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CfPt 3l11 lOfltt The Daily Tar HeelTuesday, February 7, 19895
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Campus groups can help
students make decisions
By LAURA FRANCIS
and CRAIG ALLEN
1 1 yhilosophical questioning typi-
-cally accompanies the devel
JLL. opment of the mind. And for
many, questioning occurs during the
college years, when they find them
selves challenging their beliefs, lead
ing them to search for a different
church or faith.
"College is a time to grow in every
area the threat would be not to
grow," said William Peck, associate
professor of religious studies, who
studies religion in relation to psy
chology. "I focus on an academic
study of the way people construct
the world they perceive themselves
to be in; in other words, a study of
the various varieties of the religious
Peck encourages students to
respond to a type of worship that
fits their temperament. So a person
who is "quiet, steady and ascetic"
may prefer the Episcopal Church,
which follows rigid rituals, he said.
Each different religion does not
appeal only to one type of person,
Peck said. "One can find some spe
cific correlation where there's a ten
dency to attract certain kinds of
people, such as with Positive
Thinkers or Christian Scientists."
Upon deciding to explore reli
gious options, students may have a
hard time deciding because of the
choices ranging from the many types
of Christianity to Eastern religions
such as Hinduism. But they don't
have to travel too far to find
answers because several campus
organizations offer the chance to
experience different religions.
Opting for Christianity
r ' With its many denominations,
Christianity offers students the
.chance for participation in various
organizations on campus. According
to the Rev.Manuel Wortman, the
Wesley Foundation tries to involve
students in Methodist church with
' activities, discussions of religious
questions and worship services. The
.-group meets every Wednesday, usu
. ally holding a dinner before the
. Although the group attracts many
. Methodists, it holds a desire to bring
. students with different beliefs
together, Wortman says. "The group
is a community of people," he said.
, "I don't think you can characterize
; the students as holding a certain set
, 'of beliefs."
l' Kathy Koonts, a sophomore Eng
. lish education major from Shelby,
has been involved with the founda
tion since she arrived in Chapel Hill.
. She said she liked the group because
A course of agnosticism
for those who aren't sure
Blind loyalty is a horrible
These are not the words of a
prophet. These are the words of
Lisa Kirkpatrick, an agnostic.
Kirkpatrick is a UNC student
who believes that no one should
stay with one religion out of blind
loyalty, and no one should choose
a religion without questioning its
doctrines first. She also says she
' doubts the existence of God.
Raised in a Methodist house-
hold, the senior from Lake Sum
mit began to question the doc
trines of her religion during high
( school and college. "People get
f scared to question their religion
because if they do, it may go
against everything the church and
' their parents told them is right,"
she said."You cannot be afraid to
define who you are even if it does
go against what the church or
your parents taught you.
"College is a special time for
doubting because you have a lot
of stimuli going on, and you have
to rethink things," she said.
According to William Peck,
associate professor in religious
studies, college is one time in peo
ple's lives when they question reli
gion the most. "It is a transitional
period in life when you doubt and
think about a lot of different
issues," he said. "It's a very natu
of everyone's agreement to disagree.
"I'm in Wesley because it's reli
gious without being overbearing,"
Koonts said. "Religion is not shoved
down my throat. Everyone respects
everyone else's beliefs, and the peo
ple are very caring and open."
The Rev. Bill Gattis, senior minis
ter at University United Methodist
Church, said his congregation tried
to accommodate students and make
them welcome. Besides offering stu
dents the chance to sing with the
Wesley Foundation Singers, Univer
sity Methodist sponsors "Adopt-a-Student,"
a program in which inter
ested students are assigned to fami
lies, couples and single church
The students dine with their
assigned families, worship with them
and do other things to become
acquainted. Gattis said the pro
gram's goal is to "be a home away
from home" for students.
Another group offering students
the chance to become involved in
the Protestant faith is the Baptist
The Rev. Bob Phillips, campus
minister, says the Baptist Student
Union makes up the majority of the
ministry. Phillips serves as advisor
along with Reverend Harriette
Bugel, but they try not to interfere
in the administration of the group.
That -burden is left up to students as
a beneficial part of the overall
. "We have a strong concept of stu
dents leading the ministry," Phillips
The BSU offers weekly meetings
and residence hall Bible studies. And
the group's center, Battle House, is
open to anyone who wants to study,
meet friends or escape the noise of
the dormitory, Phillips said.
