How do search for God on a primarily secular campus?

Gabriel Brotzman ’13, Business Manager

Gabriel Brotzman is a senior concentrating in English. 

The modern university is set up to help you become the authority in your life. You are trained to become so accustomed to every aspect of a topic, and even multiple topics, that you could say, “I’ve covered all my bases as far as X goes” or “No one could show me something I haven’t already personally considered or tested.” I think most people leave college thinking in this way; that his/her area of expertise has been thoroughly inspected and has been—at least arguably—guaranteed as airtight. The purpose of college is not to show you how small or foolish you are but rather the opposite. In short, we are trained to become the world’s next premier authorities on life and its many intricacies.

And we are easily swept up in this idea. We become more and more certain of ourselves and our own capabilities. The university paints a picture for us of the profitable occupation before us with a beautiful family and the adoration of our peers and colleagues, telling us, “We can empower you to create this.” And it is this very idea that is contrary to the idea and experience of God.

How do we find God? In short, understand that you are a humble being, not the behemoth of a mind you have been made out—or made yourself out—to be. And finally I would say if you want to find God on a secular campus, resist the notion that you will live forever and instead meditate on what will matter when you find yourself walking across the threshold of death which comes to all men. And this is not a simple fear of the unknown, nor is it a primal terror of survival. It is the understanding that no matter your weight in this world there is finality, a great equalizer of mankind. It cuts through all argumentation, all reasoning, all knowledge, and ultimately we cannot place it in subjection.

We have to understand first who we are in relation to this fact and no longer deceive ourselves into thinking we are greater than that.

Taylin Im ’15, Nonfiction Editor

Taylin Im is a sophomore concentrating in biology.

To think that we can simply “find God” in our college journeys where we expect to find life answers and learn more about ourselves is almost a notorious and naive idea. How do we, as human beings, even go about looking for such an almighty entity? Whether you are Christian or Atheist, Agnostic or Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish, or adhere to any other faith or belief system, I am going to venture to say that at one point or another, we have all been “searching,” otherwise, none of this matters. Questioning your faith or lack thereof? The possibilities are endless, just like the unknown. I’ve been there myself, but here’s the next challenge, and one that may be more feasible to respond to: How do you search for God at Brown? What does “searching” look like, any how do you get anywhere with this goal?

Personally, I believe that to get anywhere, you have to want it to happen and then work for it. We all know that, when we study, perform, compete, create, write, learn, we work at it, and it’s important to us because we know what we have to do to get results. Knowing this, however, I still find myself guilty of expecting things to happen, for God to show Himself in my life without investing the time myself. How can one get to know someone without spending time with him or her? How does one know anything without putting in some effort? It’s no wonder that many of us don’t get anywhere close and become discouraged or even give up! We have to devote time to studying, to talking with people who believe or who don’t believe, to searching out the answers and reflecting on how God may have been present in our own lives. God wants us to find Him.

If you want to find God, this has to be a priority in your life, otherwise, you will never have the time. There are too many exams to study for, readings to catch up on/procrastinate on, shows to watch, music to listen to, places to go, and naps that we just can’t miss. Where do we fit God in? And at Brown too, of all places? Believe it or not, there are plenty of opportunities to connect with people of all faith backgrounds right on campus. Perhaps the popular belief here is that God doesn’t exist or that there is no way of knowing, but we’re Brown students! When’s the last time we believed something because everyone else did? Or maybe, when’s the last time we didn’t do anything about something we were curious about, wondered or questioned and didn’t come to a satisfying conclusion? I can’t tell you exactly what you need to do, but rather, that it does matter whether or not God matters to you. If the question of God doesn’t matter to you, then you can’t expect to find answers. We must search and pursue with openness and earnestness if we want to make our time worthwhile.

The world we inhabit is very much community-driven. Speaking generally for society, we don’t like to be alone, we move in crowds, we move with the people. And then we find ourselves here at Brown, a community that seeks to do the opposite–to move the people. However, not all of us are movers, and not all of us like to be moved. But if we are to find God, we must not be afraid to move in ways not many people will agree with. And whoever you are, if you are sincerely searching for God on this campus, we must be ready for change.

Elizabeth Jean-Marie ’15, President

Elizabeth is a sophomore concentrating in biology.

Joy, excitement, disbelief, elation. The emotions rushed over me as I read “Congratulations, you have been accepted into the Brown University Class of 2015!” I had been spending weeks praying to God for clarity in deciding where to go for college, and the instant I was accepted into Brown, it was as if all of my other options didn’t matter, because I just knew that Brown was where God wanted me to be. At that time I didn’t realize how big of a plan God had for me at Brown’s campus, but all I knew was that it was where I needed to be.

At the beginning of freshman year, I found myself in an odd position. I felt I had a close relationship with God, and I was excited to see what he had in store for me at Brown, but I was confused about why he would lead me here. I knew that Brown was certainly not well-known as a prominent Christian community. In fact, I was afraid that I wouldn’t find any Christians here. Why would God want me in such an environment? A beacon of hope shined when I first visited Brown for ADOCH. I was walking on to the main green for the ice cream sundae event when I saw three girls standing with a poster that said “Brown Christian Fellowship, Coffee and Tea”. My face lit up, and I felt a resounding peace. I knew I was going to be okay. All my worries washed away, no matter where I go, He is with me, watching over me.

So how do I find God on Brown’s campus? I find Him all around me, in my fellow students who follow Christ, and in my professors like Ken Miller, aren’t afraid to profess his name in the classroom.  My faith has grown leaps and bounds since I’ve been at Brown. I get to minister His name when I discuss my beliefs with fellow students, and I get to move closer to Him with my sisters in my Bible study group. And most importantly, I find Him in my heart. In the morning when I pray, and as I walk through the campus letting Him shine a light in me. We can all find God on a secular campus, all we have to do is be a vessel and let Him in.


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