By Brian Musser, Campus Minister at Drexel University
PHILADELPHIA – How do you engage a campus with the Gospel that is being engaged by “protest evangelism”? This is probably true throughout the country but recently in Philadelphia we have seen an increase in the number of demonstrations on campus in the name of Christianity that are openly antagonistic, rhetorically violent and verbally abusive toward sinful lifestyles. Signs and bullhorns have appeared vehemently denouncing certain evils. Of course, the evil of homosexuality has been the primary target while other more acceptable Americanized sins have gone unnoticed. As a campus minister who is intimately connected with several Christian student groups and in touch with the overall campus culture, diverse and significant questions have been directed towards me.
Isn’t hatred a sin? Do you agree with them? Why don’t you act like they do? Is this what all Christians believe? I am a Christian but how do I get the world to see me as someone different than they are? How do we respond? Where is the love? Is this what Christ meant for us to do? Is Homosexuality a sin? Is it a different type of sin than others? Why don’t they talk more about Jesus? I’m gay, do you think I am going to Hell, too? What is the best way to share the Gospel now that these others are claiming to share the Gospel? Should we yell back at the protesters for changing Jesus’ message? Are they changing Jesus’ message? How do we get the campus to judge Christianity by who we are and not what they say? Are the people behind the signs Christian? Should we try to get them removed from campus? Can’t you do something to stop them?
As you can probably tell it has been a unique moment in the ministry at Drexel. One of both great opportunity but also considerable risk. There is a truth that some things that our culture, especially our campus culture, supports and defends are sinful in the eyes of God. But that has never been the questions in my mind. The question to me has always been how do we present sin in such a way that it allows the Holy Spirit to convict individuals of their sin. Hoping that the conviction directs them towards the grace available in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Instead of challenging sinners in a way that allows Satan to introduce condemnation further isolating them from the means of grace that can only be found in Christ. That is the question for the ages.
The greatest piece of this puzzle has been using this chaotic moment to guide sincere Christian students through this conversation. Helping them to find a balance between judgement and grace. To encourage them to develop conversations with their peers that are honest, God-honoring and grace-filled. The presence of these Christian protesters on our campus may be an overall detriment to the story of Christ being accurately told at Drexel for the moment, but there a certain Christian student disciples who are using the opportunity presented to them by this to grow in Christ, to learn their faith and to develop their skills in communicating truth with love into our culture in a way that will reap benefits for God’s Kingdom throughout their lives. I’m not completely sure there is a perfect answer to the question of “How should we respond?” But it is awesome to watch students find the answer to the question of “Who should we become?” And it is moments like that, in the stress and chaos that makes ministry worthwhile.