This isn’t an issue that I’ve read a great deal about. Certainly in Britain (and perhaps the rest of Europe), there is not a lot of evangelism on campus. Below is a guest post on feminismandreligion.com about the real interests behind such a movement on campus: patriarchy and the subordination of women. It’s ironic, then, that it seems to be thriving in supposed “seats of learning”.
A good evangelist, especially in college ministries, acts as if there is no agenda to his or her evangelism. It’s very, “Do you want a cup of coffee? How are your classes going?” with a lot of understanding head nodding. The goal is to stay cool and not seem threatening (even though eternal damnation is at stake). A good evangelist then finds the opportunity to advance on whatever personal problem the interlocutor divulges, and the solution from the evangelist remains constant: “You need to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.”
A ‘good evangelist’ does not believe this interaction is an agenda at all, as evidenced by new slogans popping up in evangelist circles. There is “Jesus without Religion,”“I am Second,”“H20,”“Freedom Churches,” etc. All of these evangelist slogans attempt to portray “real” Christianity as something other than doctrine, simply a relationship with God, a freeing experience, a nonthreatening choice.
There are of course problems with this position. Some are obvious and practical; the printing press was invented in the 15th century, so bible-only, church-free Christianity is only possible on the backs of technology and literacy education, not Jesus. Other problems are theoretical; I argue that the bible is fundamentally a doctrinal set of rules, so doctrine-free religion is an oxymoron. Finally, some problems are ideological; there is complex ideology to evangelism, but one to frequently go unnoticed is its heavily patriarchal agenda.
When I use the term ‘patriarchy’, I do not only mean that men are the ones to take on leadership roles. I also mean that in a patriarchal system, women are subordinated and oppressed both knowingly and unknowingly, through economics, politics, and cultural discourse. I also do not use the term neutrally, as if patriarchy and matriarchy are equal systems that can be implemented either/or, unproblematically. When I use the term ‘patriarchy’, I am referring to a system that advances men’s interests to the detriment of both women and men as individuals, and also nation-states and the environment.
The fashion of today’s evangelism is this low-key, “come as you are” vibe, often with “hipster” inflections in order to appeal to a mainstream demographic while appearing outside of the mainstream. The film God’s Not Dead, and most college ministries, market Christianity in fashionable ways that make it “feel” nonthreatening and fun, with their focus on camping trips, sports, and coffee shop conversations.
Rest: The Hidden Curriculum in Evangelism: Patriarchy by Erin Lord Kunz.