Most of the FB comments supported my view, but thoughtful critics asked the following question: What’s in a name? After all, many Christian groups leave out the name Christ, so what is the big deal?
They’re right about one thing. There is nothing wrong about leaving “Christ” out of the organization’s name. After all, my own organization doesn’t use the name in its title.
However, as Jay Watts pointed out, the problem here is not leaving “Christ” out; it’s taking him out—and for reasons that are questionable. The FOX story quoted a CC official as follows:
"We felt like our name was getting in the way of accomplishing our mission,” said Steve Sellers, the vice president for Campus Crusade, noting that the ministry will still be committed to “proclaiming Christ around the world.” Sellers said researchers found that 9 percent of Christians and 20 percent of non-Christians were alienated by the name Campus Crusade for Christ.Sellers indicated several factors contributed to the name change, including overseas sensibilities. “Our name was becoming more and more of a hindrance,” he told Fox News Radio. He specifically mentioned the word crusade. “It’s reverted back to some of its meaning related to the Middle Ages – forcing Christianity on different parts of the world,” he said.
As for specifically removing “Christ” from their name, the Campus Crusade for Christ website states:
“We were not trying to eliminate the word Christ from our name. We were looking for a name that would most effectively serve our mission and help us take the gospel to the world. Our mission has not changed. Cru enables us to have discussions about Christ with people who might initially be turned off by a more overtly Christian name. We believe that our interaction and our communication with the world will be what ultimately honors and glorifies Christ.”Well, if you are not trying to eliminate Christ from your name, but merely want to distance yourself from “crusade,” why not ditch the latter and keep the former? I gather from the article that CC thinks a name with Christ in it is a turn-off and smacks of intolerance. At the same time, if the big issue involves overseas sensibilities, why not change the name for foreign outreaches but leave it for U.S. ones? After all, the name Campus Crusade for Christ accurately describes the mission of the organization: 1) “Campus”—tells us your target audience. 2) “Crusade”—tells us your mission, evangelize the lost. 3) “for Christ”—tells us the main thing is Jesus and doing what honors him.
So what's to fear, that people will know what we truly stand for? Must we
accept the premises of the tolerance crowd to keep our witness?
For me, these are not good reasons to take Christ out of the organization’s name. As Gregg Cunningham once observed, have we become so seeker sensitive that we are believer worthless? My fear is that instead of engaging the culture, many campus ministries are quietly absorbing it’s premises. Is this a good witness of Christ?
To cite a related example (and this provides the background I bring to the name change issue), if you talk to any pro-life group reaching out to students, you'll soon learn that with rare exception, campus fellowship groups want little to do with the pro-life movement. Generally speaking, they're afraid they might turn people off if they get involved.
Well, at Cal Poly SLO in May of 2008, the response of Christians to the abortion controversy did in fact turn-off at least one non-Christian, but not for reasons campus fellowship groups might expect. The ASB student leader responsible for organizing an abortion debate at that campus expressed her dismay that Campus Crusade would not attend the event or get behind promoting it with its members.
She asked me directly why I thought that was so. She thought for sure the Christians would show up and she was puzzled that they didn't. Their refusal to get involved turned her off.
I didn't know what to tell her. Perhaps CC had good reasons for not attending and I hold out hope it did, though it's hard for me to imagine what those reasons might be. I suspect she is not the only secular student puzzled by CC’s non-involvment.
Indeed, according to a 2005 TIME Magazine piece, the overall trend is not encouraging. Instead of equipping students to confront the thought structures that determine culture in the first place, many of these groups help students nurture a very private and personal faith, a faith separate from the intellectual climate of the university. The TIME article states:
"But all the groups tend to go about their business quietly. "They kind of operate under the surface," McKaig says. Josh Sanburn, editor in chief of the Indiana Daily Student, notes that the number of students in the fellowships is roughly the same as the school's African-American student population, but unlike the Christians, "the black students on this campus are very good about making sure they're heard." Evangelical students, however, see their spiritual mission differently. Says sophomore CSF member Emily Hoefling: "We usually believe what affects people more than a newspaper article is to see people living Christian lives."Question: Since when does "living Christian lives" mean checking out of the real action on campus?
I fear that the message to Christian students and the campus at large couldn't be clearer: Christianity is not relevant to the most pressing issues of our day. It's fine as a personal life enhancement, but irrelevant to the real world of ideas, politics, morality, and law where the rest of the world lives.
Again, is that a good witness for Christ? As Charles Malik pointed out half a century ago, “If you win the whole world [for Christ] and lose the mind of the world, you will soon discover that you have not won the world.”
As I've said before, Christian leaders have it all wrong. My own experience suggests that far from turning people off, a persuasive pro-life case, graciously communicated, suggests to non-believers that maybe, just maybe, the Christian worldview has something relevant to say to the key issues of our day. But when we fail to even put in an appearance at key debates, the message to non-Christians is that we simply don't care about the big stuff.
Including the biggest issue of all, "Christ?"