I used to hate going to church. The early mornings. The old women pinching your cheeks. The songs that lacked a beat. Only the promise of weekly chocolate chip pancakes forced me out of bed and into nice clothing. Now, I could go through the timeline of religiosity that transported me to today with the game of solitaire, the visit to Peru, or the swerving headlights in my eyes, but my own journey to faith is not why I was encouraged to write this piece. I feel incredibly conscious about my faith on this campus. From my perspective, religion is a sort of taboo at Carleton that no one touches. So, let’s finally talk about it.
Before I share my thoughts, I want to start this piece with an important disclaimer. This is my own story and my own views. My experience may not be unique but it is only one of a diverse many, and I cannot speak with authority for all of those who consider themselves religious on campus, nor should one person. I wrote this to start a conversation, nothing else.
In high school, despite not attending a predominantly Christian school, my peers were respectful of my beliefs both in class and outside. I frequently had conversations with those who held different views, that focused on understanding my religion, not looking for holes in it. Then, I came Carleton. Suddenly, questions about my faith often centered around trying to discover its inadequacies instead of its merits. Questions like, “why do you believe he rose from the dead?” turned to “but you don’t really believe he rose from the dead, right?” With this atmosphere, I compromised my views on multiple occasions. Slowly, I made myself sound “less Christian” until one friend told me in a complimentary tone, “I totally forgot you were a practicing Christian. You are like totally normal.” I was so ashamed of myself. A huge part of my identity was forgotten by one of my best friends because I was too afraid to speak up on my views.
I still remember an innocent conversation that began with three friends one day at Sayles. We were desperate for a study break and a comfy couch coupled with mozzarella sticks hit the spot. You know those conversations that begin talking about something unimportant like that cute girl in your Chem class that somehow digress into a talk about what the purpose of life truly means? Within ten minutes of sitting down, I was more venerable than I ever had been with friends who held different religious views from my own.
If you remember anything from this article, it should be this: body language is everything. Some diverting of the eyes or rising of the eyebrows clearly communicated that one of my friends thought everything I was saying was bullshit. She went on to further state, “The world is explained by science. It’s just rational.” I respect the opinion that science dictates our Earth, but treating my religion as if it is irrational is not okay. This conversation is one of the many times that I feel like a lack of religious ideals has been equated to rationality. While those who believe in a religion or even of a high power are simply grasping at straws.
I am not irrational because I am religious. I have faith not because I feel the need to explain everything or because I do not believe that science dictates certain features in our world. My religion is my rock. The ability to pray to a higher power in times of need or look to a moral guide when I am lost gives me a sense of place in this world. Religion is an orienteering tool that gives explanations for why the world operates the way it does and how one should act in a lifetime. That concept is extremely powerful. It should be respected.
The multiple students I have heard ripping up copies of the Bible or making fun of passages in the Torah should know that while you may not hold those specific views you are mocking, religious texts, icons, and clothing deserve care. Even if it is not sacred to you, it is sacred to someone. It is an integral part of their life, and you are basically communicating that you do not care about their views. How would you feel if someone cut up a personal letter without permission for the sake of art?
Classes can sometimes be daunting as people treat the Bible and other religious works as science fiction. I urge you to work to understand these texts and views. By just dismissing them as unimportant, you can never truly understand history, art, literature, music, politics, languages, and the list goes on. In other words, don’t tell Israel and Palestine to get over their desire for the Temple Mount because they are being irrational. It’s an integral part of each group’s religious history, so you need to consider how that affects their points of view, instead of dismissing it as idiotic.
I’ve spent so much time trying to understand why Carleton is, at times, anti-religion. We praise ourselves on being open-minded, yet we can put down those who are religious. We egg the Republican students’ cars because they have different political views (that’s an issue for another day.) We are hypocrites. We are only truly open-minded to the liberal, atheist ideals. This isn’t meant to call anyone out specifically but to just raise this question: how can we be respectful of each other’s religious views and have productive discussions when you consider someone’s views irrational and lies? Be respectful. Listen to others. Above all, ask probing questions to understand and not tear down.