How the first week of college can completely destroy a freshman’s faith
Imagine yourself as an incoming college freshman. You are filled with excitement and anxiety as you register for your first classes as an official college student. The apartment you are staying in is just off campus. Rent split four ways is not too bad and one of the guys you knew in high school. Your buddy Brock is a now a fully situated and socially connected sophomore who has promised to show you the ropes (and some girls!)
Your conservative parents aren’t super worried about your off campus situation. They knew the kid and his parents. Good people. Good kid. Good start.
Monday Anticipation After driving the six hours from home, your mom calling you every hour on the hour to check on you, your rusty, dusty Corolla pulls up to your new digs. Orientation doesn’t start until Tuesday so you use the rest of the late afternoon/evening to get settled into your living situation. With an oversized green canvas duffle bag draped over your shoulder, you make your way up the cracked concrete to your very own home away from home. You knock on the door of the apartment and as you do it swings open quickly. Your friend has been waiting.
Before you can even dump your gear this “good Christian kid” is bragging about how he scored you an invite to the frat house party that Friday night. “What’s that?” you think. Anticipating your unblurted question he begins to explain, “To get invited to a frat party is a big deal. I became buddies with one of the football players last year and now he rules the roost at Alpha Beta Kai. They are throwing a blow out this weekend and we are going to be right in the middle of it.”
As he talks you don’t want to seem like a prude. So you just say, “Oh, that’s great.” Anyway, that’s still days away. You have some time to figure out what to do.
Tuesday Orientation Bad start. You slept in until noon. Your orientation doesn’t start until 6pm but you should have gotten up earlier. But after setting up your room, going out for pizza with Brock and staying up until 2am just catching up with him, you couldn’t help yourself.
You decide to take a walk across campus. As you do you are blown away. This university is beautiful. Many of the buildings were erected in the late 40’s, back when craftsmanship mattered. And it’s not just the buildings that are beautiful. You are blown away by the girls. You are almost embarrassed to walk by them on the broad cobblestone sidewalks. Blonde seems to be the school color and giggles must be the school song. In the words of Brock, “the hotties are really hot here.”
After self-touring you grab a sandwich and head off to the auditorium for the Freshman orientation. The two thousand seat auditorium is packed. Three hours of introductions and directions combined with endless “hints and tips for a great freshman year” leave you reeling. But you can’t wait.
Lights out at 11pm tonight. It all begins tomorrow.
Wednesday…Disorientation Your first college class happens to be “Introduction to Philosophy.” You can’t wait. As you make your way into the room you are in awe at how big it is. This is not like high school. You could put three hundred students in this mini-auditorium easy. You find an unassuming seat in the middle of the room, drop your backpack and take out a spiral notebook and a pen, ready to take some notes.
The long haired, spectacled professor who looks like a walking tribute to the seventies, comes rushing in and mumbles “Welcome to philosophy 101.” The students, some of whom are still finding their ways to their seats and many of whom are still talking, seem to barely notice him. So he screams at the top of his lungs, “I SAID, Ã¢â‚¬ËœWELCOME TO PHILOSOPHY 101!!!” That quiets the crowd and everybody settles into their seats.
Without a book on his desk or a paper in his hands, this funky looking fifty something professor begins spouting and touting the benefits of philosophy. His monologue is laced with quotes from Thoreau, Voltaire, Hume and a bunch of other old school philosophers. But far from being dry and dusty, this guy is funny, quirky funny, but funny nonetheless. Within ten minutes every freshman is riveted and fully engaged. Within twenty minutes every student around you knows this is going to be a great class. And you are all deeply impressed that this professor is going without a net, no notes, no cheat sheets, no nothing. He has obviously been honing this monologue for years, working out the kinks on thousands of other college freshman in previous classes.
You are excited. But that’s when he asks the crowd an unexpected question. Out of the blue he asks,
“How many of you believe in God?”
Without thinking you raise your hand before anybody else. And before you realize that your hand is the only one up, his eyes focus on you and he asks the question, “Why?”
You’re now in the center of the spotlight you were hoping to avoid. The only words that find their way to your trembling lips are “uhhh, ummm, I don’t know.”
He jumps on your hesitation like a dog on red meat, “Since you don’t know let me tell you why you believe in God. Because your parents believe in God and their parents believed in God. Belief in some kind of Supreme Being is a mental crutch, a poor man’s way of explaining the mysteries of the universe and life. My goal in this classroom is break that crutch, dismantle your narrow faith and open your closed mind to the possibilities of a universe without God, without reasons and without crutches.”
You are bright pink with embarrassment. You can feel the blood in your ears and are kicking yourself for raising your hand so quickly. But these adrenaline induced emotions quickly fade as another kid raises his hand, stands to his feet and says, “Well, I know why I believe in God and my faith is not some mental crutch.”
