By James Townsend
Until recently, chalking Bible verses around campus has typically been a non-issue; however, it became one on Friday when a group of atheist students chose to do the same.
After spotting a controversial verse written on the sidewalks by members of Salisbury University’s Campus Crusade for Christ, members of the Atheist Society planned a counterstrike, using the Bible itself as ammunition. The students chalked out their own selected verses, exhibiting the more controversial aspects of the Bible.
The Atheist Society claimed that the verse, Psalm 53:1, written by CRU members, which states: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good,” was a direct attack on their beliefs.
“It’s just offensive,” said John Tully, a member of the Atheist Society and frequent contributor to The Flyer. “People think just because it’s the Bible it gets a free pass. It shouldn’t. People shouldn’t be tolerant of that kind of hateful behavior.”
He says the verse wasn’t of particular offense to him but rather worries new atheists who aren’t as open with their beliefs yet may feel targeted.
“It’s just hurtful to their self-image as an atheist,” Tully said. “They should feel accepted on the campus, but instead there is this hate speech chalked everywhere.”
Junior Chris Sufczynski is in charge of the CRU Chalking Ministry. Although the group is made up of CRU members, he stresses that it is not an officially endorsed branch of the organization.
“I’m not here to attack (atheists),” Sufczynski said. “I’m not attacking anyone in any way. I just want to put out the truth of the scriptures. I didn’t do it in retaliation to their views; I did it because I love Jesus.”
Tyler Suplee, vice president of CRU and an emcee at their weekly Thursday fellowship, defends the chosen verse.
“It’s tough to hear, but it’s biblical,” Suplee said. “According to what we believe, the main message is that everyone lives for eternity; it’s just a matter of where you’re going to spend it. They might not want to hear it, but it’s the truth.”
The Atheist Society responded by chalking verses such as Deuteronomy 22:28, which says that if a woman is raped, she must marry her rapist, as well as verses supporting slavery and the killing of homosexuals and disobedient children.
While chalking, the group was approached by several students, one of whom told them they were going to hell. It wasn’t long after before they were reported and University Police arrived on the scene.
After seizing their IDs, the students were called into the office of the Dean of Students, Edwin Cowell.
“He told us we hadn’t broken any rules and that we were free to continue chalking tomorrow,” said Matt Boyd, a member of the Atheist Society who helped with the campaign. “But he still ordered horticulture to remove the verses.”
Horticulture later washed away verses from CRU as well, though both groups may resume writing chalk messages around campus.
Suplee says CRU members chalk verses around campus to help promote CRU and inspire people to learn more about what the Bible has to say.
“We’re not trying to trick anyone,” Suplee said. “We don’t want to give people one side of the message. People should know the truth. If you don’t fully understand it you should investigate it yourself or come to CRU to ask questions.”
Sufczynski claims that while the Atheist Society has the right to write what they want, they are misrepresenting the Bible’s teachings.
“I feel they’re just misquoting and paraphrasing the Bible,” Sufczynski said. “They’re taking bits and parts without any context and turning it into their own meaning.”
Boyd feels similarly, claiming that Christians often pick and choose the lighter aspects of the Bible, while choosing to ignore the bad.
“We saw people trying to stomp out the chalk from the pavement,” Boyd said. “And that’s the reaction people should be having. They should be embarrassed. They should be offended. I was offended with what I was writing. The Bible is not full of good things.”
The Atheist Society resumed chalking Saturday afternoon, and the Chalking Ministry expects to do the same later this week.