My experience of CICCU is one of hate preaching

CICCU’s unholy trinity: intolerance, judgement, and exploitation.

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I have experienced the Cambridge Intercollegiate Christian Union preaching hate. As a Christian, I cannot keep silent about this.

Brought up by open-minded, relaxed parents and having attended a secular, international school, I have never struggled to reconcile my faith with my unqualified social liberalism. I arrived in Cambridge confident in my own beliefs but I was already wise to the intolerance rife amongst a particular, very vocal, group of Christians. For I, unlike many freshers, had been warned. My mother had told me about the bright-eyed members of her university’s Christian Union nearly forty years ago, one second ‘welcoming’ you with a hug, the next slut–shaming you.

There’s something nasty beneath the surface.

It takes only a short scroll through CICCU’s lecture archive to reveal that nothing has changed. Twelve lectures have focussed on the topic of sex, each claiming to explain why ‘God seems so intolerant about sex’ or why ‘Christians don’t have sex before marriage’. This information was new to me as I don’t remember getting the impression that my private life was a bar to my relationship with God from my vicar growing up. What is a ‘Christian sexual ethic’ anyway? I hope it’s not the sexual ethic of the Bible, where women as little more than chattels.

There is no point in justifying here why I can be unmarried, have sex and still be a Christian – to explain would be patronising.   For the same reason, I don’t believe I need to bother explaining that I can be bisexual and still be a Christian. Yet these are considered paradoxes by CICCU.

An archived seminar entitled ‘Homosexuality’ given by a ‘reformed gay man’ prescribes celibacy as the only Christian option for a homosexual. Worse, still, Nick Tucker, the speaker for CICCU’s current lecture series ‘Unexpected’, has published a pamphlet entitled ‘Same Sex Marriages: When Chickens Come Home to Roost’ which bewails the ‘national epidemic of suffering and deprivation among children’ he suggests is represented by ‘the dilution and dissolution [of] marriage’. And what does Nick Tucker cite as examples of this catastrophe? Single mothers and abortion.

Who’s to blame? Single mothers, apparently.

The point of the article is partly to encourage Christians to help prevent this situation from getting worse by campaigning against gay marriage. The entire thing is full of the language of homophobic micro-aggression that I would rather not repeat here. This is a man so endorsed by CICCU that they have reverently invited him to teach to its members.

Unlike me, a lot of freshers arrive in Cambridge unsure of their beliefs, or simply very lonely. It’s no coincidence that members of the Christian Union often talk of their lives being ‘transformed’ by their experience with the organisation. It seems to be a club for the unhappy. After all, it provides a certain exclusivity (ironic considering their friendly exterior) making you feel that your self-punishment makes you amongst the saved.

But the methods used by CICCU to attract new student members are sinisterly underhand. Posts on freshers’ pages invite new students to ‘breakfasts’ and ‘BBQs’ with no mention of the attempts to indoctrinate you that will begin once you’ve comfortably sat down with your hot-dog. Any organisation that needs to use these covert methods obviously has questionable ethics.

A tool for love and hate.

Perhaps you think it will be a good way to make friends or perhaps you just want free food – whatever, your motivation, CICCU will exploit it. I strongly doubt you are motivated by a desire to hear that you are destined for hell. Anecdotally, I was sad to hear the residents of one of the fresher’s houses at my college relating their experience of a ‘gay sex is a sin’ lecture brought on by an innocent desire for a carby treat during one of those renowned ‘text-a-toastie’ campaigns. The sentiment those freshers expressed was one of ‘classic Christians’. This makes me want to scream. CICCU does not represent Christianity.

My experience suggests that this type of social conservatism or any interference in personal life at all, will be found in very few college chapels (and it simply wouldn’t be allowed). Within Anglicanism, the priests with collars and robes generally do not interpret the Bible so intolerantly. What few people know is the open-necked-shirt-wearing ministers, leading their congregations in modern worship rather than the blessed sacrament are much more likely to preach hate from the pulpit. Though generalisations make me uncomfortable, this is the only way to spread awareness.

Freshers drawn to the ‘trendy’ atmosphere may be completely in the dark. These are the churches that CICCU encourages its members attend, drawing numbers away from college chapels. My college’s Christian Union even organised its first meeting of the year at the same time as the first chapel service. Its members have expressed their disappointment at what they perceive as chapel’s failure to be ‘Bible-based’ but what I would call teaching tolerance.

More radical than you think, and more complex than they know.

CICCU’s views on sex derive from the Bible’s setting in an ancient world so violent and unjust that we can hardly imagine it. Surely to apply any of the archaic practicalities described is simply ludicrous. Shall we not mix fabrics? Is shellfish out of the question? Should we stone people for gathering firewood on the Sabbath?

All this has been said before, of course, but it needs to be said again. It needs to be said until the Church of England (now dominated by these views) stops producing intolerant statements hidden behind theological jargon.

And it needs to be said by us. As young Christians, we should be at the forefront of reconciling our beliefs with the liberal and tolerant worldview that fortunately defines our generation.

Let’s advertise other ways to express our faith in Cambridge. If we can save even one potentially vulnerable student from self-hate and misplaced guilt, we’ve done a good thing – we’ve done a Christian thing.