CICCU: The Morning After

In response to the article published earlier this week, the CICCU Vice-President NAOMI WOOD has come out in defence of Christianity in Cambridge.

atheist Cambridge's Inter-Collegiate Christian Union CICCU death In defence of CICCU jesus Nick Clegg Sex STAG taylor swift

It’s Sunday lunchtime. I’m sitting in church, eating lasagne. This cannot be CICCU (Cambridge’s Inter-Collegiate Christian Union), which hasn’t run an event at Sunday lunchtime for over a decade. It is, however, StAG, one of at least twelve churches and various chapels in Cambridge which are attended by CICCU members.

Not only did Catherine and I attend the same church event:  I, too, have something to confess. And, if the comments on her article are anything to go by, it is a far more serious confession than any of hers: I am the Vice-President of CICCU and feel passionately about the importance of the various events and groups that it runs.

My first draft of this article began on the defensive.  A quick search of our database of talks reveals that since Catherine and I arrived in Cambridge two years ago, CICCU has run five talks on the topic of sex and relationships out of over two hundred. Look at the scare-mongering! Can we do The Tab for libel? If Daddy had a lawyer, I would be reaching for the phone.

But of course even a legal victory could not dispel the unpleasant, pressurised atmosphere that people have come to associate with our (admittedly unfortunate) acronym. Nor could it mitigate the hurt and anger of people who have felt and continue to feel judged or belittled by Christians.

So first of all, I am genuinely sorry to anybody who feels this way. An apology is always a good PR move: think of Kanye West’s to Taylor Swift, or Nick Clegg’s to a fuming student body. But this apology is offered not under the pressure of a scheming manager nor in a desperate attempt to regain political popularity. I am truly sorry because I believe in a Jesus whose example leaves no room for the self-righteous behaviour that Catherine’s article so rightly condemns.

It is because I know the love that God has for each of them that I am delighted to have such close atheist, agnostic and Jewish friends. My friends are not mindless bodies, who I cook dinner for in order to indoctrinate later. Nor do I listen to their views on sex, death and the universe only to buy myself time to deliver a sermon from the Bible.

Lots of my friends who aren’t Christians are wiser, more interesting and more loving than I am, and I don’t find that a surprise at all. I believe every human has worth, every human has dignity, and every human has valuable insights into what is good and right and true.

Of course I would love them to know Jesus for themselves.  My whole life is based around a conviction that Jesus died and rose again in history, bringing me the certain and joyful hope of life beyond death and the pleasure of knowing God in this life. It’s out of a wish to share this good news with the people I love that I want to encourage them to consider who Jesus is. But even if it were possible to know that they were never going to believe the claims of Jesus, I would still count it an absolute privilege and blessing to know them now.

It is these same beliefs and motivations that lie behind every event that CICCU runs. We don’t exist out of a desire to appear superior, to force Christianity down people’s throat or to condemn anyone’s lifestyle. We exist to engage students in Cambridge with the beautiful person of Jesus Christ. We want to do this in a way that reflects his character, respectfully, joyfully and lovingly, so please tell us when we don’t.

This is why, for example, at our weekly Friday Lunchtime Talks, we don’t just have an expert speaker talk on an objection that people have to Christianity and then consider the case closed, objectives met, atheists properly silenced. Instead, we have a chance for open discussion and debate, where opposing views are encouraged, expressed and engaged with. Or next term, we’ll be putting on a weekly discussion group, where, if previous years are anything to go by, people who aren’t Christians will substantially outnumber the Christians.

Yes, three times in two years we have talked about sex – and what a great topic, so central to the human condition! We’ve also discussed suffering, science, purpose in life, other religions, the nature of faith, satisfaction, hell, the reliability of the Gospel documents and numerous other questions which have consumed millennia of human thought.

So there. The Vice-President of CICCU thinks that it offers great opportunities for anyone to find out about, discuss and disagree with the big questions of life. Another Tab contributor disagrees. Luckily, no Cambridge student has to make any decision based on two articles. Our events are all public and free: the doors are open, both to walk in and to walk out.

Questioning our own beliefs is a great thing. I’m glad I’ve been forced to do so on multiple occasions. And there is no place better to do so than here in Cambridge.