Liberalism and religion don’t really get along. This trend is not lost at the College of William and Mary. Religion, and to be more specific, Christianity, has a negative stigma on our campus. While we are the people who give you pancakes on the last day of classes, we’re more much more than that.
Before I get going, let’s get a few things taken care off. First, Christianity on campus certainly is not representative of much of the broader Church. Second, I’m not necessarily representative of many Christians on campus — my family was excommunicated from the Catholic Church for getting one of the congregation’s more prominent members arrested. Even when we were a part of the Church, I was never a believer. I was an atheist for several years before I saw what Christianity was about. Third, and most importantly, this is not a plea to anyone to convert. If you do not believe in my God, or you do not believe in any god, that is your right. I’m not going to try and evangelize to you and I’m not even going to quote scripture. Evangelization is stupid, and it largely hurts the Christian name, at least in its most recognized form. What this is, is a request that we, as a campus, not look down upon the Christian community here on campus simply because we are associated with all of the other stuff that our lesser half does.
Christianity on campus has been, in my experience, a place largely free of judgment. Admittedly, we’re not perfect, but the stigma that associated with the church with their views on sex, sexuality and brokenness don’t resonate with the fellowships I’ve seen on campus. The Church and the Christian community in general has a long way to go in terms of dealing with these topics. We are not quite there yet, but we are working on it. The only place where I have found myself freely able to talk about things such as pornography and sex has been in Christian communities. We don’t all see it as good, but we’re very accepting of it. We want to talk about these things and how they affect us.
We have a bit more work to do in the way of dealing with sexuality. I have never personally witnessed a Christian from the College judge someone for their sexuality or gender. I choose my words carefully here because I’m not omnipresent; I know it happens. I am sure there have been Christians from the College who are not nearly as open-minded as the circles I am a part of, but my communities have always been open and understanding of these topics. We’ve had more than one person come out during our larger meetings, and our small groups are even more intimate. These have always been moments of compassion. That being said, I am part of one of the more liberal Christian communities on campus so that probably has influenced my experiences.
To those of you on campus who have felt judged by a Christian because of your gender or sexuality, I’m going to let you in on a secret. If they are judging you, they are not doing the whole Christian thing right. Obviously, that is not going to stop it from happening, because the Church has always been a place of sheer and utter hypocrisy; but please do not let those people make you think that all Christians are judgmental.
The Christian communities I am a part of have always handled issues of mental health and personal brokenness with as much finesse as they can give it. Again, we are not perfect, but these topics find caring ears in most Christian communities on campus. Our society, our campus, and our Christian communities are all filled to the brim with persons afflicted by depression, anxiety, self-loathing, and pretty much any other mental health issue you can name. We treat these topics no differently than any other community would. We seek to find answers and progress in different ways than the secular world, but we are not reflected by self-righteous Christians that far too often take the spotlight.
I must reassert here that I do not speak for all Christians on campus and certainly not in the world. Christianity is riddled with judgment, bigotry, and ignorance. We’re not great at these things, because we stem from the Church of fire and brimstone, the Church of condemnation, the Church of blasphemy, the Church of self-righteousness, and the Church of hate. My plea is not that we all say that Christianity is not that bad, because a lot of the times, we are. My request is that we do not judge Christians, especially those on our campus, by the popular portrayal of faith. We are not all bad.
Email Abe Winterscheidt at firstname.lastname@example.org.