Greek Life, the Christian, and God's Story of the World
Just a couple weeks ago, on fraternity bid day, groups of men threw their male classmates into the air to celebrate acceptance of new brothers into their brotherhoods. Similar to sorority bid day, these initial rituals are invitations of promise, hope and excitement for new members. They signify the start of new friendships, unique experiences and commitment to communities that offer belonging. Bid Day is often a turning point in students’ college careers as these new communities inform their time and experience over the next four years.
This past January, the Study Center invited 900+ sorority women into the building for its Rush Hospitality ministry. A collection of non-Greek students, moms and alumni served as volunteers alongside our staff as they set up coffee and snacks, and checked in with girls in a safe and welcoming environment. This annual hospitality event gives us the opportunity to care for our Greek neighbors and first-year students. Our vantage point provides us a view of the immense joys as well as the deep sorrows of the recruitment process, and Greek life as a whole. After Rush Hospitality ends, we ask ourselves a few key questions: What were the needs of the girls entering our home? Where were we able to comfort, encourage, and challenge them in light of the Gospel? How can we love girls better next year?
While these questions focus on our specific care, we also find ourselves wrestling with another kind of concern: What does it mean for our Christian brothers and sisters to be in Greek communities? Is there a Biblical defense for the process of Recruitment? How do we place this experience within God’s story of the world?
The Center for Christian Study is just that—a center for studying, which often takes the form of wrestling and questioning. What do we do with a process that has the power to build up and love others by inviting them in, yet simultaneously tear down and devastate those it excludes? We also recognize the confusion of Christian men and women within these chapters who may be required to vote on and/or discuss potential new members in ways that are judgmental or unkind. We know some students have wonderful experiences in the Greek community and others have painful ones, and students hesitate to speak to their own experience for fear of hurting or offending someone else. Overall, we realize that raising questions about Greek Life is just plain hard.
As a whole, Greek Life has a number of encouraging things to offer students—things with which the Study Center can get on board. Joining a sorority that is learning how to love each other and love their community can be a sanctifying process. Joining a fraternity as an opportunity to meet new people in order to engage our culture and our world can be kingdom-advancing work. As a community, we can say a resounding “yes” to the opportunities provided in Greek life to glorify God and share the gospel. And it is a lovely practice to praise God for the work that has been done and is currently happening within these Greek houses.
Because these institutions do exist in the community, they demand a response from us as neighbors: we can run away from them, or engage them thoughtfully. While Greek Life involves many traditions and rules, it is ultimately individuals who govern the culture. Each sorority or fraternity is made up of a collection of people who, just like humanity as a whole, are created for good and broken by sin. Sin manifests itself in pride, idolatry, lust, a whole gambit of disordered desires toward our selves and away from the Lord.
Greek Life is often characterized by colorful t-shirts, enthusiasm for a group identity and group members, and social events like date functions and formals. Wearing a particular article of clothing, or making a new friend in your sorority, is not inherently sinful. However, when we indulge our own desires and operate out of our pride rather than God’s grace, we will, of course, make attendance to date functions a marker of worth, friendships with the “right people” a marker of value, and Greek letters a marker of identity.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” writes Paul to the Romans (Rom 3). This passage helps us understand that, as humans, we all have something in common—we all sin. By naming this unworthiness that is absolutely true of mankind, we also move toward recognizing another commonality—we are alike in needing God’s grace, and as Christians, are alike in resting in that grace. Because of this, we can evaluate and discuss our sin without shame because you and I are both sinners, fully dependent on Christ’s death on the cross to pay our debt in full. This belief frees us to ask questions, not to stir up guilt or disappointment, but rather to encourage one another to “live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,” (Col 1:10). If we rely on the truth of the Gospel, then we can invite each other into our confusions and uncertainties about how to navigate Greek Life as a Christian. We can consider the ways we may be entertaining our own sin and the sin of others around us, and begin communicating about who God is and how we are to “live and move and have our being” in light of His character (Acts 17:28). To daily bear God’s image, we must recognize the world as a place of darkness, in need of Jesus and reliant upon God’s incredible generosity to make our imperfect lives vehicles of His glory.
By considering this reality first, we can ask each other and ourselves about issues we are otherwise unwilling to address due to fear and guilt. In an attempt to create more open and honest conversation about Greek Life, here are some questions we find helpful, whether you’re Greek or non-Greek. We hope they help you to make much of Jesus within a culture that would rather make much of ourselves.
- Do I love Jesus more than I love being in a Greek organization/fellowship/club/sports team? Where am I genuinely finding my identity?
- How am I being tempted within the communities I am involved? How can I appropriately flee from this temptation?
- What kind of language do I use when speaking about Greek Life to potential new members or non-Greek individuals – am I honest about both its encouragements and disappointments?
- What does it mean for me to be a part of this community? What am I endorsing or encouraging about the community as a whole by being a member?
- How am I bearing God’s image faithfully within my community?
- Am I shaping Greek Life or is Greek Life (or my opinion of it) shaping me?
- Am I living out of God’s grace or out of my activity’s status?
- Are there ways to engage with other clubs (or with Greek life) outside of being a member?
- “God’s will is our sanctification…for God has called us to holiness” (1 Thes. 4:3). Is my involvement (or un-involvement) in various communities pointing me towards God?
- Do I trust the Lord’s sovereignty in the Recruitment process enough to relinquish my own desire to control who is in and who is out?
- Why am I here?