The following article appeared on the front page of the New Mexico State University Newspaper after Mike Gendron's message last week to 100 Catholic and Baptist students at the Baptist Student Union. Praise God that the message of Christ's sufficiency went out to a circulation of approximately 25,000 people. The journalist is a Roman Catholic and, apart from a few subjective comments about Mike's "flushed" face and that he was "poking fun at Catholics" and how long ago he left the Catholic Church, the journalist did a fair job of objective reporting. Note the letter to the editor from the ACLU.
Speaker: Catholicism Is False
Roman Catholic students upset by evangelical talk at BSU
By Heath Haussamen
An evangelical speaker at the Baptist Student Union upset many university students Friday by saying the Roman Catholic Church's teachings are false.
"Is there any hope for unity between Catholics and Evangelicals?" Speaker Mike Gendron asked the group of about 40, mostly New Mexico State University Students. "No. We have two different Jesus', and the two are diametrically opposed."
Gendron, a former Catholic whose job is to convince Catholics to convert to what he calls "Biblical Christianity," was in town to speak at Harvest Fellowship, a local non-denominational church. David Englehart, director of the BSU, asked Gendron to speak to BSU students while he was in town. The BSU exists to minister to students on the NMSU Campus. Many Catholic students who attend St. Albert the Great Newman Center heard Gendron was coming when members of Harvest Fellowship handed out fliers announcing his visit. The fliers stated that Gendron would be "contrasting Roman Catholicism and Biblical Christianity," highlighting "deceptively subtle differences." The flier also quoted people who had heard Gendron speak. One called his message a combatant of "the false gospel of Rome" and the "counterfeit" Roman Catholic Church. Leonard Paul Gomez and Corein Brown, both NMSU students and leaders of the student ministry at the Newman Center, met with Englehart earlier in the week to ask him why he would bring in such a speaker. They claim he "skirted" answering their question.
So, about 30 minutes before Gendron's 3 p.m. talk, about a dozen students gathered at the Newman Center to share their concerns with each other before going to the BSU, located next door on University Avenue, to listen to Gendron. Many said they were nervous and scared. Some pointed out that, though Gendron was speaking at the BSU, he did not necessarily represent the beliefs of all Baptists or even all members of the BSU. Students challenged each other to listen with love and openness, and to stand for their faith.
One woman, who said she is a member of the BSU at the University of New Mexico, is a friend of Brown. She said she came to Las Cruces to hear Friday's talk because she was concerned about Gendron's message. Gendron spoke softly and with a smile. He shared that he was a Catholic for 37 years, until a speaker led him to realize he had never before questioned his faith. Over the course of the next few years, questioning led him to believe in a different God than the one he believed in as a Catholic. He left the Catholic Church 11 years ago to begin his current ministry.
"Quite simply, they (Catholics) neither know the punishment for their sin or God's one provision for it," he said. ". To His (God's) righteousness, they add their own. . To His grace, they add merit. But how can you merit the unmerited favor of God?" Humans' goodness cannot earn them passage into heaven, as Catholics believe, Gendron claimed. He interprets the Bible to state that only by consciously accepting God's forgiveness through faith can people be allowed into heaven. "How can we come together when we're divided on the critical issues of the gospel?" he asked. ".
The Jesus of the Catholic Church is quite different from the Jesus of scripture." Throughout Gendron's talk, many of the Catholics in attendance took notes. Many older attendees nodded and chuckled several times as Gendron presented what he believes to be truth and, occasionally, poked fun at Catholics. "So where's Jesus? He's been replaced by the Roman Catholic Church," Gendron said at one point, to chuckles. Another time, he said Catholics, Mormons and others who preach "false truths" are "wolves" attempting to divert people from seeing the true path to heaven. That comment elicited sneers from many of the older members of the audience.
At one point, Gendron held up the wafer Catholics take as the Eucharist at church. He said Catholics believe it's literally the body of Jesus, but the Bible says it's only symbolic. "This is either the lord Jesus Christ or it's a false Christ," he said as he waved it in the air. Because of that, once Catholics become true "born again" believers, they must leave the Catholic Church. To remain would be "to commit the sin of idolatry," Gendron said.
Gendron also claimed that Catholics worship Mary, Jesus' mother, and consider the pope to be the head of the church, though the Bible states that God is the head of the church. It's "tragic" when Catholics believe their goodness will earn them a place in heaven, and never accept the true gospel of salvation through faith, Gendron said. When they stand in front of the throne of Jesus, he will say to them, "depart from me, I never knew you," Gendron said, adding that then "they are tossed in the eternal pit of fire, and there's no hope at that point."
