I never intended to go to a college affiliated with a specific religion. Although I grew up attending a Presbyterian Christian church and my family considers itself religious, I have never identified myself as particularly devout. In fact, throughout high school, the topic of religion so rarely came up in a public school setting that it went to the back of my mind, and I spent four years somewhat forgetting that I actually had a religious background.
I chose to attend California Lutheran University for many different reasons, but never once did the thought of religion cross my mind when I started attending the school. Yes, I knew there were one or two required religious classes and an optional chapel hour, but I never truly considered that there might be differences between going to a religious or nonreligious school until stereotypes caught up with me. These stereotypes consist of aspects many people associate with religious schools, and I am here to tell you today that many of these are untrue or skewed. Here are 9 common misconceptions about going to a religious college:
1. Everyone at the school will be of that religion. This is completely untrue; although there are Lutheran students and professors at Cal Lutheran, most of the people come from different religious backgrounds, just as you would find at any other school.
2. Okay, fine. Maybe not everyone is Lutheran, but everyone there will be super religious. Not at all! I have met a lot of students who are atheist or don’t have a large religious presence in their life, including myself. But, like any university, you will still meet religious students, which just introduces you to more perspectives and ways of understanding.
3. Well, they’re at least all going to be judgey and conservative. Yeah right. Like any school, you will have people of all different attitudes and morals. Find the people you fit in with best and you’ll be fine, just as with any other school.
4. The purpose of a religious class is to convert you to the school’s affiliated religion. This could not be more wrong. Although there are one or two classes based in Lutheranism, the school offers a large multitude of classes about any religion or culture you could think of, as well as different courses on specific ethics and aspects of religion itself that could interest you. The goal of these classes is to have open discussion about the concepts of religion, rather than trying to push you in any one direction.
5. Okay, I might not be forced to convert, but I will definitely hate the religious classes. Definitely not. Although it might be a matter of taste, I find the study of different religions and how they influence our societies and our world to be eye-opening and constantly entertaining and interesting. From my friends who attended religious high schools, I have also learned that these classes are much more open to interpretation and diverse than their high school religious classes, so don’t knock it until you try it.
6. I don’t think it’s right to talk about religion in a school setting. This is up to your personal opinion, but I’m going to go with the “don’t knock it until you try it” saying again. Although I was skeptical at first, I have learned so much about faith and pluralism, as well as how to better understand people’s identities and values in general. It’s become a taboo subject in many schools, but discussing the idea of religion openly has made me realize how important it is to be aware of the communicative issues surrounding it. If we talk about aspects of race, gender and culture in school, then why not religion as well, especially in a time where religion can be frightening to us?
7. Well, I will be forced to go to church there. Never. Chapel hour and services are 100% optional, and no one will ever make you feel pressured to participate.
8. I guess, but there will never be any parties because it’s a “dry campus”. While it is true that Cal Lutheran is a dry campus, there are still parties if you know where to find them. Although it can be more difficult to find on-campus parties because of the lack of Greek life at the school, usually you will know someone or be the person who knows what’s going on off-campus that weekend. It’s college, people!
9. Okay, you’ve got me. But, if none of these things are true, then what does a religious school have to offer? Everything non-religious colleges have and more! I promise, religion is not Cal Lutheran’s make it or break it formula. Just come and see.