Christian open forum sparks questions on campus

Valerie Osier | Staff Writer

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Does God exist? Did God create evil? Is Jesus the Son of God? Is the Bible true? These were some of the thought provoking questions students at Riverside City College were engaging on the free speech steps of the MLK building.

And free speech there was.

The Well Christian Club held an open forum event inviting students to ask questions regarding the Christian faith and the Bible to a panel of speakers on Nov. 26. The panel included pastors from a local Riverside church, Harvest Christian Fellowship, local apologist Lenny Esposito, and Harvest staff member Andrew McGovern.

“As a club, we wanted to have a dialogue with people on the campus that have different worldviews and different belief systems and be able to hopefully answer some of their questions about the Bible and about Christianity and the Christian faith,” said Daniel Hooper, pastor of The Well college ministry at Harvest, and one of the speakers on the panel.

Anyone was invited to approach the microphone and ask a question. Kicking off the questioning was Adam Wright, president of the Secular Student Alliance at RCC.

“I started by asking them whether they believed in the literal interpretation of the Bible,” said Wright. “I asked about Noah’s Ark and the questions that go along with that silly story.”

Several members of the Secular Student Alliance frequented the microphone during the forum and asked many questions. At one point, it appeared to have turned into a small debate after one question was asked that subsequently led to several more on the same topic. Although the situation never turned into an actual debate, according to Hooper.

Some of the questions asked included questions about biblical stories, such as Noah’s Ark and the Israelites inheriting the Promised Land, in addition to questions on morality and questions on the different sects within Christianity.

RCC student Garrett McCarver asked a question regarding wealthy pastors and mega-churches.

“I feel a lot more reassured that most Christian groups aren’t out to make a profit or to turn profit or to find material success for themselves,” said McCarver. “These guys seem really devoted, from as passionate as they speak and as knowledgeable as they are, it’s pretty apparent that they’re not in it for the money. They’re in it for doing the work, which even as an atheist, I can’t blame them. I think it’s awesome and I think it’s awesome that people are doing a good service for other people for any reason.”

Some students weren’t as reassured with the answers they received.

“I thought they didn’t quite answer the questions directly, just because some of them are pretty hard…not hard questions, but difficult to explain,” said Wright. “They’re questions that are uncomfortable. I felt that they were a little bit dodgy and they evaded some of my questions instead of answering them directly, but I appreciated the chance to talk to them anyway and get their opinions.”

According to several of The Well Club members, many RCC students saw the event and stayed the entire time. Many of these students were also part of the Secular Student Alliance at RCC.

The Well Club President, Joshua Morris, thought the forum was successful in reaching many students at RCC.

“There’s always the people who just want to come up and give their opinions on everything, but the people that are surrounding in the crowd and the people that are listening, you can almost see their eyes light up,” said Morris. “It was very beneficial, if not directly for the people that were asking questions, but sort of collateral, if you will.”

The Well Club members held up signs around the MLK steps with questions on them to lead people to go up to the microphone. Some of the questions written included questions like: “Does God exist?” and “Did God create evil?” The questions were meant to spark onlooker’s curiosity. Some spectators were confused whether the signs came from the Well Club or the Secular Student Alliance.

This kind of event has been held in the past by the Well Club, although not with as much success as this semester’s forum, according to several Well Club members.

“We wanted to continue the tradition of doing this,” said Morris. “The main goal for this semester for the Well Christian club has been a missionary outreach, and that means to basically get out of the four-walled classroom that we’ve been in and start engaging culture and engaging students. And just really showing people that: yes, we’re Christians on campus, and we have an ultimate goal: and that’s to reach the lost.”