“At university, it’s risky to ‘come out’ as Christian”

CP&S: We are all discovering for ourselves how it is becoming increasingly hard to openly admit to harbouring Christian principles, much less to publicly defend them without a bombardment of insults and mockery coming our way… as brave Catholic journalists like Caroline Farrow and Joanna Bogle have discovered for themselves. Politicians have an almost impossible task nowadays to fight the growing number of secular anti-Christian laws being churned out by our Governments. Our state schools and universities will often mock Christian beliefs. To hold and stand up for our faith and values in a Western world largely dismissive of them, yet now growing every day more hostile, is going to be the challenge for the future that all true Christians shall have to better prepare themselves for.

by Madeleine Kearns posted Thursday, 19 Oct 2017 on the CATHOLIC HERALD

Students sing worship songs before Donald Trump delivers the convocation in the Vines Center on the campus of Liberty University (Getty Images)

Admitting to being religious is hazardous not only for academic reputations, but social ones too

In the university town of St Andrews, along the narrow road that overlooks the North Sea, there is a modest townhouse with a red door. The small black plaque at the building’s entrance reads “Chaplaincy”. Between its steps and the ocean is the little Catholic church of St James and, nearby, the ruins of a great cathedral.

The chaplaincy’s interior, its 1970s decor, dim lighting and musty scent, in many ways symbolises the impression I had of Catholicism as an 18-year-old student. This was a view that was compounded by my studies, where religion was casually dismissed by my professors in flippant remarks. At such moments, I’d look around the lecture halls for signs of challenge. But no one so much as flinched.

At St Andrews, I learned that, while Christianity may be a fascinating artefact and some sort of vague Christian identity might be acceptable in polite society, it was absolutely not to be used as an intellectual lens. One literature professor scolded me for citing the literary criticism of TS Eliot and CS Lewis in an essay (they were the only books left in the library). These ideas were “out of date”, she said. Marxist, Freudian, feminist, queer, post-structuralist, deconstructionist interpretations were all usable, and available on short loan.

The year after graduating, I moved to New York. I was curious, being under the impression that America was a place where one could discuss religious convictions without feeling like a freak. Besides, the New York University (NYU) Catholic chaplaincy was modern and stylish.

But I soon discovered that the culture, both inside and outside the classroom, entailed a high degree of political presumption. And in many and alarming ways, it was more aggressive than back home. At NYU, all present were automatically assumed to belong within mostly unspoken but implicitly understood progressive norms regarding politics, religion and sex. It was a difficult starting point for anyone outside the fold.

In the US, religion is much more closely aligned with political belief. For instance, on campus I learned that it was “the Religious Right” who were responsible for almost all American malaises including, but not limited to, misogyny, homophobia and gun violence. Once, during drinks with a fellow student, I admitted to being a churchgoer. Her next question was: “So do you support Trump?”

The Catholic students I have talked to at NYU, Columbia, Cornell, Yale and Harvard (as well as those at British universities) have told me that “coming out” as Christian is not only hazardous for academic reputations, but social ones, too. One student recounted how, on a date, she had been discussing her seven siblings when her suitor asked: “Don’t your parents know about contraception?” Another gentleman I know was ridiculed by fellow students after declining a proposition from a young woman when he gently explained that he didn’t believe in sex before marriage.


Read the rest HERE

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2 Responses to “At university, it’s risky to ‘come out’ as Christian”

  1. toadspittle says:

    I thought being Christian was supposed to be “risky.”
    Didn’t Christ say so? Isn’t that the idea? Like being Gay in the 50’s.
    …So why the sudden delayed shock?


  2. Mary Salmond says:

    Madeline, I’m apologize for the rudeness of your fellow peers. But in some ways, I remember getting some of those same comments over 40 years ago, but not as often probably as you are getting these flippant remarks. In some ways you have to ignore the smart-allecs and not be “triggered” by them. Many of those students assume everybody thinks like them. If you can make a comeback just as poignant; give it sincerely without anger. You might get some eyebrows, but you may have planted the seed of religion!


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