Going from my enormous public high school to my tiny private Christian university was a bit of a culture shock.
Most of my other friends went to larger state schools, so when I embarked on my journey to a campus of under 900 residents, I made sure to make note of some of the differences. Some of it wasn’t very surprising (Christian school kids do a lot of the same dumb shit that state school students do, just with Bible study thrown in the mix), but other things were almost unbelievable.
Finishing up my third year at university, I compiled six of the oddest Christian school problems that my friends at other schools still can’t believe are actual things.
1. The “Star Wars” Benediction
Christian school students get way more hyped about action movies than other students do. I’m partially convinced of this simply because my Literature professor saw “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” four different times, two of which were with groups of different students (small campus, professors are your friends, blah blah blah).
The day the newest “Star Wars” movie came out (December 18th) was in the middle of finals week, and instead of students running amok in a coffee-induced haze, I lived on a ghost campus. One of my friends actually rescheduled one of his finals so that he could go to the premiere.
“Star Wars,” in particular, has had a strange effect on my campus. This may be because Anakin Skywalker was prophesized to be space Jesus in the prequels, or it could be because of the redemptive arc of a powerful father and his forgiving son.
But I like to think it’s because of the Jedi’s blessing, the classy one-liner, “May the force be with you,” to which almost every Christian school student without fail replies, “And also with you,” which is the formulaic response to a pastor’s benediction: “May the Lord be with you.”
The resemblance is uncanny enough that essentially every student has an almost Pavlovian response to Star Wars as a benediction.
2. Brunch of Shame
My university offers chapel four times a week, but for some people that isn’t enough church time. And I get it, there’s something about a Sunday morning service that makes you think of home.
But by the time the semester kicks in (and by kicks in, I mean kicks me in the face) I no longer even pretend to feel the need to take the church shuttle (yes, there’s a weekly church shuttle, my friend Christian is a driver and he’s aware of how apropos that is) on Sunday mornings. Instead, I stay up until 5 a.m. writing papers and then sleep until 1, getting up at the last second for brunch in the cafeteria.
Now, this wouldn’t be a problem, except that about 60 percent of the students on campus attend church off-campus regularly. And when the service is over, they come back and grab brunch at around the same time I’ve dragged my ass out of bed.
The walk of shame thus takes place when the people who have spent their morning praising Jesus in well-cut suits and floral dresses witness my crawl through the breakfast line in my pajamas, barefoot with bloodshot eyes, to find my daily sustenance in the form of waffles the size of my face.
I can always feel their disapproving stares all the way from the yogurt display, but by now I’ve been refusing to give a fuck for three years so I can eat my syrup covered monstrosity in peace. Though, admittedly, it does come with a small side of shame.
3. Inducing Labor for Timely Baptisms
‘Ring by Spring’ is taken very seriously at Christian schools. Six couples alone got engaged last month. That in and of itself is not strange. The strange part is when the married students start having children.
One of my classmates got married his sophomore year, and he and his wife found out they were pregnant not long after. Fast-forward nine months and the entire campus was buzzing, wondering which day he was going to get the call in class that his wife was in labor. After a few weeks had gone by with no word on the newest Concordia baby, one of the other students finally asked the father-to-be about the due date.
“Oh, the baby’s technically due on Friday, but we’re inducing on Thursday so that we can do the baptism on Sunday. If we wait until Friday then we won’t be able to get her baptized until the Sunday after that, and that’s way too long for my daughter to go without knowing God’s grace.”
The sad thing is this isn’t even the first time.
4. That’s not Drunk Singing, That’s an Impromptu Devotional!
At Concordia, it’s difficult to throw a rock and not hit an impromptu devotional group. There are planned ones, of course, but the truly unbelievable part to my friends is that my peers will meet up with their friends, intending to study and end up singing contemporary hymns because Jacob brought his guitar. You’d be surprised how many students own a box drum. Or just carry one around.
Across the hall from my dorm room (and I mean directly across; I can see who’s in it from my front window) is a study room. Unlike the dorms, it has air conditioning and smells only vaguely like sand, so it’s a pretty great place for group study sessions and, on multiple occasions, a musical devotional.
On weekends, quiet hours are extended to midnight, so people can be out and noisily about until then as much as they like. So one Friday night, about midway through last semester, a group of students got together in the study room directly across from my dorm (box drum and guitar in place) and started jamming to some contemporary worship songs. They played well and sang well so I didn’t really care; I just kept to the back room and worked on my paper, expecting them to be gone within an hour or so.
I went to bed at 2 a.m., and they were still there.
One of my roommates came home at 3 a.m., and they were still there.
I woke up at 4 a.m. to pee, and they were still there.
The loud and raucous singing is never drunk people. They don’t sing about Jesus (at least not very often—I have heard some older tipsy students come home singing “How Great is Our God”) at weird times of the night. It’s never drunk people. It’s always an unplanned group devotional.
5. Bible-Verse Saturated Instagram Feeds
She likes to post workout selfies from the top of the hill beside campus and captions it with Joshua 1:9. She looks great and feels great and I’ll ask where she got her yoga pants.
He likes surfing photos at sunset with Mark 10:27. It’s a beautiful day for surfing and the California coast is the best place to be.
They have a huge test tomorrow and stayed up all night for it, but the sunrise is lovely and they’re going to make it through this, captioned with Philippians 4:13. They’ll hopefully get an A.
I’m on Instagram trying to pick a filter for my third plant photo this month (my morning glories are flourishing), when I finish I stumble across the 30th bible verse captioned Instagram photo of the day. And while I’m all about selfies and documenting fun things and bible verses, it feels a little bit like I’m being subtly reprimanded for getting a breakfast burrito in my pajamas last Sunday morning.
6. Organ Music Overload
I actually go to school with future organists. That alone is kind of wild. I have a friend who likes to practice at weird hours because she doesn’t have to worry about the noise level disrupting other musicians or services.
All the people who play are tremendously good, and the chapel doors are always propped open, so walking from class to class means I can sometimes hear strains of “Amazing Grace” or “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” floating on the wind.
I also go to school with future pastors and current pastors (most of whom are professors), some of whom will give guest sermons at student events. It’s a pretty sweet set up, especially since if I have a question about my New Testament paper I can just pop by the clubs and organizations fair and ask my professor to clarify citation stuff.
Now, the two of those things together would normally be a fantastic religious experience. Except that the organ is a notoriously loud instrument, essentially impossible to play quietly. And the outdoor amphitheater doesn’t always have microphones set up, so there have been times when the two things have clashed.
The welcoming service for the incoming students would’ve gone a lot smoother if the organ playing during the orchestra auditions included a ‘quiet’ feature. Until organ builders can figure that out, however, the future organists and pastors will just have to share the stage. And by that, I mean their own respective stages on opposite ends of campus.