Did You Ever Belong to an Evangelical Campus Ministry? November 21, 2010

Did You Ever Belong to an Evangelical Campus Ministry?

I got an email recently from an atheist who attended an evangelical campus ministry “training camp” program. The things they said really disturbed her — not because she is an atheist but because it was unbelievable the amount of brainwashing they were doing to these students.

I’m not posting the email because I don’t want her to be identified, but her story makes me want to ask the questions:

Have any of you ever belonged to (or attended) an evangelical campus ministry? What were your experiences like?”

If you’ve ever been a member of Campus Crusade for Christ or InterVarsity Christian Fellowship or any group like those, please tell us your stories.

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  • I’m not sure I know what you’re hearing from your contact. I belonged to a much smaller group associated with a controlling discipleship-oriented church on a major public school campus.

    The church itself was an outgrowth of the Jesus movement on southern campuses in the 1970’s. Several of the college professors in Mississippi and Alabama had been part of these groups, and they later left their campuses and formed our “nondenominational” fellowship/church with their former students.

    The goal of our group was for us to befriend people in our classes and invite them to Bible studies and other events as a means of recruitment, recognizing that college kids can be adrift and vulnerable.

    I’d been a leader of our group and an event coordinator, and I suspect my departure from the church (and subsequent cursing by Jesus) my senior year may have dampened their public relations push.

  • ManaCostly


  • Samantha

    when I was figuring out what religion I should belong to and simultaneously trying to make more friends, I did sign up for the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I never did go to a meeting since I wasn’t sure if it was my cup of tea, but they showed up at my dorm one night (3 or 4 of them) all smiles, trying to encourage me to show up to some of their future meetings. They also gave me a chocolate chip cookie.

  • Never actually joined one of those, but my sophomore roommate was a fundie in CCC. He wanted me to protest the DaVinci Code with them and had a shitfit because I had a fifth of vodka in the fridge. Blegh. Even still being a Catholic at that time, I had no interest in their brand of Christianity.

  • annette

    In fact, hubby and I were missionaries with an evangelical campus group for several years. (Not CCC, but very similar, and international. Considered more “serious” than Campus Crusade, if you can imagine it!) It’s where we met when I was a student and where we wound up when I graduated. Time wasted. I look back with nothing but disgust. We did cold-calling, had pizza parties to invite people to talk about the Bible (we just fed them pizza and let them ask questions about God), did Bible studies. Really, it was just stupid, but to most of the people involved, it was really important. We didn’t do anything really practical–feeding the hungry, ministering to the homeless. *sigh* Lots of students organized themselves in the group though. They’d get an accountability partner to make sure they were both having their daily “devotional” or “quiet times”. I look back and wonder, “what was the point?” Then, I remember the point was encouraging people to “fall in love with” and “get to know” Jesus. Many of my friends from those days became, or are still, missionaries.

    Oh, there was also “discipline” or meeting “one-to-one” or “man-to-man,” but that was completely voluntary. Many of the young men my husband discipled are in ministry or missionaries right now.

    Generally, I think we were easy-going enough that students didn’t feel too pressured, but I can CERTAINLY see it becoming very cult-like and brainwashy. Often, kids would go from group to group, following friends, or when God revealed something new to them, (tongues, headcovering, drums in worship) whatever.
    There was really no brain-washing pressure from the “staff”, but students (and I was one of them at one time) would really pursue their friends to “go deeper with Jesus,” and invite them to conferences, and. . . God. What bull$hit. I’m so sad I wasted time like that and that I wasted other peoples’ time.

  • Molly

    Two of my closet friends are ardent Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) attendees. As an undergrad, I went to a liberal arts school, and I can’t name one person who I know who went to church or any such organized worship regularly. Now, in grad school, I’m amazed at the 500+ students at Cru every week.

    I have a few observations – the music is unfailingly bad, the sermons are decidedly uninspiring, and the students are amazingly brainwashed. I think the organization can be … nice. The students are all friends and it has a built-in support network that everyone probably takes advantage of at some point in college. That’s fine- instead of a sorority/fraternity, other club, or sports team, these kids build their social network through Cru.

    What surprises me is how invasive these ministries are in the students life. Each week, they have bible studies, discipleship time, regular meetings, leadership meetings, meetings with other students, meetings with staff members, mentorship….the list goes on. All of this generally means that people involved in Cru have no life outside of Cru.

    Another thing – opposite genders don’t really mix unless its a couple. Guys hang with groups of guys, girls with girls, and then the couples hang out (usually not alone) with one another. Then, come graduation, everyone gets married.

    The talks are usually about resisting temptation and choosing the right path in life. The thing is, these kids only know one path and are so cornered in their ministry that they realize that there’s anything else out there that isn’t horrible.