He said he has compassion for such people because he used to be Catholic. But he warned that, according to Galatians 1:9, people who preach false teachings about Jesus are cursed. Gendron urged evangelicals in the room to share the true gospel with their Catholic friends, but to do so with "love, compassion, patience and humility. . We have to model, for Catholics, what it is to be humble," he said. Catholics' beliefs are clouded by tradition and culture, especially in a city such as Las Cruces, which has such a long history of Catholicism, Gendron said.
After he finished speaking, the Newman Center's Brown raised her hand to comment. "I'm really thankful to have heard what you had to say," she told Gendron. She said Gendron only touched on a small portion of Catholic belief, and welcomed anyone who had more questions to visit the Newman Center. Ruth Payne, campus minister at the Newman Center, asked Gendron if he could say anything good about Catholicism. Gendron replied by saying that, for the first time, Vatican II encouraged Catholics to read the Bible themselves. He spent the next five minutes telling Payne why the church still does not really encourage Catholics to use their own reason when reading the Bible.
Brown's friend from the BSU at UNM told Gendron she believed he should minister to individuals, rather than single out one religious denomination. Gendron disagreed. He said he is called to proclaim the truth. "We're not responsible for whether they respond in faith," he said. He asked who in the audience was Catholic, and about 20 raised their hands. He asked if he represented their church well, and most said no and shook their heads.
One woman told him that not all Catholics believe every official teaching of their church. Gendron said he only quoted from official Catholic sources, such as the Catechism. The woman told him that his statements were "colored with opinion." "Many of the traditions of the Catholic Church are based on scripture," Payne began, but Gendron interrupted. "Except for Mary," he said. "You won't find those teachings in scripture." Payne said she felt saddened because Gendron thinks he and Catholics don't believe in the same Christ.
Argument broke out and at a few points more than one person was talking at the same time. Gendron cut in. "The problem is the Catholic Church has come in and tried to control people under legalism." But Jesus alone is sufficient for salvation, he said. His face was visibly flushed. "We believe that," Payne replied.
Gendron ended the discussion, and Englehart spoke to close the time. He said he wanted to reiterate "how absolutely critical it is to set our authority in scripture" and "disregard" anything that contradicts it. After the meeting, the Newman Center's Gomez said Gendron's talk strengthened his faith. "My faith is pretty strong. Something like this is going to have to make it stronger," he said. NMSU student Alison Pope, who attends the Newman Center, agreed. "It really bothered me that it seemed very negative," she said. Pope said she felt that Gendron controlled the discussion, not allowing Catholics to finish their statements. But NMSU student Abbey Jones, who attends the BSU, said she agreed with Gendron. "He used scripture," she said. "That wasn't his opinion. . God's word is final. It's the authority." Two other students from the BSU nodded in agree ment.
Englehart said the BSU does not plan any official follow up to Gendron's talk. He said it was deigned not as an outreach to Catholics, but as a seminar for students at the BSU. He wants them to know how to share their faith at NMSU, which he described as primarily Catholic. "Mike (Gendron) was very fair," he said.
Englehart added that Harvest Fellowship, not the BSU, handed out fliers on campus, alerting the Newman Center to Gendron's visit. After the talk, about 20 students returned to the Newman Center, where they sat in a circle and discussed their feelings. Many cried. Some said they felt Gendron's talk was an unfair attack on their beliefs. Gomez said he did not know whether the Newman Center would plan a response.
Evangelical's statements were bigotry
By Jonathan Jefferson/Senior
Philosophy Vice President
American Civil Liberties Union at NMSU
This is in response to the story 'Speaker: Catholicism is false" (the Round Up, Sept. 23):
Mike Gendron's lecture on how to deal with Catholics sounded more like the Spanish Inquisition dealing with the Jews. Gendron's views represented bigotry, intolerance and prejudice in its highest form. He stated that those who preach "false truths" are "wolves," which means the vast majority of the student population at New Mexico State University and the rest of the world consists of wolves leading false lives.
Throughout the course of human history, there have been people who have spoken and done acts in the name of God that have caused nothing but misery and sorrow to this planet, for the purpose of conversion and spreading the word of God. From slavery to the crusades to the Sept. 11 attacks, religious justification has always been the backbone for orchestrating these events.
We live in a society where religious equality and fairness is imprinted into the law, but there are those who want to make religion into a country club, where only the "true believers" are allowed to enter. We all have the right to express our views to the public, even if others don't agree with them. But when a speaker comes to evangelize his views on other people and treat students like second-class citizens, then we must take a stand and respond with the values of what makes us human beings. In conclusion, I leave you with the example of the Holocaust: when six million Jews went into the gas chambers, one of the Nazis' claims was that they were doing God's will. Remember, we have minds of our own.