Christian T-shirts spark discourse

Last week, green T-shirts dotted campus. The 200 two-word T-shirts, sidewalk chalk and posters were all part of a campaign by Cru called “Before and After.”

The campaign by this campus ministry intended to give students an opportunity to tell their life stories and explain the impact that Jesus has had on their lives. The first word on the shirt represents a student’s life before having a relationship with Jesus, and the second word represents the student’s life after finding the relationship.

The event was part of an effort to evangelize campus. Nickolas Vance, a recently graduated senior, student leader in Cru and organizer of the event, said that to evangelize just means to tell people about Jesus. He said they “just get a message out to people.”

Peter Elliott, junior in LAS and student leader in Cru who organized the YouTube portion of the event, acknowledged the negative connotation of the term “evangelize.”

“It kind of sounds a little dangerous or condemning,” Elliott said. “Clearly, we believe the second word (on the shirt) is a lot better than the first. We think that Jesus has the power to change lives. We want people to be whatever your second word is. Like mine was insignificant/purposeful. I want people to live a life that’s purposeful and not insignificant.”

Liz Stickel, senior in Media and former Illini Media employee, said she enjoyed having the opportunity to talk about something deeper with her friends because of this event. She said that wearing the T-shirt was a casual way to start a conversation.

“You talk to people about the weather and stuff like that in class,” Stickel said. “That was the first time it was like ‘actually, this is an important part of my life.’ We didn’t talk a ton about it, and they were positive and interested.”

Vance said he found most of the response from campus to be positive and interested, but cited a page on reddit that presented negative opinions about the campaign.

“Talking about what you believe can always be controversial,” said Stickel, regarding negative feedback to the campaign.

Elliott said some people did not agree with Cru’s campaign, but that most people were intrigued.

“On a college campus, if you’re a Christian you can kind of feel alone,” Elliott said. “There’s lots of things that go on, and people don’t believe the same thing I do. But when I walk around campus or in the dining hall … to see other people with the same shirt, it’s like ‘I’m not alone.’ It’s cool to see that going on around campus.”