FM72: Performative Christianity (Baylor’s Version)

Gwen Henry | Cartoonist

By The Editorial Board

While 72 hours of prayer and late-night worship sessions may seem like an ideal environment to bring a friend or to have a come-to-Jesus moment, there are some not-so-obvious negative side effects.

A lot of us may embrace and engage in the large prayer tent on Fountain Mall and various conversations surrounding the three-day Christianpalooza, also known as FM72. There is beauty in having a space for that on a college campus. However, this is one of numerous examples of public, almost performative, Christianity at Baylor.

“During the spring semester of 2019 and every year since, thousands gathered on Fountain Mall for the 72 hours to pray, worship and unite under the name of Jesus,” the website reads. “God’s Spirit was present, and an anointing fell on our campus unlike any other time in Baylor’s recent history.”

FM72 has good intentions, but with thousands of students participating in one genre of worship and prayer, it comes with a lot of pressure. Not every Christian feels comfortable at a large service with hand-raising worship and group prayer.

However, these are expectations that come with going to a school that has a very strong Baptist mission. The large crowds of students, and maybe a lot of your friends, flocking to late-night worship sessions, going to life groups on Wednesdays and hosting Bible study on weekday mornings can paint a very pretty — and idealistic — picture of what being a Christian student at Baylor means.

While it’s awesome to have a Christ-centered community and students who are active in their faith, FM72 and the more trendy events can be isolating for students who prefer a different style of worship. Pursuing faith in a more private way can feel inadequate during weeks like this one, but people aren’t “doing it wrong” if they don’t post a Bible verse on their Instagram story or get baptized publicly.

According to official data on the faith of Baylor students gathered in 2023, more than 16,000 of the 20,824 total students identify with some denomination of Christianity. Out of this population, 3,778 are Baptist. While this number is certainly sizable, it leaves plenty of students who are not Baptists and, therefore, may worship and live out their faith in a manner different from the fashion characteristic of FM72.

This 72-hour period can be a great time to grow in your faith, but it can also serve as a reminder to cater to and be mindful of others’ preferences. For example, if someone declines an invitation, don’t lay on the peer pressure. Offer some alternatives, like talking over coffee or lunch. Create a space that’s welcoming to those who may prefer a solo relationship with God.

If you don’t want to wear an “I’d rather have Jesus” T-shirt or spend an afternoon in the prayer tent, you aren’t pursuing religion the wrong way. If you’re struggling with navigating how you want to follow Jesus and how everyone else seems to be, you aren’t alone. Making an effort to communicate how you want to have faith-based conversations and how God plays a part in your life is difficult but important — and it’s not just your responsibility.

At a Christian university, some of these things are inevitable and challenging to navigate. You can’t make everyone happy, but we can do our part as friends, classmates and peers to be as inclusive as possible in our daily lives.