Christian Students on Secular Campuses

Fish Out of Water
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of The Christian Post or its editors.

As Christian college students across the country make the pilgrimage home for Thanksgiving, some of them return carrying more baggage than just overflowing laundry bags. College has confronted them with a slew of questions they didn’t know they had—questions ranging from faith to sexuality to politics to their own future. If they’ve dared to identify themselves as Christians at a secular university, they’ve likely already felt the brunt of a professor’s scorn or have even been called intolerant by a classmate.

Such was the experience of Abby Nye, who graduated from Butler University last spring. Spurred on by her journalist parents, she decided to document her experiences as a Christian at a secular university. In her new book, Fish Out of Water: Surviving and Thriving as a Christian on a Secular Campus, Abby covers topics ranging from orientation week, to the lecture hall, to the—you guessed it—party scene.

Through her own experiences and those of friends at other universities, she helps Christian students prepare mentally and spiritually for a college experience that their parents could not have imagined as recently as twenty years ago.

First, she dismantles the T-bomb: tolerance. Tolerance is a word tossed around like a hand grenade on campuses today. The shrapnel from being labeled intolerant can feel like a mortal wound. Abby Nye, however, isn’t afraid to take so-called “tolerance” head on.

She emphatically explains, “Today’s ‘tolerance’ makes the assumption that we all hold different beliefs, but those different beliefs are all equal. That appalls me. If I’m going to take the time to believe in something, have a conviction, live it out, and stand up for what I believe in, what good is it if I don’t even believe that my beliefs are true? And if my beliefs are true,” she continues, “why would I even consider a conflicting belief to be on the same level? I wouldn’t!”

I wish more Christians had this twenty-something’s conviction. But what I like most about Nye’s book is how she engages the culture and encourages us to do the same.

While a defensive duck-and-cover drill would be, by far, the easiest game plan for a Christian at a secular university, it wouldn’t be right. Nye goes on the offense, and she coaches others to do the same. “Start with courage,” she writes. “Get off the sidelines, jump in, and play ball . . . Resolve that you will speak up. Secondly, resolve that when another Christian speaks up, [even] if it’s not going well for him or her, that you will speak up and support that person.” She cites Ecclesiastes 4:12, which says, “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him” (NKJV).

Nye further advises students to stay cool; focus on principle, not personalities; limit the Bible-thumping; be encouraging; and smile, because, as she says, “You’re right.”

If you know someone in college, this fall be a coach: a coach who arms them with an offensive game plan. Fish Out of Water will help that young man or woman not only survive but also thrive as a Christian on a secular campus.


From BreakPoint®, November 22, 2006, Copyright 2006, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. “BreakPoint®” and “Prison Fellowship Ministries®” are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship Ministries.