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Finally, he gave them two tips: Confess who you are and what you've done, and walk as Jesus walked. "God wants a relationship," he urged.
When it ended, nearly two hours after it began, it was clear his message hit home. A girl next to me sobbed softly.
Then the students went and got ice cream together.
Changing career goals
While Christianity has spread on campus, students still encounter plenty of negative attitudes toward their faith. But some fellowships are trying to challenge that.
On an unseasonably warm day in February, Sproul Plaza buzzed with activity: students eating lunch and on their way to and from class, and groups from various causes vying for their attention with fliers or Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Members of InterVarsity's Cal Christian Fellowship, armed with clipboards, were stopping passersby with the question, "What are your issues with Christianity?" In a couple weeks they planned to discuss the responses in the dorms — ground zero for recruiting.
Behind their folding table, pinned on clotheslines, were some of the answers:
"People try to convert you."
"'Taking over' developing world."
"Fear of the abyss."
"Overly zealous Christians."
"People who claim to be Christian but don't act it."
"How do you know God is the supreme one?"
"People rely so much on the Bible but fail to realize that it was written/translated by white men who forced people of other races to conform."
Such strong opinions seem antithetical to InterVarsity's activist, ethnic-studies-oriented approach. Twenty-year-old third-year student Andrew Tai, a business and social welfare major, was attracted to InterVarsity for this very reason. In fact, part of the reason he chose to attend Berkeley was because he liked the passion people here have for their causes.
Founded in 1941, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is the oldest Christian fellowship on the UC Berkeley campus and has more than 560 college groups nationwide. It also was one of the first Christian ministries to actively recruit Asian Americans to its ranks.
An important part of InterVarsity's outreach is its focus on issues of social justice and racial reconciliation, meaning "acknowledging that there is racism and racial preference and that it actually colors the way that we approach the gospel," said Jennifer Hollingsworth, InterVarsity's associate area director for the East Bay.
Recently, at InterVarsity's "Jesus, Justice, and Poverty" conference, students went into San Francisco's Tenderloin district to sleep out on the streets among the homeless or on church floors. Tai worked in the soup kitchen at Glide Memorial.
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