Friday, September 24, 2010

Intervarsity vs. Habitat for Humanity

Last night, I spoke to a group about 200 evangelical pastors at a conference about evangelizing. I was part of a panel that consisted of 2 atheists and a Christian that most Christians would not consider Christian. I was the latter.

During the panel, I talked about my time in college and why I chose Habitat for Humanity over Intervarsity as my main social group. I said that when I looked at both groups, I think I chose Habitat because I wanted to be more like those people, while I definitely knew that DID NOT want to become more like the Intervarsity folks.

The list of why I was repulsed by Intervarsity is easy to come up with:

Girls were weirdly perky
Guys were kind of assholes but with a moralistic veneer
Girls and guys were separated and traditional gender roles were clearly the norm
I hated praise songs

In the Q&A sessions afterwards, a woman asked me what was so attractive about the Habitat for Humanity group.

I bumbled the answer so I thought I'd record what I should have said here:

They were fun and funny. This may be relative as I'm sure the IV folks experienced fun. But my personality liked the kind of jokes that were made at Habitat.
I had a liberating sense that I could be myself. The only social limit I saw was that you couldn't be an asshole. I sensed that in the IV crowd, I would have had to use clean language and did not see potential for personal exploration that I thought should be part of the college experience.
They were smart and wanted to change the world.
They actually worked at making the world a better place every Saturday. My first year, we raised $27,000 and built an entire house in partnership with the neighboring college.
They liked me for me rather than for how I might be lauded as an example of the success of their ideology.
There was a potential for me to be a leader there, even though I was a woman.

Unfortunately, this was the best question that a conference on evangelism could ask so I'm sorry that I bumbled it. If more churches were like that Habitat for Humanity group, more people like me would go to church.


Aamba said...

I hate praise songs too!

I ended up in Intervarsity through most of my college career, even though I was not considered a Christian by their definition.

I ended up rejecting the whole thing in spectacular manner and becoming completely not Christian.

There were a lot of people there that I liked, though. The one on my campus had a lot of good and sincere people, I think. Still, I didn't like their methods of persuading people and I hated the music!

ABG said...

It's funny. You and I had such a different experience with IV--mine was so positive and powerful, part of what helped me to understand social justice as an integral part of the Christian life and the major influence in helping me understand the inherently multi-ethnic and multicultural nature of the Kingdom. And in fact, it was the first time I saw women in truly powerful leadership roles--preaching, teaching, leading leaders.

I suppose that IV is like any denomination--a person's experience of it depends heavily on the local leadership and the people involved. :)

blind irish pirate said...

I must have been such an unclean Christian in college, heck, now, since I work on campus, that IV was never even made aware to my dirty, dirty self. ;)

I would so love to just make myself part of Habitat. We have a very functioning HH here in town, not even associated with campus, that you'd think I would have by now. I'm afraid I'm going to get stuck fundraising, which I fear. I'd like to hear more about your experiences with them.