Facing the Issues
About the Guest
If you thought high school was a minefield, just wait until you get to college. Alex Chediak, author of Thriving at College and an associate professor at California Baptist University, talks about tolerance, spiritual atrophy, drinking and dating--just a few of the challenges you'll face in college.
Alex ChediakAlex Chediak is an author, speaker, and an associate professor of engineering and physics at California Baptist University. Alex has been involved in campus ministries and mentoring students for many years. He has published numerous articles in Boundless, an online magazine for young adult Christians, and he is the author of 5 Paths to the Love of Your Life and With One Voice. Alex has an MS and PhD in engineering from University of California‐Berkeley. Originally from the Chicago area,...more
If you thought high school was a minefield, just wait until you get to college.
Facing the Issues
Bob: When you’re a college student, getting your studies done, getting your degree ought to be your top priority, right? Professor Alex Chediak says, “Not exactly.”
Alex: Everything that we do in college should be the fruit of our walk with Christ. Our academics shouldn’t be, “Hey, I want to get straight A’s so I can get $100,000 when I get out of here.” That’s not a Christian motivation.
A Christian motivation is, “I want to honor God with my brain,”—so, a godly motivation in the classroom, a godly motivation for finding friends, a godly motivation for using recreation times. “I want to develop the gifts He’s giving me so that I can be prepared to serve Him in whatever profession He calls me.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, August 2nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. What can we do as parents to make sure that our sons and daughters are headed off to college this fall with the right perspective in mind? We’re going to talk about that today. Stay tuned.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. When you and Barbara, a number of years ago, wrote a book for parents of teenagers, one of the key themes you addressed with those parents was the idea that your sons and daughters are walking through a mine field as they go through the teen years. There are traps set for them all the way through their adolescent years.
When a student goes off to college, there are some big bear traps that are laid on the college campus for that student that can be life determinative for that young man or that young woman.
Dennis: That’s right. Their spiritual life is in play. Their moral life is in play. Some of the habits developed in college, like alcohol, can set a course for their lives. We’re going to talk about all three of those issues with the author of Thriving at College, Alex Chediak.
Alex: Thank you, sir.
Dennis: Welcome to the broadcast, Alex.
Alex: Thanks for having me, Dennis.
Dennis: Alex is an Associate Professor of Engineering and Physics. Alex, why don’t you just give, Bob, a sample question around physics? We’ve really tried to stump Bob. I think we may have found the subject.
Bob: If I was taking a final in your class, what would one of the questions be, for example?
Alex: So, I might have an incline plane and a block on it—
Alex: —with a rope holding it up—
Alex: —and a pulley and another block. Then, the one block is heavier than the other.
Alex: So, it’s kind of falling. The block that’s heavier is falling—
Bob: Falling. Yes.
Alex: The other one is going up the incline plane.
Bob: I’m getting this. Yes.
Alex: Find the acceleration of the system.
Bob: The acceleration of this system. Well, it depends on the—
Dennis: The answer is? The only term that Bob knows is fulcrum. Fulcrum.
Bob: Fulcrum. There is a fulcrum at play, isn’t there?
Dennis: Is that the answer to the question?
Alex: Not really. No. (laughter) That might get you half a point, though. I’d give you something.
Dennis: Well, we’ll leave that subject. Alex is an author, a speaker. He and his wife Marni have three children. They live in Riverside, California. He is a professor at California Baptist University. Let’s talk about spiritual life.
Dennis: One of the things you write about in your book is that 24percent of all professors on the college campus profess to be—
Alex: Secular university campus.
Alex: Yes. That’s right.
Dennis: Profess to be atheists.
Alex: Or agnostics.
Dennis: The national average on this?
Alex: About four percent.
Dennis: So, a higher than average percentage.
Alex: Six times greater. It actually gets even higher if you go to the more elite schools, like Berkley, Stanford, Yale, or MIT. The more elite the university, in terms of its reputation, the higher the percentage.
