Evangelical students often feel misunderstood

Do students’ opinions of people with different beliefs really change on campus? AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Our research team studied attitudes of college students to evangelicalsa topic that tends to elicit strong reactions.

Some liberals do not see the subject as worthy of discussion – why study whether Americans value a privileged group with strong influence on the society ? Meanwhile, many conservatives are categorical that gospel perspectives are not toleratednot to mention the welcome, on US college campuses.

Still our discoveries on student attitudes underscore important lessons about fostering tolerance and appreciation on campus for any group. The views of evangelicals are particularly interesting because they highlight the complexities of social privilege: how individuals may feel discriminated againsteven when their community as a whole is influential.

Survey the students

The Longitudinal Survey of Experiences and Attitudes on Interfaith Diversity, or IDEALSsurveyed 9,470 students from 122 institutions across the country at three points: the start of their freshman year, the end of their freshman year, and the end of their senior year, which ended in the spring of 2019. As part of this project, led by a team of researchers from Ohio State University, the University of North Carolina and the nonprofit Interreligious Americawe asked students about their attitudes toward religious, spiritual, and secular groups, including but not limited to atheists, Jews, Muslims, and Evangelicals.

We asked students to indicate their responses to four statements on a scale of 1, or “strongly disagree”, to 5, or “strongly agree”:

1) In general, people in this group make positive contributions to society.

2) In general, individuals in this group are ethical people.

3) I have things in common with the people in this group.

4) In general, I have a positive attitude towards people in this group.

Our analysis controlled for other variables—such as institution type, selectivity, and size, as well as student race, gender, sexual orientation, major, and political affiliation—to focus on ways whose campus learning environment was linked to students’ views on different religions. groups.

Compared to their attitudes toward other religious groups on campus, students’ appreciation for evangelicals grew at a slower rate, but grew nonetheless. On average, student responses showed a more than 40% increase in their appreciation of evangelicals by the end of their freshman year. By the time the students graduated, they demonstrated another 30% increase from the end of their freshman year to their fourth year of college.

Campus Climate

After seeing that student opinion of evangelicals was improving on average, we wanted to better understand why.

First, we looked at the experiences students reported related to their earnings, such as whether they took a religious studies course. Next, we conducted 18 case studies at institutions of varying sizes and affiliations to learn about campus culture and hear from hundreds of students in focus groups. In these groups, we showed students data on gains reported by their peers on campus and asked them why they thought these gains were made.

We have found this appreciation has increased for students on campuses they see as committed to the inclusion of people of faith and people without faith – whether the institutions are public or private, large or small, selective or not.

Some students spoke of the impact of simply living and studying alongside people from different backgrounds. Many cited the influence of interfaith and multifaith centers, spaces dedicated to bringing people of different faiths together.

For example, a student from a Protestant-affiliated institution who identified as agnostic noted that she had “experience[ed] a lot of toxic Christianity” growing up. She credits her interactions with a “progressive Christian” chaplain at her campus’ Interfaith Center with helping her understand that Christian beliefs and identities are diverse and not limited to the type of faith she was introduced to as a child. .

Members of a California State University Long Beach Christian group worship in a lecture hall in 2014. Scott Varley/Digital First Media/Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images

The survey data also suggests that, on average, students whose views of evangelicals improved reported having at least two religion-related school experiences. This included many types of activities: for example, enrolling in a course specifically designed to enhance knowledge of different religious traditions; reflect on one’s own religion in relation to other perspectives within a course; and discuss the religious or non-religious backgrounds of other students in class.

Personal relationships

The relationship between students was another important theme that came up often in discussions of the views of evangelicals.

Evangelicals must negotiate an apparent paradox: as Protestant Christians, who have long been influential in American culture and politics, they belong to a privileged group. Still many evangelical students say they or they to feel unwelcome and misunderstood because of their beliefs.

Many non-Christian students who feel themselves marginalized because of their identity struggle with how to make their evangelical peers aware of their relative privilege and how their beliefs and actions might affect other students.

For example, a student who identifies as an atheist at a small secular college recalled a Christmas tree put on his doorstep by another student. “The person literally has no idea it could be upsetting,” they said, but added that it was “a very sweet thing to do.” In other words, they thought the other student probably didn’t know why the Christmas tree might bother the other students, but was acting out of good intentions, tempering their anger at the unwelcome decoration.

Many students discussed developing empathy and humility. A Catholic student attending a Catholic college summed up, “Being a more liberal Christian myself, I don’t accept the closed-minded evangelical Christian so much…but it’s kind of a closed-minded myself. … So I have to look at myself and say, ‘I’m okay with them being them, even if I’m not okay with them.’ They say, ‘All these people say let’s accept everyone, but you don’t accept me.’ And I said, ‘That’s absolutely true.’ … Even in political areas too, I don’t agree with you, but I have to agree with you.

Finally, gains in student appreciation also seemed to stem from the recognition that evangelicals are diversenot a homogeneous group – as with the student who enjoyed her conversations with the Christian chaplain of the interfaith center on her campus.

As a research team, we found that the findings of this project left us envisioning ways to resolve the deep divisions in the United States today. Certain principles apply to promoting respect in many other situations beyond religion and beyond academia, from our offices at work to the halls of Congress: intentionally yet empathically engaging with differences of each one.The conversation

Matthew J. Mayhewhigher education teacher, The Ohio State University; Christa WinkerAssistant Professor of Leadership in Higher Education, Mississippi State Universityand Mousbah ShaheenPhD student in higher education and student affairs, The Ohio State University

This article is republished from The conversation under Creative Commons license. Read it original article.

‘, ‘window.fbAsyncInit = function() {‘, ‘FB.init({‘, ‘appId:’216372371876365′,’, ‘xfbml:true,’, ‘version: ‘v2.6” , ‘});’ ]; ppLoadLater.placeholderFBSDK.push(‘};’); var ppFacebookSDK= [
‘(function(d, s, id) {‘,
‘var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];’, ‘if (d.getElementById(id)) return;’, ‘js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;’, ‘js.src = “https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js”;’, ‘fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);’, ‘}( document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));’ ]; ppLoadLater.placeholderFBSDK = ppLoadLater.placeholderFBSDK.concat(ppFacebookSDK); ppLoadLater.placeholderFBSDK.push(‘‘); ppLoadLater.placeholderFBSDK = ppLoadLater.placeholderFBSDK.join(“n”);

Previous People are dipping into their retirement funds for big expenses. Here are the pros and cons of a 401(k) loan
Next Philly Hike & Heal helps women prioritize their wellness