Correction: A previous version of this post referred to the religious organization as Grace Community Church. It is actually Grace Christian Church.
Earlier this week, the Collegian ran an investigative article on the Grace Christian Church, otherwise known as the people who will approach you on campus and ask “can I ask you a few questions?”
I was one of those who would joke about how cult-like the people seemed to be, but I was beyond disturbed to see how dangerous the group actually seems to be. While it may seem like a lighter version of the cults you see on TV, they exhibit all the main aspects: an inability to leave the group, isolation from others and aggressive, yet friendly recruitment procedures. To say that this isn’t a cult is to avoid acknowledging the facts.
I was glad to read that CSU does have a program to support those who are leaving the group, however, I wish there was more. I understand that there is only so much that can be done to eliminate the presence on campus given the free speech and assembly protocol, and I respect that. However, there has to be more done to publicize the support for those who left, and also perhaps more to show students — especially freshman — religious organizations in town they can explore.
Religion plays an important role in people’s lives, and when coming to a new town, and especially a new state, it can be difficult to find that community. Rachel, the woman mentioned in the article, was a freshman. Freshmen are especially susceptible to this, as they are slowly transitioning to a new social scene. For many, that transition doesn’t go smoothly. A religious community is important to those students who are struggling, and if someone who is fairly friendly-looking gives you the opportunity you are looking for, why wouldn’t you take the chance?
The sheer growth of the congregation and ability for them to recruit shows a scarcity of on-campus resources available to students to find a religious or spiritual community they feel comfortable in. Many students are simply looking for a place to go, and the recruitment ministers walking around campus give it to them. If students were able to find what they were looking for in the first place, it would save so many from exploring GCC, and getting stuck there.
This is not a call for more recruiters like those we see on campus everyday from different groups, but rather a call to find a way to make the resources available to students who are looking for it. Because of the mentally dangerous nature of this church, CSU has some responsibility to provide other options. The article published on Monday cited the University Religious Council in Arizona and their advice to avoid the church. Perhaps something similar could be done here at CSU, or a list of youth religious groups in town could be made available.
Besides that, anything to help spread the message about the nature of this group would help individual students, as well as the entire CSU campus, as the GCC presence has become a major source of negativity for campus culture.
Collegian Columnist Alexandra Stettner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @alexstetts.