Friday, July 22, 2011

Thoughts on Campus Crusade [Scott]

I deleted my Facebook post on campus Crusade last night after it generated a slew of comments in less than two hours. I did so for two reasons. First, my strongly worded post was over the top. It is one thing to express concern over the group’s name change and the apparent motivation behind it (more about that below). It is quite another to say Christians should no longer support the group. Second, Facebook is not the place to launch a discussion where background concerns cannot be adequately expressed. In short, I was wrong on both counts. Thus, the following Blog post continues what began on FB. Your thoughts are welcome.

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?"


  1. They've made two fundamental mistakes in regards to marketing their organziation: First, the name "Cru" doesn't tell us anything about who they are or what they do. Campus Crusade for Christ told us those two things. Second, they've compoun...ded the very thing they were trying to avoid! They've made the very word (now shortened) the very centerpiece of their name, so now the very first thing people are going to ask is (you've guessed it), what does "Cru" mean; then the response will be that it's short for Crusade, back when they were Campus Crusade for Christ. It's really ridiculous.

  2. I've been beating this "dead horse" for nearly three decades. Campus Crusade’s decision to remove “Christ” is simply another in a long line of anthrophobic actions in Americanized Christianity that puts man’s comfort and convenience ahead of a biblical worldview. Such a view (i.e., Americanized) of Christ is innately averse to theological orthodoxy and objective truth, which stands diametrically opposed to the clarity of New Testament Christianity where Christ was preached to pagan nations without regard for “seeker sensitivity.” Christ remains a stumbling block and foolishness to those who don’t believe. Who are we to alter that narrow gate?

  3. Thanks for posting this because it gives me a larger perspective on the issue that I did not have during the discussion last night. I am still skeptical that their motivation was to leave Christ out of their name, but I can see with a lot more clarity how this can be so.

  4. I hear a lot of college students just refer to the current organization as "Campus Crusade" and leave out the "for Christ" part. Are they just abbreviating it, or is they simply compromising their entire worldview? ;)

    Honestly, there's no way this isn't going to generate controversy ... but let's also remember that the organization name is not the Gospel. I believe the message is what saves ... not the name Cru, Campus Crusade for Christ, or whatever.

    The main question I'd ask of the leaders would be, "Are you ashamed of Jesus?" (Mk 8:38). If they are truly changing it because they believe that people are being turned off by the organization name before they listen to the message, go ahead. But if it's because the word Jesus just makes some people uncomfortable, that is a bad reason. (Those seem like low percentages of people who are turned off by the name, by the way.)

  5. I, for one, think this was due at least fifteen years ago, when all the local chapters starting changing the name. I'm the first to say that those who complain about that name are hypocrites who almost certainly have a simplistic, uninformed, and morally problematic narrative of what the crusades were all about. But is that a fight worth having every time a student mentions the name of their Christian ministry at college?

    As for the idea that they dropped the name 'Christ' because they were embarrassed, I'm not sure why you don't believe them when they explicitly say that that's not the reason. They considered 1600 names, and surely many of them did have it and many didn't. They settled on Cru, primarily because it was short and trendy, and the idea that college students need names that are informative could only come from someone with little contact with college students and what attracts them. Look at the names of most trademarks. I thought the move from the SciFi channel to SyFy was stupid, but it wasn't because they want to drop all science fiction (although they have been adding other things). It was because they thought the new name looked and sounded cool and because it meant less. That's just the trend, and "Cru" is trendy but in a way that means they're speaking college students' language (which is good) and is not thereby compromising anything truly important. It's being all things to all college students.

    So I think the criticism is thoroughly unwarranted, and the idea that they are embarrassed strikes me as a simple refusal to accept their word, which I really can't say anything nice about, so I'll stop.

  6. Brandon, they're obviously abbreviating it. Most of the time they shorten it to "Crusade". That's clearly not to avoid criticism or embarrassment.

  7. I'm a student leader with Campus Crusade for Christ at a university in North Carolina and the name change changes nothing. I will still regardless of the name of the organization go on campus in the fall and proclaim the name of Jesus. Most to all of the students at my university use the name Cru when they talk about Campus Crusade for Christ anyway, so to the students who are the reached and also doing the reaching the name change is nothing new. I went on a mission trip last summer with Campus Crusade for Christ and did ministry in New York City and I had the chance to speak with many people and you could always tell if someone was going to be responsive to the message of the gospel by the way they received our name. We do not deny Christ but if changing our name allows us to sit down and have a conversation about the gospel with more people and from firsthand experience it will then I am all for it. When we talk to other students the first thing out of our mouth is that "We are an interdenominational Christian ministry" so while the name has changed, the mission has not. On my campus this year, next year, and the many that come afterwards we WILL reach students for Christ no matter what the name of our organization is because the only name that really matters is Christ and when we speak to students who are non-believers our name will be Cru but our message which has not changed one bit will be now and forever about our savior Jesus Christ. Im sorry to hear that some people would stop supporting Cru because of our name the only people it will affect is the lost students who don’t yet know Christ and that is ashamed.

