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Greek Societies: Network Mixers or Bourgeois Gangs?
So I was on the plane home from Dallas, (which by the way was an arduous 3.75 hour flight -- two hours is fine, so is eight, I've even been on an 18 hour flight and it wasn't that bad, but 3.75 hours is just plain torture) and I met someone. I'm a fairly friendly person and if I'm really charged, I'll seek to do as much airplane proselytizing as possible. However, this particular trip I was zonked and didn't feel much like talking. That's usually when you get seated next to "Chatty" Cathy who wants to tell you about the excema on the back of her son's neck.
In this case I had been seated next to a man who introduced himself as the 31st president of a major fraternity. Keep in mind, it takes quite a "title" to impress me. Unfortunately, this was not one of them. Now if he said "I am the Christ" that would've been something to get excited (or worried) about. So my response to him introducing himself as president was, "Oh that's nice. I lived in a dorm with a couple of "Sigmas"." Little did he know what I really thought of them. It turns out this fraternity president was flying into Seattle for the "West Coast Regional Conference". We talked some, he opened up about being in the midst of a divorce, I challenged him on his reasons for the divorce (yes I'm that bold) and I asked him his opinion on recent hazing scandal. We talked some more, the plane landed, he handed me his card, and I went on my merry way.
Talking with him got me charged up once again about this issue of Greek societies. The current issue of Newsweek has some discussion around the Freemasons, a known secret society. I'd certainly put Greek organizations in the category of "secret society".
A little background on black fraternities and sororities: They are highly elite and important organizations in the African-American collegiate community. Perhaps even more so than some prominent white Greek societies for reasons I'll expound upon in a bit. A good number of my family members are either Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) or Alpha Phi Alpha. I'm Alpha Omega, by the way, and that's all I'll ever be.
Growing up I was never much interested in pledging to a sorority. I'm far too independent and headstrong for that. If you've ever been a college student, you've been presented with the opportunity for life-long networking through your membership in a Greek society. I attended a small New England liberal arts college so Greek life wasn't really a big deal on campus. I think we had Psi Epsilon Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or something like that, but it was an academic honor society and nothing more. But for those desperate enough for social acceptance and clout, they sought refuge by pledging at a neighboring larger university like UConn. Larger universities tend to have a thriving "Greek Life.
Here in Seattle, the University of Washington campus which boasts some tens of thousands of students has what we call "Greek Row" which is where all the frats and sorities houses exist. "Greek row" is merely blocks of huge mansions specifically dedicated to binge drinking, topless dancing, mindless partying and other things of a similar idiotic nature. During my Freshman year at "Sin University" (my nickname) in Connecticut, there were a couple of "Sigma" guys in my dorm and one other guy pledging Alpha Phi Alpha. (Yes we had co-ed dorms, yes it was awkward, yes times have changed, and no I'd never send my kids there). I lived in a predominately black dorm my freshman year (I was in denial that I'd be living in Connecticut the next four years of my life). Living with people who are going through the process of handing over their soul to a Greek society was an experience I wish I didn't have.
The human need for acceptance is a God-given one. We as individuals long to feel a part of something tangible, real, and enduring. This is the phenomenon of the church. It's a live, breathing organism that is growing daily. I have trouble with any other organization requiring a person to "pledge" their complete loyalty and trust in it. That is a role only God deserves. The goal of Greek societies is "brotherhood and sisterhood" right? Well, why would people be seeking that outside of God's original intent that we have spiritual siblings in the body of Christ? There are four main commonalities that I see in most cults, gangs, secret societies, and Greek organizations.
Strange Initiation Tendencies
In doing some research on the whole "hazing" practice, I found the process is really two-fold:
First they "break you down" by demoralizing and dehumanizing you in various and somewhat creative and sickening ways. The goal here is that you lose your personal identity and independence of association.
After successfully "breaking you in" the "Brotherhood" then "builds you up" (AKA indoctrinate) with their way of thinking, philosophies, identity, and ultimately loyalty.
Sounds like modern-day gang initiation to me. Keep in mind, there are varying degrees to which these two steps take place, but they DO take place. Even in my conversation with the fraternity president, it is clear that though there may be an apparent "crack down" on hazing rituals across the country it is really just to appease university officials and to protect themselves from the onslaught of nasty lawsuits (of which there have been many recently in wake of some student deaths in the name of "hazing"). It's an attempt to "keep the monkey off their backs" so to speak, since Dateline, Nightline, 20/20 and just about every other primetime news show ran exposes on hazing rituals.
