Here at Baylor and many other Christian colleges, the culture and ideas surrounding Christianity can turn the religion into more of a trend than a personal religious experience. College is a time of self-exploration, and students should utilize that opportunity to grow spiritually apart from social pressures.
People expect you to be Christian at Baylor. It’s a Baptist university, after all. In that way, Christianity can be turned into more of a facade for someone to be accepted rather than something they are truly passionate about and invested in.
“Where do you go to church?” is such a common question upon meeting someone that it ranks right up there with “Where are you from?” and “What’s your major?” This can make people who don’t go to church uncomfortable and cause them to feel excluded right off the bat if their faith isn’t the common, expected faith of Christianity — even if their faith is just a separate denomination of Christianity, such as Catholicism.
Trendy Christianity has become a lifestyle nationwide among college students. If you don’t wear your Chacos, work at a Christian summer camp or have a notebook with pretty hand-lettered notes you take from each sermon you hear, it’s almost as if you’re not a true Christian. Not by the standards of other college Christians, anyways. If you’re not having coffee shop fellowship or having talks about God while hammocking in your Eno, it’s easy to feel like you’re not fitting in. It’s as if Christianity has been made into a club. We’ve made an exclusive fad out of a religion that is intended to be inclusive.
This trendy Christianity can pigeon-hole students into feeling they must prove their religious beliefs in a certain way. It can also make Christianity become more about material things that have nothing to do with the religion itself. All that these commercial products indicate is membership of the Baylor Christian college culture. They reveal nothing about the religious beliefs of an individual.
Christians need to make a conscious effort to recognize that faith is meant to be a deeply personal relationship with God. Going to worship nights shouldn’t be about feeling judged for not wearing particular brands of clothing. We should focus less on material items here and now, and more on what we actually believe about Christianity.
Associating unrelated clothing and product trends with expressions of Christianity can lead to passivity in faith. Keeping up with the trends of Baylor Christian college culture can sometimes keep students from answering difficult questions of doubt.
College is a time of self-discovery, and religion can be a big part of that. Lots of people have their beliefs challenged, be it through classes, new relationships or friendships, or just life experiences.
It can be hard to really evaluate what you believe in the midst of juggling classes, work and relationships while making memories that are supposed to last a lifetime. Caught up in the tides of relationships, grades and finances, College of New Jersey professor Tim Clydesdale says students tend to approach their education not as “intellectual explorer” but as “practical credentialist.”
“The religious belief systems of most students go largely untouched for the duration of their education,” sociologists from the University of Texas explain in their 2007 article “Losing My Religion: The Social Sources of Religious Decline in Early Adulthood.”
A religion isn’t something to be taken lightly. This is meant to be the core of who you are and what you believe. Each person should truly consider why they believe what they believe, and why they take part in the religious activities they do. Are you in YoungLife because all of your friends are doing it? Do you post pictures to your Instagram stories of Bible verses because you feel like all of your friends do? Do you go to Vertical just because it’s something your friends have gotten in the habit of doing, but you sit on your phone the whole time?
Ask yourself these questions and seriously consider why you believe what you believe. Having friends who hold you accountable to your faith is a great relationship, as long as you are truly passionate about your faith.
If sitting in your Eno makes you feel connected to nature spiritually or working at a Pine Cove camp connects you to your faith, continue to embrace those practices.
Decide on your religious beliefs based on what you’ve carefully thought through and personally experienced. Don’t feel the need to be a Christian or go through the motions of Christianity just because you’re at Baylor.
*Note from the Editor: The original version of the cartoon that accompanied this editorial had the Vertical logo above the scanner. This cartoon was not intended to convey any kind of stereotypes about Vertical in particular.