BY JUSTUS STURTEVANT-MANAGING EDITOR OF CONTENT
When I was a child, the church my family attended organized a summer camp each year. It was a combination of Christian teaching and regular summer camp activities, such as swimming, hiking and group games.
I absolutely loved it; it was one of the highlights of my summer every year growing up, and to this day I have very fond memories of it.
Just last week however, a discussion in one of my classes reminded me of a song we had sung at camp one year, and as the lyrics ran through my head for the first time in years I realized how firmly I disagreed with them now.
Before you put down this paper assuming that I am going to be bashing organized religion, hold on for just a second because that is not my intent.
In fact I am still a fairly spiritual person and an active member of religious life at Susquehanna.
Rather, my intent in this piece is to comment on a phenomenon that can be seen throughout our culture. One that has often been associated with organized religion.
The song, which is titled, “I Just Wanna Be a Sheep,” is a seemingly innocent children’s song about being a sheep in God’s flock, and at the time it was not objectionable to me in any way.
However, throughout my life I have been the complete opposite of a sheep; in fact my favorite animal in the world is the wolf.
My personal philosophy, one that was always encouraged by my family, is to question everything that I do not fully understand.
Growing up, my sister had a very similar mindset, which led to frequent, animated debates in our household on subjects ranging from politics to pop culture.
We both brought this mentality to the classroom at school and at church.
At times our questions were met with excitement from a similarly minded teacher but often they were met with insincere or pointed answers that discouraged further questioning.
Even when teachers showed sincere interest in the questions we asked, our classmates would often avoid deeper discussions by glossing over the question or comment that was made and reestablishing the subject at hand when the question arose.
Unfortunately, this seemed to be the case more often than not in our Sunday School classes, which left a bitter taste in the mouths of both my sister and myself.
Often, I had to seek out the answers to my questions outside of the classroom.
When I was in high school I first discovered my love for discussion-based classes. I had never learned in such an engaging and stimulating way. I left discussion heavy class periods feeling more stretched and challenged than evr before.
That love has continued in college, particularly for those classes that delve into ethics and morality, however so often I find myself frustrated by the surface level discussions that can be found so often in 100 level classes.
Many times a topic will be discussed without ever leaving the realm of the reading.
So often we read the content, hear the prevailing thoughts and opinions and simply follow one preexisting path, citing our own experiences or understanding to support our beliefs.
Is this true engagement with the subject matter?
Personally, I do not believe it is. True engagement seeks deeper understanding; true engagement challenges the accepted beliefs. Sometimes this leads an individual to a new understanding of the material; sometimes it leads them back to reconciliation with the original beliefs.
Even in this case though, the effort put forth is not wasted, because it brings about a deeper understanding of the subject.
I have experienced limited engagement with the material in school, church and even outside of organized education, and it is something that deeply troubles me.
A generation of sheeps, regardless of their beliefs, is not a generation that can create meaningful change in this world.
This article is not meant to call out my fellow students and it is not meant to poke holes in organized religion; it is simply a call to action for my entire generation.
If there is any part of you that desires a deeper understanding of something, do not ignore that urge.
Do not settle for the simple explanation just because it is easy and others are satisfied with it.
Ask the tough questions; challenge the opinions of those around you and yourself. Do not be a sheep, be a wolf.