Lauren Hoekstra – Staff Writer
Over the past ten years, enrollment trends of students coming to Dordt from a non-Reformed background have increased. Most of the students with a non-Reformed background come from Baptist, Catholic, Evangelical Free, Lutheran, Presbyterian, or unspecified denominations.
The percentage of students from Reformed backgrounds has dropped, especially regarding those from a Christian Reformed Church (CRC) background. In 2007, 61% of students were CRC, compared to only 39% in 2017. As of fall of 2017, about 40% of the campus entered with a religious background that was not Reformed, an increase from 2007 where only 24% of students were not Reformed.
“People usually react poorly [to my beliefs],” said Mykaela Ptacek, a senior from Mount Ridge, KS, who grew up Catholic. “A classmate once tried to start a fight almost with me before class. He said, ‘You worship Mary, don’t you?’ And it was right before a test too. If you don’t know what it [Catholicism] is, try going once. You can’t quite capture the differences in words. Go with an open mind. Don’t think that ‘Oh, they are so crazy, so staunch.’ Just go!”
Many students from non-Reformed backgrounds come to Dordt concerned not about denominations but about its status as a Christian university.
“Throughout CORE-100, I was just trying to understand what was going on and how it was different from what I grew up with,” Ptacek said. “We all worship the same God, so that’s what matters.”
Growing up in an Assemblies of God, Non-Denominational, and now an Evangelical Free church, Emi Stewart, a senior from Ames, IA, struggled with accepting Reformed thought.
“God knows everything,” she said, concerning free will. “Surely within that He knows who is going to be in Heaven versus in Hell.”
According to Stewart, Evangelical Free churches are “reformed, but not hell-bent on it.”
“We believe TULIP and Calvinism is there, but we just have a looser grasp on it,” Stewart said.
Jazmín Aramí Mendieta Gauto grew up in the Pentecostal and Assemblies of God churches in Paraguay. According to Mendieta Gauto, in Pentecostal churches you can lose your salvation if you “mess up.”
“The covenant does not apply to the whole family,” Mendieta Gauto said. “If you have a child who is an atheist, he can go to Hell.”
Pentecostal and Assemblies of God churches believe that the Spirit moves free and tangibly. Religion is primarily composed of having a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit, and Jesus is the gate to the Holy Spirit. According to Mendieta Gauto, Pentecostals tend to separate spiritual and non-spiriutal aspects of life.
“For example, my work as an LCA is just work. It does not combine with God using me to bless others,” Mendieta Gauto said. “Reformed sees everything as worship. Pentecostal, which is Arminian, separates the two.”
Adam Jones, who wished to have their name changed for privacy reasons, feels a little behind in discussions about religion.
“I will try to participate in conversations about religion,” Jones said. “I will just be limited in what I can talk about.”
Jones grew up going to Methodist, Lutheran, and Reformed churches and attended public school.
“Dordt as a whole has made the transition from public school to private Christian school very easy,” he said. “[The professors] have been very accommodating in all the classes to me.”
But some students don’t identify as Christians at all. Leslie Smith, a senior who wished to have her name changed because she feels she would get in trouble with Dordt leadership, defined herself as spiritual, but not religious.
Smith grew up non-denominational, but during her freshman year at Dordt, she cut church out of her life and stopped identifying as Christian.
“Christianity felt like an exclusive club,” she said. “The CRC is very much about liturgy and rules. I call them ‘sit down, stand up’ churches.”
During her freshman year, Smith found a religion that worked for her. The religion of Bahá’í teaches in the multiple incarnations of divine Educators, including Abraham, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammed, and the most recent named Bahá’u’lláh. The Bahá’í belief holds that an individual who believes in any of these incarnations of God is saved.
“My parents told me that I was part of a Muslim cult,” Smith said. “That turned me off from religion. I can’t even try anymore.” She is no longer part of the Bahá’í community.
“Dordt as an institution does present itself as very closed-minded to outsiders,” said Smith. “However, the people at Dordt are incredible and diverse. I wish that Dordt would present itself and the student population better so that we can continue to have diversity in thought. The kindness and love that you can find here [at Dordt] is in individuals, not denominations.”