On Campus Crusade’s Bait-and-Switch Tactics

Congratulations to Campus Crusade for Christ on making Markwell famous at Northwestern University in 2012. Or infamous, depending on who you ask.

If you thought your days of glaring peacefully at a blank sidewalk on campus had returned after the Associated Student Government elections, and the recent spurts of rain, you were wrong.

With videos, T-shirt sales, YouTube videos, and chalk and flyers plastered all over campus, Cru has launched a viral campaign – or crusade, rather.

It isn’t anything new, as the campaign has been adapted by Cru campus groups for more than a decade, featuring a particular group member as a central figurehead. According to strategy documents available on CruPress, an online information clearinghouse and resource aggregate for the organization, the bright shirts, slogan, and statements of faith are all central elements.

At NU, it’s Matthew Markwell’s own statement of faith and Cru’s approach that’s sparking discussion and even ire. And as a proud, progressive Christian, I can’t say I’m jibing so much.

After seeing a ground chalking near the NU Library entrance, I Googled “I Agree with Markwell,” unsure about its meaning. And, unexpectedly, I found videos from students and a statement of faith from a McCormick senior detailing his belief in Christian faith. Putting two and two together based on Facebook posts I’d seen before, I realized this was a message from Cru. Videos posted on the site all fall in line with a central narrative, “being good isn’t good enough.”

Six students share their testimonies, yet no stance on Christian doctrine or even the teachings of Jesus are discussed. Rather, they state their agreement with Markwell and almost identically discuss a variety of experiences, including obsession with overachievement and perfectionism, looking to others’ approval for self-validation and the resulting “brokenness” and “emptiness” they felt.

And that’s where these videos end.

What isn’t detailed is what specifically makes them feel so empty. It goes unexplained by these individuals and, to be fair, it’s really not anyone else’s business. But when one puts forth a testimony that seeks to explain his or her faith, it’s going to get deeply personal in many respects. And the videos take the viewer no deeper than one united, controlled message about how “being good isn’t good enough.”

What seems to be implied is that the void was filled through their proclaimed faith in God through Jesus, and their agreement with how Markwell positions it.

Yet Markwell’s positioning of his faith, along with the testimonies, reflects an overall clever bait-and-switch strategy employed by the campaign.

The bait? Simple. It comes in two forms.

First, the very campaign itself focuses on an agreement with Markwell, but encountering an “I Agree with Markwell” T-shirt or chalking doesn’t bring immediate clarity to what’s being agreed with. It strikes curiosity and interest at first, and it seems completely benign. That’s until you ask someone wearing the T-shirt, talk over lunch with a friend who’s aware, or you Google it like I did. And that’s where the switch comes in – when you realize that its a campaign rooted in Christian evangelism.
Second, with the videos, it’s no secret that many students at NU share a similar experience. Many of us went through hell and high water to attain high GPAs and standardized test scores and leadership in extracurricular activities, among other impressive items meriting admission into a prestigious institution of higher learning. Of course, many students can empathize.
But it’s unclear how the larger narrative translates into agreement with Markwell being the alternative to emptiness and despair.  And in order to know what their agreement with Markwell actually means, one must look to Markwell’s statement.

The very statement, and the tactics associated with making it known, explains a growing swell of resentment among various constituencies across campus, with expected and perhaps unintended consequences.

For starters, NU’s Secular Student Alliance has experienced an uptick in membership as a result of Cru’s campaign.“A lot of NU is fairly apathetic in terms of where they fall on faith or non-belief,” said Weinberg sophomore Kate Stewart, SSA’s incoming president and former Daily staffer. “It’s gotten people talking, but it’s gotten people really involved in their non-belief.”

Another online site has developed in response to Cru’s campaign, called “I Disagree With Markwell.” The creators, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Daily on Wednesday that they felt it was important to create a counter initiative.“At first, it seemed like harmless discussion but then it went overboard when they started spewing their propaganda all over campus,” they said.

And in an interesting twist, memes utilizing Markwell’s Facebook profile pictures have been turned into topical satire. One that’s circulating features Markwell posing with what appears to be an assault rifle and rabbits he hunted and killed.

In all fairness, I’m sure Markwell was ready for the ridicule. Indeed, the CruPress “I Agree with…” strategy document cautions Cru members that they will be ridiculed and to choose someone that can handle this with humility and who the group believes lives out a good example of a Christian life. And that’s something various Cru members have emphasized.

In an interview with The Daily, Weinberg senior and Cru member Meghan Kollbocker detailed that the point of picking out one specific member was to spark discussion.“Someone might look at my shirt and see that if it said Jesus, they’d think they already knew,” she said.

Interestingly enough, while Northwestern’s chapter and others have called themselves Cru for a number of years, the larger international organization decided to officially follow suit last summer. You may otherwise know the organization by the name Campus Crusade for Christ, but there’s been a bit of a switch in tune. In an interview with ABC News, vice president of U.S. Campus Crusade for Christ Steve Sellers said there were two principal problems with the organization’s name.

While one reason cited the brand’s development outside of campus spaces, the other described the word ‘crusade’ as one that has developed an increasingly negative connotation that seems warlike and gives the impression of forcing Christianity on people.Sellers explained Cru’s name change as a way of shedding the impression that the word ‘crusade’ makes it appear that Christianity is being forced onto people by the organization.“We believe Jesus is the most attractive person in history, so we don’t need to force him on people,” he said.