  • Carlie

    Yes. I was a leader in the Baptist Student Union on my campus, and every year we did a mission trip of some kind. Ours weren’t street evangelism trips, but set up to help various churches in their own activities (soup kitchens, deep-cleaning of the church property, a VBS here and there). Honestly? I loved it. My best friends were there, we felt like we were making a difference in people’s lives, and in a fairly large campus I felt like I had a home. I still regularly stay in touch with several of those friends. The only problem I had with it was that I overextended myself, putting myself in too many things, and had to really dial back and extricate myself by my senior year to concentrate on getting into grad school. I did also have one big falling-out with the person in charge, when I went to him with a really major problem and he refused to help me (“that’s something you have to figure out, and I’m not going to give you any advice”), but other than that, it was the community I wanted and needed.
    Even if I had started thinking rationally about religion while I was in college, I probably would have pushed it out of my mind to stay in that community. That’s what campus skeptic groups are competing against.

    (To clarify: I went in already being a very zealous Christian, so there was nothing left to brainwash me to. At the time, it was finding like-minded people. Now I kind of wish I’d had a more typical college experience (and studied chemistry more than the bible), but I have to say that even looking back on it, it was more about the friendships I made than anything)

  • Primal Curve

    Both, actually.

    When I first went to college (a State University), I went to Intervarsity because my sister was in it at a different campus so I figured it was safe. I don’t remember anything explicitly bad about it in terms of indoctrination. In fact, it paled in comparison to the private Christian school that I attended from second grade till I graduated high school. I have plenty of positive memories of good times. I stopped going after about a year and a half of regularly attending meetings just because the meetings were so freaking lame most of the time.

    A year or so passed and I joined Campus Crusade. By this point, I considered myself a fairly liberal Christian and I wasn’t afraid of disagreeing with other Christians about matters of dogma (much to their frustration), but the group was larger than IV and much more fun. Again, it had a hard time competing with my days at the Christian school. However, I was partly responsible for the group exploding on campus. I played bass and co-lead worship during every meeting and, with the more polished worship team thing going on, we attracted a lot of people. I’m sure that indoctrination was going on, but I had a lifetime of ignoring what the “preacher” was saying under my belt and that didn’t stop there. I was just in Crusade to have fun.

    Nowadays, I’m a raging anti-theist and am embarrassed by those days. However, it is really useful when people start to question my Christian pedigree. My girlfriend (a life-long atheist) gives me the most quizzical looks when I bring up those times. She has a hard time reconciling the person she knows now and the idea of an evangelical christian.

  • I was a member of Campus Crusade for Christ. I went in as a born-again Christian and let them make me into an evangelical young-earth creationist. In my case, the key word there is “let.” It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t allowed it. If I weren’t intent on being as true a Christian as I could possibly be, my positions likely wouldn’t have changed much.

    Nevertheless, I made a point of diving in head-first. I was surrounded by fellow born-agains in my dorms and there was a huge amount of peer pressure to get “deeper into my faith.” I attended Bible studies, prayer meetings, faith healing services, and an Every Man’s Battle men’s group aimed at “maintaining sexual morality” (i.e., no porn and no masturbation). I got involved with campus outreach events, attended lectures by Phillip E. Johnson (basically the father of the Intelligent Design movement, who made no bones about hiding that he was a young-earth creationist), tried to convert as many of my friends as I could, went to evolution/creation debates and cheered against evolution, attended an inter-faith dialogue between Muslims and Christians and interrogated the Muslim speakers about cherry-picked verses in the Koran that say Muslims shouldn’t take Christians as friends, and at times even did some street corner preaching with groups of people handing out Bible tracts (once as part of an event similar to this one, which we called “I Agree with Dan” instead). I wanted to attend the national Crusade conferences but could never hustle up the cash needed to go.

    While I was doing it, I loved it. I felt like I was part of something important (I had The Truth, after all), and that I was making lots of real friends. But when I eventually began to doubt my beliefs (largely aided by no longer living in the dorm full of evangelicals), people would turn cold to me if I ever mentioned my doubts, and insist that the solution was to throw myself in harder than ever.

    (I go into a good amount of detail about the changes in my faith while I was in Crusade here, beginning with the paragraph that starts “Crusade was like a more serious form of Young Life”.)

    What Crusade left me with, more than anything, was a poison in my mind. I still have moments where the old fear of hell kicks in and I worry that I might be wrong after all. I still have lingering feelings of shame associated with being sexual, and an extreme discomfort around women I find attractive that I link to teachings about how lust is committing adultery with your mind. Crusade also left me with a desire to evangelize, which ironically enough has led to me being a vocal atheist 🙂

  • Ian

    Yes, I led by CU (Christian Union, maybe a UK term?). Like Carlie, it didn’t seem weird if you were in it. I met up with a very close friend of mine from those days not long ago. She too had become an atheist. We cringed at the people we evangelised (successfully, some of them, and some of them still so). And wondered whether it would be a dickish thing to do to ring them all out of the blue and tell them: “hey, you know all that stuff I told you about God?”… “well, not so much is true, as it turns out…”

    Still at least I know the evangelistic shtick now. So I can now spread the good news of post-Christian enlightenment.

  • annette –

    We didn’t do anything really practical–feeding the hungry, ministering to the homeless.

    I can honestly say that I never thought about this until now. We didn’t, either; CCC stressed pretty much nothing but getting people saved. Anything else was secondary at best.

    Your comment about accountability partners and “man-to-man” reminded me… our Every Man’s Battle (i.e., anti-masturbation) group had us partner off and keep tabs on each other. That seems beyond creepy now but it actually made sense to me back then.

