Oxford students have complained of excessive promotion by members of the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union, as part of ‘Mission Week’.
A student at Exeter College described a “constant stream” of religious literature posted to students, and told Cherwell that he suspected his atheism and involvement with the LGBT may have had a role to play in his targeting. “I had a seventh copy of the gospels of St. John forced upon me today,” he explained, and added, “The misdirected resources of Mission Week have had no impact on me.”
Robbie Strachan, President of the OICCU, stressed the inclusivity of the society, encouraging students of any denomination or faith to attend lunch-time talks and events running throughout fourth week at the town hall. He told Cherwell “’This is Jesus’ is a week of events for every single student in the university to engage with the real Jesus. That means that meetings are open for all students to attend, irrespective of their personal convictions.”
He added, “We’d encourage people to come and see what all the fuss is about.”
In response to OICCU’s campaign tactics some students have produced rival posters and fliers with varying degrees of gravity. One particularly contentious poster listed several different gods with the “This is…” tag and featured quotes from prominent atheists claiming that organised religion is synonymous with “misogyny, genocide and homophobia.”
The more light-hearted responses to the CU campaign include a list of cheeses entitled “This is cheesus” which was distributed in all University College toilets, and a series of labels found around St Hugh’s with declarations such as “this is kitchen” and “this is lamp.”
Regent’s Park College, a PPH affiliated with the Christian Baptist Ministry, reportedly had a ‘This is Jesus’ poster graffitied to read, ‘This is SPARTA’ in their JCR. Other parodies featured on Facebook show that students have gone so far as to create ‘This is Penis’ parodies of the poster complete with a silhouetted phallus.
Second year PPEist Ben Deaner, creator of the ‘This is Penis’ meme told Cherwell of his motives, claiming, ‘As an atheist I have not yet ‘found God’ and as such you can imagine my excitement upon finding a poster labeled ‘This is Jesus’. After some enthusiastic shouting about how I had at last encountered my Lord and Savior I was politely informed that the object was in fact a poster and that the message was some kind of metaphor. In my disappointment and anger I created the ‘This is Penis’ poster.’
Not all are offended by the efforts of OICCU however with one anonymous student claiming, ‘I like that they’re making the effort to reach out to us, even if it can be a little over-enthusiastic at times. They mean well and I find the appeal of free lunches and toasties on demand pretty convincing in return for a half hour of pleasant talk.’
A first year student at New College commented, “Although I understand that the Christian Union is well meaning, the indiscriminate dissemination of ‘This is Jesus’ books seems to be nothing other than an explicit attempt to convert non-believers. I – and almost all others to whom I have spoken – have reacted against this, as it seems inappropriate in a diverse society in which we should all be entitled to our own views and beliefs.
“As someone who is Jewish and is open about this, I find really quite offensive the insinuation in the quotation attached to the book that “the truth will set you free,” implying that as a non-Christian I am somehow in chains, not emancipated, and destined for hell. Once again, I realise that there is no malicious intent behind the actions of the CU, and in general most people appreciate the philanthropic works of the Union, but I felt this was somewhat misguided.”
Second year Alexander Lynchehaun remarked, “Christians are annoying at the best of times, but this week has been something else.”