For the past two weeks, I’ve been writing about the experience of our young people when they go off to college. According to one study, nearly two-thirds of students who profess to believe in Jesus Christ when they begin college no longer profess that by the time they finish college.
I had intended to move on to a different topic this week, but last Thursday, I received an email from Erin Freml that I wanted to share with you. (I have her permission.)
Erin grew up attending FBC and then went away to college. She’s currently married and living in California. I think her experience at college is worth noting. What follows is a shortened version of her email:
I try to keep up with FBC and I’m glad you’ve taken the time to cover [the topic of high school graduates going off to college]. I think it’s such an important responsibility that churches have to send [their young people to college] well-equipped.
I feel blessed to have grown up in FBC . . . [However,] one of the things I felt lacking in as I left for college was intellectual backing for my own set of beliefs.
I felt very grounded spiritually and I did find a sense of community and Biblical teaching at a secular school, [but] I was in no way prepared for the [attacks on Christianity] I received in my classes, especially those classes with passionate anti-spiritual professors.
I had no experience engaging in conversation and debate with highly intellectual atheistic individuals. I could not respond to most of their questions or accusations or assertions about the existence of God/spirituality, the validity of the Bible, and how my beliefs could hold in the face of social/global issues like abortion, homosexuality, and evolution.
So I spent much of my time feeling defeated and wondering why I couldn’t answer their questions for them or myself.
It wasn’t about winning a debate or dominating a discussion. Whenever someone asserted something I couldn’t respond to, I would always internalize that question and begin questioning it myself and feel guilty that I couldn’t respond and was, therefore, reinforcing the dumb-religious person stereotype.
One of the biggest cultural changes over the past 25-30 years is that the culture no longer supports Christianity and is, in fact, often hostile (particularly on the college campus). As a church, we need to adjust to that reality.