  • RiftchaserMej

    When I was a freshman in college (and already long-time atheist), a woman (I’ll call her “Ms. Kim”) approached me as I left my dorm and asked me if I would be interested in studying the Bible. I said, “For secular reasons, yes.” She asked if I was a Christian, and I told her I was an atheist. She replied, “Well, that’s okay,” in a tone that implied it was an easily overcome problem.

    I agreed to meet with her every Tuesday, and I did my best to be very clear that I was there to learn about Christian interpretations, not to believe them. These were one-on-one study sessions, wherein she was clearly following a script. We would read from a passage aloud, alternating between her voice and mine at the end of every line. Once we finished the selection, she gave me a worksheet we would go over, discussing each answer. I quickly became uncomfortable with the slant of the questions because most of them presupposed my belief in God, e.g. “Do you believe that you, too, have sinned?” Ms. Kim would also pipe in with her own assertions, such as, “You have to decide if you believe that everything in the Bible is a lie or if God loves you and wants you to believe in him.” I tried to be as diplomatic as I could without lying.

    For her part, Ms. Kim was very accommodating. She picked me up and dropped me off at my dorm every week and constantly offered to pick me up for a Sunday service. I eventually agreed to attend a single such service toward the end of the semester, the first church service I had attended in over a decade.

    The service did include a very short quotation from the Bible, but most of the minister’s time was spent telling us about God’s love and reassuring plan. The service concluded with a musical performance from some kids my age, playing what I guess I would call Christian rock.

    Following this, we had a small picnic outside, where I had the opportunity to talk with some fellow students who regularly attended service. I told them of my recent introduction to the group, and in so doing made a passing reference to the generally Protestant nature of the ministry; several of them were surprised to find out they were apparently Protestant. As conversation went on, still more were surprised to find out they had biblical names. I was invited to play Frisbee, and, not long after, I left.

    In the next week, I told Ms. Kim I wouldn’t be returning for study the following semester. I did run into her in later semesters; she asked me if I was interested in returning to the group. I told her, “No thanks,” to which she smilingly replied, “Well, you still believe in Jesus, right?” I shook my head and left.

    Immediately following my experience, I felt I may have crossed a line in taking advantage of Ms. Kim’s and the ministry’s hospitality; however, in retrospect, I’ve come to understand that both hospitality and guilt are designed into the operation of a ministry. If I hadn’t been an atheist when I entered the group, I might not have left as readily, if for no other reason than that there were a lot of friendly people there.

    I did, by the way, manage to learn one or two things I didn’t know about Christian interpretations of the Bible. One session, we read about the renaming of the apostle Simon to “Peter.” Ms. Kim asked me why I thought Jesus gave Peter this new name, and, having no idea, I guessed: “Well, Jesus was the son of God, right? So he knew that he was going to have twelve apostles in his time on Earth, and that two more of them were going to be named ‘Simon.’ Well, he didn’t want three people to turn their heads every time he said his name, so he decided to rename one of them.” She laughed briefly, then told me that Peter’s name meant “rock,” and was symbolic of his place in the future church.

  • shoshana

    I was a member of InterVarsity. In fact, I was even an officer, which meant I had to sign a card saying I agreed with their statement of faith. In truth, I joined because I was lonely and felt alienated – not an uncommon feeling for a college freshman, though I didn’t know that at the time. I was looking for a place to belong. Because I didn’t believe in Jesus I never really felt comfortable, but I met some nice people and still stay in touch with a couple of them. I’ve fessed up to them about why I joined InterVaristy and what my beliefs are now. We’re still friendly, though I don’t know how much of that is because they are hoping to save my soul.

  • Ian

    I’ve come to understand that both hospitality and guilt are designed into the operation of a ministry.

    Love bombing. The gold standard for religious recruitment.

    Loved the story RiftchaserMej. But have you any idea how much of their time they spent praying for you? Ms Kim’s atheist? I bet, every prayer meeting – we must pray for X… hmm I feel he’s coming near, but is still resistant… Lord soften X’s heart… The time spent with you was the tip of the iceberg.

    And you didn’t even have the decency to convert in the end. Time-waster 😉

  • Ally

    Although I don’t belong to our campus InterVarsity group, I’ve heard things that make me distrust it.

    My school newspaper did a story about faith. A quote:
    “Another example of a student acting out on her faith is student representative of [my school’s] InterVarsity chapter, KK. K arrived on this campus as an Atheist; she did not grow up with a religious background. Nonetheless, during her freshman year two of her friends invited her to try InterVarsity. She said she was very impressed with the community and fellowship of the group and became a Christian later that year.”

    This sort of thing bothers me. It then goes on to bemoan the apparent atheist majority on my campus and say that faith can’t be talked about openly in a non-academic sense.

    Everywhere else in America, atheists are the minority, what’s wrong with being the dominant voice once in a while? On an intellectual campus, religion should be reduced to an academic topic!

    They say that whole “you don’t need to be a Christian to come join us. We’re an all-inclusive community” bit. And then they convert you.

    (I’m ranting a bit, but I’ve been pissed at such groups ever since said campus newspaper article.)