All of a sudden the spotlight shifts to this guy and you are relieved. But you are also impressed. This fellow freshman has got a lot of guts to call out a tenured professor his first day of school.
The professor smiled as if he knew what was about to unfold. Like two gunslingers facing off each other the two stood silent for a moment. But the professor’s gun was bigger and he was much faster. Before the kid could get his brain out of his holster the prof had filled his Christian courage full of hot logic lead. Midway through this mental massacre, the kid slumped back and dropped into his chair, while his mortally wounded belief system lay in a philosophical pool of blood and mud.
Nobody ever challenged this teacher again the whole semester.
With the Christian kids now thoroughly humiliated this “open minded” professor proceeds to dismantle every belief that you ever held dear, the existence of God, the reliability of the Bible, the deity of Jesus…everything. In the last ten minutes of class he stops the assault and starts sharing his philosophical reconstruction of his godless universe. What really starts scaring you is that this guy is making sense. As class is dismissed you are fighting the urge to even consider what he is saying as the truth. If he were right then everything you’ve always believed about everything is wrong.
Ah well, tomorrows another day.
Thursday…Operation Accommodation O.K. you are going to have to deal with this stuff. This is a secular university not a Christian one. And the word “secular” means “without God” or something like that anyway. You can’t expect every prof in every class to believe what you believe. Surely in your next round of classes you’ll find a bosom buddy of a Christian teacher. You don’t. From Biology to ethics to sociology 101 you hear more of the same stuff repackaged.
Some classes are great and others are boring as Sunday school, but every one of them is filled with hot Freshman girls so you’ll find a way to get through.
Friday…The “Pepsi” Party “Tonight’s the night loser!” Brock yells in your ear as you jump straight out of bed in your skivvies. Rubbing the sleep from your eyes you yell back, “What?!”
“Tonight is the party. It starts at 8pm and we’re going to be front and center. Be back and ready to go no later than 7:30. Got it?”
You nod yes just to get him out of your room. After washing your face you realize what you just committed to and immediately regret it.
But just because you go to a party doesn’t mean you have to drink or do drugs right? Right! You stood the test (mostly) in high school. You can do it again. But at 8pm that night you realize that this is not high school, not even close. You’re not in Kansas anymore and Toto (the guy who greets you at the Frat door) is already stoned.
The yard and frat house is booming and brimming with guys, girls and paper cups filled with “Pepsi” because in the words of Brock “we all know that it is illegal for us minors to drink liquor” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge.)
You are feeling uncomfortable and out of place. But then you see her and she sees you. Tina was the hottest girl in your high school. She wouldn’t give you the time of day just four months ago but now she almost runs to talk to you (she must feel out of place too.)
By the way she acted around you in high school you wouldn’t know she knew more than four words, but now she is a non-stop chatter box. After all the how are you’s, and how are you liking schools and stuff she begins to open up. She feels exactly the same way about you. Before you know it Brock has dropped a paper cup full of that “Pepsi” into both of your hands. At first you don’t drink, but you get so sucked into the conversation, that before you can stop yourself you take a quick sip. It is Pepsi…and a little something something.
Five cups later you are making out with the hottest girl in your high school.
Five hours later you are out.
And ten hours later.
Saturday…Regret and a killer headache
At 2pm you wake up with a pounding head and a guilty conscience. You don’t know how you got back to your own bed. You just know that you messed up…bad. If mom or dad ever found out they’d kill you.
But who’s going to tell them…Brock? Vegas and college have something in common. What happens there stays there.
And, after all, tomorrow’s another day. Oh yeah, it’s Sunday. Church? Just sleep in, get your head together and try again next week.
And so the downward spiral begins. No wonder 70% walk away from their faith after they graduate from high school.
You have a friend.
You have a foe.
You have a family.
Prepare now to help your teenagers keep the faith in college:
Prepare! Make sure your teens know what they believe, why they believe and that they believe. Train them to know and live the core truths of Christianity. Sign them up for Soul Fuel (free training devo that deals with the basics of the Christian belief system in a powerful and relevant way on www.dare2share.org) so that you both can talk about it weekly.
Recommended Reading: The University of Destruction by David Wheaton
Discover! Find out what Christian college groups are meeting at the university your teenager is going. Campus Crusade, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and/or other Christian college based ministries meet regularly on virtually every secular university across the US. Find out what’s on the campus you plan on sending your college student off to.
Talk! Talk with your teenager about the temptations that await them. And, if you are suspicious that your teenager won’t be able to withstand the onslaught, consider sending them to a solid Christian college. The odds go way, way up for long term commitment to Jesus Christ in a thriving Christian setting.
*This article is a touched up “Stier Straight” article I wrote a few years ago.