But apparently the name Jesus isn’t attractive enough to start a discussion. Instead, Markwell’s name and personhood are being employed to draw people into a discussion about Jesus.

The campaign may have had good intentions to raise discussions about the Christian beliefs of Cru members, but the discussion hasn’t been as much about Jesus as Cru members claim. This really has become all about Markwell and all about Cru.

Questions from many curious students have been, “Who is Markwell?” and “Why agree with Markwell?” Other students simply dismiss the flyers and chalking as another flood of campus publicity they’ll remain blissfully ignorant about.

If my writing on this is any indication, the name Markwell and the focus on him has received more focus than Jesus.And what’s more is that the national organization’s website details that dropping ‘Christ’ (along with the word ‘crusade) from the organization’s name was because going simply by Cru “enables us to have discussions about Christ with people who might initially be turned off by a more overtly Christian name,” according to Cru’s website and various reports.

The campaign itself is very overtly Christian, as is the organization’s approach in aggressively advocating its beliefs in a variety of channels internationally. The statement of faith on the website is also quite overt. Overall, the “Markwell” campaign points to a need to deceptively engage otherwise uninterested or apathetic individuals into discussions about Christian faith. While it also galvanizes a base of those who agree with their statement of faith, as positioned through Markwell, it also has the effect of taking a stance implying that those who disagree are somehow lost, jacked up people on the road to damnation.

And it might appear that the campaign isn’t forcing religion onto people, but it has indeed done so. Campus is peppered with ads, classroom chalkboards have been decorated with the slogan, t-shirt sales are happening. It is in-your-face whether you wish for it to be or not.

While the larger Cru organization wishes to disassociate itself with forcing Christianity onto people via the branding alteration, it’s doing just that. As the larger organization engages in bait-and-switch tactics, so does the NU chapter.

Whether desired or not, “I Agree with Markwell” has engaged many on this campus in discussions either about Markwell, religious beliefs or a lack thereof. And, in that respect, Cru’s campaign has been successful.

Personally, I’m not a fan of proselytizing my Christian faith in such a manner. In the meantime, I’m sure my proclaimed (progressive) Christian self isn’t alone in praying for rain.

Note: This is an expanded version of the column in the 4/19 edition of The Daily Northwestern, titled “Markwell, we got issues.” See the printed version via The Daily Northwestern here. For another take on the issue, check out a post from Miriam Mogilevsky at her blog, “Brute Reason,” where the image was obtained. 


25 thoughts on “On Campus Crusade’s Bait-and-Switch Tactics

  1. you’re in reality a excellent webmaster. The site loading speed
    is amazing. It kind of feels that you are doing any distinctive trick.
    Also, The contents are masterpiece. you’ve done a fantastic task
    on this matter!

  2. Well, that bubble witch 2 saga hack is far more
    well-known in casinos on account of their items too.
    Mobile devices have a time when games were simple titles like Snake, Tetris is
    a great way to engage the mind and create more determined participants.

  3. I’m gone to tell my little brother, that he should also pay a quick visit this blog on regular basis to take updated from most recent
    news update.

  4. Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to your blog before but after going through a few of the posts I realized it’s new to me.

    Anyways, I’m definitely pleased I discovered it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!

  5. Thanks for the marvelous posting! I actually enjoyed reading it, you happen to be a great
    author.I will make certain to bookmark your blog and will often come back in the future.
    I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great posts,
    have a nice day!

  6. Aw, this was an exceptionally nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to generate
    a very good article… but what can I say… I hesitate a whole lot and don’t manage to
    get nearly anything done.

  7. The video game, of course, due to lack of job security, no wonder that it is very being able to decide boom
    beach hack according to trainers who are allowed
    to play video games. If you are having a good time playing.
    A study boom beach hack published by Nintendo, Nintendo Wii, XBox,
    PS3 and this is unrestricted download. You can cover up different
    classes of downloadable content and even the most crucial as well as encourage movement.

  8. You actually make it seem really easy with your presentation but
    I find this topic to be actually one thing which I believe I’d never understand.
    It seems too complicated and very large for me. I am having a look forward on your next publish, I
    will try to get the dangle of it!

  9. You train it multiple commands, continue this process slowly to avoid being punished.
    I am not saying that a proper canine citizen. The most significant benefit is that he is going on with all the treats.

  10. Howdy! This blog post couldn’t be written much better!
    Going through this post reminds me of my previous
    roommate! He always kept preaching about this.

    I most certainly will forward this article to him. Fairly certain he’s going
    to have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

  11. Hi, I think your website might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your website in Opera, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has
    some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up!
    Other then that, fantastic blog!

  12. Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of
    the images aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why
    but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and
    both show the same results.

  13. You can follow me for my helpful computer support posts on Ezine and other post-oriented websites.
    It’s a fantastic site and I urge you to check it out for all your
    smartphone developments and hacking requirements.

  14. What’s up to all, because I am genuinely
    eager of reading this web site’s post to be updated on a regular basis.
    It includes pleasant material.

  15. Pretty portion of content. I just stumbled upon your
    website and in accession capital to say that I get in fact enjoyed account your
    weblog posts. Anyway I will be subscribing in your augment or even I achievement you get admission to persistently fast.

  16. Hi there would you mind letting me know which hosting company you’re working with?
    I’ve loaded your blog in 3 completely different
    internet browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot quicker then most.

    Can you suggest a good web hosting provider at a reasonable price?
    Many thanks, I appreciate it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s