  • lee spaner

    If you all want to write to me, I can tell you my story, but I dont want to post it. thanks Leespaner@hotmail.com

  • CarefulJane

    I’m the anonymous reader, and i decided i could add a couple details of what upset me. The group was one that usually isn’t considered too bad, but i found out that for older students – who’re probably less likely to share or leave – they teach flat out bigotry about homosexual acts being sin and gay marriage being a threat. they endorse conversion therapy (and quote NARTH studies) and celibacy as the only options, and this wasn’t just some rogue group – it was official stuff. i was just really grossed out by the whole thing because i usually think our generation is gonna be the one to mostly wipe out homophobia and legalize gay marriage, but this (very popular) group is working hard to make sure christian college students buy into the focus on the family type attitude. i also thought it was sick the way they act all vague on the issue publicly when they can but then behind closed doors they’re dedicating time to teach members to be bigots.

  • Larissa

    I was in one of these ministries in college as well. They were called a cult by some (ICOC) but when I was in there I didn’t see the brainwashing. Now that I’m out I look back in horror sometimes. I lived with girls from my church and they were always trying to get me to be more girly, since I’m a tomboy. They would pat each other on the back every time they reached out to a sorority girl, because that to them was the ultimate conquest. They were constantly obsessed with looks and Jesus (two things that Biblically don’t go together).

    I eventually ended up leaving the church in my senior year of college, but despite the abuses, I kept on going back every now and then (brainwashing at work, people). I’m not going to go into what they did to me, but they put “sharing their faith” with other people above the health of their own “sister”. I’m glad to be gone, and haven’t had a desire to go back to that church since I became an atheist.

  • annette

    Oooh! I remember hearing about “Every Man’s Battle” but I didn’t know it was about masturbation. YIKES!
    I remember one young man brought my husband his VCR so he couldn’t watch porn anymore, (back in the day :)) and they’d have get togethers and pray, and my husband was supposed to keep him “accountable.” This was the young man’s own request! Husband had to ask him several questions every time they got together. “Have you been watching porn? How much?” etc. I think often times that’s something that can become dangerous, especially if it’s imposed by an authority figure. I’m sure you’re familiar with this sort of thing if you were CCC.

  • Ian

    @Mike, anette,

    One of the funniest things I ever saw in Christendom was a guy who’d been brought in to do the fighting-masturbation stuff with the guys and then ended up face to face with a co-ed audience. He blustered for a bit about it being a male battle, showed signs of weakness. Then the girls in the group descended on him like locusts (metaphorically). Pretending to be totally innocent, asking him all sorts of *really* awkward questions. Loudly asking each other about their own masturbatory geometry (which actually was also really rather informative for me!). Until he cut the whole thing short and ended with a prayer. The look on his poor fundamentalist face will stay with me forever.

  • the Div school i attended, along with the attached seminary schools, were all very high brow and not at all evangelical. even the baptist students were more worried about the history of Christian Theology from Jerome until Johns Scotus than they were about how to be better at brainwashing sheeple.

    but i did grow up in the sticks, and one summer when my mom went back to school and we couldn’t afford a sitter for the whole summer, i got sent to a little evangelical church down the road for “bible camp.” i’ve had other experiences with evangelicals. i was always surprised that nice liberals and atheists were so horrified by the movie “jesus camp.” meh, it happens all the time and it’s sort of how people in the sticks separate the wheat from the chaff, leadership wise. i don’t know if i can communicate this effectively, but even the more advanced bible brainwashing sessions? it’s mostly already preaching to the choir. now, there’s a long argument i won’t make here about the political and/or electoral significance of these sorts of sessions. but i was raised in a community in which they were very common, and it was basically the same families going to them over and over again.

    i suspect it’s because they need the psychological reinforcement of their “faith,” much more than it’s about teaching people skills that will successfully convert nonbelievers. most people who are not evangelical to begin with react with polite disdain at best, and amused contempt at those attempts when they encounter them.

  • Robert W.


    Thank you for sharing your story. It was very moving and heartfelt.

  • ACN

    When I went to college, I was a christian and strongly encouraged by my pastor and high school youth leaders to link up with IVF. I joined an IV small group my first week living in the dorms and the people in the small group were actually nice people. They were really pleasant, really sincere, and at the time I found the bible studies to be engaging so that was fine.

    The one downside was that they constantly pestered everyone to go to the large group meetings, which were totally different from the small groups. The large groups were more like a pseudo church service. I went once when they had a super intense talk about sexual purity and how that meant not touching your genitals or anyone else’s until you were locked into marriage. I went to a couple more large groups that were equally creepy and I decided it wasn’t for me.

    Later, the leaders of my small group, got kicked out of IV for being “rebellious” and requiring group “discipline”. As near as I could figure, this came from them expressing contrary views to the leadership on how the sclub’s elections should be run, namely that they believed the “pastor-liason guy” shouldn’t be able to pick the group’s officers by being solely in charge of nominations.

    I left after that.

    Your comment about accountability partners and “man-to-man” reminded me… our Every Man’s Battle (i.e., anti-masturbation) group had us partner off and keep tabs on each other. That seems beyond creepy now but it actually made sense to me back then.

