Ifeoluwa T. Obayan is part of Harvard’s Class of 2019, and this February the young undergrad wrote a passionate defense of her Christian faith in the school’s renowned student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson. Her opinion piece, “Reconciling Christianity with College Life,” comes at a time of increased hostility towards the Christian faith, particularly on some liberal college campuses.
On the same day Obayan’s article was published, Catholic World Report highlighted a new study that quantified this societal shift.
The study from the Barna Group found that “Nearly half of non-religious adults perceive Christianity to be extremist. The perception that the Christian faith is extreme is now firmly entrenched among the nation’s non-Christians. A full forty-five percent of atheists, agnostics, and religiously unaffiliated in America agree with the statement ‘Christianity is extremist.’ Almost as troubling is the fact that only 14 percent of atheists and agnostics strongly disagree that Christianity is extremist.”
No doubt, the times are changing.
Christian young people in particular face new forms of temptation and instant digital gratification, especially during their college years, when a certain amount of experimentation with drugs, drinking, and sex is considered normal. At the same time, digital technologies are changing the way Christians interact with and represent themselves to the world.
For good reason, many people call young Millennials the “Now” generation. Not only do the vast majority of young people spend hours every day using social media and smartphones, but 40% of young people won’t even wait more than three seconds for a web page to load. New campaigns to raise awareness of Christian martyrs abroad play out on social media as well, and when the Pope accused Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump of not being a real Christian, that news spread quickly through social networks. Almost instantly, the pope was trending on Twitter.
So it’s refreshing to see a young person like Obayan defend her faith to her peers. In her article, she talks about how hard it is to explain why she abstains from drinking and smoking without seeming judgmental.
“Friends wanted to know why I wasn’t drinking, smoking, or participating in this or that. Saying I was a Christian wasn’t a good enough answer. After all, some of them were Christians and others thought it was a bad excuse. This was particularly jarring for me because Christianity was the label I slapped on for the benefit of others and myself as my reason for everything. But now, I had to really think about my own personal reasons for my actions and behavior. Why was this moral compass so important to me?”
She added, “The mistake some young people make is thinking that finding yourself in college has to mean letting go of faith because it is a form of brainwash, where you are restricted by a set of seemingly arbitrary rules that don’t allow you to really live your life. This doesn’t have to be the case. Finding yourself can just as easily be in the context of your faith.”
Read Obayan’s full article here.