A Christian Perspective on Greek Organizations Part I

In the United States, many college students are intrigued with joining fraternities and sororities. Often, the secretive nature of these organizations may arouse curiosity or lend it the façade of exclusivity.

But what is the reality of life as a “fraternity brother” or “sorority sister,” and what are the spiritual consequences one encounters?

Although the exact types of temptations may not exist in each country, every student faces the same pressure to join activities that may lead us away from God. Two of our church’s working youths, who were once fraternity and sorority members in college, share their insights in hopes that their experiences will help brothers and sisters make more informed decisions when considering which extracurricular activities to participate in.

Here, a brother shares his experience; a sister will share her perspective in the next issue.

What is a fraternity?

A fraternity is an organization where members focus on common interests, typically long lasting friendships, academic support, social networking, and community service. Along with sororities, they are also referred to as Greek organizations.

Why do people join fraternities?

The impression many people have is that college should be a time to party and enjoy their freedom. Greek organizations promise their members the most fun-filled college experience possible through meeting hundreds of people at parties each week, and many people are drawn to such claims. They want to explore beyond the boundaries that existed when living with their parents.

People may also believe that joining a fraternity or sorority allows them to become part of a family away from their family. While students relish their newfound independence from their families, they also seek acceptance by developing meaningful long lasting friendships with fellow students. Fraternities and sororities often describe the bond between its members as family, calling their members brothers and sisters.

Why did you want to join a Greek organization?

I wanted to join a Greek organization to meet people with the same goals. Also, joining a fraternity seemed to give me the perfect opportunity to network with those who had succeeded in the challenges that I was about to encounter in college. The fraternity members seemed extremely successful and in all honesty, it felt as if I would be joining an elite group of students.

How did you first hear about your fraternity?

My first exposure to the fraternity was through people I met in my classes. Through mutual friends, I became acquainted with members of the fraternity who seemed very intelligent and nice, which was contrary to the image of a stereotypical fraternity member that I had in my mind.

The fraternity was also very reputable across the country and well-respected by other organizations. What struck me was that the members attributed a large part of their individual success to the fraternity. In addition to their friendliness and enthusiasm, I felt I couldn’t go wrong enjoying my college life with people who would help me to build up my academic career at my university as well as pave the way for my professional career in the future.

What are rush and pledge like?

Through rush, I quickly became acquainted with each fraternity member. In terms of the stereotypical perception of fraternity functions, during rush there weren’t as many instances of excessive alcohol consumption or inappropriate activities as I had imagined.

Many of the events illuminated each member’s passion about the things that he did for the organization and his ultimate goals after graduation. Each seemed so well rounded, goal-oriented, and driven. The graduating members all seemed to pursue graduate studies at top-notch universities around the world. I felt like I could really benefit from being around them.

I received a phone call from the fraternity on the last day of my local church’s spiritual convocation. I was accepted as a pledge and asked if I was willing to accept. I was absolutely ecstatic that they had accepted me. Thinking that pledging the fraternity would not negatively affect my spirituality or my life in general, I immediately accepted the pledge invitation.

What happened during your pledgeship?

Besides the frequent social events, pledges had to attend two meetings every week, each lasting from one and a half to three hours. We were given time-consuming tasks to complete, such as planning social events for the fraternity, performing community service, and organizing professional development events. There were also events that occurred on the weekends, such as mandatory scavenger hunts and community service functions that lasted the whole day.

On top of this, during the first meeting, I was elected pledge class president, which placed additional pressure on me to lead my pledge class and dedicate twice as much time to my fraternity as my fellow pledgemates.

Although it crossed my mind that I was not managing my time well, I firmly believed that I would be able to balance the collective responsibilities of school, fraternity, family, friends, and spirituality without compromising any of them. However, I quickly realized that all of my free time was being dedicated to the fraternity. I even rationalized that this was such an important chapter of my life that my other responsibilities would have to accommodate my fraternity responsibilities. This was a reflection of my priorities being reshuffled at that time, with the fraternity being the most important aspect of my life.

Not surprisingly, my spirituality quickly took a backseat to my fraternity duties. Although I still attended Sabbath services on Saturday, I had a difficult time attending Friday evening services, weekly Bible studies, and campus fellowship. There was no chance that I could juggle God, family and friends, a part-time job, schoolwork, and fraternity without any of those responsibilities being ignored or mishandled.

What expectations did the organization have of you? How did they affect your other commitments?

Once you’re in a Greek organization, no events are optional. You must dedicate your time to attending events to represent your sorority or fraternity and your pledge class. It’s an endless commitment that encompasses the rest of your college career once you decide to join.

The fraternity took up an average of ten hours per week for me, which included only the mandatory events and not the “voluntary” events that I was expected to attend. Prior to rushing my fraternity, I made the determination that after crossing over, I would not compromise my Sabbath attendance for fraternity events.

Sabbath worship was an integral part of my faith and because of all the stereotypical negative activities associated with fraternities, I was very sensitive to any activities that clearly compromised my faith. All the community service events were held during the day on Saturdays. A few times, I volunteered for the earliest possible time slot on Saturday mornings, 9 a.m.-11 a.m. In order to make it to Sabbath services, I would rush from volunteering to church, arriving late and with an unsettled heart.

When the events could not accommodate my Sabbath worship, I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. While I was able to decline events that directly conflicted with Sabbath worship, doing so was an arduous process. I would need to explain and justify to my pledge parents why I was not giving the fraternity my full dedication. The fraternity was not receptive to its pledge class president being absent from Saturday fraternity events.

