A month ago, when I asked readers to send in letters about college experiences, I expected we would get a couple of dozen.
Instead, we received a couple of hundred. Next week we'll look at some of the negative letters about Christian colleges, but our Mailbag page this week celebrates the positive, and we are glad to see many institutions praised.
On this page I will attempt to summarize the two main themes of the many letters about life in non-Christian academic settings: (1) it's tough, and (2) God's grace is alive.
Letter writers such as Thomas Cobb, Ann Bailes, and Steven Costello noted that Christian students at non-Christian colleges are the recipients of pro-abortion, pro-sexual-immorality, and politically leftist propaganda and pressure.
Nevertheless, many correspondents testified that God graciously provided manna in this wilderness. Kathryn Deibler as a freshman at Clemson learned about Christ "through one of the apparently least likely channels, my sorority." She is now "in graduate school at Cornell, an incredibly liberal and anti-Christian school, but here I have found the most loving 'family' and very lively ministry."
Holly Weaver went through a college "honors program where almost every professor and student was extremely liberal." One professor said Christians talked up Jesus, "but deep down we knew we didn't really believe it. I was very intimidated by individuals such as these," but "God did lead me to roommates and friends who also believed in him."
Ann Corcoran wrote that at the University of Texas at Austin during the early 1990s, she was "thoroughly immersed in 'secular liberalism,' [but] came out with a faith deeper and stronger." For Ann and her friends, "the challenge to our faiths was a blessing for which we would trade nothing." They "spent a lot of time in the Word and learning about Christ since we were not getting it from our school environment."
Steve and Nancy Mizell wrote about the experiences at the University of Wyoming of their eldest son, Ben: "We felt that as an engineering major Ben would not have to deal with too many godless professors, but he still had to take Freshman English.... The TA was president of the campus gay and lesbian association." He was told he could not quote the Bible, and "he came home tired and disheartened at semester end," but even amid such harassment, "God's faithful protection and strengthening was evident," in prayer and in the encouragment offered by a Christian who lived in the dorm room next door.
Erin, a senior at the University of Michigan, wrote that she is a Christian "practically drowning in all the angst, cynicism, and lack of sexual morals that I have found here on campus. It is incredibly frustrating." And yet, "after three years here, my best friends are all Christians, and my new roommate as well. We seem to find each other by the grace of God."
An e-mail correspondent, "Lydia Ruth," wrote that at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville she is in a black gospel choir, Inspirational Singers. "By giving me one credit hour, the University thinks that they are supporting awareness of the African-American culture, but what they're really supporting is a Christian ministry. Brothers and Sisters with dark skin and light skin come together twice a week to worship God in song, to pray for each other, and to encourage each other.... The University pays us to go on trips to 'recruit' for them. They aren't the only ones we're recruiting for."
Jill Gardner wrote that her education in Washington state "was extremely liberal, particularly in my major, which was English literature. I became very confused as I wrestled with my belief system and the new things I was learning. How did it all fit together? It didn't....
I came face to face with the hopelessness and meaninglessness of humanism and atheism. God never abandoned me while I was searching; instead, he used the attempts of many to blind me with lies to show me the truth. I did face a time of despair. But out of that came a conviction that I now find to be unshakable that life is only in Christ."
Looking back, Jill sees how God preserved her, and how "I came face to face with my saviour in a way I never had before. But will I send my son and daughter to that same university when they are 18? I don't know. Would it be an act of faith in God for their safety, or sheer foolishness?"