AWAY FROM THE COMFORT OF THEIR CHILDHOOD COMMUNITIES, COLLEGE STUDENTS OFTEN RETHINK THEIR PERSONAL BELIEFS.
ARTWORK CREDITS: ASHLEY KRON
Story by Ashley Kron
Students shook hands across tables scattered with chocolates, as questions flashed up on a projector screen: What is love to you? Give a two-minute summary of your childhood. The students were gathered at the Fish Interfaith Center for “Speed-faithing,” one of many events held to promote Chapman’s interfaith ideology.
Interfaith is an approach to religious beliefs that encourage open-mindedness and a willingness to look for commonalities rather than dissention between religious beliefs.
Reverend Dr. Gail Stearns, who is the Chapman Dean of the Wallace All Faiths Chapel and Associate Professor of Religious Studies, explained how the transition to college can affect how students think about their religious beliefs:
“People come to Chapman…and it’s a time to begin to explore for themselves, and discover how they connect to the universe,” she said. “We want to provide resources for those who have a religion and for those who don’t.”
As one of the leading colleges in Interfaith programming, Chapman has attracted a lot of attention from both religious groups and schools seeking to integrate an interfaith approach into the modern student’s life. Speed-faithing, one of many events offered through the Interfaith Center, provided a space for students to express their beliefs, and their opinions on interfaith.
“I like aspects of everything,” said Kiki Dy, who identified as a universalist, “Buddhism, Hinduism…I want to be fluid. It’s a waste to be steadfast.”
Many students throughout the night discussed how Interfaith played a part in their beliefs.
“I grew up in Missouri where the predominant religion is Christianity,” said senior Donathan Walters. “The longer you remain at Chapman, the more you can give and take from other people's walk of life, and I feel that that can be applied to religion.”
But an Interfaith approach to religion can take many forms, as one junior explained:
“I identify as a liberal Catholic,” said Jillian Strong, “I am strong in my faith, but I don’t feel the desire to tell others, unless they are curious.”
Several students that attended the Speed-faithing event expressed how living away from home affected their belief system:
“When I got here (to Chapman) I realized…I can breathe. I can think for myself. I asked myself, do I believe these things that my parents taught me?” said Demi Nance, a freshman and Christian.
Donathan Walters expressed similar sentiments.
“Last semester, I took a class with Gail Sterns entitled "Interfaith: Understanding religion and leadership". It was an amazing class for it opened my mind to how people from many different religions are alike and how we all connect.”
Tori Edgar, the membership director for Disciples of Christ, talked about her approach to interfaith.
“Interfaith is not about tolerance, but acceptance. It’s about wanting to learn, wanting to understand, reaching out to other cultures. You become more confident in what you believe,” said Edgar.
This desire to accept rather than tolerate is one of the main principles of Interfaith dialogue, and the Speed-faithing event provided an outlet for that dialogue.