Trying on the Bible Belt: Culture shocks for out-of-state Christians

Gwen Henry | Cartoonist

By The Editorial Board

At a university whose mission centers around leadership, academic excellence and “Christian commitment within a caring community,” it has become normalized to be religious on a more public scale.

This normalization can look like Bible verses in social media bios, photos from various life groups in your feed and countless cross chains decorating necks on campus. It’s common, maybe even trendy, to be Christian in the South and at Baylor.

Out-of-state students, religious or not, may find this surprising. Coming from states where it’s less common to be religious, their faith might have been more private than the social media spectacle some peers make it out to be here.

As of fall 2022, there are 17,533 religious students at Baylor, out of 20,709 who are enrolled. While that number is not limited to just Christianity, it is still 84% of students who are affiliated with a religion and have experiences with faith. It’s important to understand and be aware of the diverse backgrounds many students bring to campus.

Being Christian in states outside of the Bible Belt can look a lot different than being Christian in Texas. Where you grew up makes you frame religion differently, and that’s normal.

As of fall 2021, 55% of students are from Texas, but Baylor has students from all 50 states and 100 foreign countries. So, there’s a large array of geographical backgrounds present within the Baylor community.

In southern states, Christianity tends to be more openly practiced and expressed. It’s normal to go to church with a group of friends on Sunday, have Bible study during the week and talk about God during class. This isn’t a bad thing, but it could be a culture shock and leave students wondering where they fit in.

The commonality of religion can seem like we’re practicing a trend or culture of Christianity. However, there are some things we can do to combat a potentially diluted version of religion when it’s so present in our everyday lives.

If you’re Christian but aren’t used to incorporating it into school culture, social media or daily conversations, that is OK. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong.

If you’re Christian and struggling with the culture shock of religion at Baylor, take baby steps at first and lean on your support system. Be mindful of your boundaries and how you can push them.

Have empathy and patience for your peers. Be intentional with your connections and conversations, and be aware that everyone comes from a range of places and circumstances.

Our purpose as students partially lies in contributing to an accepting environment and understanding that not everyone fits the cookie-cutter Christian college student stereotype. Students come to campus from a variety of cultural and familial backgrounds — and religious expression is just another one of those differences.