Transitioning from high school to college means accepting being a little fish in a big pond. For more than half of UP’s population, it means not only that but being the little fish in a pond full of Jesus fish. You can swim just as well as those other fish until the time comes to go upstream in a theology class and you find that your fins just aren’t as equipped for it as the other fish.
If someone had told me three years ago that I would end up going to a Catholic college, I would have laughed in their face. All throughout high school I had refused to even consider going to a school with an overt religious affiliation. I wrote them off as “Jesus schools” and chucked every brochure in the recycling without a second glance. My one experience with Catholicism was attending the First Communion of a friend, and the only thing I remember from that event was being jealous that she got a Build-a-Bear for it. UP was the wildcard in my college applications, the school I knew almost nothing about other than that it was liberal arts, in Portland and allowing me to apply for free. My sudden love for the school outweighed its detracting religious affiliation.
Still, I had my concerns. The summer before freshman year I tried to wean myself off of swearing like a pirate. Even though I had seen what the students here look like, part of me was still convinced that they walked around in sweaters and skirts to their knees, a Bible always in hand. I’m not sure if I thought I was going to college or joining a cult.
It did not take long for me to realize that I was not going to be the next Jane Goodall, nor would I be the victim of an exorcism anytime soon. No one had to know that I had about as much of a background in religion as I did in astrophysics. Yes, I went to a Catholic university, but Catholicism was not the end-all-be-all of existence on campus. Most importantly, I was not alone.
Everything was fine until the time came for me to take Bib Trad. Everyone in my class had attended Catholic schools or identified as a Catholic, and then there was me. I was the ape in a room of Jane Goodalls. There was a lot of frantic page flipping and leaning over to see what page the people sitting next to me were on, as the Bible might as well have been an IKEA manual written only in Russian. One day I didn’t do the reading because I never found whatever Old Testament guy I was looking for.
While I was the minority in that class, surely someone else has felt that “us vs. them” mentality in a theology course. They are driven by the assumption that everyone has the same knowledge of a book that is thousands of pages long. Realistically, this just isn’t possible. Less than half of the student population identifies as Catholic. Clearly we are all not all on the same page, so why are we expected to be?
Emily Strocher is a junior secondary education and history major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.