People are wearing every shade of blue on college campuses across the nation today. Duke blue, Carolina blue, teal, aqua, and everything in between. Each year Interfaith Youth Core sponsors an annual day to take a stand against religious intolerance. Wearing blue means that one supports interfaith dialogue and shows respect for people of different faith traditions. Students are especially encouraged to find volunteer projects they can do together. Having a common goal – especially helping make the world a better place – is always a good way to build community.
College campuses are a perfect place to deepen one’s spiritual journey. Students are removed from the pressures of their homes, and can’t rely on being parasites of their parents’ faith. My mom once told me that the unexamined faith is not worth having. The independence of a collegiate setting provides the opportunity to delve more fully into one’s own faith – what do I believe, why do I believe it, how does this impact my life and the lives of others around me. The spiritual journey hits at the heart of all the existential questions in life.
So many people assume that interacting with someone of a different faith will harm or damage their beliefs. I don’t know how many times I have encountered first year college students whose home churches gave them the parting words, “Don’t let that school take away your faith!” The recent movie, God’s Not Dead, only encourages that mindset of fear. The movie tells the fictitious story of a college student whose professor makes his class disavow the existence of God or fail the class. One young man refuses to do this, and thus is given the alternate assignment of convincing his classmates that God is not dead. If he cannot achieve this, then he will fail. The well-meaning church members who fear for the faith of their young ones heading to college certainly supported this movie.
A protectionist, defensive mindset prevents people from developing a mature and real faith. A good college education encourages a young adult to think for herself, to develop her own ideas, to explore a variety of facets from multiple perspectives. College is not a place out to destroy one’s faith. It’s a place where one has the opportunity to create a deep faith that has true meaning, and will provide a spiritual foundation for all the ups and downs each life carries.
Encountering people of a different faith in a meaningful way does not harm one’s faith, but actually makes it stronger. I love seeing a student explain her faith to someone else. When she does, she understands it more fully. It becomes much more her own, instead of something she simply inherited from her family. It excites me to see students find commonalities across faith traditions. They realize we oftentimes have more in common than we realize with a surface or misinformed understanding of a different tradition. And it thrills me to see students band together to make the world a better place.
Our world is so incredibly divided today. This division oftentimes comes from ignorance and misinformation. Archbishop Desmond Tutu once stated that college students are at the forefront of any real change in our world. Thousands and thousands of students across our country are leading that change today. They are wearing blue, signifying to all around them that they are taking a stand against religious intolerance and will find ways to live authentically in community with people of different faiths.
Thanks be for leadership of college students!