God comes after midterms
Even well-intentioned young adults may put their faith on hold in college
Women’s Night Out is a peculiar title for an event meant to be spent “in.” I attended UC Davis’ InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Women’s Night Out in my trendiest outfit, leaving no question about my Friday night’s potential.
There was nothing particularly welcoming about the house we met at: closed blinds, closed door and no sign saying “Christian girls, assemble here!” I was tense. My Christian upbringing didn’t bring relief. Isn’t this my domain? I knocked quietly. A blond girl answered the door. I was a stranger and I felt it. Perhaps I should have shown my heathen face earlier.
“Are you a freshman?” she asked.
“No, I’m a sophomore. It’s my first time with InterVarsity,” I sheepishly explained.
They were confused; why had they not seen me at small groups before if I’d been a student for a year?
I was confused; why wasn’t I being given a guilt-inciting lecture listing the things I should have done to nourish my young adult faith? But the Christian girls were nonjudgmental smilers, and I let myself get swept away by their sweet voices.
Just as the InterVarsity house daunted me, the idea of declaring a religious conviction and sticking to its standard of living is overwhelming for some college students. In college, we quickly learn that the simplest way to answer (or evade) the question “What faith do you practice?” is: “Well, I was raised … ”
An “I was raised” response has many meanings: I was brainwashed and I’ve rejected everything. I was highly motivated by my parents and, now that they’re not around, I don’t practice. I was a willing adherent, but I swear I’m not a self-righteous homophobe. I don’t want you to look at my current “I’m trying everything once” lifestyle and judge the hypocrisy of it all. I’m presently questioning my beliefs and can’t classify myself now.
“I don’t practice as much as I feel like I should, but I practice Judaism,” was the wordy affirmation of religion I received from a Davis sophomore.
A tremendous amount of guilt is associated with practicing religion in college. Most religions that I’m aware of do not condone experiments with sex and drugs as well as copious amounts of drinking, but let’s face it: Lots of students are engaged in those things. Perhaps it is just easier at this point to compartmentalize every aspect of your self until you can reconcile one with the other and be a coherent person. If you say you’re (fill in the blank) and your actions do not match up, then you feel relentlessly guilty. Guilt is just too much to cope with on top of two midterms and a nine-page paper due, which brings me to my next point.
Grade-point averages don’t plummet for missing church, temple, synagogue, mosque, etc. You can study for those two midterms and write that nine-page paper, do well in school and maybe when you’re academically free, you’ll pencil in religion.
And as professors pop each microcosmic bubble one eye-widening lecture at a time, it is only natural to question the beliefs you were brought up with. In a community that prizes evidence-based conclusions, where does faith fit into the equation?
“When you don’t have your parents to constantly redirect your focus, why focus on something you already know?” said a girl from InterVarsity. It’s difficult recreating the family atmosphere, a major component of many religious practices and traditions, in college.
But it is possible to turn to other students for that religious family. “We’re standing in as the older brother/sister to hold students accountable,” explained students tabling for the Muslim Student Association.
Still, the degree of observance varies from student to student during this time allotted for soul-seeking. Who knows? Perhaps my new InterVarsity friends will be graced by my presence at another gathering.