The ministry is not restricted to"
members of a Baptist church eve
ryone is welcome whether he wants
to worship or just talk. "It has a
Baptist flavor to it," Phillips says.
"The concept is for there to be a
wide range of opportunities for peo
ple to grow and develop. As campus
ministers, we're available to stu
dents. All they need to do is pick up
the phone and call."
The Presbyterian Campus Minis
try also reaches out to students with
various religious backgrounds.
"We're open to anyone coming,"
said the Rev. Rebecca Reyes, Pres
byterian campus minister.
The student center, located at 1 10
Henderson St., hosts biweekly pro
grams on Mondays and Thursdays
on community outreach, current
issues or fellowship, Reyes said.
"Although the Presbyterian stance
sometimes comes through in such
ral and healthy process."
For people to define themselves
and find out who they really are,
they may have to give up their
parents' answers to a.lot of ques
tions, including religious ones,
"Religion cannot be genuine if "
it's based on somebody else's
hearsay," he said. "You need to
find out who you are, what you
care about and what you're com
mitted to on your own."
The university is designed to
help students break from their
childhood roots and provide space
for them to reassess their values,
Peck said. "Even if you ultimately .
end up with your parent's reli
gious answers, it should be
because you chose them on your
own. Religion, of all things, can
not be second hand."
Peck said the fear that came
with doubting should not stop
students from searching for a
However, fear sometimes inhib
its students from questioning reli
gious values. According to Rich
Henderson, area coordinator for
the InterVarsity Christian Fellow
ship (IVCF), it may be fear that
leads students to "shelve" religion
during their college years.
"Since it was forced on so many
of them while they were growing
up, they leave it behind and say,
programs on divorce or abortion,
we are diverse theologically, politi
cally and socially."
The Rev. Larry Hartsell, Luthe
ran campus pastor, said the Luthe
ran campus group had many pro
grams for students, all held at the
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in
Chapel Hill. Some of the programs
include a Wednesday night worship,
dinner and Bible study on Mondays
One of the most important objec
tives of the Lutheran church is to
carry its message to anyone willing
to listen, Hartsell said. "God calls us
to say to all people that they are
Similarly structured in ceremony
and belief to the Lutheran church,
the Episcopalian Anglican Student
Fellowship meets at The Chapel of
'IH deal with it later, I just want
my degree right now,' " he said.
Typically, students question the
existence of God or the relevance
of God to their lives, Henderson
said. "It's the people who are
afraid to ask themselves these
questions that are harming
Henderson said he believed
people should not buy a religion
lock, stock and barrel. Trying out
different religions and talking to
people of different faiths is essen
tial in finding what is right for a
person, he said. "College is a great
time to play around with these
thoughts and to try new things
because you have the freedom to
IVCF student coordinator
Todd Hahn, a junior from Char
lotte, said students should use
groups and other people to come
to terms with questions about
"InterVarsity helped me to re
evaluate questions about my
faith," Hahn said. "I ended up
accepting the same things I had
been told, but it wasn't because it
was dictated to me. It was because
I wrestled with it myself.
"Questioning is healthy as long
as the questioner truly wants to
come to a decision," he said. "It's
OK to doubt, but it's not OK not
to seek answers."
the Cross. According to Ejavid Stan
ford, associate for campus minis
tries, the strength of the Episcopal
church is its retention of the good
qualities of both Protestantism and
"The strength of the Episcopal
Church is the middle way between
Catholicism and Protestantism," he
said. "We talk about the three
legged stool: scripture, reason and
The Newman Catholic Student
Center also welcomes everyone,
according to Tom Krebs, student
campus minister. On Wednesdays,
students gather at the Newman Cen
ter for dinner followed by a pro
gram. "Student night encourages all
aspects of community development,"
If a student is looking for a less
traditional form of Christianity,
Christian Science could be the
answer., "Christian Science is a
church based on the teachings of
Jesus with a complete focus on spir
itual healing, not faith healing," said
Clinton Kurshildgen, Christian
Science college organizational
The healing prayer is based on an
understanding of the divine Princi
ple, which the founder (Mary Baker
Eddy) discovered to-be a synonym
for God. "It takes constant study
and devotion to begin to understand
and use the divine Principle," he
Adhering to a particular denomi
nation may not appeal to some peo
ple, leaving them the choice of non
denominational or interde
nominational churches. According
to Reggie Kidd, pastor of worship at
the Chapel Hill Bible Church, this
type of church "has a more generic
approach to Christianity on more
peripheral issues than a church of a
This church "lines itself up with
the conservative evangelical main
stream that draws people from sev
eral different backgrounds such as
Episcopalian, Catholic, Charismatic,
Pentacostal, Baptist and Methodist
to name a few," Kidd said.
