Christ! Enough is enough
I’ve noticed a disturbing epidemic on the UA campus. I’ll be walking to class or a library, perfectly content to mind my own business and suddenly, a stranger will cross my path.
“Hey, can I ask you a few questions?”
Their expressions are earnest, and I almost always assume they just need help with a project for a statistics class.
I’m wrong. Instead, I get asked a barrage of leading questions, aimed to catch me off-guard and shock me into learning more.
“What do you think you need to do to get to heaven? Would it surprise you that being a good person isn’t good enough?”
Then they ask for my name and contact information. The location of these interactions changes, so it’s difficult to differentiate between people wanting to talk about religion and normal students needing responses for school projects. I’ve been approached during the day and even after dark, when I don’t see the people wanting to talk to me until they are literally in front of my face.
However, the script that these people use never really seems to vary. They fire questions at you and hardly pause to listen to what you’re saying. A peaceful, productive conversation is not the point; getting your contact information is.
I have absolutely nothing against being proud of one’s religion and trying to promote it to others. But, in my experience, the people around campus take it too far.
For starters, they’re purposefully vague in order to draw you in — they don’t say “Can I tell you a bit about my religion? Would you mind talking about the Bible?”
Instead, they say they only want to ask you some questions. You have no idea what to expect.
If you’re like me, you might feel uncomfortable breaking the conversation once it begins. Society’s basic social code discourages us from simply ignoring people or telling them to be quiet. If you generally try to be a polite, respectful person, turning away from people feels rude.
Are we technically able to disengage and quickly keep walking? Sure, but when it’s dark outside and few other people are around, escaping can be difficult. The questions are asked so quickly that it’s hard to even voice an excuse to leave. As a result, some might feel awkward, trapped and even slightly scared.
Dean Saxton’s antics are widely known and disliked around campus. But, I think the quieter efforts of people to pop-up behind bushes and ask questions about religion can often be more harmful — or at least more off-putting.
Saxton yells at students outside the Student Union Memorial Center, but he doesn’t typically ask for names and contact information. These religious questioners do; they single people out and target them individually. They make it difficult for us to say no without feeling like we’re deviating from societal expectations.
Also, many of the people who use these methods on the UA Mall are likely not innocuous. Last year, after feeling unable to decline giving my phone number to a particularly impassioned girl, I searched for the church she mentioned — Faith Christian Church — online. I found an entire website dedicated to helping victims recover from the church’s cult-like practices.
Of course, everyone promoting religion on campus is not part of a cult. Still, there should also be more transparency regarding the way these individuals approach students.
I have nothing against religion or spirituality. I support free speech, and I understand that these people have the right to ask us whatever questions they want, at whatever time they see fit.
However, we have rights too. As average people, simply wanting to walk around campus, we should not be afraid to decline speaking to strangers that approach us. The advice is rudimentary, but it’s true: If you feel uncomfortable, just say no.
As for the people doing the questioning, I invite them to set up a booth on the mall with their messages, rather than simply standing around the SUMC without any sort of notice.
With a more formal, open booth, there would be more transparency about what was being said and done. That way, those interested in hearing the messages would be able to, and those who are not would have the opportunity to avoid them. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
— Brittany Rudolph is a sophomore studying English and art history. Follow her @DailyWildcat