ONE YEAR AGO I WAS AN excited college freshman. I'd chosen a secular school with the course of study I wanted to pursue. I went to college looking forward to the courses, new friends, and living away from home. I expected to get an education, but what I got was a surprise.
The first shocker was Freshman Orientation, which you should know right now is a terrible misnomer. The correct term would be Freshman Indoctrination. Many schools basically hold students hostage for three or four days and attempt to reprogram their brains on matters of moral relativism, tolerance, gay/lesbian/transgendered rights, postmodernism, and New Age spirituality. Orientation skits sent messages like, "it's okay to have premarital sex, just use a condom," "underage drinking is accepted (and expected), but if you have sex when you're drunk you have the right to press charges for rape," "homosexuality is normal, get used to it." And that was all before the first day of classes started.
The shock waves from Freshman Orientation had barely subsided when I received a second jolt. Required reading in my English class included not Shakespeare or Milton, but essays on why America deserved the terrorist attacks of 9/11, why we should listen to the Columbine killers, and why "under God" should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance.
I quickly learned that I was in a place that desperately needed truth, God's truth. There were abundant opportunities for me to speak up in class or in the school newspaper. Although at times I felt ill-equipped for the task, it was exciting to be a voice defending Christianity. Sometimes other students would speak up in agreement, and others spoke in disagreement-loudly and sometimes profanely.
In my high-school English class we received a long list of books to read to prepare us academically for college. But you need more than some reading in British literature to prepare you for life at a secular university:
Be selective. The Freshman Orientation meetings may say "mandatory" but you can choose which activities you attend. Stay away from lectures or skits dealing with "college life." They won't be about finding your classes, surviving on dry cereal, or getting along with your roommate. They're about tolerance, diversity, and moral relativism. Do go to the hall meetings, hall parties, icebreakers, and movie nights. These will be the places to meet people and start making new friends.
Speak up. When you're under attack, find your voice. Fear makes you sit silently when your faith is attacked. Speaking up is an act of courage. Courage isn't the absence of fear, it's acting in spite of fear. Courage puts your senses on alert and your brain in gear.
Be prepared. Know how to handle yourself when you're called "judgmental." In lively discussions the first charge often lobbed is that you as a Christian are judgmental and the Bible says do not judge. Taken out of context, "judge not" sounds like a universal statement against ever making a judgment. But if "judge not" is a universal ban, positive judgments would be taboo as well as negative judgments. We couldn't judge that a movie was good, a book excellent, or a lecture challenging. Make it clear that each one of us makes judgments every day, both positive and negative.
Plug in. Go to Campus Crusade, Navigators, InterVarsity, or Reformed University Fellowship. Find a Bible study, or start one. Take responsibility for your spiritual growth. It may mean reading a lot of C.S. Lewis and others.
Have fun. It may be hard not to be discouraged, but knowing what you're in for can help soften the jolt. And remember that even though you may be the only one speaking up in class, you are never alone.
Encouragement is offered in 1 Peter 3:14-16: "But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame."
-Abby Nye is a student in Indianapolis