‘Adam’ campaign prompts debate

Students around campus in daffodil-colored T-shirts with the slogan “I Agree with Adam” are showing their support for a statement of Christian faith made public by Yale Students for Christ member Adam Meredith ’08, whose manifesto has provided the force behind this week’s Christianity awareness campaign of the same name.

Organizers and participants said the campaign’s mission is to promote discussion about Christianity and faith and to raise religious awareness on campus, but some students said they have found the campaign’s tactics obtrusive.

YSC staff member Sang Yun ’93 said Meredith was asked to be a representative of the Christian organizations sponsoring the campaign and that although his statement is personal, YSC, Athletes in Action, Yale Christian Fellowship and Living Water have signed on to his campaign. Hans Anderson ’09, a YSC member and campaign organizer, said the campaign also endeavors to make Christianity more accessible to other students and to clear up any misconceptions.

“Our hope in this is to prompt honest and open dialogue about Christianity and faith in general,” Yun said. “We want to bring to the campus’ attention that there are a good number of Christians around and it’s something we want to be talking about.”

The campaign’s large-scale publicity has gone further than the yellow shirts, including daily table tents in dining halls, advertisements in the News with Meredith’s personal statement, campus-wide fliers and a Web site. The site, doyouagreewithadam.net, features Meredith’s statement and an online forum. In one post, user “JasonGL” declared his own statement of faith, writing “I believe that we can take a stand on moral issues without handing any one organized religion a monopoly on light and truth.” Other recent posts have brought up questions about gay marriage and pornography within the context of Christian theology and doctrine.

As of Tuesday night, the “I Agree with Adam” facebook.com group had at least 31 members, the message boards posted 17 registered users and 96 articles, and Yun estimated that more than 250 students are wearing the yellow shirts.

Meredith describes his statement of faith as representative of the Christian student body as a whole.

“We’re all longing for something, all seeking to be satisfied or fulfilled in some way,” he said. “For me, I have to go back to God’s love and it being the only thing that will satisfy us.”

But according to some students, the campaign’s four sponsoring groups represent only a particular bent of Christianity and religious belief on campus, a fact that some said is detrimental to the organizers’ cause. Andrew Beaty ’07, a member of the Battell Chapel Council of Deacons, said the campaign’s Web site does not include Battell Chapel, the Episcopal Church at Yale, or the Church of Christ on its list of area places of worship.

“I think it’s too bad that it seems as though it’s a little bit consciously outside of the mainstream,” Beaty said. “I think some of the efforts in the end may be counterproductive, but if they feel that this is the best way to go about it then more power to them.”

Although Becky Dinerstein ’09 said she has no personal problems with Meredith’s message, she said she does take issue with the tactics being used.

“Entirely aside from the message and beliefs at hand, I find the omnipresent propaganda to be excessive and obsessive,” she said. “I feel like a lot of personal space is being invaded.”

Dinerstein said she objects to the fact that YSC members were stationed at the entrances of dining halls distributing information about the campaign and Christianity.

Despite some strong reactions to their activities, campaign organizers and participants said they do not consider the week’s mission to be conversion or proselytizing.

“We’re not doing any more or less than a group that’s campaigning to raise awareness about a certain political, social or environmental issue,” Yun said. “The dialogue we hope to foster is such that people can try to persuade one another in a very respectful, open-minded manner.”

Philosophy professor Greg Ganssle, who will be moderating a “Should We Agree with Adam?” panel tomorrow evening, said the campaign addresses issues important to the intellectual discourse of the University.

“There is a moderately strong sense that deep faith is irrelevant to the work or nature of the University — even if there is plenty of room for people to have deep faith (or not) personally,” Ganssle said in an e-mail. “So I think a week like this is a good thing.”

Those involved in the campaign said they have seen a variety of reactions, ranging from candid questioning and constructive discussion to laughter to outright hostility.

“People are very skeptical,” one YSC junior, said. “Usually campaigns like this try to invade people’s life, but it’s not like we’re walking around with ‘Jesus is the only way’ shirts on.”

She also said some students unfamiliar with the campaign have thought the date on the back of the shirts — April 7, 2006 — is when the wearers believe the apocalypse is coming. Others have thought that Adam is a reference to the biblical Adam and Eve, and have taken the campaign as a support of intelligent design or creationism. Ellen Ray ’09, a YSC member, said some have even asked why there are no “I Disagree with Adam” T-shirts available.

“It seems like a kind of passive evangelism,” Lee Seymour ’09, who is an atheist, said. “They’re not aggressively recruiting people, and its actual message is very non-confrontational, which is why it’s very easily spread.”

“I Agree with Adam” representatives have been tabling on Beinecke Plaza from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. this week, asking passersby if they agree with Adam and inviting them to write their opinions on the subject on one of two large poster boards — “Agree” or “Disagree.”

The current campaign comes five years after YSC’s last awareness campaign, “I Agree with Dave,” which was designed by Dave Farrell ’03. Similar campaigns have taken place at other universities, including Pennsylvania State University and Ohio Wesleyan.

Though the campaign coincides with LGBT Pride Week ’06 and Human Rights Week, Yun said the overlap was unintentional, as the campaign’s organizers had sought to avoid campaigning during Holy Week, which begins next Sunday.

The week will conclude Friday afternoon with a rally and testimony from Meredith on Cross Campus.

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