Why I Went to a Secular College

I grew up in family strongly influenced by the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements. I was homeschooled in order to be “sheltered” and “taught God’s truth,” and was taught that my role was to be a homemaker and that I was always to remain under male authority (first father, then husband).

Given this, my readers have asked why I was sent to a secular college, or even to college at all. Since I’ve been asked this multiple times, I thought it only fair to write a post on it. So, here goes.

Preparation to be a Wife and Homemaker

My parents highly valued education, and they argued that a college degree could actually prepare me to be a wife and homemaker. Having a college degree would make me a good intellectual helpmeet for my future husband, a helpmeet he could bond with and identify with. Further, a college degree would come in handy if disaster struck my future family.

Further, I didn’t go to college with the expectation of a career, and I didn’t study something I thought would lead to a career. Instead, I studied something I felt would make me a better homeschool mother, and also give me the opportunity to bring in some extra cash through tutoring other homeschool students.

In other words, I and my parents saw my college education as a step on the path to becoming a good wife, mother, and homemaker.

But What of My Father’s Authority?

My parents believed that even at college – even away from home – I could and would remain under my father’s authority. After all, I was heading off to college with my father’s permission, blessing, and sanction. I was also in some sense acting as an extension of my father, serving to represent his beliefs and views even far away from home.

And finally, while I wasn’t expected to call home about every little decision, I was definitely expected to get – and heed – my father’s advice on any larger decisions I encountered while in college (buying a car, traveling abroad, beginning a relationship, etc.).

Why Not a Christian College?

To be honest, I wanted to get out of the hothouse environment and stand on my own two feet. I’d grown up reading stories of resilient and daring missionaries, and I wanted to have to stand up for and defend my beliefs just as they did. I felt I hadn’t had opportunity to really do something for God because I’d never been in the position where I could do something for God.

I was troubled especially by the fact that I had not brought about a single conversion. Sure, I knew that someone planted the seeds, someone watered them, and someone harvested them, so you might never know when you’d played a role in someone’s conversion, but having never really known anyone who wasn’t a Christian I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to do even that. I grew up in a world where winning a convert – saving a soul from hell – was just about the best thing you could possible do. And I desperately desired to do just that.

I saw the secular college I attended as my mission field. I saw myself as God’s warrior, and my fellow students, hedonists and pagans as they were, as my targets. I couldn’t wait to start winning converts, to save souls from hell, to really do something for Jesus after everything I believed he had done for me. It didn’t exactly work out that way, but that was my initial motivation.

How Were My Parents Okay with That?

My parents believed that by homeschooling me they were equipping me to go out into the world and do God’s work. They didn’t see themselves as isolating me or indoctrinating me, but rather as creating a greenhouse environment where I would go strong and be ready to confront the world. And in that line, they had done everything they could to make sure my upbringing was as comprehensive and foolproof as possible, that I would grow strong in their beliefs and be ready and able to defend them.

You have to understand that my parents truly believed, and continue to believe, that their views are 100% absolutely true, and that anyone who honestly looks at the facts will come to the same conclusion as well. They used to talk about how Josh McDowell, the writer of Christian apologetics, set out to prove to his wife that Christianity was false and ended up, because of overwhelming evidence, coming to the conclusion that it was actually all true. Thus my parents weren’t afraid of other viewpoints. They weren’t afraid of my hearing other perspectives. They were that sure that when all the evidence was on the table, their views would rise to the top.

When you combine these two factors – that my parents believed they had given me the tools I needed to persevere, the perfect Christian upbringing, and that they truly believed that not only were their beliefs 100% true but also that their beliefs were supported by any honest and unbiased look at the evidence – you start to see why my parents would see sending me off to a secular college as a good idea rather than a gamble. And of course, knowing that I saw that secular college as a mission field helped as well.


And that, quite simply, is why I went to college, and a secular one at that. What ended up happening is that I was so sure my parents’ beliefs – beliefs I held myself – were true that I wasn’t afraid to hear other viewpoints. I was so sure that the evidence supported my parents beliefs – my beliefs – that I wasn’t afraid to hear other evidence. I listened honestly as well as explaining and working to defend my beliefs, and I came to different conclusions from my parents. And of course, the result was a mess.

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