In 1991, a college student at Salt Lake Community College gave a presentation to his humanities 101 class arguing that Jesus Christ is the Messiah. He formulated his research, prepped his talking points, and crafted his approach to convincing his classmates.
Yet, when the student went to give his presentation, the professor cut him off mid-way, and later kicked him out of the class for proselytizing.
Dr. Corey Miller, who is now president and CEO of Ratio Christi, had prepared his presentation after the class was assigned a creative presentation, addressing the fact that the Messianic Bible prophecy was true, not a myth like the professor had been teaching.
Miller received an F on the project for challenging the professor’s staunch beliefs.
“I called a lawyer, met with the college president to notify him that a legal letter was on its way, then waited to see who would flinch first,” Miller wrote. “He persuaded the professor to let me back in the classroom so long as I would shut up.”
Miller’s troubles did not stop when he graduated from undergrad. Years later while he was in a PhD philosophy program at Purdue University, he was mocked for his faith by fellow graduate students.
“The next semester I recall receiving a permanent note in my file from a Marxist professor who claimed I was schizophrenic,” Miller added. “While he was not a clinical psychologist capable of judging me schizophrenic, he believed religion was the opiate of the masses and that my beliefs were delusional.”
Miller almost did not graduate when he was in his fifth year because a director of his grad studies, who was atheist, convinced Miller’s adviser to drop him.
He told Miller that he had “too much of a faith perspective,” and he could no longer advise him. Without an adviser, he was unable to register for classes and was forced to drop out of the program.
Due to his experiences in both undergrad and graduate studies, Miller decided it was time for him to take legal action himself. He formed Ratio Christi, which defends the faith, “but also in defending the ability to defend the faith, whether it is speech codes, speech zones, denial of campus funds, or variant all-comers policies.”
They have been involved with 17 cases of legal proceedings, and have won multiple cases against educational institutions.
The problem of secular colleges
Although Miller’s experience might sound horrifying, it is one that is all too common amongst Christian students who are studying at secular universities.
A Christian student at the University of California, Berkeley, faced ridicule and harassment from fellow students when she failed to support an LGBTQ+ bill in the student government.
Another student at Georgia Gwinnett College was treated unfairly by the college for sharing his Christian beliefs on the college campus.
Kennesaw State University created an illegal ‘caste-like system’ to rank clubs and groups on campus, discriminating against conservative, faith-based groups by placing them at the bottom.
It’s no secret that young Christians face opposition on secular college campuses. It’s also no secret that because of this pressure and opposition, an increasing number of Christian students become disengaged with their faith when they are in college.
At least one study shows that between 60% and 80% of students that enter college as a Christian leave without their religious beliefs intact. Campus Renewal further pointed out that “approximately 500,000 students graduate from our youth groups each year yet only 150,000 incoming freshmen stay engaged.”
College-aged Christians are leaving the faith
In 2018, the Pew Research Center Report released a study where they polled an increasingly growing group in America that they deem: ‘religious nones.’
‘Religious nones’ describe themselves as “nothing in particular” when asked their religious background and belief system.
The study revealed that the majority of the ‘religious nones; are ex-Christians and are under the age of 35. Due to these findings, Pew further asked a sample of ‘religious nones’ why they reject their past faith, and they were given an option of six possible responses.
The study found that most of the ‘religious nones’ left the faith because they “question a lot of religious teaching” (51 percent chose this statement) or because they “don’t like the positions churches take on social/political issues” (46 percent agreed with this statement).
“Religious no ones” also agreed “I don’t like religious organizations” (34 percent), “I don’t like religious leaders” (31 percent), or “religion is irrelevant to me” (26 percent).
Reading this study from the Pew Research Center shows how many young Christians are leaving the church, but there is a small sliver of hope inside of it. If you look closely at the data, one could infer that these ‘religious nones’ were not leaving the church because they didn’t believe in the teachings any longer, but because of other varying reasons.
What steps can be taken?
With the staggering amounts of students entering college as Christians, and leaving as ‘religious nones,’ it is evident something has to be done.
Although it is important for colleges and universities to allow students to express religious liberties on campus, there are also steps that can be taken by parents, volunteers, and like-minded Christians students.
As the Pew Research Center pointed out, the reason that Christian students drift away from their beliefs is not because they stopped believing, but because of questioning the teaching.
It is important to foster an environment when the students are younger were asking questions about their faith is allowed, or encouraged. Often times students don’t question their faith until they enter college, and are presented with a dilemma when a professor or a fellow student question their belief.
Allowing, or even encouraging students when they are younger, or in high school to take a deeper look at their faith is important for growth, and to avoid an ultimate crash of inner-questioning in college.
Another pivotal aspect of the college experience is students being allowed to express and vocalize their opinions on campuses, even if they differ from professors.
It’s incredibly important for colleges and universities to abide by the U.S. Constitution and create an environment that fosters religious liberties and freedoms, instead of restricting them.
In an interview with Faithwire, Blaze Media’s Samantha Sullivan shared her story of how a professor challenged her Christian views, calling the idea of God “bull****,” in her first class.
Sullivan, who hadn’t faced much opposition in the past, eventually decided that she was going to be an atheist like her professor.
“I find it predatory because these adults are standing in front of 18-year-olds in a position of power wielding their authority and they’re very convincing,” Sullivan told Faithwire.
“They have decades of intellectual experience on these students. They’re supposed to teach people how to think not what to think. They know they’re in this position and I just find them to be very irresponsible with it.”
When professors or administrators try to restrict these liberties, it creates a toxic environment for religious students, and can potentially squander their beliefs. It can lead to a mass exodus of students from their Christian faith simply because the professors and educational systems are not respecting religious differences.