Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Editorial: Proselytizers in CSL cause student discomfort, raise questions over presence

Earlier this week, students in the CSL and the Brew by the Slough encountered a group of older Christian men distributing small copies of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. These men were aggressively stopping and offering the books to students in two separate locations, both heavy traffic areas in one of the most popular locations on campus.
Allowing this group to locate themselves outside the CSL, the one place on campus that a majority of students will go at some point during the day in order to eat, made it impossible to avoid them.
Augustana is a Christian and Lutheran college, and it can be assumed that these men were Gideons based on the kind of Bibles they were distributing. However, their presence on campus was felt by many to be invasive and affronting. The nature of the group is also a point of concern for a progressive Christian campus that Augustana professes to be.
The Gideons are an association of exclusively men, of evangelical or Protestant Christian faith, who must be recommended by their pastors to join the association. According to the website for the association, businessmen and professional men aged 21 or older are the only people eligible to join. Their stated purpose is to “act as a missionary arm of the church.”
Excluding women from ministry is an outdated practice. The ELCA, the official tradition of Augustana College, has included women in its ministry since its inception in 1988. Allowing an exclusively male religious association to proselytize on campus seems to be a step away from the doctrine of equality supported by the college.
Additionally, a large amount of students on campus do not identify with a specific religion, despite the fact that Augustana is a traditionally Christian school. Respecting freedom of religion is important, and surely factored in to the decision to allow the Gideons on school property and distribute their Bibles.
Respecting the religious beliefs – or lack thereof –  already held by students is an important part of that freedom. The purpose of a missionary organization is to convert others to their religion, and the vehicle of conversion for the Gideon Association is through their Bible distribution. It was an irresponsible and invasive decision to allow the Gideons on campus in such a prominent location.

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Editorial: Proselytizers in CSL cause student discomfort, raise questions over presence