Thursday, 1 December 2011

Exploiting the Christian Union

Most people like short prayers and long sausages.

I was sitting at the dance executives' meeting on Tuesday evening at the pub, when a small man jumped into the centre of our circle and asked if we wanted free toasties.

"Of course we want free toasties!" we chorused, "What kind of question is that?" I'd like to know what large group of students wouldn't spontaneously want free toasties. He seemed very pleased with our enthusiasm and, after dropping some leaflets on the table, he scampered off, ready to offer hot sandwiches to some other unsuspecting drinkers.

Unashamed of my desire for warmed bread, I picked up a leaflet.

"Brunel University Christian Union, Text-A-Toastie. 1) Decide on two toastie fillings (cheese, onion, ham, tomato) and a question about God. 2) Text them, your name and location on campus to ***. 3) Receive your toastie and answer, completely free."

Obviously I dropped them a text.

"Ham and tomato please! Emily Jane in Isambard first floor dance studio. If God is loving, why are there natural disasters? Thank you!"

I was initially tempted to go for a slightly wittier question, but I hadn't had dinner and there was no way that I was going to risk my free toastie for a biscuit, so to speak.

Leaving the pub to go to the dance studio, I started feeling a little odd somewhere in my belly. Maybe it was in anticipation of my religious toastie, but honestly I knew the feeling well; this was not the first time I had taken advantage of the Christian Union. Frequently during the blur of Freshers Week I left the SU bar to find them camped outside, at some unholy hour of the morning, giving out free tea and biscuits. We'd engage in light chit chat and I'd head off home with several Rich Tea in hand. Nothing religious mind, just small talk.
"How was your night?"
"Fine." I'd reply, occasionally a little slurred, "Why are you here exactly?"
"We're the Christian Union"
At the time that seemed to be a worthy answer, and I would promptly toddle off into the darkness. But thinking back on it, it's not much of a response. They held other events too, like "Mocktails in the Pavillion" and "Ice Cream Friday". The Mocktails were nice, but it's only fair to say the ice cream was not quite as solid as it should have been. Can't win 'em all I guess.

On my way to the dance studio Tuesday evening I wandered past the CU building. The smell of toasted bread oozed out of the open doors, as representatives of God flitted out across campus. I started feeling more guilty. But then again, why were they doing it? If I was feeling cynical, I'd have said it was a recruitment exercise, and they were using the excuse of free food to brainwash people into Believing. Maybe they were putting some weird Christianating drug in the cheese, or they had tomatoes laced with religious hallucinogens. Or perhaps, perhaps they were just doing it because it was a nice thing to do. Because giving out food to the poor (sort of) is part of their repertoire, along with generally trying to be friendly (again, sort of).

By the time I got to the studio most of dance class was already there. No sooner had I asked if someone had arrived with a toastie for me, than two girls arrived with a toastie for me. It was hot, lovingly wrapped in tin foil. I had expected that they would give my bog standard, plucked out of nowhere God question a bog standard answer. In actuality, they started asking me questions: Was I religious? Did natural disasters make me question His existence? Did I feel God's love? Why didn't I have faith? How long had I been searching? And on and on and on... So we ended up having a rather long winded discussion. The worst part was the lying. If I had been an honest person, I would have owned up to having absolutely no interest in God and can I have my free toastie please? The thing was, I wasn't sure how they'd take it, and was a little concerned about what would happen to my sandwich. Instead, for a good 15 minutes, I stood in the eyes of the Lord and lied through my teeth. I'll admit that some of what they said was thought provoking, but they moved onto Armageddon and how that would be a "good thing", at which point I abandoned ship.

I did eventually get my toastie, which I later ate on a bus feeling even more guilty than I had before.

Exploiting the Christian Union is a dilemma that had actually been on my mind prior to the Toastie Fandango (which was incredibly surreal, I must say). Is it ok to fake religious interest for free food? Why are they doing it, really?

Next time I walk past their early morning biscuit stand, I think I may pass by on the other side.


  1. haha quite a late post, made me laugh thanks :)

  2. Next time you pass their early morning biscuit stand engage them in conversation without taking a biscuit.

  3. I suspect they're quite happy - they planted a few seeds of thought, and maybe they didn't win with you, but its a bit of a numbers game.

    plus you still remember it and have talked about it here.

  4. Next time I see them maybe I'll give them a biscuit.