Messages written in chalk on University Avenue sparked controversy and led some students to respond Monday.
On Sunday, members of USC’s chapter of the Zeitgeist Movement, an international social movement that advocates applying scientific solutions to social concerns, scrawled messages on the sidewalk that highlighted what they see as contradictions in the Bible.
The messages included passages from the New and Old Testaments and questioned why an omnipotent God would ask people to believe in such things as slavery or beating children.
Though most students who walked over the chalk seemed to ignore it, some Christian students responded — in chalk.
“For God loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but give him eternal life,” one counterpoint read. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through life.”
The USC chapter of TZM began this semester and has about 10 active members, according to co-founder Sean Hernandez, a sophomore double majoring in economics and environmental studies. Hernandez said the group wanted to clear up what it sees as misconceptions about the Bible and to spark discussion.
“People think they get morality from the Bible, and people don’t realize what is actually written in the Old and New Testament,” Hernandez said.
But some students were offended by TZM’s message
Ryan Cleary, a freshman majoring in computer science engineering, said he felt the anti-Bible messages took passages out of their literary and cultural contexts.
“Without fully understanding the Bible or its intricacies you can’t really understand its message,” Cleary said. “There is a misrepresentation of the context of the Bible with those verses.”
Nick Bradvica, another co-founder of the USC TZM chapter, said he and other group members spoke frankly about religion with several students when writing the chalk messages Sunday.
“We really want to start a discussion,” Bradvica said. “We’re hoping to organize some debates next semester because people are busy with finals now, so that people will really consider these issues.”
Members of TZM believe science trumps religion, and Hernandez said religion “offers a closed world view.”
But Reid Roman, a sophomore majoring in industrial systems engineering and communication and a Christian, said he felt the messages were close-minded and written just to “stir the pot.”
“It was frustrating that my religion was misrepresented,” Roman said. “It made me feel sad for the people who were writing that because they were so misguided.”
Ethan Blair, USC Hillel’s Rabbinic Intern, whose office is on the block next to the chalk messages, said the messages reflect the time at which the Bible was written, and he hoped it would spark student discussion among students.
“There’s something safe about the anonymity of being able to write something on the sidewalk and then walk away,” Blair said. “These are difficult conversations to have face-to-face, so I can see the value in this conversation being something that people notice even if it’s not an organized debate.”