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.