Messages chalked on ground

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.

Examination · The sidewalk between Troy Apartments and the Hebrew Union College became a canvas for students to express their religious beliefs in response to messages left by members of The Zeitgeist Movement. - Jennifer Schultz | Daily Trojan

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.”

15 replies
  1. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    Damn it, Zeitgeisters!! I’m proud of you for actually getting our name out there, but seriously? We shouldn’t be attacking religion the way you guys did…it doesn’t cause discussion, it just freaks the Jesus lovers out. There are better ways to get our name out there and progress our goals than atheist graffiti. Proud of you for being organized though! Keep it up!

  2. Karl Garth
    Karl Garth says:

    Lots of unsupported statements, from all sides, in this thread.
    If you’re not willing to express the grounds of your opinion,
    it’s very arrogant to post it as fact.

  3. Alexander
    Alexander says:

    If they really wanted to ‘spark discussion’ they would have drawn images of the prophet Muhammad.

    I would love to see if the Daily Trojan would have been brave enough to post pictures of that.

  4. Wool pulled from my eyes
    Wool pulled from my eyes says:

    As a former Christian turned agnostic, I absolutely agree with the humanist approach to life. Yup, the only meaning to “life” is that it’s going to end…for every single one of us. To think that you deserve some sort of existence after your physical life ends is unreasonable; and if God existed, God is reasonable. The Bible is nothing more than recapitulated platitudes dressed up to seem esoteric and profound, but it’s nonetheless banal and simplistic as every other religion or philosophy that existed before Judeo-Christianity and everything that will come after.

    We’re all gonna die and that’s it; nothing more…just accept it.

  5. Viktor
    Viktor says:

    This is the worst headline I have ever seen. Please tell me more important things the one day I scan this paper to see if there’s anything I should read.

    Because with headlines like this, the answer is no.

  6. William Buttrey
    William Buttrey says:

    As former advisor to a student atheist group, I was on a panel at Bovard put on by the Harvard Veritas forum where it was asked if there was a blueprint for life and did it have a purpose. Our “blueprint” is in our DNA and our “purpose” is expressed by what we do next by design or by choice. Asking “why” we act and/or choose what we do is the extra credit part. The meaning of “life” is that it ends. You determine your actions within the limits of your being. Some people are convinced that revealed knowledge from a supernatural being provides a timeless message and a roadmap to be followed; often including rewards and sanctions. Others (such as myself) feel that using humanist ethics in finding your own course is preferable to using the competing and clearly at times, contradictory messages from this supposed god as making more sense as the default position.

    In my presentation, I stated that if this God’s intention was for humans to know of its existence and its instructions for humanity, then it has failed miserably. Technical writers sometimes say that if the manual is not understood, it is the writer’s fault not the reader’s. Clearly, any god worth its salt falls under the same standard.

    I also opened by thanking the forum for the inclusion of those of the non-existent godview as in another time, or place..even now in some parts of our planet; just expressing my views along these lines could have resulted in my execution, torture, imprisonment, loss of rights, employment, community membership, freedom, choice of partner, and more.

    This is the “context” that comes to mind when believers worry about others giving their belief/God/sacred texts proper deference. When I’m asked who am I to argue with God, I say when I hear from their God I’ll let them know.

    “Theologian: An uncommon individual who, though possessing finite abilities, has been called by God himself who, though possessing infinite abilities, requires the assistance of the former in explaining Himself to the rest of us.”
    [Translation: if God existed, theologians would be out of work.] ~ “Rev” Donald Morgan

  7. Kelsey
    Kelsey says:

    The chalked messages are an attacked disguised as a discussion promoter. If indeed healthy discussion was the purpose behind the chalking, the focus would have been on questions as such: Who is God? Does He exist? Why do bad things happen to ‘good’ people? Where is God in all of this?, etc. This was not the case. The chalking is a straight-up attack on not only Jesus and Christianity, but on any belief in God, religion or deity itself. Statements such as “The Bible is B.S.” are not discussion-provokers, they are statements of hateful intent.

    I applaud those who have responded to this in concern for those who have made such unwarranted, out-of-context generalizations. And I will speak out as well. But God doesn’t need us to defend Him–creation declares His majesty. In Luke 19: 40, Jesus responds to a request that His worshippers be silenced: “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

    God is real, very real. He knows the heart and intent of every single person that ever lived. So you better believe He cares about this. The only legitimate response to doubts or disbelief in God is to investigate it, thoroughly. Do you believe your history books? The Bible is the most historically backed up book in existence. Not one geographical finding has contradicted Biblical statements. Just a tidbit for you skepticals. We’re all intelligent people; we’re here because we put time and effort into our work. So you got doubts? Do your homework.

    • anon
      anon says:

      “Not one geographical finding has contradicted Biblical statements”.

      I can’t even begin to explain how retarded this statement is.

      • mmartinez
        mmartinez says:

        > I can’t even begin to explain how *retarded* this statement is.

        It’s unfortunate that seemingly educated people continue to use that word.

    • Kevin
      Kevin says:

      Wait, you have nothing to back up what you just said. Everything is just your opinion.
      The whole point of zeitgeist is to open the minds of the human species to reality. All institutions, such as government, churches, schools, prevent it’s followers from learning real new information. And when you say “the bible is the most historical backed up book in existence” shows how close minded you are. If u knew anything about the bible then you would know that every story in it was never reported by any historical writer during it’s time span. Especially things such as the great flood, Moses, and Jesus and many others. None of those events were written by historic scholars. Even our modern history books don’t say the complete truth, everyone knows that. TZM’s mane goal is to cause awareness to what we need to survive and how technology can make us achieve anything.
      Anyone would feel attacked if there whole identity or reason for living is proven to be just a story that derives from 30000 years ago by people looking at the positions of the stars.
      But I’m sorry it’s time to bring the human life up to scale with technology because this planet is our home and we all inhabit it

  8. Massimo
    Massimo says:

    Haha go Jews for supporting healthy discussion! This article rocks and I love Sean Hernandez and Nick Bradvica and all of TZM

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