On a Secular Campus

My two goals for my sophomore year are as follows:

1. Pray more.

2. Be more “out loud” about my Christianity. And by that, I mean be more open about my faith and be more willing to discuss it with others.

The first goal I feel like I’ve been doing pretty well with thus far. I still don’t pray as much as I want, but I’m getting better. For me, it’s all about actively keeping an open line of communication with God. It’s so much easier to remember to pray if I’m just talking to God all the time. When going through my morning routine, on the way to class, or whenever. But of course, a lot of the time, I have specific, individual prays for Him, too. As typical in a college student, I tend to procrastinate, so a good amount of these are prayers asking God to help me focus on my studies. It’s so much easier to stay calm and not stress out when I take everything to Him.

I’ve been struggling with my second goal for multiple reasons.

This year I am living with three girls: One Muslim, one who is “not religious”, and a pseudo-Wiccan. The last of which I have actually become closest with this year. I say “pseudo-wiccan” because, while she’s not actually Wiccan, she is very much opposed to Christianity and likes the idea of worshiping the devil because she just thinks it sounds cool. She invited me to preform a Wiccan ritual with her on the night of the equinox. I said no, and she made fun of my “hyper-religiousness”. I choose to not be offended by her occasional snide comments because I think she has a bad impression of Christians. It’s is easy enough to understand. There are a lot of extremists out there who skew and distort the messages of the Bible in a way that makes Christians seem evil and unwelcoming, while still holding onto the label of “Christian”.

There is an outspoken Christian girl on campus (a friend of a friend). She’s really a very lovely girl. She’s a part of all the Christian organizations on campus, and goes to church and youth group. She doesn’t drink, she doesn’t go to parties, and she doesn’t date. The only problem is non-Christians (and even some Christians) don’t like her. They can’t relate to her on any level. She tends to shove her faith down peoples’ throats instead of getting to know them and building relationships that open them to hearing about her faith. People see that and don’t want to have anything to do with her, which is honestly understandable.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are others (while insisting they’re Christians) drink, do drugs, say horrible things about other people, and engage in all sorts of non-Christian behaviors. I’m certainly not trying to say that Christians can be perfect, but it seems like they don’t take their faith seriously at all. I don’t want people to think that that’s what Christianity’s about either.

So all this considered, I’ve discovered that there is a line, and a really fine one at that, between being in the world, and being of the world. Romans 12:1 says:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV)

I was reading the same verse in a loosely paraphrased translation of the Bible written in contemporary language called “The Message”. It gives an interesting perspective on the verse:

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God.” (The Message)

We should be a part of our culture, but not let it overwhelm us and conform us. Instead of being sucked into the world, we can stay stuck on God. He’ll help us stay grounded.

The ways I’ve found so far to stick with goal #2 are as follows:

1. Going to church on Sundays! It’s surprising how much my friends notice when I go to church. And they never fail to comment on it. My Muslim roommate, who probably respects my religion the most, always insists, “Yes, she’s a Christian. Didn’t you guys know that?” And then I get props from the hippie kid for being “spiritual”. Great conversation starters, and they don’t even have to be forced.

2. Reading my Bible in my room, no matter if others are there. It isn’t obnoxious or obtrusive.

3. And the most fun so far is my art history study group. I am the only Christian, so I get to explain to everyone all of the Bible stories behind the religious works of art we are studying. I tell them what the stories mean, and it’s not forced. We all have to know it for the quiz, so they’re thankful.

I’m working on more ways to live out my faith without alienating people. Hopefully I can get better and better at this. I’m praying about it, and am constantly looking to the Word for advice. I feel really good about this year so far, and I’m confident that with God’s help, it will continue to be good.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”

1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)

Contributed by H.A.