I took eight Christian women out of a group date when I first joined Campus Crusade. Just me and eight college-aged women who loved Jesus and had every intention to get their MRS before they graduated.
The story behind how I ended up on that date goes a long to explaining why I’ve always found myself straddling the line between different subcultures.
I ended up at Campus Crusade in the oddest way possible. My high school science teacher was the man lead me to Christ when I was a teenager. Mike loathed churches for their hypocrisy and rigidity, so I got my spiritual guidance from him and, eventually, from a few Bible Study meetings with other high school teachers.
Now stop and think about how odd that sounds. I was sixteen years old and I was attending Bible Studies with the middle aged men who graded my tests and book reports during the week. And the strangest part is that, at the time, I didn’t think it was strange. I never had that voice in my head that said that this was uncool, or that I wanted to hang out with Christians my age. Mike was my friend, and so were my teachers.
I know that some of you might be reading this thinking that this is going to be a tale of sexual abuse. Nope, not at all. The end result of the Bible Study was that I had a great time, learned a lot about the Bible, and got to know my teachers as complex human beings with personal lives. And since I grew up in a family that never talked about God, let alone church, I had zero experience in Christian subcultures of any kind. I had no inclination to attend church since I only heard bad things about them. Even after I got saved, I didn’t even know how many kids in my high school were practicing Christians, or who they were.
In spite of all of this, my theological training could best be described as mainstream evangelical. I knew that my teachers were conservative and some were even fundamentalists, but I didn’t get any lectures about purity or creationism. I did hear a lot about what music groups were bad influences and saving myself for marriage. But since I already believed in saving myself for marriage while I was an atheist, that part never became an issue.
I didn’t even walk into a church until I turned 25. I had just come home from a bus trip to New York City. I went there alone because I wanted to experience the city and get some Christmas shopping done. The bus didn’t pull back into town until dawn. I was pumped up by my trip, and I had insomnia. But it was the good kind of insomnia; the “I don’t wanna sleep because life is too good” kind. So as I was walking downtown lugging shopping bags, I saw that the Methodist church’s morning service was starting, and since I wanted to avoid sleep, I figured why not kill a few hours and try a church service.
I liked it. Even though I was a believer, I always assumed that churches were horrible places where awful things happened. So a few weeks into attending the Methodist church, a college-aged girl approached me and invited me to Bible Study. She looked like she was having a hard time coming out of her shell long enough to invite me. I didn’t get any sense that she was attracted to me, but she was so shy that I felt obligated to say yes. Besides, it was a new experience!
I didn’t know that her Bible Study wasn’t a Methodist Bible Study. They told me they were with Campus Crusade, but that name meant nothing to me. I thought Campus Crusade was just a cute nickname they gave themselves, and I had a habit of calling them The Campus Crusaders because I couldn’t keep the name straight. At that time the couple that normally led the group were on a semester sabbatical, so everyone in the group was college-aged, with three or four students collaborating as co-leaders.
I never met anyone from Campus Crusade outside of our study, so it felt like an isolated group much like my high school teachers’ Bible Study. I remember being shocked when one of leaders of the group shared that they had consulted with their pastor about some leadership issues. To me, that was bad news. In spite of my growing comfort with the Methodist church, I still distrusted the idea of any older people imposing their authority into our little group. So I asked them why they felt the need to consult with outsiders. They looked at me like I was nuts, but strangely enough, they didn’t explain how Campus Crusade works or its relationship to local churches.
So here I am, unschooled in the sexual morals and neuroses that evangelicals live and breathe, and one night the women announce that they’re going to have a Girls’ Movie Night and watch a movie together. On the night of their get-together, I called a florist and had a dozen red roses delivered to them anonymously. It took a little bit of sleuthing for them to figure out I was the mystery man (I wasn’t their first guess.)
They showed up at the next Bible Study meeting and gave me a homemade thank you card signed by all of them, with little hearts pasted on front and hanging loose inside. I was touched by their gift! I wanted to reciprocate their generosity. But since I wasn’t looking to date any of them, I wanted to make sure that any response I gave was all-inclusive. So I invited them out to dinner. “All of us?” they asked. “Yup, and I’m paying,” I said. Two of the women bowed out (probably because they felt uncomfortable, although I didn’t know it at the time), but the others agreed.
So the nine of us went to one of the better restaurants in town. Not too expensive, but an upgrade from the cheap scraps they were used to. We had a great time, but I was so oblivious to the subtext of their questions that I answered them honestly. So when one of them asked me whether I was looking to get married anytime soon, I said “Sure, if the right woman comes along.”
It didn’t occur to me that they thought I was using the flowers and the date to screen them to see which one would be my future wife. Even though the rest of the evening went pleasantly, my answer revealed sinister motives, and the worst part in their view was that I phrased my answer in such a way that I didn’t mention God’s wisdom or Jesus’s blessing in my answer. As far as they were concerned, that outed me as a nonbeliever.
So I showed up at the next Bible Study unaware that anything had changed. I had hoped for another enthusiastic reception, but when I didn’t get it, I figured my expectations weren’t realistic. The Study went on as normal, but during the course of the meeting one of the women seemed especially down. When it came time for prayer requests, she revealed that she was dealing with a rough situation regarding her parents, and she was almost in tears.
Prayers didn’t alleviate her mood, so at the end of the prayer session I sat next to her and asked her if she was okay. She said she was, but I followed up with an offer to take her out to lunch if she wanted to discuss it some more. I figured since I was a little older and wiser, I might be able to shed some insight that her college peers couldn’t. Little did I know that I had signaled to the group that I had chosen her as my prospective wife. And if that wasn’t bad enough, as I stood up I lost my balance. My hand reached out for something to steady my gait, which just happened to be her knee. To me, the whole scene was innocuous. I offered to help someone, she said she’d think it over, and then like a clumsy idiot I almost fell flat on my face. A short while later, I smiled and waved goodnight to everyone without knowing that I had made a lot of women very, very angry.