Students walking to and from classes last week likely encountered a large blue and white board on the mall, featuring an elephant surrounded by handwritten messages. The sign was placed there by the Christian student group CRU aiming to address what they consider to by an “elephant in the room,” and attempting to make amends for actions of other Christians.
On Thursday, April 7, the same students met in Reid Hall to for a discussion about Christianity, sharing situations where the religion has been harmful. “Christianity has hurt people,” said Brandon Meadors, a pre-business student involved in the discussion. “That’s not what Christianity is about.” Another speaker explained that the students who organized the discussion feel that some Christians use the religion to “condemn and judge,” citing how people have used their religion, specifically Christianity, as an argument against the legalization of gay marriage. The hope of the group is to create a dialogue about the almost taboo topic, or to address the elephant in the room.
“We, as Christians, have hurt you, and that is not what Jesus is about,” another speaker said. This was the theme for the event, as people got up to tell stories where they either witnessed or heard of hurtful things others did in the name of Christianity. After telling the story, they apologized on behalf of Christians, and went on to say how these actions are not a part of the religion.
At the end of the evening, student Rikki Stift took the stage to tell her story, and to further elaborate on the message of Jesus. “We are trying to ease tension. We just want to love people,” she said afterwards.
In addition to the students who organized the “elephant in the room” discussion, there were many unaffiliated students in the crowd. One of the students, Robert Putnam, was happy with the event and message. “It is a really cool thing that they put on,” he said. He also suggested that others “chat with people and see both viewpoints.”
Dean of Students Matt Caires was supportive of what the group was doing. “I appreciate that they are out here stating their views,” he said on Thursday morning. He brought up freedom of speech and how campus is a great place for it, no matter what students believe.