July 6, 2018

The Jesus Bros

Frat boy posing
Photo by nym [CC Attribution 2.0 Generic]
People I meet for the first time as an adult are often surprised to learn that I attended a Christian college even though I was an atheist at the time. They are even more surprised to hear that I loved most of my time there, received a great education, and would change little about the experience. Of course, none of that means that I didn't have a few odd experiences there. This post is about one of them.

We called them "Jesus Bros." And believe it or not, we meant it in a descriptive rather than a disparaging way. They were physically large and imposing men who looked like they spent considerable time lifting weights. They often wore Campus Crusade for Christ t-shirts. Their routine was to corner their victim when there were at least two of them and the victim was alone. They'd approach in an intimidating manner (e.g., muscles tense, angry-looking facial expressions, an oddly antagonistic tone of voice) and say something like, "You got a few minutes to talk about Jesus, bro?" Another favorite was, "You down with Christ, bro?"

I'd estimate having encounters like this with at least 8 different guys over a couple years, some of them multiple times. I was never sure whether they meant to be intimidating or whether that was just a convenient byproduct of their size. The first couple times I was approached, I did feel somewhat intimidated. There was a subtle implication that I needed to hear them out or I might be assaulted. These feelings quickly went away and were replaced by a combination of annoyance and worry that I might laugh in their face.

And sure enough, that is exactly what happened. On at least two different occasions, I found their approach so funny that I laughed out loud. I didn't want to do it, but it was out of my control at that point. It is hard when they come up with such an earnest expression like they've got something meaningful to say and it turns out to be little more than "Christ" and "bro." I saw them approach a couple of women, and sure enough, they were called "bro" too. Anyway, there were no consequences for laughing at them. They seemed surprised but quickly retreated. "Go with god, bro."

I concluded that they were harmless. Misguided and wrong but harmless. They weren't going to fight anyone who rejected their routine, and I began to suspect that they might not even realize how strangely off-putting their approach was. I once explained to a couple of them why I didn't believe in gods. They seemed confused but were nice about it. After a few of them graduated, the rest stopped doing it altogether. At least, I never saw them do it after that.

One of the things I enjoyed about attending a Christian college was the many opportunities it afforded me to discuss religion with some truly bright Christian students and faculty. The Jesus Bros...well...they weren't terribly bright, but at least they were memorable. The South Park episode where we meet PC Principal for the first time always makes me think of them. They sounded just like that except that they were focused on Jesus instead of political correctness.