Advertisement

The ‘Hidden Christians’ of the UK University Campus

  • Mathew GuestEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Boundaries of Religious Freedom: Regulating Religion in Diverse Societies book series (BOREFRRERE)

Abstract

This chapter is concerned with expressions of Christian identity among university students, asking how the experience of university generates strategies for dealing with cultural and religious difference. In probing this question, it revisits Colin Campbell’s (Sociol Anal 39(2):146–156, 1978) thesis—itself a development of the work of Ernst Troeltsch—about the ‘secret religion of the educated classes’. Campbell applies Troeltsch’s account of ‘Spiritual and Mystical Religion’ to emerging religious trends in the 1960s, highlighting affinities between an adaptive, individualistic religiosity and the cultural identities of a middle class educated demographic. Key to both are individualism, tolerance, and a tendency towards syncretism. The present chapter deploys this framework in considering configurations of Christian identity among present-day undergraduates studying at UK universities. Those engaged in higher education and self-identifying as Christian form an ideal case study for ascertaining whether Campbell’s thesis is capable of illuminating patterns of cultural correlation that endure well beyond the 1960s and into the twenty-first century. The chapter concludes by developing a theory of ‘hiddenness’, seeking to reveal variant patterns among Christian students, based around concealment (driven by a desire not to be associated with publicly assertive religion), reservation (driven by a desire to sideline or compartmentalise religion in order to accommodate the demands of the university experience), and diversion (driven by an urge to embody Christian identity in novel ways not necessarily amenable to conventional sociological analysis).

Keywords

Religious identity Higher education UK Christianity The secret religion of the educated classes 

References

  1. Altglas, V. (2014). From yoga to kabbalah: Religious exoticism and the logics of bricolage. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bathmaker, A.-M., Ingram, N., & Waller, R. (2013). Higher education, social class and the mobilisation of capitals: Recognising and playing the game. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 34(5–6), 723–743.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brown, K. E., & Saeed, T. (2015). Radicalization and counter-radicalization at British universities: Muslim encounters and alternatives. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 38(11), 1952–1968.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bryant, A. N. (2005). Evangelicals on campus: An exploration of culture, faith and college life. Religion and Education, 32(2), 1–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cadge, W., & Konieczny, M. E. (2014). ‘Hidden in plain sight’: The significance of religion and spirituality in secular organizations. Sociology of Religion, 75(4), 551–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Campbell, C. (1978). The secret religion of the educated classes. Sociological Analysis, 39(2), 146–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Clydesdale, T. (2007). The first year out: Understanding American teens after high school. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Collins-Mayo, S., Mayo, B., Nash, S., & Cocksworth, C. (2010). The faith of Generation Y. London: Church House Publishing.Google Scholar
  9. Dalessandro, C. (2015). ‘I don’t advertise the fact that I’m a Catholic’: College students, religion, and ambivalence. Sociological Spectrum, 36(1), 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Day, A. (2013). Believing in belonging: Belief and social identity in the modern world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Garfinkel, H. (1984). Studies in ethnomethodology. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  12. Gill, R. (1999). Churchgoing and Christian ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Guest, M. (2015). Religion and the cultures of higher education: Student Christianity in the UK. In L. Beaman & L. Van Arragon (Eds.), Issues in religion and education: whose religion? (pp. 346–366). Leiden: Brill.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Guest, M., Olson, E., & Wolffe, J. (2012). Christianity: Loss of monopoly. In L. Woodhead & R. Catto (Eds.), Religion and change in modern Britain (pp. 57–78). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Guest, M., Aune, K., Sharma, S., & Warner, R. (2013a). Christianity and the university experience: Understanding student faith. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  16. Guest, M., Sharma, S., Aune, K., & Warner, R. (2013b). Challenging ‘belief’ and the evangelical bias: Student Christianity in English universities. Journal of Contemporary Religion, 28(2), 207–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Heelas, P., & Woodhead, W., with Seel, B., Szerszynski, B., & Tusting, K. (2005). The spiritual revolution: Why religion is giving way to spirituality. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  18. Hochschild, A. R. (1997). The time bind: When work becomes home and home becomes work. New York: Metropolitan Books.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hunter, J. D. (1987). Evangelicalism: The coming generation. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  20. Mountford, V. G. (2014). Rules of engagement beyond the gates: Negotiating and capitalising on student ‘experience’. In Y. Taylor (Ed.), The entrepreneurial university: Engaging publics, intersecting impacts (pp. 61–81). London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Sharma, S., & Guest, M. (2013). Navigating religion between university and home: Christian students’ experiences in English universities. Social and Cultural Geography, 14(1), 59–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Smith, C., & Denton, M. L. (2005). Soul searching: The religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Storm, I. (2013). ‘Christianity is not just about religion’: Religious and national identities in a northern English town. Secularism and Nonreligion, 2, 21–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Troeltsch, Ernst. (1931 [1912]). The social teaching of the Christian churches, Volume two. London: Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar
  25. Vincett, G., Olsen, E., Hopkins, P., & Pain, R. (2012). Young people and performance Christianity in Scotland. Journal of Contemporary Religion, 27(2), 275–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Voas, D. (2009). The rise and fall of fuzzy fidelity in Europe. European Sociological Review, 25(2), 155–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Voas, D., & Day, A. (2010). Recognizing secular Christians: Toward an unexcluded middle in the study of religion. The Association of Religion Data Archives, 1–20.Google Scholar
  28. Weller, P., Hooley, T., & Moore, N. (2011). Religion and belief in higher education: The experiences of staff and students. London: Equality Challenge Unit.Google Scholar
  29. Wilkins, A. C. (2008). Wannabes, Goths and Christians: The boundaries of sex, style and status. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Theology and ReligionDurham UniversityDurhamUK

Personalised recommendations