After several weeks of collecting material on campus and in Isla Vista, the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship held a video presentation last night about students’ varying views on Jesus.
Presented on the San Nicolas Residence Hall lawn, the film showed interviews held in campus residence halls and Anisq’ Oyo’ Park with 56 random students, each with a different perspective on the central question of faith – and more specifically, on Jesus.
Interviewees’ answers ran the gamut, referring to Jesus as “messenger of God,” “con man,” “sexy,” “religious martyr” or “friend.”
Neil Vanderwoude, a fourth-year philosophy and religious studies major who edited the short film, said ICF members took turns over this past quarter collecting material for the film. Each week, a different group of students was given the video camera to film in their respective halls, or in the case of one group, Anisq’ Oyo’ Park.
The video presentation lasted approximately seven minutes and afterward, participants received free ice cream, Bibles and a brief presentation by Kenneth Brown, a fourth-year film studies major and chapter coordinator for ICF, on his belief in and varying perceptions of Jesus.
Brown said the group created the video to convey a positive image of Jesus. He said he also wanted to give students the chance to discuss their ideas on religion.
Filming almost exclusively in campus residence halls meant that most interviewees were freshmen, Vanderwoude said.
After the film, Brown gave a short talk about preconceptions of Christianity. He said people consider most Christians “extremists” because of events such as the Iraq War, which he said was falsely waged in God’s name.
“I don’t think that’s what [Jesus] is about,” Brown said. “I think he’s about repentance and love and peace. Personally, a majority of my friends aren’t Christian and they like to tell me that. They talk often about the hypocrisy of Christians and they’re not wrong, because there is a lot of hypocrisy in Christianity, and that’s terrible. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.”
ICF bible studies leader and senior religious studies major Rich Sander said he thinks many people have preconceived notions about Jesus that stem from either their upbringing or friends’ opinions.
“Jesus was a great religious teacher and a really cool guy,” Sander said.
After the major events of the evening started to wind down, Brown told attendees to get in small groups to discuss the film. Students such as first-year film studies and history major Adriana Anaya voiced opinions contradicting the majority of those assembled.
“He’s a con man and a Buddhist in his message,” Anaya, who was interviewed in the film, said of Jesus.
Meanwhile, a few passersby expressed dissatisfaction with the event.
First-year statistics major Brandon Sterling said he did not think the San Nicholas lawn was an appropriate location for a religious event.
“I don’t think people need to preach in such an open place,” Sterling said. “It’s ridiculous.”
Vanderwoude said the group conducted a similar assessment of opinions on Christianity three years ago.
“We had done an event just like this my freshman year,” Vanderwoude said. “It is a way [for] a Christian group to get an idea of what people think.”