By Rachel Royster | Copy Desk Chief
Baylor advertises itself as “unapologetically Christian.” While yes, that’s true, I’d argue that the university isn’t necessarily just Christian. It’s Baptist. So. Baptist.
I grew up as a cradle Episcopalian, which is essentially Catholicism on a diet. We pride ourselves on our liturgical services, rich choirs and a welcoming community across all age groups.
Coming to Baylor, I knew that it’d mostly consist of Baptist students, but I kept my chin up thinking, “It’ll be fine! There are so many more denominations and religions other than Baptist! You’ll fit right in.” Maybe I shouldn’t have let myself believe that last bit.
During my time in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, I have gotten to learn all about all sorts of religions that have challenged my faith, but I was always able to come back to my professors and have an intellectual conversation about why the Christian faith does certain things while other religions may do something far different. I can have composed scholarly discussions with my peers about their religions and compare it to my own and learn through them. And I love every second.
But the moment you step out of the world cultures class, everything is different. Especially this past week. I would walk down fountain mall back to my dorm and be stopped and asked if I’ve heard of FM72. I tried so hard not to be rude every time, but how can you kindly say you’re not even a little bit interested in going?
Then, I’d finally get back to my dorm after overthinking about whatever I ended up saying to the middle-aged guy in skinny jeans and a backwards Baylor hat. Immediately, I’m greeted by my friends asking me if I want to go to FM72. I’d lie every time and say, “Man, I really wish I could, but I’ve just got SO much work to do.”
Then they’d reassure me and start planning out when they’d walk over to McLane. After spending my few quiet hours doing work, they’d come back bragging about how they experienced God in that stadium and how great the worship was and ask if I can come the next night. Then the cycle repeats itself.
Of course, I think that is so awesome for them to get to have that experience together, but I just can’t bring myself to do that. It’s too much of a social event to me, and I know if I went, I’d feel like a terrible Christian for not raising my hands up during the chorus or I’d be so focused on trying to “experience God” that I wouldn’t be able to just let go of the weight of the pressure I feel when I’m surrounded by these scenes.
The only time I really feel the love and encouragement of a church family is when I’m around people that don’t go to things like that. Those are my people. The people who read their Bibles to themselves and don’t put it on their stories. The people who repent on their own in a quiet place. The people who don’t plan brunch on the way to their 500-plus person megachurch.
I know Baylor says you don’t have to be Baptist to go here, but man, does it feel like it.
If you don’t just give in and go to the three big-name churches (Harris Creek, Antioch and Highland), you’re left feeling isolated going to your own denomination or religion’s service. If you don’t “feel God” in the middle of a football stadium, you’re up at night thinking, “Why can’t my faith be as strong as theirs?” You’re left feeling like God loves you less for not putting your faith out on display.
I’m not saying all these events are made up of unaccepting people. All I’m saying is it’s hard not to be Baptist at Baylor. For the Baptists reading this, maybe don’t pressure your non-Baptist friend into going to your church service. Instead, offer to go to their service with them so they don’t have to go alone. And for the people who don’t worship like seemingly everyone else does, it’s OK. You’re not alone. Your faith is enough.