Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 21, 2008
College students fail to link sex, faith – author
Gap between religious belief and campus culture is enormous
By By CAROL ZIMMERMANN
"All of you think all of you love the hookup culture, but really all of you don't."
In discussions with students she realized that many of them did not see how their faith had much to say about the issues they faced.
Freitas was determined to find out if this small group of students reflected a larger trend and that became the impetus for Sex & the Soul, published by Oxford University Press.
Data for the book is based on responses from students at seven U.S. colleges and universities, a mix of public, private, evangelical and Catholic institutions.
More than 2,500 students responded to an online survey and more than 100 students were interviewed by Freitas on how their faith helped them or failed to give them direction in sexual relationships.
The book, focusing on a variety of different student experiences, shows how today's students - with the exception of some at evangelical schools - were not unlike her initial sample group. They also lacked the ability to make a connection between their religious traditions and modern-life issues such as sexuality.
She said her research and the dozens of presentations on college campuses she has given since she finished the book reveal that students feel "real pain and dissonance" between what they want and what they think is expected of them.
At campus presentations she repeatedly tries to drive the message home: "All of you think all of you love the hookup culture, but really all of you don't."
In other words, just because casual sex takes place on campus, it doesn't mean students have to be part of it.
She acknowledged that any effort to "shift the culture" seems overwhelming. But one way to start is to take the first step of actually talking about what happens after class hours on today's campuses, coupled with a discussion about what faith traditions have to say to modern challenges.
"People need to meet these students and hear what they're saying; they need to have this conversation," she said. Campus ministry leaders, teachers, administrators and parents need to get more involved in addressing issues college students are facing today.
Parents, Freitas said, should not only ask about class sizes, sports programs and academics, but about the school's party atmosphere, campus-sponsored programs offered about religion and love, and ways the school addresses traditional hazing rituals.
"We have an opportunity to do something" about the environment on many campuses, she said, instead of pretending it doesn't exist.
But "we have to be willing to start with the messiness" of talking about the often taboo subjects of sex and spirituality, she said.
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