Revealing Rich

It was hard to know what to expect when I arrived for the much-ballyhooed “Do You Agree With Rich?” rally at Chico State University April 12, but it was apparent when I took my place in the virtual sea of orange-T-shirted students that the ubiquitous Rich—whoever he was—would be playing to a friendly crowd.

What I did know was that the “Rich” campaign, waged by Christian university students in an effort to proselytize to their peers, had sparked a simmering debate about the appropriateness of Christianity on campus. “Rich” supporters had been wearing bright orange T-shirts proclaiming their faith for weeks, scrawling the “Rich” question on blackboards all over campus and advertising a Web site called “”

It was impossible to ignore.

But not everyone was pleased to see Christian groups being so vocal. A smaller group, angry at what it called “aggressive Christianity,” started up a parody Web site called “,” its name saying it all.

Given all that, I was expecting a bit of a blowout April 12 in the Free Speech Area. I mean, the pro-Rich group had produced a considerable buzz around this event, and I’d overheard quite a few heated discussions on campus debating it. But, in a word, it was anticlimactic.

The rally bore more resemblance to a perfunctory school board meeting than a fiery college rally on the role of religion at a public institution.

“Rich,” it turns out, is Rich Thompson, an average-looking junior ag business major who told the smiling audience, “All I want to do is be a farmer someday.”

Speaking in a quavering voice, Thompson talked about his upbringing (he’s from Stockton, grew up on a farm, and went to a Methodist church but never really understood God) before telling the smiling audience about his dramatic conversion at another church several years ago.

Since then, Thompson said, “all I want to do is talk about Jesus and how he’s changed my life, and how he can change your life too.” The crowd seemed to love it.

Adam Rix, a sophomore philosophy major, sat near the back and listened. He’s the one who set up the Web site. After the rally, Rix said he regrets using the vulgarism in his site’s name but not putting it up.

“They’re advocating a belief system that not everyone agrees with,” Rix said. “So I wanted to advertise mine.”

Ironically, though, Rix claims on his Web site to believe in God and says, “What I am doing with my site disagrees with my faith, and it hurts me to do this.”

After a 15-minute speech and prayer by Thompson, the rally was over and the 500 or so people who showed up for it milled around briefly before walking away.