“Hi, everyone! I’m Dana. One thing that I’m excited about for college is going through sorority recruitment next weekend!”
“So, aren’t you, like, living a double life trying to… you know, know God?”
That was a dead serious, word-for-word quote of a conversation I had my first week of college with complete strangers during a Bible study in my dorm. In case you don’t speak millennial, that directly translated to “You don’t belong here.” Ouch. Welcome to college, Dana!
I was crushed by that comment, and well, duh, I didn’t go back to that group. I was left scratching my head, confused as to why I was pinned as a bad person after admitting my excitement for Greek life. I mean, wasn’t it just a girls’ club? I wrestled for a bit with it and then decided I was kind of done with the “Jesus thing” until after college. I wanted to do good, but it just seemed like the Jesus kids kind of sucked.
College is a super-sweet time to reinvent who you are and who you’re going to be. I definitely wasn’t trying to ruin this chance that I had to be a fun, brand-new version of myself.
After all, virtually no one at college knows your past. It’s kind of scary to think that a version of you (and maybe one that you don’t like) is pinned in people’s minds almost instantly after they meet you. I was kind of dorky in high school, and I was so ready to be fun, chill Dana. Out with the old, in with the new. I thought, “God will be there when I’m done in five years. I’ve got this. This is going to be a blast!”
I almost picked Greek life over God, but then I realized I didn’t have to.
I’m going to own that there is some stuff in Greek life that might look a little weird, and some things that are just not OK. Yes, there are rituals, some of which are kind of strange. Yes, some parties and formals include alcohol. Yes, you do meet a lot of boys. Yes, some schools (thankfully, not mine) haze their new members. Yes, many organizations lack diversity something serious. Even though I wish fraternities and sororities were better at these things, to deny it would make me a liar.
But here was my breakthrough: I realized that if done right, Greek life could be one of the most powerful tools I had during college to become the person God truly desired me to be. The God I believe in isn’t about conformity or isolating ourselves from the world; He models relationship with all kinds of people who do all sorts of things in all settings.
I know what you’re thinking. “Seriously? You just told me a million crappy things that happen in Greek life and now you’re trying to tell me Jesus wants us there?”
You bet I am. If you’ve ever felt looked down on like I did in that first college Bible study I went to, I feel you so hard. I am sorry that Christians are so judgy. It sucks to feel unwelcome because of stuff you’ve done or because of the way that people think you must be. Been. There.
But, I really believe that if Jesus went to college, he’d totally be right there at frat parties, too. Let me explain why.
Jesus loved all kinds of people. If you’ve ever felt awkward or unwelcome in church, I get it. Even though I grew up in a fairly modern church, I always felt like I was wearing my skirt a few inches too short or asking too many questions or saying the wrong thing. Greek life is full of people like 14-year-old me who don’t feel like church is their place. Trust me, I’ve asked. You know what tends to go with not feeling like you belong in church? Feeling like you don’t belong with God. Jesus didn’t hang out with perfect people who knew the right thing to do. Whatever you believe about God, you should know that Jesus hung out with all kinds of people and went to great lengths to make them feel known and welcome.
To me, living a life that is honoring to the God I know isn’t about leaving the “bad” parts of the world. It’s about making them better.
Alcohol can be used for good (if you’re 21). I recently went through a period where I gave up alcohol entirely for a few months. I didn’t like the person I was when I was drinking. She was kind of the worst. I was selfish, emotional, and OK with things I wouldn’t have been otherwise, especially when it came to guys. I was in a group one night, and the leader asked me, “So, why aren’t you drinking again?” I told her the TL;DR version, and she quickly said, “Well, you know, you can celebrate with alcohol and not celebrate alcohol itself.” Mind. Blown.
I had gone from one extreme of completely abstaining when I first joined Greek life to drinking heavily. I think there’s a beautiful middle to be had when celebrating with alcohol, where I can enjoy some beer or wine (legally now) and not be the things I didn’t like about myself when I was drinking a lot and out of control. What’s super cool is that not everyone in Greek life even wants to be crazy and party. Showing people that alcohol isn’t inherently bad or good has been a really interesting part of my Greek life experience, and one that I hope will be part of others’ experiences. Some of my best life conversations and relationships have started over a pint, and it’s great to be able to model how to have fun without it.
Greek life is a community. I experienced the first real sense of belonging in my life in my sorority. I felt like I had a place to call home. I had people I could cling to when the winds of life blew. There were connections to jobs and other cool leadership opportunities. This is cool stuff and what we all crave—to be loved and to be known! Fraternity and sorority life was an awesome place for me to get exposure to that and get comfortable with vulnerability. In my experience, adding God to this mix of sisters has doubled up our bonds. We know we aren’t going to be able to get rid of each other!
I do not have this figured out entirely, and I still mess up. But what I’ve learned about Greek life and God together is that it is an art. It doesn’t mean I get to do whatever I want, whenever I want. However, it does mean that I get to go out on Fridays to a bar with my friends and people I don’t know, because I think Jesus would have, too. I can practice growing in acting like Him while I’m there. It means within my sorority, I’m a part of a weekly group of 37 girls where we can talk about God. It means my roommate taking a group of girls from our chapter to a weekend church camp that led to spiritual breakthrough and freedom. This isn’t exclusive to my chapter, either! My hope for my community is an incredible college experience full of hope and growth because of radical life-change sparked by a mutual belief in Jesus.
If you’re not in Greek life and you made it this far, that’s totally cool (and so are you). If you are in a fraternity or sorority and you’re reading this, I dare you to invite God into that space. I believe He wants to be there desperately! And if you don’t know God, it’s super easy to get to know Him. Just say a simple prayer like this: “God, help me find great community.” Then, see what happens! I bet it’ll rock your socks.
Pretty words won’t change your life. This might:
What resonates with you most in Dana’s article? What surprises you?
Think about a time you’ve felt judged or unwelcome around people that say they believe in God, or maybe a time you’ve made someone else feel that way. What if all believers took the posture of Jesus described here. How different might things be?
If you follow God, think of a tangible way you can look more like Jesus in a surprising place. If you don’t believe in God, reach out to someone you respect who does, and talk to them about your doubts. If you don’t know anyone, ask God to bring someone into your life.