CU: Worth Investigating?

Opinionated columnist Tom Robbins explains why CU’s hoodie-wearing do-gooders send the wrong message

Look, everyone’s passionate about something. 

For example, I’m a big fan of the Caffe Gusto at the top of Queen’s Road. They offer a wide range of superb £1.50 baguettes (including one of the best coronation chicken sandwiches I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting).

Better still, the shop is manned by two of the most fantastically rude Eastern European women I’ve ever met, meaning I leave every time with both a sandwich and a hilarious anecdote about their borderline abusive manner.

Caffe Gusto: spread the word

That’s not to say I go around telling strangers about how wonderful Caffe Gusto is, or hold lunchtime meetings with supposedly ‘free food’ and ‘an open dialogue about Caffe Gusto and how it can enhance your life’.

I also don’t wear a hoodie which expresses my adoration for Gal (the owner of the Caffe Gusto at the top of Queen’s Road), even though he used to give me free muffins in exchange for the (frankly pathetic) loyalty I offer his franchise.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

I’ve got nothing against Christians. Some of them are lovely people, perhaps mostly by fluke. But I do have a lot of beef with the Bristol Christian Union.

Who can blame me for having it in for an organisation that makes Bristol look like some sort of backward, conservative Christian backwater?

I could feel a lot of things about the Bristol CU. Resentment, annoyance, irritation, fury, even embarrassment. But more strongly than any of these I feel amused by them and their hilariously bad PR.

You won’t have to think back far to remember the last CU PR fiasco. But instead of worrying about the perils of women speaking, they should perhaps be more concerned about the people who are writing their slogans.

Following their ludicrous “Dare to Believe” slogan is the equally gag-inducing “Jesus: Worth Investigating”, an unintentionally ironic slogan given the CU were deemed ‘worth investigating’ by UBU over their exclusion of female speakers.

Also worth investigating: Tesco burgers and Jimmy Saville

At first sight the purpose of these woolly sandwich boards seems obvious. They indoctrinate (although I’m sure the CU would prefer the term “enlighten”), boost their membership and convert a few more heathens in exchange for brownie points from God.

But I think they serve a subtler and perhaps even more disturbing purpose: they alienate. People wearing those jumpers might as well be radioactive the way non-CU members stay away from them.

Nothing says “I’m incapable of rational sane conversation” like an “I Love Jesus” hoodie.

They keep at bay the wide variety of different and interesting people with a mix of backgrounds, world views and beliefs whom you meet at university and allow only for interaction with your own kind.

Adherents are confined to contact with only the narrow sliver of student population we call the Christian Union (which as almost any Christian will tell you isn’t even representative of Christians. My source for this? I asked a guy called Christian).

The result? An increasingly isolated and detached society of people who are completely unwilling to hear the views of anyone else. As soon as there is publicly worn uniform, we’re entering cult territory.

I know I started this article light-heartedly, but I think the Student Union needs to take a good long look at what they want a religious society at the university to represent.

Should it be somewhere for people of similar backgrounds to meet, a point of contact for the like-minded and a support network for people who are increasingly in a minority?

Because all I see in the Christian Union is a troubling missionary cult.