    That kind of obsession with other people’s masturbation habits is utterly bizarre. And they act surprised/shocked/hurt when south part mocks them with “accountabilabuddies”.

  • Disconverted

    I was involved with a bible study this past year. There were a lot of meetings and such. I joined mainly to learn about Christianity, since I really didn’t know much and I wanted to make an educated decision. During the meetings, they condemned education, said that we shouldn’t ever question God, and showed a ton of videos of people who dropped all of their educational/life goals to “serve God.” Now, I’m all for people helping the homeless get back on their feet, or taking in pregnant teens who have been abandoned by their parents, or even building homes in third world countries. But to condemn education and skepticism?
    Come on..
    They also were hugely against Gay marriage. Calling it completely unnatural and that if you don’t believe that, you’re not a Christian.
    It was only a matter of time before I saw through the bullshit and told them I don’t believe in any of it.
    Since, I have gotten invited to hang out. But when I was telling them, apparently we were still “good friends” and they still wanted to hang out.

  • cat

    I was already an atheist before college and, while I did have my run ins with religion while trying to figure things out (i.e. before the age of twelve), I never really bought into it. Of course, at that time my skill at social interaction was virtually zero and I generally did not want to be around people at all (horray for aspergers) so the community/guilt thing really had no impact on me. However, the extremely negative attitude towards questions or voicing opinions annoyed me, as did the obvious sexism (and, if I noticed it at that age, it was really freaking obvious).

    My college had a large Jewish population, and the black and Korean kids had their own little groups, religion wise, which kept the (heavily white) campus ministries groups mostly behaved. They did set up a table in the student center occasionally and, from time to time, one of them would decided to try and go get people. That led to some pretty hilarious interactions. One time, they began to approach me with that big, creepy fake smile then, glanced at my shirt that said ‘sex ed’ in large letters and had Planned Parenthood logo on it and turned and fled. Another good moment was when they confused me and a gay atheist friend of mine as a couple. Yep, they approached a pair of queer atheists, you can probably imagine how well that went for them. I did have one guy try to get me to convert to Judaism, but I think that was just because he wanted to get into my pants and his parents wouldn’t be happy if he dated gentiles.

  • I once wrote about the mind control tactics of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, if anyone’s interested: http://www.jehovahs-witness.net/watchtower/beliefs/190673/1/Sociology-of-the-Cult-Family

  • Michael

    I attended some of their free lunches, and one barbecue dinner. MMmm, worshiper donations never tasted so sweet!

  • annette

    Curiously enough, I think I’m of an age (mid-30s shhhh!) that we didn’t really preach much anti-gay crap. Granted, homophobia was one of the reasons I was propelled away from the church and superstitious belief (hurrah for the powers of bigotry!) but I think it’s becoming much more of an issue now.

    I’m kind of at a toss up about it. I hope Christianity still stays bigoted because it’ll drive people away, and potentially to reason. But, I hope Christians stop being bigoted d%cks because hurting gay people isn’t funny.

    My Christian boyfriend in high school turned out to be gay, as did my husband’s best friend 🙂 They were both very active Christians, even church planters. They’re both out now. One’s Anglican these days, and the other and his partner just left the church plant they started and abandonned religion, I think, all together. YAY!

    Still, I think homophobia is turning the tide in Christianity these days.


  • Heidi

    My best fiend from high school went to BU and joined the cult of BCOC — church services held at Boston Garden. (Google it.) They were at my school, too (UMass Lowell), but I wouldn’t go to the meetings. A Catholic friend of mine went to one and came back furious. (I forget what set her off. This was back in 1987-8.)

    But yeah, they had student recruiters on campuses all over the state trying to get everyone to go to their bible study meetings. It was a lot of “Hi, how are you? I’m So-and-so. I like your shirt. Want to go to bible study?” No, no I don’t.

    It drove a big wedge between my friend and I. The recruiters were an ever present annoyance, but her take on it was “if we talk to 1000 people and only one listens, that’s still one person we’ve saved.” “Yep. And 999 you’ve turned off to God.” I wasn’t an atheist yet, but the in-my-face religion had the opposite effect from what they were going for.

    Anyway, she’s still very religious, but she did manage to leave the cult. I think it was the multiple times they made her change her major that finally did it.

  • I don’t think we had anything like that at my college. I attended a small Catholic university, and from what I remember, there was a campus ministry group, but I’m not sure I knew anyone who belonged to it. Their main function seemed to be organizing spiritual retreats. As far as evangelicals are concerned, I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a whole lot for them. If they had a group on campus, I didn’t hear about it. I only met two evangelicals during my four years there.

  • JulietEcho

    I’ve had experience with both IV and CCC, and the comment someone made earlier about how invasive they are is spot-on. They try to take over your whole life – your time, your social circle, your reading material, etc.

    The main difference between those two groups seems to be that CCC comes right out of the gate with the less popular material (Creationism, anti-gay messages, very aggressive evangelism, non-Christians doomed to Hell, etc.) whereas Intervarsity believes all that but keeps it under wraps (to a degree anyway) to attract more students.

