My Brainwashing and a Personal Reflection on When I was Under the Kool Aid in Campus Crusade for Christ at Fresno State

This past weekend I was cleaning at home and fond something that was a window into my past. It was when I was involved in Campus Crusade for Christ at Fresno State. An article in the local Fresno State newspaper explained the role Wicca played in a person’s life. In response I had to write an evangelical response in a letter to the editor which caused controversy. Someone later on called me out. Today’s post is about my frame of mind when I was under the Kool Aid. And its something that I deeply regret. 

“I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.

William Tecumseh Sherman 

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a] but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

1 Corinthians 13: 1-3 NLT 

In the fall of 1999 I was in my mid twenties and a grad student at Fresno State University. The formal name is California State University Fresno. At first I went to a Catholic student group and then rotated with Campus Crusade for Christ. In the fall of 1999 to my parent’s displeasure I became more involved and started to dive into fundamentalism with Campus Crusade. It was at this time that I was invited to Fresno Evangelical Free and I just going further and further in. At Crusade I experienced my first Bible study of Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego in Daniel. Built a number of friendships and continued my journey down the rabbit hole. In the fall of 1999 I was reading the Fresno State newspaper, The Collegian, and they had a story that troubled me. They talked about a person who become involved in Wicca and had found life in a pagan faith system. It had been healthy for her and the article discussed it. You can read the article below 

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After reading that article as a budding evangelical I became angry. The article was a blasphemy. It challenged evangelical thought and in my mind showed the problems with liberal theology and more. Wiccans weren’t persecuted in the United States, white evangelicals were.  Who are Wiccans to say they are persecuted? In addition there were other Christians facing persecution around the globe. Which is true, don’t get me wrong. But this article for me was over the top. So I wrote a response which generated some controversy at Fresno State at the time. I felt I needed to put this Wiccan in her place, and use the Bible as a hammer. The Bible needed to be used as a tool to put a person in her place. In a very defensive way I had to push back. And thus I did. You can see what I wrote below. 

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My letter was then met with another letter that deserved to be written. In my fundamentalist frame of mind I needed to be hit on the head with a baseball bat. But this letter did this in many ways. It called out my judgementalism, defensive behavior, and condescending tone. It challenged my views on persecution and called me out in many ways. I needed to a solid kick in the ass, and from another graduate student in the chemistry program that happened.

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When I was Brainwashed and Lost…

This post was not planned. It happened as I stumbled across those letters and article above this weekend while I was cleaning at home. I was going through a pile of stuff in a box and saw a lot of things that triggered many memories. Then I found myself reading the article and the letter that I did and the one written to me. It is a snapshot of a time in my life when the claws of fundamentalism were gripping into my life. I read that letter that I wrote and I don’t recognize that person. Very evangelical, provocative, and pushing my faith in many ways. I mean just to give you an example I take heat at this blog but it doesn’t get to me. Yet when I was in grad school at Fresno State I read that article about Wicca and I felt compelled to defend the faith and call it out. I don’t care if I am attacked today. But back then I couldn’t handle criticism of evangelical faith. How did I get brainwashed? About four months after writing that letter I was baptized at Fresno Evangelical Free Church. 

Today I look back at all this and am filled with shame and regret. Evangelicalism took me down some dark paths in life. It opened the door to a lot of pain and spiritual trauma. I am not going to spend a lot of time on this point but I wish there was a way to go back and not have taken the red pill and gone down the rabbit hole of evangelicalism. My life could have been far healthier and much would have been avoided. 

I’ll just say it but I was brainwashed and lost. Many people are embarrassed to talk about their life. Not me. I feel like one aspect of this blog is to do an autopsy on my former faith and try and understand how I got to where I am at. The reason why is to learn from the lessons and to thus avoid them again. This weekend I had a glimpse of who I was in 1999 when involved in Campus Crusade for Christ. With that said I am going to put these in a box and try and move on and forget about all that took place. Joseph Ureno from Fresno State. If you ever read this post one day I want to thank you for calling me out. You are right in what you have said. I wish I could have taken your advice and studied history harder and kept to that and stayed away from Evangelical Christianity. 

2 thoughts on “My Brainwashing and a Personal Reflection on When I was Under the Kool Aid in Campus Crusade for Christ at Fresno State

  1. I have letters like that in my past, too–not necessarily letters to the editor, but personal letters which I re-read while posting my college memoirs on my website. Five years after I wrote them, ten years, I still felt proud of them. But 20 years later, several years after I broke free of Evangelical thinking, they made me cringe.

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