Religious leaders discuss fine line between faith and Thirsty Thursday

Ben Wolford

College life distracts some from beliefs

The Rev. Chris Luoni said students have come to him at rock bottom, looking for direction.

“Two questions I always ask them: Have you been attending church? No, is usually the answer,” said Luoni, pastor at the Newman Center University Parish. “Have you prayed? No.”

He said they’re students who went to church. They’re from religious families. Their faith was their parents’ faith.

“But they got on their own, got caught in the wrong things, and it was a choice they made,” he said.

Despite what Luoni and other religious leaders at Kent State are saying, a 2007 University of Texas study found that students in college didn’t lose religion as much as peers not in college.

But are the Catholics at Kent State, who make up 40 percent of the student body, going to the Newman Center?

“Oh, God, no,” Luoni said. “It’s easy to check a box and say you’re Catholic or Presbyterian or Jewish or Islamic. It’s easy to say you’re a Catholic or a Christian. It’s a much different thing to live that.”

The Jehovah’s Witnesses have a different perspective. There are only about 7 million of them in the world. A much smaller number come to Kent State.

At the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses near campus on Summit Street, Matthew Dowd, an overseer at the Kingdom Hall, said a couple types of students show up for service.

“One, you have students who are already Witnesses,” he said. “Then you have those that are taking classes on religions, and they’re encouraged to go learn about the different religions.”

Dowd said they try to make it easy for students of any religious background to attend. They can bring whatever Bible they’re comfortable with.

“There are a lot of distractions for college students as they go through,” Dowd said.

The Rev. Aaron Meadows, pastor of Kent Presbyterian on Summit Street, has some ideas for keeping the distractions from interfering with faith: Bring faith to the distraction.

The second Thursday of the month is Theology on Tap. They talk religion and philosophy over beer at Ray’s Place at 7 p.m.

His idea is to make religion and the college experience jive, as they should, rather than the oil and water quality they seem to have.

“It’s not unlikely for students of faith to face a professor whose goal is to deconstruct that faith, to tear it apart,” Meadows said. “When I’m working with students like that, it’s a matter of, not necessarily helping them to react against what the professor is suggesting, because in some ways it’s very good.

“I personally see no conflict between faith and good thinking.”

Contact forum editor Ben Wolford at [email protected].