Lindberg: Bring religion to campus with consideration and respect

Katie Lindberg

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

The Colorado State University community is an excellent place to begin productive conversations about religion because it encompasses diverse beliefs, backgrounds and experiences. Because of this, many churches invest in bringing their faith to the CSU community by ministering on campus.

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There are many opportunities to share faith on campus and CSU should continue to be a place that welcomes healthy discussions of opposing viewpoints. Those who bring their religion to campus should, however, take the time to approach this task with deep consideration and respect.

While walking to class Sept. 10th,  I noted a wonderful example of positive ways to bring religion to campus. A number of gentlemen were posted around campus dressed in their Sunday best offering free New Testaments, kind smiles and polite greetings to passing students.

These men are part of the Gideons International, and their mission is to make free copies of the Bible accessible to people around the world. The Gideon Bible App is completely free and has both text and audio of the Bible in thousands of different languages, making it accessible to virtually anyone.

The Gideons exemplify how believers should share their faith with the campus community. Their intentions are simply to make their religious text freely accessible. They are not here to pressure, guilt or condemn students. When a passing student turns down their offer, they smile and wish them a nice day. If someone wishes to stop and learn more, they are happy to have a conversation. The Gideons do not hide their religion, but neither do they force it on others.

CSU also has the Islamic Center of Fort Collins and Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ just south of campus on Lake Street. These congregations have a supportive and respectful relationship with each other and openly welcome visitors into their midst. Just like the Gideons on campus, Plymouth UCC and the Islamic Center are striving to make their beliefs open and accessible to anyone and everyone with no strings attached.

These are only a few examples of respectful religious ministry on and near campus. Students can find information online on Ramlink about CSU organizations celebrating a multitude of different faiths. 

In stark contrast, when the community is not approached with this respect and consideration, religious ministry quickly devolves into negative and polarizing experiences.

The pressure to convert non-believers that many churchgoers experience can warp the concept of evangelism into a zealous quest to save others regardless of what they want.

This quest leads to a slippery slope of justification for increasingly drastic tactics. Having been raised in a religious family, I have numerous firsthand experiences with this mindset from both sides.

Evangelists cannot ask anyone to respect the faith they are trying to share when no respect is taken for the people listening.

The religious solicitors who ambush passersby with deeply personal and guilt-tripping conversations about faith are a product of this mindset. The self-titled “pastors” that take to the stump to bellow hatred in the faces of diverse CSU students are twisted and extreme products of this mindset.

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Bringing religion to others in this way negates the purpose of evangelism and disregards the actual teachings and values of the faith being professed.

A common sentiment in religious circles is that if even one person is saved, everything else is worth it. This rationale ignores the vast majority of people who end up justifiably pushed away from religion. 

If forcing religious beliefs on others makes an actual churchgoer like me angry and ashamed, I can imagine a non-believer would not want anything to with these group.  Evangelists cannot ask anyone to respect the faith they are trying to share when no respect is taken for the people listening. 

They should instead follow in the footsteps of the Gideons and other religious organizations who minister on campus with respect and empathy for the student body.

The sidewalk chalk signs with information on campus Catholic mass are another great example. Their invitation to attend mass is offered freely and openly to all without any judgement or guilt attached.

Religion should be brought to campus with an open heart and open mind. When offering religious support, conversation and community, it is best to keep in mind that a person’s religious beliefs belong only to them.

Katie Lindberg can be reached at letters@collegian.com and online at @quantumCatnip.