Faith and Freshers’: Do University and Religion Clash?

Faith and university are often seen as somewhat incompatible. Who has time to go to church on a Sunday morning when you’ve just been out on a Saturday night and your friends are heading out for brunch at LS6? 

Yet, having a faith doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stick to the same routine you might have if you were living with your parents at home – I went to church once in my first semester of university, whereas I would go every week when at home. Just as university offers a variety of opportunities to further your education and engage with other students, it also demonstrates that there are a million and one different ways to live out your faith.

As a Christian, there are a number of societies on campus which I could join to meet with other people of my faith, and there are also regular interfaith meetings where I have the chance to make new friends of other faiths. I’m very much involved in one such society – the Student Christian Movement – but that doesn’t mean that I reject all other faith societies! Just as each non-religious society has its purpose, so does each faith society. It might be confusing to someone not familiar with the different denominations involved in Christianity and, on a wider scale, the different religions that people believe in. However, this variety means that there is something for everyone, and that there might be something available to you at a more appropriate time for students; personally, I’m much more likely to go to an event on a Monday evening than one on a Sunday morning.

Not only does university offer a multitude of different options for people with a faith, but I hope that it also challenges the assumptions people hold about faith. Many people have a negative view of Christianity, and some a complete disdain for organised religion as a whole. Believe me, I understand the reasons for this. I have a number of friends who went to Catholic schools or were forced to go to church every Sunday, and this has left a negative perception of faith in the back of their minds. Yet, this is not what I think of when I think of Christianity. The faith I, and many others, practice is an inclusive and radical one, not one concerned with traditional values but rather with welcoming all and fighting on the side of the oppressed. As Jesus says in Luke 4:18, “he has sent me to preach good news to the poor…to release the oppressed”.

In freshers’ week of my first year at uni, I was the one wearing both a cross and a badge with the LGBT Fist on it. I’d much rather you thought of a socialist, LGBT Christian when you thought of Christianity than the conservative and traditional image of the church represented in the media. University is about challenging perceptions, and this includes perceptions about faith and religion.

Nathan Olsen