  8. While I agree that the moniker itself may not be the primary issue, and ignorance of the Crusades has resulted in a number of misguided beliefs and actions, I don’t think the criticism of Campus Crusade for Christ is unwarranted when one considers historical trends, particularly in westernized Christianity, that increasingly focus on decorating rather than declaring the Gospel. It is in this light that Campus Crusade for Christ’s decision to change its name, for better or worse, is by many seen. Men and ministries can claim whatever they want, yet this is no more a truth to hang our hat upon than any other assertion (too many examples to list here). In other words, I Corinthians 9:19-23 is too often used to justify our fear, rather than love, of others. Jesus will always be a stumbling block and foolishness to the unbelieving, and for those called of, or open to, Christ, the message of truth, no matter how stark, will never return void.

  9. Much better than your original post. Thanks. The Fox article is highly inflammatory. I found better articles that gave many more details with less incitement. I am sure the original name was chosen for alliteration. However, the crusade part would be extremely offensive to Jews. My boss was initially very turned off I was a Christian and was upset about the crusades. However, after many theological conversations, we have gotten past the Crusades. And, of course, they removed much than that just "Christ" from the name - they removed the entire name. Christ, is not the last name of Jesus. It is the title of the anointed one. The Bible also says there will be false Christs. So, as far as the name goes, it would be better if it had "Jesus" or "Yeshua" in it. Not inviting pro-life people is a bad thing. However, it seems that the Church as given up an area in which we are the logical and scientific victors over liberal ideology. It is difficult to get around the emotion, since most liberals are ruled by it.

  10. This explanation does make a bit more sense. Indeed, I saw first hand the refusal of Christian campus groups to get involved in backing our pro-life club. One group leader refused to allow Jojo and I to teach the group pro-life apologetics because "Being affiliated with an organization that opposes abortion could be a hindrance to reaching our campus with the gospel"

    Yes, there is a problem with Christians assuming that the gospel stops at the preaching of the Four Spiritual Laws. That issues needs to be addressed in greater depth. But please don't confuse one problem for another.

    I would still hesitate to make assumptions that the name change is due to being embarrassed by the name of Christ. So long as the organization continues to proclaim Christ in their outreaches, it's a little hard to make the case that they're embarrassed to do so.

    Pro-life clubs and pregnancy centers who choose more discreet names often find people more willing to approach them - PR does matter - and perhaps the same will prove true of Cru.

  11. The name was not changed because this organization is ashamed of Jesus. It was changed because the name had become a stumbling block to even connecting with lost people in order to share the gospel with them. CCC (now Cru) is about sharing the good news with those who do not believe. If they shut us down before we can do that (because of our ministry name) then that is a problem. The gospel is an offense, but our name does not have to be. We desire that the lost be found, and if changing our name helps us share with more people, then the name needs to be changed.

  12. Appreciate the article. Here's another perspective from Vital Signs Blog posted last week. ---

  13. What the CRU folks fail to understand and continue to disregard, even here in this thread, is their lack of concern for the pre-born. Their continued lack of participation and active hostility to the MOST pressing issue on college campuses undermines their ministry. Newman centers across the country grow and establish an effective campus presence while engaging in pro-life activities, their is no excuse for their continued compromises. Compromises at the cost of innocent lives.

    Organizations like CRU should be held responsible for their reckless example as they fail to uphold the instructions of the Great Commission. It is apathetic attitudes like these that continue to perpetuate oxymorons like "Christian Pro-aborts. Since it is CRU that fails to instruct and be involved in their worldview and address real issues outside the individual.

  14. As a former staff member of Campus Crusade for Christ, I can say that I welcome the desire to change the name. HOWEVER, it seems to me that the way this came about was a waste. I agree that the original name indicated the original target audience ("Campus"), the mission ("Crusade") and the focus, goal, and motivation ("Christ"). With the present use of 'crusade,' however, the referent with most people is the 11th-13th century Crusades against the Muslims in the Middle East rather than the evangelism of the lost. Thus, the need to change the name is there. Whether the "Christ" is retained in the name or not seems like a small issue to me AS LONG AS He remains the focus, goal, and motivation of Cru's continued mission (which, as I understand it, remains the same).

    My main concern is the reasoning behind it all and how this name change came about. Is spending tens of thousands of dollars (probably) on consultants the best way to find a name? Moreover, is Cru really the best name out there? I seriously doubt it. Cru is a title without any meaning, and to "fill in the mean ing with what we do in the future" seems vacuous and postmodern nonsense to me.

    These concerns notwithstanding, I sincerely pray that those brothers and sisters in Christ I know so well who are still a part of Cru would stick to the Great Commission in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results with the Lord.


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