  • J-From Reno

    I was involved with CCC my freshmen and sophomore years. I made a few friends and that is why I stayed so long. I have always accepted evolution and supported gay marriage. I went to help after Katrina, went to Chicago to do inner-city work, and I went to the CCC Conference in Atlanta. I tried to believe but CCC is very anti-science. Changing my major to Geology was pretty much the nail in the coffin of my faith. I went to a bible a study and was asking about the flood and evolution and all of the answers I got were total BS. Christians have no real answers for either subject and apparently don’t see how big of a problem they are for their faith. I still keep in touch with a few people from CCC but I know that when I stopped going they were praying for me (my roommate at the time was an active member).

  • This blog is like a support group for former Christians. That’s probably the best part about it. We have mostly all been pushed away by the inadequacy of religion in the modern world. It’s essential truths and facets just don’t hold true in 2010. We love gay people, we love porn and masturbation, we love pre-marital sex, we love violent movies and video games. There is no place for fundamental religion in a world where we love all these things. We can’t stop our urges and instincts, and WE(as in atheists) do not need to. Wonderful!

  • ATL-Apostate

    @Mike the Infidel

    I have almost an identical story except for a couple of differences.

    One, my experience was with the Baptist Student Union (BSU).

    Two, I met my wife at the BSU. She’s still a nominal Christian, but loves me for who I am.

    Thanks to everyone for sharing. Although I know there are many like us (apostates), you don’t always feel that, and it’s easy to feel isolated.

  • PJB863

    I attended a small liberal Catholic college back in the 1970’s. There was no coercion involved. That was strictly prohibited by the Sister who headed up the ministry. The purpose of our ministry was to let other students know that our community still loved them regardless of what they were going through.

    It seems a radical concept nowadays. I’m sure there’d be a bishop or archbishop to condemn its activities today. But it wasn’t always so.

    I doubt we made any “converts” to orthodox Catholicism, but I’d like to think we helped some people over some rough spots in their lives and we had a good time doing something that seemed to cause no one any harm – Agnoctiscm and Atheism were OK with Sister . Her #1 rule was “no guilt – no preaching. Be a compassionate human being.”

    I’m sure they’d be condemned by the church today, but we had a lot of fun doing it, and I think we helped a lot of people. A shame really.

  • I was a member of The Navigators in college. We used to look down on anyone in Campus Crusade because they were, as we thought, just having fun, whereas we were serious about our faith.

    I actually became a Christian in college as a member of The Navigators converted me. Before that, I didn’t really think much about god. I bought in to all their stuff. I went to their headquarters in Colorado Springs several times. I’ve hiked on their property.

    Their biggest thing was the Topical Memory System (TMS) where you memorize a bunch of verses that you’d use when you go out and evangelize. I was always uncomfortable with that as it always seemed strange to just walk up to people and ask them if they know Jesus.

    We had bible study once a week, a mass group meeting once a week, and you’d meet with another member once a week to talk about more private things and get guidance in your life.

    I quit going to bible studies after two years because everyone just wanted to give the standard answer and just get a pat on the head. I wanted to know more. That’s what eventually led me to becoming an atheist. I asked too many questions about stuff that didn’t make sense to me. No one ever had a satisfactory answer.

    When I read The Family this past year, it was amazing and scary the number of things that The Family does that reminded me of so many things, many word for word, that I did and said in college with The Navigators.

    At the time, I thought The Navigators were really doing good work, but when I look back on it, the members at my college were mostly petty gossips who always made you feel like you were never good enough and you always had to do more to feel accepted.

    Although we did some great volunteer projects, I always got the feeling that the people who did it, did so because we were supposed to, not because we wanted to.

    Today, I’m only in contact with one person from college who is a member of staff with The Navs in Colorado Springs. The rest pretty much dropped me as a friend once I graduated college.

    I could probably write a book about all my experiences, both good and bad with them.

  • At my Southern Baptist college the BSU (Baptist Student Union) was attended by the majority of students. They had a Wednesday night worship service with a praise band and preaching, and a meal provided by local churches once a week that also included a sermon.

    The main goal of this group wasn’t evangelizing our campus (since it was largely attended by Christian students) but on participating in the denomination’s college missions programs (summer mission assignments, year long assignments after college, or group organized trips that you could take part in) and just general worship and Bible study.

    I didn’t participate very much, partly because I was just too busy, and partly because I’ve never cared for contemporary worship. I did, however, go for the free food!

  • Quester

    I was a member of Campus Crusade, IVCF, and Catholic Christian Outreach. I really enjoyed the music, the fellowship, and the helpfulness. I joined all three in my first week, and other members helped me find my way around campus and that sort of thing. We had games nights, curled, played city-wide scavenger hunts, listened to speakers and hosted debates and panel discussions. I gave my testimony a few times, learned the Four Spiritual Laws, wrote parables I emailed to the others for inspiration, and usually cowered away from active evangelizing (except for a few bizarre exceptions). Ecumenism was my passion, and I spent a lot of time learning about the beliefs of the different people and denominations, and trying to reconcile the various beliefs and practices at least to the point where we could all work together as Christians.

    I regret some of the stupider things I did and said because I believed I should, but for the most part, my time with these clubs was me having fun with fun people who I shared common interests with. I’m glad for the experiences, and the memories.

