Young, Liberal, and Faithful

By Annah Heckman ’22
Until my first day of college, I had only attended religious schools: Episcopal elementary and middle schools, and a Quaker high school. In each of those spaces, there was always an understanding of what faith could mean and how faith could operate in individual and communal life. Whether or not you were in a faith community, your school was one. Religion was part of the curriculum. There was a baseline understanding of the Bible expected and respect for those who followed its teachings.
So, when I arrived at my undergraduate college, an ultimately secular institution, I was excited to study the Bible in my first-year seminar class. I couldn’t wait to speak with people who didn’t have my background, to approach the text through a secular lens and to address it like a best seller and historically significant text, rather than a religious one. I had not yet had this type of exegetical opportunity. Entering my first class on Genesis, I was eager to share with my classmates my perspective both as an aspiring academic and as a Christian. I walked in thrilled to share, listen, and learn, but when I left I felt defeated, insulted, and confused.
The Professor began with a question, “Who has something that they would like to share with the class about the text? Observations? Questions?” A couple of us raised hands, mine hesitantly only half-way, curious to hear my peers’ perspectives. A classmates’ hand shot up like lightning and was called on first.

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