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The Forerunner

"Public Day of Repentance" at University of Virginia

By Editorial Staff
Published December 2, 1988

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. (FR) – Students at the University of Virginia had a “Public Day of Repentance” late September marked by weeping and smashing of rock music albums. The closing event of a week long series of Rock ‘n Roll seminars, students testified about Jesus Christ and repented of the sin of the university and the nation.

About 400 students crowded the amphitheatre to hear Pastor Mark Beliles and evangelist Ken Dew, both of Maranatha Campus Ministries, share about the Gospel. Students who wanted to debate current issues, such as the local screening of “The Last Temptation of Christ,” or who had questions concerning religion, were encouraged to attend.

Despite some heckling by spectators, fraternity and sorority members and athletes testified of their relationship with Jesus Christ. Charles Wilbur, a senior in Finance and former drug user, said, “Jesus is the ultimate high.” He shared that he used to take acid and LSD. “I used to smoke so much marijuana … but Jesus set me free from all those drugs.”

The campus paper, The Cavalier Daily, announced the Public Day of Repentance as a “party” to bring albums “that you don’t mind smashing.” The Cavelier Christian Fellowship, an outreach of the Maranatha Center, promoted the event with orange posters inviting “all students who wish to show their intention to get right with God …”

Al Dodd told the University Journal that the main purpose of the event was to encourage repentance among the students on the Charlottesville campus. Dodd, associate pastor of the Maranatha Campus Ministry, added that immorality and drunkenness were their main concerns. Beliles said he wanted to appeal to students who have “rejected organized religion.”

Records were purchased from the local Salvation Army store for 10 cents each and distributed to the crowd. Students were cued by Dew to smash the records. He told the University Journal that the main reason for opening the event with the destruction of records was that “a lot of rock and roll is degrading to the human dignity. A lot of rock-‘n-roll is diametrically opposed to the Word of God.”

Beliles shared about the Christian history of the university and then led students in a prayer of repentance. “People started crying. There was a sense of cleansing, forgiveness and God’s mercy,” he said. “We felt that it was the beginning of a mighty revival.”

Beliles who has researched the history of the University of Virginia for many years, said that the school has an extensive Christian background. Fraternities were started in 1852 as Christian organizations where “brothers and sisters in Christ could establish close supportive relationships and social activities to combat atheism and non-Christian trends.” Fraternity members were originally defined as “First of all, believers in their creator. They must be loyal students of their college, so long as their college itself is loyal to their Creator.”

In 1858, prayer was increased seven-fold and church membership doubled. Two years later, a student, David Culbreth, said “We were great churchgoers. We went to church Sunday morning and night and some attended Bible classes taught by professors Sunday morning and afternoon. No student of that period can fail to recall the seriousness of the great majority of the student body.”

Over half of all students were in Christian student organizations and 25 percent were in a Bible class which led to a school of Divinity two years later. About 72 percent worshipped in churches – which was higher than anywhere in Virginia in 1907.

During 1948 the university suspended classes because so many students wanted to attend the university preacher’s series. The first university president, Edwin Alderman, said the university’s purpose was to “distill an atmosphere of Christian living and to furnish spiritual power to the flow of life.”

The University of Virginia is also America’s first non-denominational Christian university. It’s official motto, inscribed on one of the main campus halls is, “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free.”

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