Hendrickson, Williams, Patterson, Yun and Chu: Misrepresenting our faith

Over the past few days, Jesse Morrell has been on Old Campus, Cross Campus and a section of Wall St. addressing large crowds of students in the name of Christianity. As longtime members of Yale’s Christian community, we wanted to share some thoughts on his presence.

During his time on campus, Morrell has worn a sandwich board featuring a list of people — among them “Liars,” “Obama Voters,” “Feminists,” “Atheists” and “Potheads” — for whom “Hell Awaits!” In his speeches to the watching crowd, Morrell yelled down dissenting or inquiring voices and called out at passing students, labeling them sinners for a litany of accusations.

Morrell claims Christ as his Savior, a claim that we have in common. At the same time, our beliefs and personal experiences of Jesus do not resemble what we and many of you saw on Cross Campus this week. Jesus engaged his listeners in honest dialogue, rather than shouting people down. He did not simply label people, but approached and cared for them as individuals. And, when he did speak of sin and judgment, his strongest words were reserved for religious leaders.

In our experience, Jesus sought us amid of our vulnerability and met us with sacrificial love. To us, Jesus’ love provides hope for transformation and relationship; hope that we are not beyond the reach of God’s mercy. We also acknowledge that we sometimes stray from this message of love when we interact with others. We are saddened, therefore, that many students might not see the difference between Morrell and us, who hope to represent Jesus through our lives on this campus. We renounce any messages of hate and stand with Jesus’ good news.

In his ministry, Jesus freely spread this news through healing illnesses, casting out depression, restoring the broken and lost to the community and blessing the last and the unlikely before the prim and proper of his day. In times of trouble, we turn to the God we see in Jesus, who loves, gives and serves regardless of our performance. Jesus did not draw us in with shouts of hatred or make us feel condemned beyond repair. Jesus has cared for us as a friend, and, in turn, teaches us how to be a friend to ourselves and to others.

We invite this act of friendship to place Morrell’s message in perspective. Who is God to us? Who is God to you? What have our experiences been like with Jesus, if any? Why did the prospect of an angry and condemning God feel so wrong to so many? Let’s not keep this conversation to ourselves. Rather than loudly pronouncing judgment, we will sit, listen and pray. We want to bear witness, not of hatred, but of compassion for Morrell and our campus. Come and join us.

Greg Hendrickson and Joshua Williams are, respectively, 2003 and 2008 graduates of Yale College and members of the Yale Christian Fellowship. Erin Patterson and Sang Yun are, respectively, 2009 and 1993 graduates of Yale College and members of Yale Students for Christ. Jason Chu is a 2008 graduate of Yale College.

Comments

  • http://theantiyale.blogspot.com

    The voice behind the following quotes is intolerant, impatient, and self-righteous. Whether they actually came out of the mouth of Joshue ben Joseph (AKS Jesus) is another debate entirely.

    Paul Keane
    M.Div. ’80

    Addressing the Pharisees
    Matthew 23

    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! … Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

    Rebuking Peter
    Mark 3
    …he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.” And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

  • Hmm…

    Fist off: this “PK” actually reminds me of Mr. Morrell (Mr. Moral?) in certain ways, perhaps relevant to his non-stop grating and berating.

    But, on to the article: Please note the immediacy with which Christians recoil in horror, distancing themselves rapidly from one straying from mainstream beliefs.

    Contrast this with the relative silence (if not quiet–or joyous–agreement) one hears from our Muslim brethren on occasions such as, say, 9/11, Ft. Hood, Chechnya, etc. etc. etc.

  • http://theantiyale.blogpsot.com

    # Hmm:

    The pot calling the kettle black.

    Grating? Yes. Berating? No. Just giving back what is dished out.

    PK

  • As A Follower of Jesus…

    As a follower of Jesus, I recoil from #2’s statement. I am familiar with rapid response tactics from various Muslim communities in the face of extremism. Let’s aim for an elevated dialogue on this issue.

  • http://theantiyale.blogspot.com

    Elevate?

    Occasionally on these posting walls I feel as if I have soiled my hands, as if the comments are cro-magnon grafitti.

    And then occasionaally there’s an intense intellectual sparring match that makes the degradation worthwhile.

