Church of Christ members' attitudes on other religions are unfair and bigoted

The Tech (MIT)/March 21, 1989
By Robert Poole

At the beginning of this, my freshman year here, I wasn't sure what to make of the various religious groups which recruit on campus. Whereas some organizations are forthright in their intentions, others are more devious in their methods.

After having been badgered by several groups to attend "Bible talks," I was surprised when someone whom I had known for about a month asked me to attend a Bible discussion. I was assured it was non-denominational, and after hesitating, I gave in. Recently I have been called many times to attend Bible studies even though the moderators know well that I have night classes that conflict with the Bible study classes. Eventually, the requests shifted to "Would you care to go to church with me on Sunday?" Again, after being called three weekends in a row, I finally capitulated. Assured that the services were non-denominational, I went on March 5 to the Boston Garden with a group from the Bible study class. I looked at the slickly printed handout I had been given -- it read "BOSTON Church of Christ."

When the sermon began, my suspicions about this group were amplified tenfold. A small snippet of dialog will illustrate my point: the preacher said of Judaism that is was the "so-called 'church"' of the Pharisees and Sanhedrin. Evident in this phrase are two themes: religious absolutism, postulating that Judaism is not a valid religion, and Christian egocentrism, by referring to the Jewish faith as a "church," something I'm sure most Jews would hesitate to do.

Other themes addressed included the "evils" of schism within Christianity; specifically, Jesus wants only one Church, and the preacher established early on that he was struggling to make the Church of Christ that One. (I would like to propose that he re-read the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.) The orator cited many problems facing his church -- for instance, the fact that it has been branded as a cult by some experts. He followed up by quoting from an author who disliked the Church of Christ's campus policies. The quoted author, a member of a liberal Protestant religion that does not believe its tenets are the only valid ones, was accosted by Church of Christ members to attend a Bible talk. The author reported his astonishment at being rebuked for his belief that virtuous Jews would go to heaven.

I wondered what point the preacher was trying to make, since I agreed with the sentiments expressed by the quoted author. I was shocked by the audience response: everyone laughed. It was clear to me that the Church of Christ was filled with religious bigots and anti-Semites who were completely sincere in their beliefs. Statistics gleaned from their handout frightened me: they had taken it upon themselves to send "missionaries" to countries that were already predominantly Christian (e.g., England and Australia). The explanation that I received was that people in these countries did not attend church regularly. I wonder about that claim: why are they spending money on ministries in technically-developed countries and on multicolor packet handouts printed on slick paper when most major religions spend their money on relief efforts in Third World countries?

I was later informed by some people that the Boston Church of Christ has been involved in scandals at MIT. (On Sept. 1, 1987, The Tech ran an article on Church of Christ recruitment of Interphase freshmen). Freshmen are recruited most often because they are vulnerable and need friendship, and clever recruiters often befriend a freshman long before religious overtures are made. This was my personal experience. Also, the Bible study talks are a subtle means of recruitment. A former member of the Church of Christ has informed me that the Bible studies are broken up into five units: the first two are "devoted to convincing you that if you don't belong to their church, you're going to hell." Part one is an exhortation to follow fundamentalist principles, part two asserts that "the kingdom of God is the church, you have to belong to the kingdom of God to go to heaven, a church has to have certain qualifications or it's not a church, and they're the only church with these qualifications."

Unfortunately, prejudice isn't a punishable crime; however, students can do something to make a moral statement about these organizations. Remember that refusal to be a part of a Bible discussion group does not make you non-religious or an enemy of the faithful. Be proud of your own religious heritage, whatever it may be.

Let me set the record straight: this is not an anti-organized-religion diatribe. What I am trying to say is this: Freedom of worship is all well and good, but when religions take a stand against other religions, the way is opened for more insidious forms of intolerant behavior.

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