Bob: Is that the idea that the smarter you get, the more atheistic or agnostic—I mean it’s kind of an interesting—
Alex: The more foolish you get, right?
Bob: Yes. Pretty interesting correlation there.
Alex: Well, it probably also says something about discrimination and kind of a one- track mind in higher education. In secular higher education, there is pressure to believe that there is no such thing as absolute truth or that any kind of religious framework that would tell you how to live or tell someone else how to live is faulty.
Bob: Part of having a liberal education is the idea that you’re open to all kinds of different ideas that—
Alex: You would think.
Bob: —you haven’t locked in on anything dogmatically except maybe in the sciences and in mathematics, right?
Alex: Right. Right. That’s one of the things I talk about is one of the things we hear as Christians in our culture is that we’re supposed to be tolerant. What tolerant supposedly means, according to our world, is that, “What’s true for you, is true for you and what’s true for me, is true for me,” (even though they are totally contradictory). There is no such thing as absolute truth or objective truth that would somehow have bearing on your life and mine.”
You think about what the word, “tolerance,” has historically meant. What it has meant is being tolerant, gracious, or accepting of somebody who is different than you. Let’s suppose I have a friend who is a Muslim. Being tolerant would be saying, “Okay, I think your faith is incorrect. I think Jesus Christ is the way to God, but I’m still going to love you, respect you, be kind towards you, be able to work on my math homework with you; but I still think you’re wrong, and you, of course, think that I’m wrong.”
This is true tolerance. It’s holding a belief, yet, not killing other people over it. What our world says is tolerant is, “No, you’re not even allowed to think I’m wrong. You think I’m wrong; that’s just true for you. What’s true for me is true for me.” That’s not tolerance at all.
Dennis: You went to the University of California at Berkley.
Alex: I did.
Dennis: That’s not exactly known as—
Alex: Go Bears! (laughter)
Dennis: Yes. We’ll allow for that advertisement.
Alex: We’ll allow for that advertisement. We lose in football to the South all the time. I don’t know why.
Dennis: There is a reason.
Alex: Is there? Okay.
Dennis: None of them take physics. (laughter)
Alex: In the South, that’s right.
Dennis: You went to the University, though, in Berkley.
Dennis: You were a Christian.
Dennis: How did you survive that?
Alex: I think it’s just about going there and having the standpoint of, “I am here to grow in my profession, but also to grow in my faith. I’m going to identify myself with God’s people.” I think finding a good church, identifying yourself as a Christian from day one. Say, “I’m here. I’m a Christian. I’m going to find a church to plug into. I’m going to find other Christians on campus that I can connect with, commiserate with, go through life together with, and just share our common experience with.”
Bob: Would you say your spiritual foundation was really solid and locked in before you got to Berkley?
Alex: You know, I think it was. I was a graduate student, as well. So, I was a little bit older. It’s not exactly a one-for- one correspondence.
I went to an undergraduate school, also a secular school, called Alfred University. There, I was—it was a non-Christian school. I was less grounded in my faith at that time. I was grounded enough to know, “You know what, I better find a church pretty quickly; and I better find other Christians on campus pretty quickly.” If you don’t do those two things within the first couple of months, the data is not very promising.
Bob: Well, I have to tell you when I’ve been on college visits with my sons and my daughters over the years—
Bob: —we walk through the dorms. One of the things I’m looking for on the dorm bulletin boards as we get the tour of the dorms are the posters about Bible study going on here—
Bob: —or about campus ministry meeting here or what’s going on.
Bob: If I don’t see that stuff—and I remember being at one very prestigious university and walking through the dorms and seeing nothing that indicated anything spiritual. I asked our tour guide. I said, “Are there any campus ministries on this campus?”
Bob: She said, “I think there’s one InterVarsity something.” So, I checked online.
Bob: I called the head of InterVarsity. I said, “Tell me about what’s going on.” She said, “Well, there are four of us who meet right now. We’re trying to figure out how to get it bigger.”