    I guess I idealistically expect Yale undergraduates to be engaging in repartee not characater assassination. And much of the time they are.

    Then, there are the nasty exceptions.

    PK

  • Yale 11

    Sometimes, we try so hard to soften our message that we begin to embrace all that we sought to change…

  • Jesse Morrell

    I thought that the ministry went very well. I gave very rational arguments against atheism, evolution, and gave good reasons for my opposition to Obama. I will be posting videos soon on my YouTube account “OpenAirOutreach”

  • yalie11

    Thanks for writing this!

  • jglc

    Jesse, my primary concern was not the rationality of your arguments or how good your reasons are; my worry is that the tone of the interactions you were having with the crowd seemed to be angry, accusative, and sensationalistic (on your part) and condescending, derisive, and put-off (on theirs).

    As someone who has been striving on this campus (as an undergraduate and now a member of campus ministry staff) to reach out to students – friends – as we build long-term relationships of mutual trust and vulnerability, to have such a tone publicly set as a register of discourse on faith and Jesus Christ is unhelpful and even, I fear, harmful to that hope.

    If you would like to talk further, please do contact me on facebook (Jason G.L. Chu in the Yale network), and let’s please discuss how we can, together, show love to my friends and other students on this campus (I do believe that you want to show love to Yale students).

  • Alum

    Only mildly psychotic people who believe in a sky god would try to rationalize with a completely psychotic person who believes in a sky god.

  • Digital Sandwich Boarder

    #2 In a way I agree with you, despite your crude opening: I AM a bit like the Sandwich Board preacher.

    In fact,three of my blogs are digital sandwich boards (except they don’t condemn anyone to hell and they hold a mirror up to the Hallmark-Greeting-Card version of Christianity which poses as religion in America).

    One of the admirable things about Yale Divinity School is that they leave room for the dissenting ministry, the outsider ministry, the unauthorized ministry.

    Or at least they did so when I was there (76-80). It may have all changed now, although the academic integrity of being a school at Yale means that scholarship will forever be eroding the territory of mindless fervor and blind faith.

    Here are three digital sandwich boards I wear proudly without blocking traffic or imposing on anyone’s eyes :

    Willy Loman’s Children http://lomanchildren.blogspot.com

    Talking Turkey http://senatorsandbag.blogspot.com

    The Anti-Yale http://theantiyale.blogspot.com

    There are some overlapping posts in them.

    PK

  • ?

    “Or at least they did so when I was there (76-80). It may have all changed now, although the academic integrity of being a school at Yale means that scholarship will forever be eroding the territory of mindless fervor and blind faith.”

    what are you talking about?
    you spam these boards way too much.

  • Sky God

    #12

    And you, earth god, poison them way too much with glib vitriol.

    Expect me to defend the Divinity School whether you like it or not.

    Nobody forces you to read what I say.

    PK

  • Decidedly fresh

    SPAM is canned. Anything I write is fresh. Decidedly fresh.
    PK

  • LIBERATION AND PROCESS THEOLOGY

    #12
    Apologies. My initial reaction to your comment was impatience. But maybe you honestly don’t know what I’m talking about.(Divinity is such an “insiders” game.)

    LIBERATION THEOLOGY (for example)–created in the last century–has forced christianity to confront its own sexism and racism with major results. Two significant scholarly liberation theologians taught and published at YDS for decades: Letty Russell and Sr. Margaret Farley.

    PROCESS THEOLOGY–created by Alfred North Whitehead and others –has forced a consideration of the possibility that
    whatevrer the “Divine” is, it is in process of evolving, much like humanity: in fact that the two evolutions are dependent on one another. Randolph Crump Miller , who taught and published at the Divinity School for fifty years, was a nationally recognized exponent of Process Theology.

    Thw whole concept of what God IS, is actually an open and ongoing debate. It isn’t settled at all, just because folks in sandwich boards on sidewalks think it is.

    Sorry I was grumpy. Ate too much SPAM.

    PK

  • Recent Alum

    Jesse Morrell >>>>>>>>>>>>>> Paul Keane.

  • I <3 satire

    I’m still waiting for it to come out that this was an elaborately awesome Pundits prank. I mean come on – a sandwich board with “Obama Voters” and “Feminists”? That’s something they would do on the Colbert Report. Way too ridiculous to be taken seriously – this has satirical mockery written all over it.

