligious student who showed up merely on the promise of pizza and a little midterm-tension release be reasonably expected to stick around for Bible study, based on whatever short-winded keyword a recruiter could slip in from across the picnic table?

    A little further down Library Walk, you may have also come across a table for the pre-election Yes on Proposition 8 campaign. Conversely, this membership drive — though defined as political rather than religious, as the church cannot technically interfere with the state — openly flaunts its Christian agenda. Sure, they recycle all the same old standby secular arguments — “Think of the children!” — but they also use traditional religious appeal to their advantage, going so inappropriately far as to place Bibles on their table. The implication here, of course, is that if you’re still undecided on how to vote on Prop 8, you need look no further. It’s spelled right out for you, the common folk, and it sure don’t come any more clear-cut than this! Forget the fact that, for our own protection, there exists an alleged constitutional barrier against the interests of the church affecting governmental policy — do you really want to go against the word of God?

    But at least the on-campus sector of Yes on Proposition 8 is being upfront with itself and the community about its motivations. On a national level, the campaign was no more honest with its agenda than an InterVarsity pizza party: The initiative to define marriage as between a man and a woman was falsely portrayed as a protective measure against the teaching of gay marriage in schools and other unrelated consequences, when in reality the proposition was only in the interest of the church, in an effort to violate others’ rights so it could maintain an aged and prejudiced tradition.

    What’s most disheartening about the existence of such subversive movements — both concealing their true nature, and with one going so far as to impose religion onto a political arena — is their success. InterVarsity claims to be the largest student organization at UCSD, and Proposition 8 succeeded in its mission to amend the California Constitution to ban gay marriage. If there’s one thing that is indeed clear, it’s that we the students must question what these groups are beneath the surface — and, in doing so, must ask what exactly they’re trying to hide.

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