Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Do You Believe?
Recently, my friend Will said that he finds it odd that Indiana U is much less politically conservative than NCSU. I was given occasion once again this morning to experience the opposite thought about MSU and Grinnell. Grinnell is, after all, "that liberal school" in Iowa. A disproportionate part of the student body there consists of Unitarian Universalists, which is proudly said by many of us to be the world's least organized organized religion. Devout Christians, even the oddly large number of Mormons, on campus are extremely unlikely to be trying to convert anyone in any kind of active manner.

At MSU, though, there have been, in my three weeks of classes, at least 4 different evangelists in the courtyard outside Wells Hall, the building where I dwell. Today there was a man with a bulletin board and visual aids, instructed us all, in lovely, carrying public speaking voice, that God does not care how you pray. He doesn't require you to be on your knees, he doesn't care about the precise formulation of the words, he just wants you to do it, so won't you please join in, maybe just in your mind, and pray along to proclaim Jesus Christ as your personal savior? He was the most annoying one we've had, and I nearly killed myself trying to bike around the milling crowd of people he had sort of bottlenecked at the skinny part of the sidewalk. The other people we've had ranged from the very nice people handing out testaments who were quite willing to go away the first time you said "no," to the guy who stood in the middle of the sidewalk silently, with the back of his t-shirt doing all his talking for him.

I think it's all very strange. It must be quite a culture shock for all the international students. I know the religious fervor of some of the more nutty Americans is considered extremely bizarre by people from other countries, even if they're only British, where they at least speak the same language. Of course, the Brits ought to be thanking us for taking all the nuts out of their country so long ago. (That is, of course, a poke at all my dear British ALT pals back yonder in Japan. Hi Sharon and Kristel! *wave*)

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