  • PK

    #16

    Quite accurate continuum.

  • Recent Alum

    Liberation theology is to legitimate theology what critical legal studies is to legitimate legal thought.

  • Lib

    Liberation theology may not be “legitimate” to the creedalists, but without it Martin Luther King Jr. would never have translated his beliefs into non-violent civil disobedience; women would not be ordained; and Bishop Robinson would not be a Bishop.

    PK

    PS

    Without Process Theology (also not “legitimate” to the creedalists) human kind would still be labelled “sinners” and the self-improvement movements (from 12-step programs to transcendental meditation)would be their bastard offspring.

    Obeisance to the arbiters of “legitimacy” is a form of intellectual enslavement.

    PK

  • Yale 08

    @#20,

    Did Liberation Theology also make MLK cheat on his wife?

    Women are ordained like dressing up in leotards makes me a ballerina.

    “Bishop” Robinson is only a spiritual leader in the insane asylum in which Paul Keane dwells.

  • PK

    Childish. Beneath a Yale undergraduate’s dignity.

  • @PK’s original comment

    Dear Mr PK,
    I found your first comment rather unfair. To bring up the long, complicated, and admittedly political creation of the modern New Testament and point to two random verses to demonstrate a so called self righteousness and intolerance was not at all intellectually responsible. It was akin to bringing up the now infamous sacrifice of Isaac or the “hardening” of pharoahs heart to say that God himself cares not for human will or love. Some things require significant work to interpret correctly and I would wager that you have done that work and do not wholly believe your own words. If your idea of the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were entirely defensible, would the Catholic church not have chosen different gospels to dispel it long ago when they assembled their bible? There are many different systems of relating to problematic passages within the bible, and I firmly believe neither of the passages you quoted demonstrate the negative qualities you claimed. And I am equally sure you were aware of alternate interpretations when you listed them. That doesn’t seem entirely kosher, if you would allow me to mix metaphors.

  • De-saccharinization

    # 23

    I accept your criticism.

    I have a trouble with the saccharinization of Jesus and I guess I go overboard to point out the opposite. I randomly googled those quotes under “angry Jesus” BTW.

    I think if Joshua ben Joseph could have been tape-recorded he would have sounded more like the yakkity,abrasive, incessantly,insistant Yasir Arafat (in tone and volume, NOT in content) than the Mr. Rogers velvet voiced version of Jesus modern American christians seem to want. Remember Arafat? His voice was like fingernails on a chalk board.

    And speaking of Arafat: if you look at the Shroud of Tourin (sp?) it is clear that Jesus (AKA Joshua ben Jospeh)looked more like Arafat than he did Mel Gibson’s strong jawed, high cheekboned savior in The Passion. In fact, the Jesus of history (which Albert Schweitzer had so much trouble locating anywhere ,textually or archeologically) probably had browner skin than Barack Obama’s. Of course even if the Shroud is a forgery, the forgers portrayed jesus as a short, slack-jawed, oval faced
    bown skinned semite.

    As for content: I tend toward Bertrand Russell: “Any religion which introduced the notion of eternal damnation into the world is evil and I cannot subscibe to it.” I might soften that from “evil” to
    “has caused incalcuable anxiety and suffering”. In a way, my blog post on “Bring Hell Back (on Steroids)” aknowledges that the secularization of christianity has all but abolished hell as a reality. Nobody really fears it any more, at least not until three minutes before death.

    ETERNAL HELLFIRE! That’s pretty serious stuff.

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. Sorry I’m so apparently non-negotiable on this matter of “saccharinization.”

    Happy Reading Week, whether faculty or student.

    PK

  • http://boundandunbound.blogspot.com

    PS to #23:
    I have written a serious, thoughtful paper on the Abraham/Isaac story. It is called The Bound and the Unbound: Oedipus, Isaac and Jesus. It can be found at http://boundandunbound.blogspot.com

    You are the first respondent in dozens of YDN go-arounds, who I think might actually care to read it. I do not recommend it to everyone. Indeed it has been in my papers in Sterling’s Manuscripts and Archives “Kent State Collection” for 30 years. I just exhumed it last year.
    PK

  • Atheist

    To the original authors, thanks.

