BY LILA CARPENTER
Entering as a first year, I had been warned of Berkeley’s notoriety for testing – and breaking – supposedly strong Christian faith, but I wasn’t intimidated. Since I had survived as a Christian in Santa Cruz for eighteen years, I felt like I could single-handedly take on Berkeley. Now, a couple months later, I can already see how overconfident I was.
Within my first week at Cal I was challenged. Sitting outside Wheeler waiting for class to begin, the boy next to me and I struck up the traditional getting-to-know-you conversation: what year are you, where are you from, what classes are you taking, etc. He talked about his class on evolution, which lead to a conversation about science and philosophy. He commented on how ridiculous it was that people still believe in myths like the Bible when carbon dating and other scientific evidence supports otherwise. I said that I believed, and he asked, “Why?”
Why? It was a perfectly reasonable question given the topic. I should have been expecting it. But I wasn’t. Why? Why?! The question caught me off guard; a stranger had never outright asked me why I believed. Once the initial shock subsided, I was surprised at my inability to intelligently and immediately explain why I believed in God. I began with how I grew up in the church. “Oh, you’re brain washed,” he jested, so I tried to prove my faith is my own – my dad isn’t Christian and I was always free to choose my own path. I then tried to explain how I see my connection with Jesus as a relationship rather than a religion. As I attempted to field his questions, I could tell that neither of us was satisfied with what I was saying. Although everything I said was true, it sounded somehow both rehearsed and jumbled.
I wished that I could have given hard evidence supporting God’s existence and that I had sounded more genuine and eloquent. I wished I had immediately formed more distinct, sincere reasons for my beliefs, even if my articulation lacked clarity. Confused, I turned to the most dependable source I know: God. Looking back on my conversation with the Wheeler boy, I can now think of a million clear, specific answers for why I believe in God: because when I was really sick and doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, God healed me; because I believe that the beauty of vivid blue skies or fiery red sunsets was artistically created; because I’ve had prayers answered; because when I stargaze, I know that there must be more than what can be discovered with microscopes and scientific calculations.
From the Wheeler boy, I learned that my beliefs are never off-limits to challenge. As a lover of Jesus I always need to be prepared to share his story, because I won’t always have the luxury of planning how, when, or with whom I want to share my testimony. During my short time here at Cal, I’ve continually challenged myself to speak up, becoming increasingly comfortable with religious conversations to the point that now I’m able to talk about my faith with anyone that seems interested.
But I know sharing faith in an environment like Cal can be difficult. For anyone that is challenged, I would like to offer this advice and encouragement: when people ask you questions, respond with what you truly think or feel. Your authenticity will be appreciated, and you will know what you’re talking about. The Lord will give you words – you just need to take a step of faith by letting them out.