Alex: Yes, that doesn’t sound promising.
Bob: I thought—I’m thinking, “This is a great college. This would be a great place to get a degree from, but I don’t know how my son or daughter would survive spiritually in that kind of environment.”
Dennis: Yes. You don’t want to send your son or daughter off to a place where they’re going to lose their faith--
Dennis: —while they gain professional excellence. I’ve got a niece who is going to Texas A&M. I went to her graduation and had a chance to kind of put my arm around her at one point. I said, “Now, when you get there as a freshman in a few months, I want you to look up this group called Breakaway. Breakaway meets at your basketball arena. It’s a Bible study. It’s a pretty good sized little Bible study. It has five, six, seven, ten thousand kids going to it.”
Alex: That’s a lot of people.
Dennis: Her eyes got really big. Another young man who was there said, “What did you call that?” He said, “I’d like to know about that.” I just want to underscore what you said here, Alex.
I think one of the things that saved me as a young person going to a larger university after I had been to a junior college was when I arrived on campus (This was back in the days when 8,000 to 10,00 students was a big—that was a big college campus back then). I arrived and immediately found a church.
Dennis: I also got involved in Campus Crusade for Christ.
Dennis: Those two in tandem—
Alex: There you go.
Dennis: —were a great combo in terms of finding people to identify with—
Dennis: —and to be able to withstand some of the attacks on my faith.
Alex: Absolutely right. I think even before you choose a college, having a game plan and saying, “I’m going to go to this school. When I get there, I’m going to consider these churches and these Christian organizations.” Now, with the internet, there is no reason why that can’t be done in advance.
Some of what Bob was talking about when you’re looking at a college, you can even know then. “Hey, this school has these opportunities to grow in my faith.” If the school has nothing, then, you are right. Why get a world-class education and let your spiritual life shrivel up over four years? That’s not worth it.
Bob: So, if you’re a freshman and you haven’t really had a chance to meet a whole lot of people—because in classes you’re not going to meet friends—you’re not going to build relationships typically because it is more of a lecture style. Somebody comes to you and says, “Hey, there’s a big group of us going over to 15th Street—” Where I went to college, the place was called the Taproom. “—a big group of us going over to the Taproom tonight—”
Dennis: Is that tap dancing?
Bob: No, it was not tap dancing.
Alex: Something on the tap.
Bob: Something else on tap over there. They said, “Do you want to come along?” You think, “Well, I would like to get to meet some people.”
Bob: “I’d like to get to know some guys.”
Alex: You need to have an option. You need to have another option.
Bob: This is one of those areas where some kids are just waiting for the chance to. “Do they card you over there? No, they don’t card you over there. Well, let’s go.” You know?
Bob: How do you prepare a son or a daughter for what they’re going to experience in terms of pressure to drink when they get to college?
Alex: Just honestly talking about it. I mean, one of the things I think teens hunger for from their parents is honest dialogue about the faith—to have their parents share with them, “Look these are the struggles of young adult life,” and to be very real and frank with them.
A lot of teens, I find, are more eager to talk to those kinds of things: sexuality, alcohol, drugs. They’re more eager to talk to Mom and Dad than sometimes the mom and dad are. They are more hungry for their parents’ involvement in those areas of their life than sometimes the parents are uncomfortable or feeling bashful about bringing up sensitive topics.
So, I think just honest dialogue about, “Hey, these are the things that happen at college.” Perhaps, if a parent struggled in that area and they sinned in those ways in college, just be honest. Say, “I blew it in this way and this way in college. This is how God led me out of that. This is what I paid for that. These are the consequences that I reaped. This will not go well for you if you go that way.”
For me, one of the things that I did that I thought was really helpful when I went to Alfred was I had some Christian friends that I already knew were there. It was a small school, only about 2,500, so the number of Christians wasn’t going to be in the thousands, like what you were talking about, Dennis, earlier. It was 40 or 50.
