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Archive for Saturday, August 20, 2011

Faith Forum: How should students adapt their faith to their new life at college?

August 20, 2011

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The Rev. Kara Eidson, minister, WesleyKU, 946 Vt.:

The most obvious change in the life of faith for most young men and women coming to college is that they are free, many for the first time, to make major decisions about how they want to live their lives. Mom and Dad are no longer constantly present, encouraging participation in religious activities (worship, service, etc.). For many, college is a time of exploration and discovery; “What do I believe?” and “Why do I believe?” and “Is belief necessary?” are all common questions in this formative time. I encourage the students I work with to ask the difficult questions about faith, and walk with them as we explore the multitude of answers together. It is a time when they have the opportunity to embrace the traditions with which they were raised as fully their own, or a time when they realize that perhaps it is time to seek a new path.

But the best advice I can offer students in this time of transition is to find a community to journey within. We were created as social beings, and we all crave community. It is impossible to pursue any faith alone—we desperately need community to reflect, share, and support us as we learn, grow, and even struggle with our faith. The various faiths of the world differ in many respects, but we all have a few things in common: we believe in the strength of community, and we believe that our spiritual lives ought to serve as the undercurrent for the ordinary aspects of daily living.

— Send email to Kara Eidson at kara.eidson@ku.edu.

Rabbi Neal Schuster, senior Jewish educator, KU Hillel, 722 N.H.:

My 18-year-old nephew, a lifelong vegetarian, came home from college and announced that he was thinking about trying meat. For his animal-rights-activist mother, it was a stab in the heart. Further twisting the knife, he hinted that he might possibly be considering that maybe there is some merit to political positions that are something other than far-left. Oh, a mother’s anguish; and he was such a sweet child.

My nephew is right on schedule.

College is an important time of transition from late adolescence to early adulthood, and, developmentally, the essential tasks of this transition include vigorously challenging core beliefs and assumptions, as well as experimenting with new ways of being, thinking and believing. On the way to a mature faith, emerging adults must go through a process of deconstructing the core beliefs and ideas that their parents and others have so painstakingly instilled in them. At the other end of the process — once every notion they once held dear is lying in a distressing state of disassembly on the floor — is the profound and ongoing task of reconstruction: putting it back together again.

Proverbs (22:6) reassures us that if we raise a child in the way that they should go, even when they are old they will not depart from it, but on the journey from childhood to age, they are going to put their parents and loved ones through some excruciating and maddening times as they twist, mock and reject what they are expected to hold sacred.

The good news is that the deconstruction and reconstruction that mark this stage in life has the profound power to transform the faith they have been given, from something that belongs to someone else, into something that actually belongs to them.

— Send email to Neal Schuster at schuster@kuhillel.org.

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