Cult moves in on UCD

Originally published in Volume I, Issue 2 on 27th October 1994 by Gillian Ni Cheallaigh.  Students of UCD are to be targets of an aggressive recruiting campaign during the next month by a new religious movement called the “Dublin Church of Christ,” according to a former member of the group, who does not wish to be named due to difficulties involved in the attempt to cease participation. The campaign, scheduled for the Bank Holiday Weekend, will be carried out through low-profile, and mainly anonymous, proletysing, or ‘evangelising, which involves members of the group approaching individual students and encouraging them to attend a so-called ‘party.’ These parties are a decoy to disguise the nature of the gatherings, which are intended to centre around Bible discussions and recruiting sessions. During the session those attending will be ‘love-bombed’ by the leaders and ordinary members, and affectionately welcomed to “surrender their hearts to God” by joining the Church of Christ. The intention is to impress and over-awe vulnerable students, particularly first-years, with the effusively friendly and loving nature of the meetings. This is part of recognition policy of this group and others like it, to tap into any insecurity or weakness typically experienced by foreigners, young people and students.Other methods include plans to organise sports, such as volleyballs for girls and football matchers for boys, in line with the group’s policy of separating the sexes. These events will not be advertised under the movement’s name, but invitations to attend will be extended individually.  Another important part of the recruitment process is the acquisition of the prospective member’s telephone numbers, to facilitate regular contact and continuous repeated invitations to attend Bible discussions. According to the former member warning of the offensive, the certainty that all those who do not join are condemned to eternal damnation is at the core of the group’s recruiting strategy. When asked to confirm whether the group planned such an attack on UCD, leader Kay Hearney refused to comment, insisting that all questions be channelled through the press officer in London. She also refused to be questioned on any aspect of the group’s practises or beliefs. The fundamentalist movement is a splinter-group of the larger Church of Christ, which had its origins in the Boston Church of Christ, established by American evangelist Louis Palar. Membership in this country is estimated to be around 200, although this is divided among four different branches. The London Church of Christ, with a membership numbering in the thousands, has been banned from most college campuses in England. Students in Trinity are similarly under attack from the group, with reports of members approaching students directly on the campus, inviting them to Bible discussions and Christian Meetings. According to Kenneth Lindsay, a minister of the Methodist church and Chaplain for all the Dublin colleges and universities, cults and new religious movements have been more active in Trinity over the past few years, although trends suggest the levels of activity to be cyclical. He agrees that these groups “target colleges particularly, as many young people are insecure and the cults know that.” He sees the movement as a “very real problem” and one that is growing. This concern is deepened by the conviction that the group is profit-making, requesting members to pledge large sums of money and to move into communal residences and flats.