Where do you even begin?

On the campus of Indiana University this week, a fraternity was closed down after a video surfaced featuring about half the members of the house cheering on and engaging in sexual immorality with a pair of women paid for their participation.

This might not be news outside of my neck of the woods. I bring up here because of the interesting history of the fraternity. Alpha Tau Omega bills itself as a fraternity founded on explicitly Christian — as opposed to Greek — ideals. The name of the fraternity itself is a reference to Scripture.

It is not really news that fraternities are hives of immorality. I know that. But reading the story did get me wondering how many of those young men had been raised in Christian families. How many of them ever give a second of thought to the Alpha and Omega after whom their organization is named?

There has been outrage over this incident. There have also been a fair number of defenders of the frat arguing that the morality police should keep their nose out of good, clean, consensual fun. This happens everywhere, they say. What’s the big deal?

It all has me wondering how the Church engages with the culture that forms young people who will do such things, make videos of them, and release them into the Internet. So much talk these days is about being contextual and meeting people where they are. If this is seen as normal by large numbers of people, where is the ground on which we might meet these young people?

7 thoughts on “Where do you even begin?

  1. Where do we meet them? We meet them where they are, full of youthful hubris, drunken idiocy, and that sense of privilege that only a true fraternity member can display. We meet them without telling them they engage in sexual immorality. Like Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, we just sit and chat. We do so without expectation of anything but getting a glass of water. Should the conversation swing round to “Why are you, a Christian, hanging out with me, a fraternity brother who posts videos of us banging hookers?” you smile and, just as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman, tell them their whole life. Always allow room for the Holy Spirit to breathe life through the words you exchange. At the end of the day, this isn’t an “immoral” person. He’s a beloved child of God worthy of love and respect, not condemnation and exclusion. Live that and people will respond. Be all “sexually immoral” all over them and you’ll do nothing but turn off their ears and harden their hearts.

    1. I guess my question is more practical than I make clear. I get the idea that you have to meet them where they are. What I don’t see is how Christians actually meet such people where they are. I know that as a 47-year-old guy, I’m not going to have hardly any opportunity to come into contact with these young people in a setting where I can ever have an opportunity to connect in the way you describe.

      I don’t think we share the reading of the woman at the well story (John 4). There was not extended period of chatting or hanging out there, as far as I can see. But I’m not primarily interested in debating exegesis. I’m curious how the church actually engages with a culture that at least in part views the video and behaviors in it as no big deal or just normal college fun.

      1. The first thing we do is stop pretending this is new or shocking. This type of behavior among the privileged has ALWAYS gone on. It is one of the marks of privilege that actions have no consequences.

        The trick is not to approach this as aberrant or horrible or some kind of sign of social breakdown or cultural collapse. Approach it for what it is: A bunch of rich college kids (and that’s redundant these days; if you’re in college, your family has money) acting the way rich college kids act. The second thing to do is to assume that people with whom you have contact behave in similar ways. Assume you would behave this way, given a quarter chance. Then you aren’t dealing with modern Gomorrah. You’re relating to other human beings who are sinners just like you. That’s the starting point: this is neither new nor surprising; you’re no better than they are (and, frankly neither am I). The church as a whole approaches situations like this not by condemning young men from acting in ways young men told and shown how protected they are from consequence have always acted. The church condemns as sinful the social conditions that create such sheltered, privileged, and in the end amoral human beings. The people can be changed with relative ease. The conditions that offer some people a pass on illegal and immoral behavior while condemning others who do not share race, class, or other social similarities should be the target of anger and sadness.

        1. Interesting thoughts. I’m still not sure I see how to handle such a thing on a practical level, but I appreciate you taking the time to share your perceptions about the problems.

  2. The assertion that “people can be changed with relative ease” is a fatuous notion. Let’s dispense with it and get down to business. We will more than likely fail to change anyone. Transformation is God’s work but has become a Methodist shibboleth for (the righteousness of) our social agenda, dubious as it is. John, you are asking the question that should have us on our knees.

Comments are closed.