The morning started off with coffee all over her new white shirt. Then she ended up late to school, missing the extra credit issued at the first second of class. A less than average grade turned up in her chemistry class and her car stalled at the light in front of her house. And when all seemed to be turned upside down, she knew that a couple of deep breaths and a thought in one single person would make a world of difference. And that person was Jesus Christ.
Looking to Jesus Christ for reassurance is just one of the many diverse beliefs held by those who practice Christianity, a major religious viewpoint of many Cal Poly students. With at least ten registered clubs on campus and many other off-campus outlets, San Luis Obispo offers a huge range of ways for students to invite Christianity into their lives. This in turn offers religion a large role in the daily lives of students.
“It is my faith in God that actually gets me through my week,” psychology junior Dale Parker said. “My Bible study keeps me accountable to my walk with Christ.”
“Without Jesus in my life I would be such a mess. He helps me get through school and blesses my time,” liberal studies junior Carolyn Gardella said.
From individual Bible studies in friends’ homes to 1,000-person services with Campus Crusade for Christ in Chumash Auditorium, there are many extensive and diverse ways to enrich one’s self in the religion.
“Campus Crusade is like a show. There’s a buzz that comes with the live band, the loud music. It gives them energy,” said Stephen Lloyd-Moffett, program advisor for religious studies and assistant professor. “But I think groups like Campus Crusade also realize that they need to have more personalized small events.”
This is one of the main issues of Christianity: catering to the different styles of worship. Some revolve their world around “What would Jesus do?” whereas others think “when things are rough, I pray,” Lloyd-Moffett said. This is the area in which San Luis Obispo is specialized.
“There is somewhere to plug in no matter what strike of Christianity you grew up in,” he said.
This is shown by the incredible amount of programs, services and outlets available for practicing one’s Christianity. Mercy Church holds three services over the weekend to accommodate junior high schools, high schools, kids and the general community, as well as 5:30 to 7:30 a.m. prayers Monday through Saturday. Campus Crusade for Christ is promoting spring break trips to Los Angeles, New Orleans and Mexico City to help out those communities physically and spiritually.
There are also special groups that cater to specific types of people such as the Newman Center, which features a strong group of Catholics, and the Asian American Christian Fellowship.
Plus there is an abundance of simple weekly Bible studies that involve readings from the Bible and peer-to-peer discussions. Parker holds a weekly Sunday night bible study where a small group is able to comfortably and intimately discuss their faith, a stark difference from massive church gatherings.
“I go to Campus Crusade and First Baptist Church, but my Bible study is amazing and the highlight of my week,” Parker said.
Not only do these Bible studies offer ways to directly look at Christianity, but it also provides a social network that wouldn’t necessarily connect otherwise.
“Religion provides a place where people like myself come together and have a reason to talk about common questions about life now and for eternity,” kinesiology senior Jamie Rauch said.
“I heard that about 60 percent of Cal Poly students are actively involved in their Christian faith. Part of that is Christianity and culture becoming intertwined,” Lloyd-Moffett said. Students utilize their religious gatherings as a way to see their friends, and from there, elaborate social systems are developed.
Aside from social and religious gatherings, Christianity also shows face in the classroom. Cal Poly offers a religious studies minor through the philosophy department that consists of classes concerning Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and more.
“As a discipline, we have no agenda. We are a neutral dispenser of knowledge,” Lloyd-Moffett said. “It could strengthen your belief or strengthen your disbelief, but we just focus on giving as much information as we can.”
The minor program started in 2003 and in the past year and a half has grown from less than five students, to 40 minors now. Lloyd-Moffett said that about half of the 40 are Christian minors, which closely mirrors the proportion of Christians on campus.
“My challenge is to take Christian students in class and try to one, give them evidence on both sides without a pro-Christian or anti-Christian stance. And two, provide a forum where they can ask questions in a non-agenda environment,” Lloyd-Moffett said.
Spreading the opportunity to learn about and practice one’s faith has even kept up with technology. Grace Church features an iTunes podcast on their Web site, as well as promotion for “interactive Christian talk” on the radio at 890AM on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings.
With so many styles of worship and types of gatherings, misconceptions about Christianity are inevitable.
Sometimes even within the faith, stereotypes are thought of differently. Some criticize the Christian population because so many call themselves “Christians” but don’t necessarily practice.
“Being a ‘Christian’ is to be a follower of Christ,” Rauch said. “Christ’s life always pointed to relying on the one true God, loving people who no one else cared about and calling out religious leaders of the day that were blabbering righteous words but not living them!”
Lloyd-Moffett offered a slight different point of view.
“Even those who proclaim a strong faith have questions within them. Some say, ‘I grew up a Christian but I’m not quite sure what that means.’ It is all part of the maturation process, learning how to live and it’s perfectly fine and natural. I appreciate those people who are honest enough to say ‘I think Christianity is right, but I’m not quite sure where I am.’ It shows a bit of humility because they’re at a state where they’re trying to figure out what being Christian exactly means, what it means to believe in God.”