  • Alabaster9

    Ugh.

    If you, the members of YCF and YSC, truly believe that belief in Jesus Christ is necessary to salvation (as I know many of you do from personal conversations), then I submit that it is YOU who are acting in a decidedly un-Christian manner by not doing everything you can to turn your fellow Yalies towards God.

    Instead, you pen an editorial criticizing an honest man for saying openly what you think in silence – that the wide majority of Yalies practice sin without remorse or regret.

    As for shouting down, I only saw Yale students shout down Mr. Morrell, not vice versa.

    I know some of you authors, and I’m sad to say that this article is a piece of intellectual cowardice.

  • jglc

    Thanks for taking the time to read.

  • SAVED?

    Salvation? Saved from what? The hell created by writers in the first or second century to help launch a fledgling religion?

    There are christian religions today which do not include this concept of eternal damnation in their belief system. Try Unitarianism for one.

    Please don’t tell me Unitarians are not christians because they do not believe in the trinity, another political compromise in the early centuries of C.E. to incorporate polytheism and monotheism simultaneously into one (and three!).

    If you want to subordiante your mind to Doctrinalists or a Creedalists then you can spend your life in terror of eternal damnation.

    Most people prefer to go into therapy and emancipate themselves from such masochistic choices.

    In fact, a cynical (and anti-semitic) view of the entire post-freudian world is that psychotherapeutic movements are a Jewish conspircy to undo the damage which 1900 years os self-flagellating christian hellfire has done to the human psyche.

    Why would anyone use his or her own mind to enslave themselves to fear and anxiety and call that being saved?

    PK
    http:theantiyale.blogspot.com

  • jglc

    Alabaster9;

    I do believe that belief in Christ is necessary to salvation. But what I distinctly disagree with is the idea that the way to “turn [my] fellow Yalies to God” or to demonstrate His love for others on this campus is to shout accusations and labels at random pedestrians. I can’t say whether this approach is effective or not; but I know that, when I examine my most dearly-held beliefs about the person of Jesus Christ, such a way of drawing others’ attention seems inconsistent with the heart of how he engaged with others to demonstrate love and change lives.

    “I know some of you authors, and I’m sad to say that this article is a piece of intellectual cowardice.”

    I’m sorry that you think so; I still stand by it, though. Whether I know you already, or don’t yet, I would appreciate hearing more feedback on the piece on a personal level. You can contact me through facebook, in the Yale alumni network.

  • Re saved

    While JE stands as a monument to a man who made believers quake in their boots through the fear of hell, modern faiths ( most notably the Catholic church) after Vatican II have tried to show that love not fear should motivate. That forgiveness comes perfectly when one is penitent for having failed to love properly and only imperfectly when one turns from evil because of fear some Gehenna or punishing hell. Yet hell, pain, and sin remain as the inexorable consequence of our free will. There is clearly evil on earth. If we have an eternal soul, it is a tragic necessity that we be free to choose evil forever. That choice is necessary for without choice there can be no love and without that, it is not worth existing.

  • SAVED AGAIN

    #31

    Hell was man-made by writers of the NT in the first century C.E.

    It isnow and has been for centuries a tool of Doctrinalists and Creedalists to bolster the populations of flocks and to thereafter keep flocks in order.

    I have no objection to this cosmic Skinner-Box behavior modification system. It may even work in deterring murder, adultery, theft etc.

    To give this scorching Skinner-Box a divine or supernatural reality is a leap of faith. It has nothing to do with knowledge.

    If one CHOOSES to believe in a triple decker universe with hell as the lowest level, it is a BELIEF not a fact.

    There are however psychological states which give the word “hell” real, personal meaning, which can be called “knowledge” and “fact”.

    Frightening people with religion is cruel (un-christian).

