On Wednesday I intro’d the idea of purposefully counter-cultural college ministry work. And lo and behold, God provided a cool illustration that very day. It came via sitting in on a lecture at SMU, which itself was a great opportunity I wasn’t counting on.
Dr. Donna Freitas of Boston University described her research – fascinating stuff – on college students, their sex lives, how they feel about their sex lives, and how they connect spirituality to all that. There’s a lot there, and this talk by itself certainly convinced me to check out her book sometime. It’s called Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America’s College Campuses.
But I want to key in on one big point for now that connects to using counter-cultural themes (on purpose) in college ministry.
Dr. Freitas described college students being thirsty to discuss sex in a deeper way than the unsatisfying gossip, exploit-exaggeration, and other peer conversations they were used to. She talked about guys and girls being unaware that many felt the same disdain for – or at least discomfort with – the casual-sex-culture they felt obligated to participate in. She actually had students begging to take her research survey or participate in the interviews she conducted! And in all that process, she discovered that college students generally struggle to understand the connection between sex and their spiritual lives – even though it seems to them like there is a connection and there should be a connection.
Christianity offers that link. We have it. We have real, deep, and satisfying answers for sexual questions and a bigger story that offers abundant life in this area!!!
Of course, this probably means going beyond our general “relationships and dating” talks, which are perfectly good but aren’t the counter-cultural methods I’m talking about this week. But discussing romance, dating, sex, campus sexual culture, and God’s connection to it all… in intelligent, thoughtful, interesting, winsome, and very public ways…
That would be counter-cultural on many campuses. And it would draw students. (And imagine the potential fruit! -liberation and peace and healing and glorification like crazy…)
One particularly fascinating part was hearing Dr. Freitas talk about using I Kissed Dating Goodbye as a text for her original course on these topics. (She was looking at several “takes” on the matter; Joshua Harris’s book was simply one of those views.)
She said that while she personally hated the book, her students loved it. These were not Evangelical students, but they were fascinated by something that connected sex with spirituality and even offered an alternative to the “hookup culture” they knew.
In other words, when they saw truth that ran happily counter to their culture, they were drawn to that beautiful contrast.