For the newcomers among us, a major part of this new college experience is finding different groups to be a part of.
Flyers will soon adorn every hallway and bulletin board campus-wide with promises of fun outdoor trips, rigorous fitness activities, and resume-building work experiences.
This is all business as usual. Soon enough, these flyers will also be joined by others with little more than cryptic, bold text such as “ALIVE” or “BELIEVE.”
These are typically flyers trying to get you to come check out a youth group or one of the religious clubs here on campus. If you’re interested, great. Go check it out.
However, when you do, bear one thing in mind: your beliefs are just that, yours. If you want to share them with like-minded individuals, that’s fine. However, to most others, parading them around will be little more than an annoyance.
There’s no doubt about it, the people running these clubs and organizations are working hard to make people feel wanted.
But the rigorous advertising for these youth groups can feel pretty pushy. In the past, flyers for Chi Alpha, Revive, etc. have relied heavily on back-handed promises of self-improvement.
Want to feel okay about yourself? Go to youth group! Want to meet others like you? Go to youth group! The message is intended to be positive, but instead sounds more like an exclusion. According to the posters, being in means you are inherently a good person. Being out means you’re a lost soul.
To those who will jump and cry “foul” at this, recall that in the past, Chi Alpha has had shirts with the text “Are you a part of the clan?” printed on the back. Tell me, does that sound like an invitation to some safe haven?
In most cases, honesty is indeed the best policy. Don’t shy away from saying you’re an atheist or a Christian, but don’t say any more without the permission from the listener.
Once, during my sophomore year, my friends and I were eating dinner in the pit when we were approached by two men with a stack of photographs.
They asked us if we’d like to talk, and when we agreed, they had us associate images with certain words: “life” was a guitar, “freedom” was an open ocean, etc.
I was genuinely interested in where this was leading, until the words “religion” and “spirituality” came up. These two were here to recruit us into a church, and they had been shady about their intentions.
If you’re going to talk about religion, be forthright. If you do try to talk to a person about something as touchy as spirituality, please be mature about it and keep an open mind. “Atheist” is not code for “babykiller,” and “Muslim” is not code for “terrorist.”
If worse comes to worse, agree to disagree. Just because you have a right to your belief, doesn’t mean you need to exercise your right to share it.