While it’s true that Wheaton may not have been the best place for me, and that particularly my junior and senior years I felt out of place in chapels, chafed at the narrow ranges of views permitted among professors and guest lecturers, and sought out ways to study off campus, I don’t want to see Wheaton “wither”, and realize that I’ll probably reflect back on the experience more fondly with a few years’ distance. Despite my frustrations and frequent tirades (of which my parents and roommates were the long-suffering beneficiaries), I never seriously considered transferring, and am deeply grateful for the friendships and opportunities Wheaton gave me.
Still, I can’t help wondering how much of who I am and what I think today is a reaction against Wheaton’s conservative side. I’m for marriage equality and think abortion should be legal. I think global warming is a big enough problem that I’m holding off on owning a car for as long as possible and I’m living on an organic farm that can’t exactly escape the accusations of “hippie” and “commune”. I’m secretly rooting for the public option in healthcare reform in hopes that it will slowly take over until we have a single-payer system (and my politics would generally make me a better European than American). Though I wish he hadn’t ordered the surge in Afghanistan, I am apparently one of the only white people not souring on Barack Obama(and I’ve been a fan so long that I got up at 4am and stood outside in Springfield in January to hear him announce his run for president). All of these things are open to debate and subject to change. Knowing I would have vehemently disagreed with all of this four years ago helps keep things in perspective!
Still, I have the sneaky suspicion that this wasn’t where Wheaton meant me to end up - most importantly because I consider all of what I listed compatible with my identity as a Christian.
Also, I no longer consider myself an evangelical. I happily shed the term for two reasons:
a) Why hold on to something so loaded with connotations of social, political and theological beliefs I don’t hold? (And, for the record, I suspect that few people who do not consider themselves to be either an evangelical or a fundamentalist who recognizes a distinction between the two.)
b) I no longer believe that Christianity has a monopoly on spiritual truth or the sole vision of the way the world should be, so the evangelism part of it no longer applies.
That’s easier to say in a blog post after I had the humorous experience of “outing” myself to a number of Wheaton professors and administrators during a mock interview for the Rhodes. We spent a good 10 minutes on my definition of social justice and how it related to my understanding of salvation (which, needless to say, did not come up in my actual interview). Nonetheless, I post this with some trepidation. We’ll see if it stays up after I get comments from my most faithful reader (hi Mom!).