UTC’s AMA Day encourages shared dialogue on religion
There is a lingering societal fear of faith and religion. Some people are afraid to talk about their beliefs outside home or church, while others are afraid to be hurt physically and emotionally. This fear appears within all religions, including Christianity, the latter due to angry, “You’re going to Hell” speeches yelled by people like street preacher Angela Cummings.
In late 2013, when Cummings appeared on the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s campus, her shouting evangelism and the arrest of UTC student Cole Montalvo created feelings of anger and anxiety in both Christians and non-Christians. Christians became scared to talk about their beliefs and non-Christians became scared to hear about it. One student, however, decided to break that fright fog.
Kaleb McDowd, a 20-year-old junior at UTC, is a history major, but he is also one of ten student directors at the Christian Student Center, a nondenominational campus ministry. Inspired by the 2013 events, he created an event called “Ask Me About My Faith And Tell Me About Yours Day,” or “AMA Day” for short—a long name, but with a powerful message behind it.
“When I saw Miss Cummings, I knew I had to do something,” Kaleb told me during our interview right before AMA Day. “There’s a difference between Christians like her and others. I thought that if she can do things her way, we can do it the right way.”
The idea behind AMA Day was to start a conversation between Christians and other UTC students, regardless of faith or lack of faith. Held last week on Friday, March 27, the event featured CSC members sitting in a booth from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., giving out cookies, lemonade, and conversation. Volunteers (myself included) were trained to talk with people in polite dialogue, answering questions about Christianity and listening to other beliefs.
There were mixed reactions during the event. Some people ran away at the mere mention of “faith” or “Christianity.” Others kept their earphones in and avoided the booth altogether. One student asked, “Why should we trust in God?”
But there were also positive reactions. Many were happy the CSC was listening to everyone without forcing their beliefs on others. Agnostic student Logan Wilson said he was “very OK with this kind of evangelism,” and atheist student Mary Rodgers was “happy people were curious and respectful about each other’s beliefs.” Students left the booth with a cookie, a cup, and broad smiles that day.
Kaleb McDowd plans to do another AMA Day next year, because he believes success comes from the birth of conversation and the spread of Christianity. The conversations occurred, some lasting more than an hour. I’m willing to call AMA a success.
For more information about the CSC, visit utcchristianstudentcenter.com
Gavin Gaither is currently an intern at The Pulse.