So, I knew five or ten of them before I went. At least, I had, “Okay, these are people I can kind of get together with, hang out with, develop friendships through them and not feel like I have to be a part of the party scene.”
I think what you’re talking about earlier, Bob, is sometimes a freshman feels, “Hey, if I’m ever going to get to know anybody, I better go to the pub.”
Alex: “That’s the only place that’s going—that’s the only social outlet I possibly have.” Well, that’s not the only opportunity. You just have to become aware of what the other outlets are.
Bob: I think we got to be careful as we talk to our students that we don’t simply say, “Look, here’s what can happen if you do go out drinking. Here are some consequences you can experience.” I think we have to point them back to their relationship with Christ—
Bob: —presuming they have one—
Bob: —and talk about living a life that honors Christ so that their motivation is not purely to avoid consequences—
Bob: —but their motivation really is to live in a way that’s Christ-honoring.
Alex: Yes. One of the things I talk about in Thriving at College quite a bit is that everything that we do in college should be the fruit of our walk with Christ. Our academics shouldn’t be, “Hey, I want to get straight A’s so that I get $100,000 when I get out of here.” That’s not a Christian motivation.
A Christian motivation is, “I want to honor God with my brain. I want to develop the intellectual gifts He’s given me so that I can be prepared to serve Him in whatever profession He calls me,”—so, a godly motivation in the classroom, a godly motivation for finding friends, a godly motivation for using recreation times—that would be an example. There is, “How does getting drunk on a Friday night help me grow in my walk with the Lord?” It doesn’t. That’s the reason.
Dennis: One of the things Barbara and I wrote about in our book, Parenting Today’s Adolescent, was the principle of Daniel—how he made up his mind in advance.
Alex: Yes. Not to defile.
Dennis: Yes, that he was going—he knew what his convictions were before he faced the issue.
Alex: Right. Right.
Dennis: I think there’s the issue of drinking. There’s also the issue of sex.
Dennis: We all know what’s taking place on the college campus today. There are no hours. Guys and gals can hang out in one another’s rooms—
Alex: Sometimes, they have the same bathrooms at some secular universities. They have a co-ed bathroom system sometimes.
Dennis: Yes. So, you have to prepare your sons and daughters to know how to move from the controlled environment of home where there are expectations and standards to, “Anything goes.” In fact, most things are promoted at the college campus. What’s the best advice a parent can give their child concerning these matters?
Alex: Four key principles, I think. Number One: “Our God-given desire for intimacy, for physical and emotional intimacy—it’s God-given.” In other words, a 17-year-old young man shouldn’t be ashamed of his sex drive. That should not be a shameful thing. It is God-given in order to drive him ultimately to a lifelong partner in marriage.
Secondly, “We get into trouble when we seek the benefits of marriage, sexual intercourse, apart from the associated costs of permanent commitment.” God intended them to go together. So, in a marriage, that’s the only place God made us to be intimate. That’s where we’re going to be able to safely enjoy it.
Third thing is, “The purpose of one-on-one dating, of getting to know a great guy or great gal, is to see if the two should eventually marry.” Take away that overarching long-term goal and purpose from the relationship—basically, you run into problems because in some way one of them is using the other or you’re basically mutually using one another—looking for companionship, apart from any purpose to it. The purpose is preparing for marriage and seeing whether the two should marry.
The fourth principle is, “The best way to really prepare for that relationship with a godly guy or girl is to become a very godly man or woman yourself.” That way, you can best be able to attract somebody who has your same values. The main thing we’re seeing, I think, is the problem on university campuses is this idea that we can separate emotionally intimacy from physical intimacy from commitment.
Alex: All three. On the one hand, you see the hook-up scene and the dangers of the hook-up scene, which is really an idea that, “I can have a physical relationship with somebody for whom I have no emotional connection so there’s no emotional heartbreak. All it is—is a physical act. I’m like a dog going in and coming out, and that’s it.” That’s all false sex is, is like two dogs. Well, that’s not how God made us.
