Open affirmation of Christian faith is almost taboo at modern universities, marking one out instantly as a bit of a wowser at best or an “irrational, misogynistic, homophobic bigot” (to directly quote a classmate upon learning that I am a Christian) at worst.
So when I returned to UTas in second semester 2013 after several years studying Christian ministry, I knew I was in for a rough time.
With seemingly no visible Christian presence, coupled with the rabid atheist evangelists I became friends with (one of the pitfalls of studying undergraduate philosophy, I suppose), my doubts became stronger and my faith became weaker; within months I lost my faith.
Though I eventually returned to Christianity (or perhaps it returned to me, I hasten to add “Thank God”), I went it alone, in spite of the tsk-tsks, head shaking, and withering looks from friends and classmates.
I am envious of Christian students arriving at UTas in 2016. They are spoiled for choice when it comes to having groups of likeminded believers.
There are currently four Christian societies on campus. They are: Campus Christian Movement, University Fellowship of Christians, Fellowship of Overseas Christian University Students, and Catholic Students Society.
The former two, Campus Christian Movement and University Fellowship of Christians, are particularly active, often advertising various events both on and off campus ranging from breakfasts to Bible studies.
President of the Campus Christian Movement (CCM), Andrew Orr, said the aim of the group is to “Offer a place that students can be part of…where we can grow through our time at uni, have fun, as well as search our faith together.”
Mikey Lynch, campus director of the University Fellowship of Christians (Uni Fellowship), offers a similarly supportive statement of belief: “[We want] to help Christian students share the message of Jesus with their fellow students [and] give other students an opportunity to investigate the Christian message.”
Like the Uni Fellowship, the CCM also engages in outreach, sharing their beliefs with other students. Both groups hold events that are open to all students, regardless of belief (or lack thereof).
Does this openness, mixed with the possible hostility of students to the Christian message, cause any confrontation?
“Every now and then we get a person who is angry about religion or some aspect of it who is more aggressive and hostile in their approach,” Mr Lynch said.
“There can be a fair bit of mockery. Sometimes Christianity (and religion generally) is spoken of dismissively, and unfairly, and it’s pretty awkward to speak up and correct this.”
Mr Orr said, “We haven’t really had issues…we just let people know we’re coming from a Christian perspective, and discussion is welcomed, only asking that it’s respectful and constructive in order to benefit everyone”.
Interestingly, Mr Lynch pointed me towards a survey of 1100 students at UTas’ Hobart campus. The survey asked three questions: “At present, how important to you is your spiritual life?”, “In your opinion, who is Jesus Christ?”, “Would you be interested in finding out more about Uni Fellowship events and/or groups?”
In response to the first question, 70 per cent rated it four or above (on a scale of 1-7); to the second question, one-third said they believed Jesus is God, whilst only 20 per cent believed that Jesus is a myth. To the third question, over half the students surveyed indicated that they would be interested in learning more about the Uni Fellowship.
Groups like the CCM and the Uni Fellowship offer an invaluable service to Christian students, but beyond that, to the University itself.
Whether one believes or not, isn’t it heartening to see a visible Christianity, outside of the often foreboding and enclosed churches, that embodies the Christian virtue of charity?
Jesus, it seems, has recommenced his time at UTas with resounding success and a promising future.
Students interested in learning more about either the Campus Christian Movement or the University Fellowship of Christians, can visit their Facebook pages for more information on upcoming activities and mission statements.
The Fellowship of Overseas Christian University Students and Catholic Students Society were contacted for comment but declined to respond.
An early version of this article referred to Mikey Lynch as the ‘President’ of the University Fellowship of Christians. The University Fellowship of Christians was also referred to with the abbreviation ‘UFC.’ Togatus apologises for these errors.