I’m Sorry. Ask Me Why.

I’m speaking near the University of Memphis for a secular student group next month.

A student from that school I’ve been in contact with sent me information about what he’s been seeing on campus recently.

There are flyers, posters, and writings-on-chalkboards that say something to the effect of “We’re sorry. Ask us why…”

There’s no reference to who “us” is. There’s just a link to a website: http://imsorryaskwhy.com/.

And if you go to the website (and make your way past two pointless videos), it says:

Why are we sorry? Good question. Obviously the videos have nothing to do with it. But they’re funny. At least we think so. Well honestly, we’d like to tell you in person.

Don’t worry, we don’t want your credit card or for you to signup for anything. We’d just like to explain in person why we’re so sorry as a webpage just won’t do justice.

Either you can flag someone down who you see wearing a bright green T-Shirt that says “I’M SORRY” or you can give us a little contact info for us to contact you and tell you why. Either way, just make sure you find out why!

This is the way that the Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) affiliate at this school is trying to get new recruits. Or create new Christians.

The student group (called Cru.) says this about the project:

We?ll have people all over campus wearing annoyingly-bright green T-Shirts saying ?I?m Sorry, Ask Why.? What are we sorry about? Well, basically we will be apologizing for not reflecting Christ in our own lives and if the person asking has ever been burned by Christianity. If you’ve signed up for the prayer chain, please be sure you pray for the outreach during your allotted time!

(Boldface is mine… and the bad html is directly reprinted from their site.)

If I were at the University of Memphis seeing this, I’d probably be annoyed. But CCC absolutely has a right to do it. As an atheist, there are proper ways to respond to the campaign, and to CCC’s credit, it certainly does provide a starting point for discussions. It’s good marketing in that sense.

My problem is the stealth in which they’re trying to communicate their message.

It’s as if talking about Christianity itself isn’t good enough to get anyone to come to a CCC meeting (or become a Christian). You have to trick people into doing it.

Christian groups have run similar campaigns at other schools. For example, in the “I Agree With” campaign, one week, they’d blitz the school with posters/signs/chalkings that say “Do you agree with Bob?” (or someone else’s name). A week later, group members would wear shirts that say, “I agree with Bob” (or whomever) and Bob would simultaneously publish an article in the school paper stating why he’s a Christian.

Here’s one instruction booklet for the campaign (PDF). One interesting excerpt:

It is the Outreach Coordinator’s responsibility to research the different Christian groups on campus, and who fully believe in the statement of faith… If a group is questionable, or on the verge of being cultish, you need to know specifically why you wouldn’t include them [in the campaign]. For example, you don’t want the International Church of Christ, LDS, Jehovah Witnesses…

And if you read the document, you’ll see there’s a lot more where that came from.

Anyway, the implication to me is that if Bob just published this article on his own, no one would care. The buildup is supposed to provide a backdrop so non-Christians can see that many people agree with (and find important) what Bob is saying.

However, for many outsiders watching all this, the buildup of these events just seem to make them want to distance themselves from Christian groups even more.

Are other people disturbed by this? Did you experience this during college? How do you react?

[tags]atheist, atheism, University of Memphis, We’re sorry, ask us why, Campus Crusade for Christ, CCC, Christian, Christianity, Cru, Christ, I Agree With, International Church of Christ, LDS, Jehovah Witnesses[/tags]