  • Saving Saved AGAIN

    Dear Saved Again,
    The same could be said of Heaven. Is a false carrot not more insidious than a false stick? How much more evil would be the use of love to get people to do your will than just scaring them with hell. I come not from the perspective of who made what and when, but from a philosophical one. If, as most christians believe, there is a Heaven, then philosophically and theologically speaking, it is highly problematic that there is not a hell. Perhaps as several saints thought there are few people there, but free will demands we be able to choose heaven and god over hell, even if we are unworthy to make it there on our own effort. On the matter of fact or belief, one has only to read the skeptics of ancient times to know that evolution is a belief, the big bang is a belief, quantum mechanics is a belief. None are facts. I believe in all of them and I would eat my hat if the first two are proved wrong (I suspect a more complex theory may render quantum mechanics obsolete at least in part). We can know very little for sure (perhaps Descartes demon is fooling us or even Krampas). Even considering the electromagnetic spectrum, we can see and feel so very little of existence, I would be rather hesitant to claim my eyes are more valuable than my brain or my heart or my soul. Fact, as Stephen Colbert says, may be a thing of the gut.

  • Sentio Ergo Fio ( I feel,therefore I Become)

    # 32

    Luring people with a hypothetical paradise is cruel too, no matter what the religion.

    Sort of like Bernie Madoff of the spiritual world; If it’s too good to be true, it ain’t true.

    The best one can do is try to get through the day without hurting others or the self.

    Desacartes tore us apart.

    Process theology puts us back together: Sentio ergo fio (I feel, therefore I become.)

    PK

  • Heavenly HTML (PK)

    So a poster named # 32 Saving Saved AGAIN has challenged me to think about heaven:

    The problem with heaven AKA paradise is that it’s ETERNAL:. Who would want that. What a colossal bore.

    The other problem with heaven is called Survival of the Personality. This presents many problems.

    What about hormones? For so many of us large parts of our personality are governed by or at least shaped by hormones: those things that make us what to mate—or at least unite in a fleshly way. So in this Eternal life, if SEX is excluded, what are hormoneless personalties going to be like? And why would we want to associate with them (an estrogen-less mother, for instance, who didn’t want to “mother” us?).

    Let’s take a real example, the infant son of Jacqueline and President Kennedy, Patrick Kennedy, who died a few days after birth.

    When he is re-uinited with his dead parents and uncles and grandparents, is he going to know THEIR SCARS, of assassinations, adulteries (Grandpa and Gloria Swanson), tragic deaths (Chappaquiddick; JFK Jr. over Martha’s Vineyard), especially Grandma who lived to be 106 or Uncle Ted who saw it all and contributed to some of it?

    If you tell me that in a perfected Eternal life we will ourselves be perfected and our sacrs removed, HOW VERY DULL that life must be.

    Why would a Kennedy clan without its tragedies be at all interesting to each other or even infant Patrick?

    And if you tell me that the infant will be raised to a perfected 30 year-old so he can converse with and understand his relatives, I say HOW SO?

    There is no TIME in ETERNITY. Thirty years cannot exist. And even if they could exist, WHAT thirty years would it be? From 1962-92? Thirty years as an AMERICAN , white, male? Or thirty years as a hormoneless, angelic, entity?

    The whole thing is way too messy. I think a perfect creator would have done much better than create such a bland, eventless, timeless, celestial corral.

    Sorry. Doesn’t interest me. Doesn’t lure me, and it’s opposite (hell) doesn’t generate my respect.

    Both probably came from human inferences made from glorious sunsets and sunsrises in the heavens and volcanic turbulances in the earth: hence the copernican triple-decker universe of Dante.

    My own belief is that we are all 99.9% invisible atomic particles and will return to such a state–unanimated–for eternity: Much more like a moonbeam than an angel.

    In fact, we might be a kind of atomic HTML while alive which gets written and uploaded on a celestial screen minute by minute for our three score years and ten, and then is released by death to the timeless “cloud” which retains it when the keyboarding is terminated.

    PK

  • Yale 08

    I love Paul Keane.

    It is so funny to watch this little man write his ramblings here.

    He is a snowglobe of a person, fully encased by his own bizarre ideas, thinking himself completely unique, yet fully repeating past mistakes as new.

  • Solipsistically Yours

    For more snow from the globe see December 19 post

    “Thornton Wilder’s Empty Stage: Bye, Bye American Pie[ty]”

    http://theantiyale.blogspot.com

  • aarongertler

    I find it interesting that Jesse himself wasn’t quoted in the article. He’s quite friendly if you just talk to him. We had a decent-length conversation about how he became Christian, but I didn’t have time to figure out how he came to misinterpret Jesus so badly.