The way that God made us to be physical, emotional, spiritual beings all together, which is why the hook-up scene is filled with heartache, heartbreak, misunderstanding, confusion, depression, anxiety. So, that doesn’t work.
In a marriage, you see a husband and a wife enjoying both physical and emotional intimacy. One promotes the other. The relationship gets better and better sexually and emotionally as they know each other more, have more shared experiences. Their hearts are bound together in the commitment of marriage and over the time of the marriage.
So, I think young people have to have a high view of marriage, first of all. God has ordained marriage to satisfy my longing for that level of intimacy. Then, to associate the dating activity with that as the purpose to find out whether this would be, “God would have us marry. I want to become the kind of person that’s going to be a godly husband or a godly wife. I want to meet somebody who is high quality, and I want to move toward that relationship in a way that honors God by recognizing that God made the physical and emotional intimacy goes together.”
Dennis: As parents, we have the assignment of preparing our sons and daughters to make these choices in advance of facing the issue, whether its sex outside of marriage, drinking, their own Christian faith and how they’re going to feed their faith long-haul.
Alex, I really appreciate the work you’ve done on your book, Thriving at College. It really is a great companion to a new resource we’ve created here at FamilyLife called College Ready®.
It’s a DVD series to prepare graduating high school seniors or incoming college freshmen to go to college on purpose and have a game plan in advance so that the next four or five years are not just lived out without intentionality; but they’re purposeful about friendships, about dating, about their own Christian growth. That’s what you’re encouraging parents to do in this book, Thriving at College.
I just appreciate you and your heart for students. Pray God’s favor on you as you continue to invest in the next generation.
Alex: Thanks for having me, Dennis. Appreciate it.
Bob: You know, these two resources really are a—they fit well together. I’m thinking of parents who are looking right now and going, “Well, we’re sending our son or daughter off to college here in a couple of weeks; it’s too late.”
Dennis: No, it isn’t.
Alex: No. No. No.
Dennis: It can be done.
Alex: Now is the time. Now, your son or daughter is thinking, “This is happening.” I remember at my own high school. I didn’t think college was happening until the week before. That’s when you start packing up the car. All of a sudden, now, “It’s real.” Now, they’re more teachable than they ever were. “It’s happening.”
Dennis: Here is the thing—I would rather a son or daughter go through this material prior to facing the issue rather than playing defense—
Dennis: —in another six weeks, eight weeks, three months. I’m telling you, they can move from an offensive position to defensive very quickly at college.
Bob: Well, if you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com, you’ll find the information you need about Alex’s book, which is called Thriving at College, which you simply pass along to your son or your daughter as they head off to college. There is information about the College Ready video series, which you can watch together with your son or daughter. Go through the workbook that comes with it. The student fills out a map that charts what they want their college experience to look like.
You can do that just as a family or if you want to get some other families together. If you’re son knows who his roommate is going to be, your daughter is a part of a group that’s all going off to the same school or maybe they’re going to different schools, invite them over and everybody go through the College Ready material.
Again, find out more about both of these resources: Alex Chediak’s book, Thriving at College, and the College Ready DVD series. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information. It’s FamilyLifeToday.com, or call us toll-free at 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s
1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word TODAY.
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During the month of August, we’re hoping to connect with those of you who have listened for awhile or maybe just listened for a short period of time but have not gotten in touch with us or never made a donation to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. In fact, we’ve kind of established a goal this month. We would like to hear from 2,000 listeners who are ready to step up and say, “We want to help support FamilyLife Today and make a donation.”
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about the first months of marriage or, maybe, the first couple of years—that time in a marriage when we have to make the sometimes challenging adjustments to the differences that, “We’re blending together as husband and wife.” Jess MacCallum is going to join us to talk about, from a man’s perspective, how you do that as a new husband. He’s got some special advice for men. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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