Hear one student’s reaction to on-campus Christian event “Carry the Love”

Cassidy Jackson, Audio Editor

[Worship music playing]

CASSIDY JACKSON: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Cassidy Jackson. Thanks for tuning in. On April 1, students gathered in Lutkin Hall to attend an event hosted by Carry the Love, a grassroots Christian campaign. Each year, Carry the Love travels across the country, holding Christian worship services on hundreds of campuses.

AVRIANA ALLEN: So I’m part of RUF — Reform University Fellowship. It’s a Christian group on campus. I’ve been part of it since my freshman year. I’m on ministry team right now. I run their Facebook page.

CASSIDY JACKSON: This is Medill sophomore Avriana Allen. I sat down with her to discuss our thoughts on the event.

AVRIANA ALLEN: I grew up in the church. Our church was actually interesting, because it started off evangelical and it became reformed. So I was part of growing up in that. I did a lot of studying of the Catechism. Catechism is kind of like a book that summarizes the Christian faith. And so as a child, I would learn that so I have a pretty good grasp of some of the aspects of the Christian faith. Here I go to a church that’s a little far away. But it’s pretty small and is also reformed.

CASSIDY JACKSON: So I was not raised in like a religious home. I went to Catholic school for a little bit of my childhood, but never believed in anything at all. Then freshman year, winter break, I started looking more into Christianity. And when I got back from winter break, and jumped into winter quarter, I joined CRU, which is a religious organization on campus. And I also joined IMPACT, which is a ministry within CRU geared towards black students on campus. I joined both of those groups, and were involved in them from winter quarter of my freshman year until fall quarter, the end of fall quarter, this current school year. It’s kind of just been a journey of like me learning about Christianity, figuring out where I fall in regards to, like, my beliefs.

CASSIDY JACKSON: So, what was your prior knowledge of Carry the Love?

AVRIANA ALLEN: I actually had no knowledge of Carry the Love. I saw it as a Facebook event that some of my friends were going to, and honestly, I read the description and was kind of nervous about it because…I don’t know how to put this…the idea of another Jesus movement has a lot of connotation.

CASSIDY JACKSON: According to their website, Carry the Love runs on the belief that “[…] students need Jesus now more than ever,” citing high rates of rape, racial discrimination, alcohol abuse, depression, suicide and lack of Christian involvement. With that, Carry the Love holds a motto of starting a New Jesus movement. For Allen, this call for a “New Jesus movement” rings similar to religious movements of the past…and not in a good way.

AVRIANA ALLEN: The idea of another Jesus movement has a lot of connotation with movements in the past, such as the First Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening, all the stuff in the 80s, the Jesus people, a lot of things that either kind of turned out to be cults or really burned people over. So I was a little bit nervous just from the start as to what it meant.

CASSIDY JACKSON: For me, I walked into Carry the Love with a completely different mindset. Having attended last year’s Carry the Love event and having enjoyed it, I was excited to see what would come of this year’s.

[Worship music playing]

CASSIDY JACKSON: Elements of the event made Allen increasingly wary of Carry the Love, bringing her initial fears into reality.

AVRIANA ALLEN: We got a lovely little magazine called the Riders and a small book that is called the Salvation Encounter. If you read the magazine, you already know everything that they’re going to show you. Right at the beginning when I started reading the magazine, I got a little more nervous once again, because they call themselves Circuit Riders, which kind of harkens back once again to the Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening, which were movements by historic figures like George Whitefield and John Wesley, I think, who would make circuits. And they would go around, they’d preach fire and brimstone, they would convert a lot of people and then they would move on. Problem with this was at the time, that people would be converted for a little while, but then just go back to living their normal lives. And so they would need this kind of emotional response to feel like they were saved.

CASSIDY JACKSON: Along with the book and magazine, the music and the sermon also made Allen feel as though Carry the Love was following in past religious movements’ footsteps.

AVRIANA ALLEN: And just listening to music, and also the sermon that was presented — and they are trying to evoke more of an emotional response than, I would say, a mental or like, something that’s not as emotional where you like, you consider it and you come to agree with it in your mind instead of, kind of just by emotion. Emotions are important. I’m not trying to downplay that. But a lot of times, people find that if they rely upon an emotional response for anything, the emotions come and go. So it will not remain very constant. So if you start off doing Christianity, or really any religion with just emotions, if that religion doesn’t continue to produce the same emotions, you’re not going to stick with it.

CASSIDY JACKSON: For Allen, getting an emotional high isn’t how she approaches Christian events or services, on or off-campus. She’s constantly keeping an ear open to evaluate if what’s being said is Biblical or not. And for Allen, the sermon seemed to be a mixed bag.

SERMON: Jesus Christ is the answer to our mess. Let’s go in it together. Let’s show the world the love that sacrifices for one another, the love that listens to your long-behind stories.

AVRIANA ALLEN: I get a lot of flak, because I tend to ask a lot of questions after pretty much anybody’s sermon because I tend to listen to it and try and figure out whether everything is biblical or not. There are definitely things he said that were true. But a lot of what came around it was really questionable or false. So that means that he might say something like, “You’re saved by the grace of our God alone,” and I’d be like, “Yes, that’s true.” But he also might say, like, “You need to bring Christ into you. You need to like, accept God. You need to like, reach out to him.” And that, I would say, like, “Whoa, wait a second, that’s really questionable.”

CASSIDY JACKSON: Allen also said that Carry the Love left too many questions to the audience, leaving room for wrong interpretations of who God is.

AVRIANA ALLEN: There were these lines that were really supposed to like pump us up, which were “You are good. You’re good.” And then another one was, “You’re never gonna let…you’re never gonna let me down.” And singing those very repetitively, I was like, “I’m over it. This isn’t really hyping me.” And it’s not really explaining a lot of the complexity of Christianity, which is one of the reasons why I have problems with that kind of repetition. Because there’s a lot of other things that Christianity says about God, other than that he’s good. And just singing “he’s good” over and over and over again, doesn’t really explain to people who are Christians or people who aren’t Christians what they’re actually trying to say.

CASSIDY JACKSON: Overall, Carry the Love felt more like an orchestrated performance than a worship service.

AVRIANA ALLEN: Yeah, definitely. I considered it to be more of a production than an actual, like worship service in some ways.

CASSIDY JACKSON: Thank you for listening. This has been Cassidy Jackson, and I’ll see you next time.

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