UCSB’s Real Life chapter embarked on a new campaign Monday aimed at confessing the many wrongs perpetrated in the name of Christian values.
The organizers are using the color red – in the form of shirts that say “I Confess,” signs all over campus and life-sized enclosed “confession booths” in front of the Arbor and the UCen – to attract attention to the campaign, which will culminate Thursday at Real Life’s “Confessions of a Modern Christian” event. According to UCSB alumnus and event organizer Brett Jensen, the make-shift confessionals allow members of the public to listen to Real Life members and staff confess their wrongdoings and shortcomings as Christians.
Real Life staff member Josh Thomas said the group was motivated to create the confession booths and hold “Confessions of a Modern Christian” in order to start dialogue about the many wrongs committed throughout history that were based on religious justification, while also promoting knowledge of the lessons of Jesus Christ.
“We want to confess two things,” Real Life staff member Josh Thomas said. “Firstly, a lot of what has been done in Jesus’ name was wrong, and secondly, that this is also about the good that Jesus has done.
Thursday’s “Confessions” presentation, which will be held in I.V. Theater at 8 p.m., will feature slam poetry, music and a monologue by Real Life Director Ken Virzi.
“I want to talk about my sins and the sins of other Christians,” Virzi said. “I’ll probably focus on historical, current day and personal confessions.”
Real Life members are also urging students and the public to write down their own confessions on small pieces of paper with the phrase “I Confess…” printed at the top, so they can later be posted on the side of the confession booths on campus for others to read, Jensen said.
According to Jensen, fellow Real Life member Josh Waidley originally suggested the idea of confession booths to the group’s members
“There’s a lot of almost hateful politics associated with the church,” Waidley, a third-year English major said. “Christ is love and sometimes we don’t love enough.”
Real Life’s campaign is partially a response to events on campus last week that generated many angry responses – and perhaps some misinterpretations of Christian principles – from a number of UCSB students.
The said events occurred throughout the day last Wednesday, when three men carrying signs with slogans like “Repent Sinner Trust Jesus” appeared in the Arbor and proceeded to publicly condemn certain categories of people and argue loudly with students who responded to their claims. The self-proclaimed “confrontational evangelists” said their own methods of proselytizing were mainly focused on a discussion of sin.
However, according to Thomas, the overall response to the men with the signs did have a positive affect on the campaign’s progress – even though the rhetoric on the signs may have been shocking, he said.
“It seems to make people receptive to our campaign,” Thomas said. “Students’ guards are up, but as we talk, they melt away.”
Jensen believes the type of doctrine exemplified by the confrontational evangelists is addressed by Real Life within the focus of their campaign.
“The sign people are one group we could apologize for,” Jensen, who graduated in 2006 with a mathematics degree, said.
However, James Blau, a third-year pharmacology major who read some of the “confessions” posted on the booths yesterday, said he felt that Real Life was sending mixed messages to all those exposed to any part of their campaign.
“The confessions on the booths just seem like mainstream Christians making their faith known,” Blau said. “But the shirts rebel against fundamental Christian doctrine.”
Waidley said that his hope for the “I Confess” campaign is to change common perceptions held by both Christians and others about Christ and Christianity.
“The perception that Christians don’t love people really, really bothered me.” Waidley said. “I want to see people get interested in Christ and not reject him because of his name.”