Christians on Campus: Cult or Genuine Christians?

The Coinage of the Term, Christians on Campus Cult

The May 1, 1990 edition of the student newspaper, The Daily Texan, featured a front page article entitled “Christians on Campus Cult.” Although Leslie Wimberley’s libelous article was filled with serious charges, there was no original research or sources cited that established Christians on Campus as a cult. Furthermore, none of the sources in the article accused Christians on Campus of being a cult. We learned that Leslie was a member of another large, active Christian group on campus, and apparently was motivated by jealousy to disparage her fellow Christians. We cannot know her motive with certainty because she never met with or spoke with our officers or attended any of our events. However, The Austin Chronicle reported that “according to Gardner [former staff of The Daily Texan], the students often wrote articles [for The Daily Texan] that were ‘offensive’ and used the paper as ‘an opportunity to voice something based on personal agenda’” (www.austinchronicle.com/news/2004-08-20/225361/).

The Daily Texan Editors: “We deeply regret the errors in the story”

Because of the false reporting, The Daily Texan published the following apology on May 7, 1990, signed by both the editor, Karen Adams, and the managing director, Kevin McHargue.

…we apologize for any misunderstanding…The word “cult” is used in the headline, although the sources quoted in the article did not call the church [i.e., the church affiliated with Christians on Campus]  a cult. Considering the connotations of that word, we regret its use…We deeply regret the errors in the story, and we hope this clarification will help give our readers a more balanced understanding of the situation.

Persistent Persecution toward Christians on Campus

Sadly, less than one year later, in 1991, Wimberley’s colleague, Rachael Alterman, published another libelous article in the UT student magazine called UtmosT. She did interview a few of the Christians on Campus officers under a pretext of intending to write a positive report concerning the group. When the actual article was published, the officers at Christians on Campus were dismayed by Alterman’s misuse of their interview. Not only were the officers’ inputs used out-of-context, Alterman twisted them to serve her own hidden agenda to slander the group.

Due to the article many genuine Christians involved with Christians on Campus continually received persecution from their friends and families. Heart-wrenching stories were repeated again and again. Christians on Campus endured the recuperations for decades because, even though the UtmosT magazine went out of business soon after the malicious article was published, other Christians cited this article as the main source to voice their own slanderous opinions concerning Christians on Campus.

The Full Unraveling of the False Rumor

After decades of enduring in silence persecution from fellow Christians, Christians on Campus posted at www.christiansoncampus.us the full unraveling of why the Spring 1991 UtmosT article by Rachael Alterman is libelous. This rebuttal serves not as an act of self-justification but as a mere presentation of the truth, the full story of the matter.

A Contradicting Report: Christians on Campus is Not a Cult

On September 2, 2004, a new weekly independent student newspaper serving university students in Austin, The Austin Student, was launched. The Austin Student’s treatment of Christians on Campus diametrically opposed The Daily Texan’s in the following ways. First, in its debut issue it honored Christians on Campus by choosing to feature the group from among the dozens on Christian groups at UT. Second, instead of calling Christians on Campus a cult, it praised the group as Bible-based, Christ-centered, and student-aiding. Third, it acknowledged that many students with Christians on Campus have “a life-altering experience,” not negatively by joining a cult, but positively by coming to Jesus Christ: “for some it’s receiving Jesus for the first time through the Bible…Others come to know the Lord all over again, despite their religious history and become baptized through the organization.”

The Proving of True and False

At The University of Texas at Austin two contrary reports were given: (1) Christians on Campus is a cult, and (2) Christians on Campus is not a cult, but a group of genuine believers in Jesus Christ. Begun in 1973, Christians on Campus is one of the oldest and largest registered UT student Christian organizations. From the Scriptures and church history we know that genuine believers in Jesus Christ will be persecuted. Like the ministers of the New Testament, Christians on Campus’ hundreds of members over the years have endeavored to “commend ourselves as ministers of God in every way… through glory and dishonor, through evil report and good report” (2 Cor. 6:4-8).

However, at the end of the day, there is a proving of what is true and false. When on trial before Felix, the governor, the apostle Paul specifically defended himself against the false accusations which befell him: “Neither are they able to prove to you the things which they now accuse me of” (Acts 24:13). Later before Festus, the apostle Paul was on trial again: “And when he arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many serious charges against him, which they were not able to prove” (Acts 25:7).

By writing such libelous articles Wimberley and Alterman have placed Christians on Campus on trial before the public. Surely, there will be more reports: praise and slander. Nevertheless, as genuine Christians, isn’t it our responsibility to “prove all things; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thes. 5:21)?