How to Stay Christian in College
Going to college can be interesting, exhilarating, and scary. One of the main concerns for Christians is that the college experience has gained a reputation of being the place where people shed (or “grow out of”) their Christian belief, and into something “more reasonable,” like Buddhism, or in the best possible world (from the world’s point of view), atheism. It’s telling that there are no books titled, “how to stay an atheist in college,” because it’s not really all that difficult to stay an atheist in the rarified air of the college campus. It’s only when you must face reality that the unreality of atheism begins to creep into your mind.
This is a scattered work, one part worldview, one part practical advice, and one part apologetics. The author begins with a description of college life, which includes telling his own story of movement away from Christianity through college, and an eventual return to the Faith many years after. He describes college as an almost alien world where children suddenly find themselves treated as almost adults (you don’t have to wash your sheets or cook, but you have to wash your clothes).
In the second part, he moves into a short overview of worldviews. He describes the Christian worldview in some detail, and provides a gloss of postmodernism and “do it yourself spirituality.” Budziszewski ends this section with some practical advice on influencing rather than being influenced — a key point in every relationship throughout life.
The third part deals with what the author calls campus myths — myths about seeking for truth, about love and sex, and about politics. The section on love and sex is the most useful, dealing with the idea that love is an emotion, and sex just the “adult expression” of that emotion openly and honestly. He demolishes these ideas in simple and plain language, providing a better way — wait until marriage. The final section is chock full of practical advice on coping in a world that clearly doesn’t appreciate Christian thought, extending beyond the campus and into the world as most Christians who work in hostile work environments actually experience it.
The great strength of this book is the practical advice, especially on relationships with other people. There is a lot of practical advice and thinking here that, if followed by Christians of all ages, could help make the Church a much stronger witness in the world at large. The great weakness is the shallowness of each individual part. Worldviews aren’t really described in any depth, the political debate isn’t really anchored in a Christian worldview, and the author skips Islam altogether. This shallowness also shows up in the “just so stories,” scattered throughout the book — perhaps atheists really react that way on some college campuses, but I’ve never found one who does.
Rather than meek “I’ll think about that,” reactions, what you’re likely to get when challenging an atheist is a full blown denunciation against the “crimes of Christianity,” in great detail, throughout all of recorded history. Or you’re likely to be roundly laughed at , told you’re not intellectually serious, etc. Readers, particularly in high school, are likely to walk away thinking they’ll be able to convert atheists to Christianity, including their professors, if they only approach the problem the right way, with the right words, and the right attitude. While there might be some people you can approach in this way, the vast majority are going to be so negative to God the best you’ll be able to do is plant a few seeds over their loud and angry protestations.
Overall, this is a well laid out book, addressing crucial questions and focusing on relationships. It’s a bit shallow, but this should be taken as an invitation to do serious study on worldviews, rather than as an end-all, be-all introduction to the topic.