A few weeks ago, the University of Alabama chapter of Alpha Phi gained national notoriety when an article was released criticizing the sorority’s recently released recruitment video. Why this story caught my attention. I don’t know. Possibly because I was intrigued at seeing a headline that wasn’t related to Ashley Madison, Trump, or what member of Taylor Swift’s crew joined her on stage that night. At any rate, since that day my social media has displayed a slow and steady stream of articles about what was undoubtedly a public relations debacle.
Let me take a moment to clarify that I’m not an expert on Greek life. I never had a need that I felt could be met by becoming a member. My university had an incredible campus ministry that was more than enough to keep me fulfilled and busy most nights. However, based primarily on the fact that I was in high school and thus in the prime demographic when Reese Witherspoon first bestowed Elle Woods onto the world, the video is pretty much what I would have anticipated. (If somebody had been interested enough to ask how I would anticipate a sorority recruitment video. It’s never happened before.) Plenty of caucasian blondes, size two bikinis, glitter-blowing, and various circles of a laughing sisterhood.Judging by the majority of the responses I’ve seen, the content wasn’t much of a shock to most. But the backlash has been undeniable and widespread. Not only was the video quickly pulled from YouTube, but Alpha Phi went on to delete every single social media account. The University of Alabama issued a statementrebuking the organization and reminding “student organizations to remember what is posted on social media makes a difference, today and tomorrow, on how they are viewed and perceived”. Millions of views. Even more comments. The University of Oregon released a mascot spoof video, which is actually pretty funny.*
My goal here isn’t to deride Greek life or those that choose to be a part of it. I’m not trying to imply that the video is representative of all sororities, or even a comprehensive representation of Alpha Phi. It may or may not be; I really don’t know. My goal is to examine what it was about this specific video that caused such an intense and vitriolic reaction. As far as I can tell, most complaints seems to boil down to one of three criticisms: homogeny, unattainability, or superficiality.
Many criticisms of Christianity seem pretty similar.
“Christianity is just a bunch of people who don’t know how to think for themselves.”
“The church doesn’t want someone like me. I’m not good enough. I don’t look right.”
“Christians care far more about political issues than loving and helping people.”
I’ve heard them. I’m sure you’ve heard them. Maybe you’ve even felt some of them before. It hurts to talk to people who want nothing to do with joining God’s kingdom when they feel like they’re not wanted because they don’t fit in. Because they’re not good enough.
Greek organizations can pick and choose who they want to represent them and their goals and how they want to be perceived. Social clubs at Christians schools have their own set of rushing and recruitment guidelines. In fact, most organizations have some sort of standard for who they allow to join. Sometimes even in terms of outward appearance. A California sorority caused its own outcry earlier this year after an email was leaked with very specific instructions for how girls were to dress and groom themselves. As an enthusiastic fan of No-Make November (aka Cheers to Laziness Month), that’s not my particular cup of tea. But it’s fully within their right to do so.
Christianity is different. It doesn’t have the luxury of being able to pick and choose who we do and don’t want to join us. Christianity is about acceptance and including people despite appearance. Upon joining the church, do people have a responsibility to represent the church and its goals in a certain way? Absolutely. Does it have anything to do with physical appearance? Not really. It has everything to do with loving God (Mt. 22:37), loving people (Mt. 22:39), obeying His word (Jn. 14:15), and teaching others (Mt. 28:19).
Everyone is wanted by the One who created us all, and everyone has a right to feel that way. And no one has the right to treat anybody in any other manner. Red, yellow, black and white – He wants us all and it’s our job to make that known.
And just like there’s been a rallying cry of support from other Greeks nationwide proclaiming that there’s much more to Greek life, including high academic standards and a plethora of philanthropic efforts, I truly believe that most accusations leveled against the Christianity are unfounded. The majority of Christians that I know sincerely love God. They sincerely love others and want to share the love they’ve been shown. They go out of their way to help others and to teach and to serve and to make meals and care for those in need.
Unfortunately, they’re not always the ones that are seen. They’re not the loudest or the flashiest so the truth of God’s followers gets left behind by the most news-worthy.
Christianity will likely never be seen for what it is. It will probably never be universally acknowledged for the good done by the followers of God because that’s not a message that wants to be universally heard. God never expected Christianity to be the ruling power on earth. He tells us to follow him regardless.
“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”
You are a walking, living, breathing recruitment video for God. We all make mistakes, but He never does. We all let people down, but He loves regardless. Wearing His name means that others are going to make judgments about Him based on how you live (Mt. 5:16). That is a massive undertaking that requires total commitment.
God is so good to us. There’s plenty in the media that points to the mistakes and downfalls and hypocrisies of His followers. You have a chance to show the truth of what it means to follow Him.
Be different. Accept those who are different. Encourage those who need it. Seek to show the magnitude of the I AM.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
*Not intended as an endorsement or an expression of fandom toward the University of Oregon.