Due to my repeated absence from fraternity events during Sabbath services, I was forced to attend all other fraternity events outside that timeframe. I was able to get away with making brief appearances at parties and other social events on Friday and Saturday nights. However, the burden of having to adjust my entire schedule around fraternity events was difficult to bear.

Review sessions with teaching assistants and classmates, meetings for group work, and other academic events would frequently come in conflict with fraternity events. Not surprisingly, my grades went down.

With the burdens continually increasing and the “fun” diminishing, I began to question the true value of the fraternity in my life. Due to the seemingly endless cycle between my classes, fraternity events, part-time job, familial responsibilities, church, schoolwork, and even more fraternity events, I didn’t have even a moment to think deeper about whether this fast-paced lifestyle fit in with the real priorities in my life.

Did you feel any regret after you joined?

I enjoyed pledging and crossing-over into the fraternity because everything was new and fresh to me. After two semesters of involvement with the fraternity, that excitement disappeared. After I officially crossed and became a “brother,” I had expected that the time commitment and participation requirements would diminish, but no relief was in sight.

What was once fun became a terrible burden. I regretted placing too high a value on being a part of the fraternity. It didn’t seem worth all the trouble and effort after becoming a member of the fraternity. Much of the benefits advertised to me were hollow.

I regret not being able to explore my university and all it had to offer. I missed out on a number of activities and organizations that I would have joined had I not committed myself to the fraternity. There are plenty of organizations that would have enabled me to pursue the same “benefits”—such as networking, job placement, and academic support—offered by a Greek organization without requiring the same commitment level.

There just isn’t enough time in a given week for a pledge to fulfill his duties of spiritual cultivation, school, and the Greek organization, let alone the optional or leisure activities that he may wish to pursue as part of the “college experience.”

Is it possible to remain pure and holy? What challenges did you face?

By participating in fraternity social events, I unnecessarily subjected myself to temptation simply by allowing myself to be put in an environment conducive to sin. Although I remained firm in abstaining from the alcohol and sexual immorality that my fraternity brothers often indulged in, there was still a strong temptation to become curious about those activities.

I was certainly putting myself at tremendous spiritual risk with the dangerous combination of poor time management, bad spiritual cultivation habits, and subjection to temptation. Despite remaining firm in abstinence, exposing my eyes to activities unwholesome to Christians defiled the purity of my heart.

The plain truth is, being in a sorority or fraternity consumes all aspects of your life, especially your spirituality. It created a vicious cycle where I would have less free time and less time to think about and draw nearer to God. I lost focus in all that I did.

I found myself drifting away from God and from one of the purposes of my college life: Instead of utilizing the golden opportunity that God gave me during college to participate in my campus fellowship and the evangelical opportunities on campus, I was devoting far too much time to what I perceived to be of value.

Rather than developing a solid bond of spiritual friendship with my fellow brothers and sisters, I found myself often making excuses for why I was unable to attend any of the campus fellowship events. The campus fellowship would have provided me with a renewed mind and spirit through the study of God’s word, the sharing, and praise sessions. Such peace and joy cannot be found in any other campus organization except the campus fellowship. The spiritual bond with brothers and sisters would have been very helpful when facing struggles in my college life.

What are your concluding thoughts about your experience?

Based on what I went through, I believe that college does provide students with the opportunity to truly experience the world. But it is also a journey of faith that can bring spiritual growth. We get to choose what kind of a college experience we have. It is important to reflect: Is my college experience full of eating and drinking or things of righteousness, peace, and joy? (Rom 14:17-19).

If the possibility of pledging a fraternity or sorority has reached your mind, take a moment to ponder and understand who you are, what God’s will is for you, and what your ultimate goals on earth are.

Consider these questions:

Why do I want to join a Greek organization? Is the Greek organization truly the appropriate channel for me to devote myself to?

Will subjecting myself to impure environments and worldly influences be beneficial to my spirituality?

Do I have commitments which already take up a majority of my time? Are there other campus organizations, part-time jobs, internships, volunteer opportunities, or church roles that I wish to pursue? Is adding a substantial time commitment detrimental to my existing responsibilities?

For many brothers and sisters entering college, much effort has been placed upon building up their spirituality. We have studied the Bible for years, we have prayed so hard for the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Elder John encourages us to not lose these things we have worked so hard for (2 Jn 8).

God wants us to be able to receive the full reward. At the end of our college experience, we want to be able to receive our diplomas knowing that we’ve “fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).

May all the praise and glory be onto our Father in Heaven.

Greek Life Terminology

Crossover, or “crossing-over,” refers to the special ceremony a Greek organization holds for new members (or pledges) to become initiated members of the chapter.

Pledge: Upon receiving an offer to join a particular Greek organization and you commit to it, you become a “pledge.” As a pledge, you are not a full member, but more of a probationary member. Pledges learn about the history and purpose of the organization, and perform community service. Some pledges do not complete the pledgeship and do not join the organization, while those who complete it crossover.

Pledge Parents: older “brothers” or “sisters” who take you under their wings to guide you as a new member.

Rush: the name given to the somewhat involved recruitment process that anyone interested in joining the Greek system goes through in order to find the right affiliation for them. Rush occurs during the beginning of the semester or school year where fraternities and sororities recruit other students to participate in parties or events to draw people to want to join. Rush can be considered an open invitation to all who wish to know more about each organization.

(Source: Manna 54: Spiritual Roots)