Missing Faith

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it. -Greg Anderson

By Angela Pupino

Aspiring Alexandra Petri. Wandering Monotheist. American University Class of 2018

A lot of fuss is made about the “lack” of religion on college campuses.

College campuses are stereotypically thought of as hotbeds for atheism, doubting, and just about every vice imaginable. And while there’s some truth to this, this is definitely not the full picture.

Before I went to college for my freshman year, members of my home church in Ohio begged me not to lose my faith along the way. What they didn’t understand was that I was already struggling with my identity as a Christian.

I was already reeling from a year of family losses and a particularly nasty pastoral transition at my home church. I was uncomfortable with dry platitudes that my pastor preached every Sunday. I was uncertain of my place in a church that felt old and where members made racist jokes during choir practice. In short, I had already lost a lot of my faith.

But when I least expected it, God and campus ministry pulled me back in.

I feel like many older Christians misunderstand religion’s role on a college campus. Most students, at least those I’ve met, are hungry for greater meaning in their lives. They are looking for a community where they feel safe and loved. But they have been hurt by the faith they grew up with. They have been hurt by their interactions with Christians. And they have been hurt by sermons promising hellfire, hurt by pastors and congregations who turned them away, hurt by parents and relatives who refused to let them ask questions about faith.

My home church has a very small population under the age of 65, so campus ministry was the first time I interacted with a large group of Christians my own age. It was the first time I saw Christianity as a religion of social justice and public service. It was also the first time I was able to see Christianity as a kaleidoscope of different beliefs and practices. I learned that I could pray on a labyrinth and not just in a pew. I learned that there are different translations of the Bible.

Campus ministry offered me healing and reconciliation with my faith. It offered me a place to belong at a time in my life when I desperately needed one. And it offers that space for any student who wants it.