  • Carlie

    Two, I met my wife at the BSU. She’s still a nominal Christian, but loves me for who I am.

    Oh yes! Also met spouse there. Forgot to mention that. Spouse is also still a Christian.

    There was a weird interaction that happened between the groups on my campus. They kept talking about how they ought to band together to do outreach kinds of things, but never could get past their minor differences to do so. There was definitely a different “tone” to each. The CCC thought they were more Godly than the other groups because they put all their focus into evangelism, and refused to do anything that wasn’t primarily evangelical as its goal. The BSU, conversely, thought the CCC was all talk because they would go evangelize in Ft. Lauderdale over spring break while we were schlepping mop buckets in inner-city Chicago. The Baptists thought that evangelism wasn’t any good without physical assistance (and the more it hurt and the more crummy place it was in, the better it was for the soul), and the CCC thought that any effort that went into physical assistance was energy stolen from evangelizing. Both the BSU and the CCC thought the CCF (Campus Christian Fellowship) were a bunch of hedonistic neo-hippies who didn’t do anything but party. CCF thought that CCC and BSU had serious approval issues, competing over God’s attention like that.

  • I was a member and a leader in Campus Christian Fellowship at Truman State University in Kirksville, MO. They sponsored dozens of Bible studies on and off campus and 2 church services a week on campus. We took a spring break trip every year to help out at Christian summer camps, mostly doing repairs during the day and hours of singing to god at night.

    One story that sticks out is when the head of the ministry was getting some criticism/suggestions from another leader. He fired off an email to his list of followers saying that the devil had been attacking him. The other leader, a friend of mine, was a member of that email list.

  • stogoe

    I never thought seriously about joining IV or CCC, but I remember going once or twice when they had brought a band in, standing in the back, being completely ignored, and deciding it was lame before heading out. I was still a believer at the time but I was already avoiding Those People, the annoying, hardcore, snobbish gossipy Good Little Christian jerks. Luckily for me I fell in with a great group of atheist nerds my freshman year.

  • Alex

    Maybe a good or safe alternative is to read: The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask


  • sachsomophone

    Yes. It was a smaller campus group called Chi Alpha. I left shortly after the leader of my small group bible study handed out a packet he had titled “strategies god gave me to overcome the temptation to masturbate.” Of course, that was beyond ridiculous, but it wasn’t the deciding factor. There was actually an agnostic in the group–I didn’t know he was agnostic until near the end of my time with them–turns out he was completely non-religious but just went to the meetings because several of his friends did. Anyway, I found he was the person to whom I could relate best, and that became one factor that started my journey towards atheism. But as others have said before, I really drifted away when I began to ask lots of questions and no one there could give me a satisfactory answer. Before a few days ago, I would have said I had nothing bad to say about the whole thing (other than the bizarre anti-masturbation pamphlet I received at that meeting). Everyone seemed sincere and it was almost like another family. But I still receive e-mails from them, and I recently got one about a “workday” Saturday. I was expecting some worthy cause for needy people, but it turned out to be cleaning the house of the couple who led the group, with promises of treasure in heaven for those who would help. Hmm.

  • Dmitri

    No, I mostly stayed away, even from the portion of freshman orientation which included the various campus church groups. All this, in spite of my mom’s constant reminders that I should “check out” the Baptist Student Union. I did go to one thing once, because a friend invited me and said they were having KFC sandwiches. Unfortunately they were just the “snackers”, little tiny things. But that was really just free food from the Presbyterian House.

    That said, there was one guy in the BSU who I swear was gay, yet was engaged to a woman. I wonder how much the Baptists had to do with that rupture of logic? So glad I didn’t get caught in that trap. Although I’m sure my family would be happier if I had.

  • I was in the Cambridge Intercollegiate Christian Union a decade or so ago. More recently, I gave a talk to the university Atheist and Agnostic society about it: you can read my notes if you like. I also wrote about how we were trained to evangelise.

    I’m not sure about “brainwashing”. I do wish I’d been exposed to rationality earlier and been able to see through it, but I didn’t find them coercive in the way implied by the original post here.

  • Natasha

    I started college determined to never loose my faith. I was a smart girl and knew the statistics on how many students “fall away” from god, as they call it. So I joined the BCM (Baptist Collegiate Ministry) and the CCF (Christian Collegiate Foundation.) The two groups were amazingly polar opposites in regards to how they did business. BCM was all fun and fire! Aiming to get students excited about serving god. And the CCF was just a sororiety with extreme exclusivity, I only went to a few meetings there before their unfriendliness got to me and I bailed.
    I stayed with BCM for a while, going to bible studies and was even considering going on a mission trip to Malawi, Africa. But it became more and more clear that the whole organization had a political (A decidedly republican) agenda, that I just couldn’t reconcile.
    Ironically, it was fervert studying of the bible and trying to become a better Christian that made me lose my faith. The more I learned, the less I believe. My brain won out over my soul and I officially let go of everything Christian three years ago. And the best I can summarize the transition is that I’m finally happy, and all it took was for me to stop praying for it to happen and start making it happen myself.

