Last fall, I penned a set of essays for Boundless on the perils of being a Christian inside a Christian university.
The anxiety that the young’uns are going to go off to the secular institutions and leave us all behind has fostered something of a boomlet in attendance at Christian colleges. But as is so often the case, the more subtle temptations are those which are closer to home, the vices that masquerade as virtues and the contempt that familiarity sometimes breeds.
I eventually wearied of the environment and longed to get beyond “the bubble.” Chapel went from welcome refreshment as a freshman to dreary drudgery as a senior. By the end, I was no longer grateful for the opportunity (of a lifetime!) to worship communally multiple times a week and to be fed by the preaching of God’s Word. I was required to go, so I went. And if the sermon or the worship didn’t meet my standards, well, I had both barrels of biblical information (thanks, Bible classes!) loaded to critique and dismiss the speaker.
But my irritation had nothing to do with the godly frustration of being inside a cocoon for too long. Instead, I nursed a subtle and pernicious cynicism about the people around me. By the time I was a senior, I had no desire to go to chapel and hear one more bad sermon. I couldn’t deign to sing another theologically trite worship song. And everywhere I went, I began to distinguish between the real Christians (who, like me, managed to be unremittingly depressing in their authenticity) and those who were just playing the game.
Cynicism of that sort isn’t simply a lie about the world or the people around us. In my case, it was grounded in a false view of my own spiritual maturity that was quickly exposed when I left the Christian college environment. As I entered the “real world,” it became clear that I had failed those four years to build the disciplines and habits of the spiritual life in the way that I would have had to do in a secular environment. But rather than appreciating the environment and maximizing it through cultivating personal holiness, I sneered at the simplicity of it all and mocked those who didn’t “get it.”
Comments appreciated after reading the whole thing.
I would be interested to hear from those who went to Christian universities about whether the essay strikes a chord.