Here’s my Peak article that ran on February 28th regarding Jesus Week at SFU.
Lying for Jesus
You may not have heard, but last week was proclaimed “Jesus Week” by the Christian student groups on campus. The week featured a variety of events for these evangelists to spread their faith.
On Wednesday they put together a panel of four SFU professors to explore questions about Jesus. Unfortunately, the panel was dominated by white Christian men, none of whom were theologians, religious studies professors, or even historians. To speak about religion and history, the best professors SFU’s Christian clubs could find were two mathematicians, an economist, and a political scientist affiliated with the right-wing Fraser Institute.
Yet, despite these lacklustre qualifications, the Christian ad-machine was in full force with posters displaying quotes by Katy Perry, Bono, Albert Einstein, and Richard Dawkins. Unfortunately, only half of these quotes were honestly chosen. While she gave up gospel singing to pursue stardom, both Katy Perry and Bono are at least nominally Christian and definitely theists. The same can’t be said for the other two spokespeople.
Einstein’s poster sports the quote: “No one can read the gospels without feeling the presences of Jesus. His personality pulsates with every word. No myth is filled with such life.” While a true quote, Einstein was merely conveying respect for the Christian myths. He later made his view very transparent, stating: “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”
Misquoting Einstein tends to be popular among Christians who desperately hope to add the credibility of an agnostic Jewish physicist to their arsenal, but as with any lie by omission, this is dishonest and un-Christian.
But the dishonesty goes deeper with their quote from Richard Dawkins, snipped from his satirical article “Atheists for Jesus” in which he stated, “[Jesus was] . . . a charismatic young preacher who advocated generous forgiveness, [he] must have seemed radical to the point of subversion. No wonder they nailed him,” which neglects the fact that the actual point of the article was to suggest that, were he alive today, Jesus would likely have been an atheist.
Buried on one of their many Facebook pages is the explanation that all quotes are chosen to show how Jesus’ teachings have reached and touched us all. Yet, when taken out of context and plastered across campus they appear as little more than desperate attempts to steal endorsements.
But wait, there’s more. Friday featured Kirk Durston, a recent PhD graduate of biophysics from the University of Guelph, attempting to rebut Stephen Hawking’s recent book The Grand Design. Hawking’s book argued in laymen terms how the universe could feasibly arise without God.
Never mind how disconnected modern cosmology and biophysics are: academic qualifications are apparently unnecessary during Jesus Week. Durston continues to argue that evolution is too complicated to happen and has previously suggested that genocide is just peachy if God Himself legitimately tells us to commit it. Someone who has failed to grasp the basics of evolution from first year biology thinks he knows better than the world’s preeminent astrophysicist? And here I was thinking Christians were supposed to be modest.
From the crosses that adorn the relic SFU crest, to Christmas and Easter vacations, Christianity is deep-rooted in our culture. I really have to question whether last week was at all successful at making even one person aware of Jesus who had never heard of him before February 14.
It’s generated two responses so far: David Minor’s Jesus is not a four letter word [7 March] and Kristen Soo’s Jesus’ message can be for anybody [14 March]. Also, it got the following responses in the “Reader Comments” (aka letters section)
Ian Bushfield’s opinion piece ‘Lying for Jesus’ is one of those bizarre ramblings reminiscent of Gadahfi’s recent speeches.
Bushfield presents himself as a champion of truth, yet writes an article replete with misrepresentations and sketchy half-truths.
He did not attend my lecture on Hawking’s and Mlodinow’s Grand Design. Instead, he made up an absurd report, throwing in words like ‘evolution’ and ‘genocide’ that had no association with the lecture.
It appears the ‘genocide’ comment was obtained from a gross misrepresentation originating out of an atheist blog a few years ago, which Bushfield seems to have uncritically swallowed as gospel to spice up his rather dodgy article. The actual lecture presented last week reviewed some of the major ideas advanced by Hawking and Mlodinow in their recent book Grand Design.
– Kirk Durston
Taken out of context, the Einstein quote does make it sound as if he believed the gospels to be true. It is misleading.
You claim “everything [most SFU students] have heard [of Jesus] is cast in a negative light”, despite that mainstream media and North American society as a whole are still pretty Christian-friendly.
Growing up in Canada, I certainly heard more good things about Christianity than bad, and I bet it was the same for most SFU students. University is one of the few settings in which people freely but intelligently discuss and criticize Christianity, and Bushfield’s concerns over the methods used to convey Jesus Week messages are a legitimate part of such discussions.
If Jesus week really were an honest “invitation to dialogue”, perhaps its supporters shouldn’t rush to accuse students of being part of some evil Christianity-bashing movement when they speak up.
– Monica W.