The Bible Church operates on
four basic principles: teaching, wor
ship, fellowship and outreach.
"Ideally, our church should be char
acterized by a balance of these four .
foci," Kidd says.
On the other hand, an inter
denominational church encompasses
all beliefs and religions. The Com
munity Church of Chapel Hill
focuses on a sense of community,
"Wherever people feel comfortable
and feel that they belong, that's where
they should stay."
Rev. Larry Hartsell, Lutheran
evident in its name. Founded in the
1950s, the Community Church
"strives hard to listen to truth from
a variety of traditions," said the
Rev. W. W. Olney. "We try to main
tain the integrity of all.
"We are concerned with justice
and peace," Olney said. "What
draws people here is our desire to
pursue justice in this community,
state, country and the world."
A different philosophy
Hillel, the Jewish student group,
is based on a different philosophy
than groups of the Christian doc
trine, but it provides similar fellow
ship for participants. .
Students can find social interac
tion on Tuesdays at Hillel, when the
members have the chance to get to
know one another. Worship ser
vices, varying from orthodox to
reformed, take place on Fridays.
Lauren Stone, director of student
activities at Hillel, said the group
tried to be more than just a student
"Being Jewish is a way of life for
a lot of us," she said. "Jewish family
is very important to the Jewish faith.
Hillel becomes that family for stu
dents on campus. We pray together,
eat together and sing together."
And further East . . .
Hinduism, which originated in
India, also has a strong representa
tion on campus. Hiten Patel, a
sophomore originally from India
and an officer in the Sangam Asso
ciation, said Hinduism was less dif
ferent from Christianity than most
"It's not atheistic. The different
deities represent different aspects of
Patel said Hinduism stressed mor
ality rather than a specific way to
reach God. "I like Hinduism because
there are many different ways to
reach God you take your own
path and live morally."
The major philosophical differ
ence between Hinduism and other
religions is the concept of reincarna
tion. "I think Hinduism is best
known for reincarnation," Patel
says. "Your next life is determined
by what you do in this life. The goal
is to reach godhead, to become one
Islam, another religion that origi
nated in the East, is characterized by
a devout people who perform good
deeds in their religious practices and
in the community as well.
A Muslim is expected to pray five
times a day toward Mecca, give a
percentage of his or her income to
the poor, go on at least one pilgram
mage to Mecca, if affordable, and
celebrate the Ramadan fasting from
sunrise to sunset for one month dur
ing the year, says Qasem Shehadeh,
president of the Muslim Student
Besides following these religious
practices, a Muslim is also encour- '
aged to help his or her fellow man,
Shehadeh said. This concept stems
from the teachings on Islamic
brotherhood presented in the Koran,
the religious book of Islam. "All
Muslims are brothers; we are a
The choice is yours
The basic principle involved in
choosing a religion, according to
several religious leaders, is to expe
rience many of the different options,
then make a decision based on what
you have learned.
"A lot of us grew up in our par
ents' church," Hartsell said. "College
is a good chance to check things
out. Wherever people feel comforta
ble and feel that they belong, that's
where they should stay."
Stanford agreed, saying that the
Anglican group was made up largely
of students who are not Episcopal
ians. "I would say that 60 percent
are not Episcopalians they're just
there checking it out."
Students may discover that choos
ing a religion to suit their character
may be extremely difficult. "People
don't ask themselves, 'Would my
temperament be complemented at
this church?' " Peck says.
With a range of 500 to 1 ,000 defi
nitions of religion in existence,
according to Peck, a person's choice
of religion often depends on class,
wealth and education level.
"A religious experience is a stra
tegy for coping with the universe,"
Peck said. "This integrated response
to the universe can be established
either in or out of the church."