  • In short – CCC was one of the most extreme christian groups I was ever associated with. My church growing up was far more balanced in terms of ministerial approach. For instance, we actually talked about something other than “saving souls”.

    There is so much I could say about this group from generalized frustration, questionable financial practices, and the endorsement strange dating rituals. I could probably write a short book.

    At this point, all I want to say is that the group has damaged me and others… it has probably hurt me in ways I don’t even fully understand yet – as it wasn’t that long ago that I was involved.

    As someone who would has not entirely dismissed the existence of spirituality – that is hopeful for the concept of a God – I feel quite strongly at this point that these people are not acting in any way holy. That what they do in the “name of Jesus” is not what Jesus would have done.

  • cbob

    During freshmen year, I met several of the friends I kept through college at CC, but most of us left the organization after about a year. There was basically no CC by the time I graduated, but my friends who were still Christians formed their own club.

    From what I heard from the older members in the group, this chapter used to be much more accountability partner oriented, and with that came problems with controlling personalities. They were also trying to change their reputation on campus. I presumed they had had some confrontation involving homosexuality.

    Many of those in the campus leadership were intense. It seemed like the second or third sentence in a conversation with them was “So how are you and Jesus doing?” Since there were so few guys (5 out of 25), the seniors were quick to start feeding us toward leadership positions. I had no desire to lead discussions or Bible studies, yet they were still insistent since I was a guy who came semi-regularly.

    One Bible study involved worksheets! The president asked us to write our testimonies to share. It was important to have a good testimony so that when you evangelize, people will see how much Jesus has changed your life.

    I went to a fall retreat weekend that brought several colleges from the area. One night, they divided us by sex. We guys were split into teams. First, we trounced around the woods, looking for branches to build the tallest tower as some sort of teambuilding exercise. Then, each of us chose a person on our team to be team leader. Someone running the retreat came to each group, asking the leader to recite as many bible verses as possible that related to sexual purity. The leader lost the use of 1/2/3/4 limbs if he could only recite 3/2/1/0 verses. Then the rest of the team had to carry him or something. Then, a few female retreat people joined us in a room, and we could ask anonymous questions of them. I think they were along the lines of “How can we, as men, help women stay sexually pure?” or “How can we be effective leaders?”

  • Chris

    I was a member of IVCS, and an officer. At the end of the semester the leader for our area came over because they didn’t have me fill out the forms, including one that stated that I believed that the bible was inerrant. I refused to sign that, and he said that I should never have been an officer, and I basically said “I guess I just can’t fit in with you”.

  • guiri

    I’m extremely late to the discussion, apologies but I just stumbled upon it. Throwing in my two cents in case anyone still reads this: my freshman year in college I joined Campus Crusade. I met some overeager sophomores at an ice cream social who seemed like the squeaky clean good Christian influence types, and being lonely away from home, I joined. I met several girls from my dorm and we all went together to the weekly meetings/bible studies. Early in the semester, one of the leaders’ moms joined us and started gradually taking over. She overstepped many leadership boundaries and our weekly bible studies started becoming very weird. She did a series on “maleness and femaleness” (still don’t know what the hell she was talking about), and when the girls met separately, the leaders would push and push people to share until someone cried. Major boundary violation. Quite a few people started leaving, and soon our meetings were down to less than half what they were in the beginning. Our leaders were quick to boldly proclaim that “they just don’t know the truth.” I admit I ignored several of the defectors for a while, thinking they were backsliding. The messages were becoming weirder and weirder, and during one bible study the message was over the top weird, it made no sense. Afterward, the same night, I approached a girl I trusted with some questions and doubts about the night’s message. She looked at me like I had four heads and proceeded to ignore me. On the way back to the dorm, my friends and I almost in unison said, “that was SO weird! right? let’s never ever go back! K!” and that was that. From that point on, the members of “the cult” would not speak to us or acknowledge us AT ALL. (Later they all went on to marry – each other. Creepy? Also, it turned out that the leader’s mother caused a scandal in a local church and was asked to leave. Crusade got better in later years after she left.) I knew I had made the right decision. I went through a major grief & separation period after that, questioning my faith completely, and what I’d now consider a period of depression.

    Luckily my friends and I stuck together. We started partying for a while, and then we checked out other groups. We visited Baptist Student Union which I found revoltingly conservative and vowed to never go back after a skit in which several boys made degrading comments about gay people. I ended up in IVCF, “the liberal hippy group” and made several new friends there. After spending my whole life in church, I couldn’t just give up, despite a semester’s worth of spiritual abuse and cultlike experiences. I also went to a local church’s young adult service, which grew extremely popular, where I met several men involved in the Navigators at the local military base that ended up being kind of controlling toward us girls. I was involved in many more bible studies, went on missions trips, was an intern for the church’s youth group, and just threw myself in completely, despite nagging feelings that I didn’t quite agree or belong. I continually subjected myself to my own spiritual abuse, befriending people that were terrible friends for the sake of “accountability” and guilting myself when the friendships failed, believing I wasn’t good enough.

    Long story short, yes I did participate, and overall, I believe I got burned pretty badly. IVCF is the only group I don’t have terrible memories of, but if I could do it over again, I’m not sure I would join that group either.

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