False Identity & Loyalty
Interestingly enough, it is sometimes the insecure, those needing to find a place of acceptance, and those lacking true identity that are easily recruitable to a Greek society. In talking with a lot of college students in the throes of a society, their identity is generally wrapped around some aspect of their fraternity or sorority. That is their "second family". That is their "comfort zone". That is what they center their life around. Even those who sought out the elite club "just to party" or "just to network" are finding some sort of false identity in those things. The trust begins to turn to the relationships and not to God. I still have friends to this day who do not believe they are capable of landing a solid job without their "fraternity connection".
In college I watched once as two of my friends left to go have the "Sigma" sign BRANDED on their upper arms. Does this not seem bizarre to anyone? What are we cattle? That's not to mention the negative historical significance of branding. I could throw tattoos in there too but that might offend so I'll save that for rainy day. In all seriousness, in African-American fraternities, branding is a commonplace thing and it's repulsive. No group of people gets enough of my allegience to infuse their "logo or sign" onto my body with a hot iron. I don't belong to them, I belong to God.
Secrets & Lies
When my friend Malik was pledging a few years ago, I would always ask him questions like, "Why are you limping?" or "What did they do to you?" or "What's this fraternity all about anyway?" and he'd quickly hush me and start whispering. He could never tell me what was going on. If fact, he couldn't tell anyone while he was pledging. Most Greek societies have some level of secrecy to them. Most will threaten to disassociate you from the fold should you divulge their secrets. Growing up I was always taught that anyone who is telling me to keep secrets from my family was evil. I think the theory still stands. On the extreme end, this is how cults get their grip on people. They put up barriers to the family. Greek societies are arguably not cults however they maintain cult-like tendancies and that's enough for me to see warning signs.
The Smokescreen of Good Works
Most Greek societies sell themselves on the wonderful works they do for the community and young professionals. Many do in fact give much of their time to community service, set up scholarship funds, and have social programs that benefit others. It all sounds good, but if that were the standard used to separate those organizations that are good from evil, most all would be labeled "good". Even the Nation of Islam does some really "good" things to further social awareness and justice. I love the commercials produced by the Mormon Church. They're brilliant, they often speak truth, but man does it lead to confusion. We give too much credence to good works these days and fail to recognize that there are a lot of organizations, churches and religions doing an enormous amount of good works, and a whole lot of nothing that has eternal value.
Deception is not deception until what's false seems true. The best deception usually has a little bit of truth mixed in and that's why it's important we really examine some of these social organizations that have postured themselves for extreme deception. Greek societies have been around for years. Historically, African-Americans were "not included" in most organizations. The Reconstruction Era gave birth to historically black colleges, which gave birth to historically black fraternities and sororites and gave opportunities for many black people to "be a part" of something from which they were once excluded. While I don't doubt that at one point, their intentions were 100% good, I find that we have purposed as a society to fill every human void with a lame counterfeit.
Fraternities and sororities (black, white and everything in between) are a crutch for those who haven't fully joined themselves to the work God is doing on the Earth. The church is what's happening. It's the best network of people you'll ever meet. It will propel you to your destiny. You will have brothers and sisters for life. It doesn't require hazing rituals, but merely a firm decision to serve God. There you will find your real identity in God and He doesn't brand your body, but He brands your life.
posted by ambra at 3/31/2004 12:10:39 PM | link to this entry | (no comments yet) | Trackback (0)
Not sure how this got to be about the military, but yes I do support the United States military. They are fighting for my freedom to worship God and to have this forum of debate, among other things. There have been some military forces that have not fought for freedoms, but enslavement and discrimination - such as Hitler's army and The Communist forces. My husband works in law enforcemnt and I hold nothing but respect for those who put their lives on the line for freedom. God said that we should respect governing and authoritative figures. Our Judaic-Christian format of the legal system is a type and shadow of God's own. Also, I pretty much agree with Renewed - good post.
And yes my son is in the Boy Scouts and my husband is one of his Den Leaders. I just asked the hubbie and he stated that while there is a motto, there were no oaths taken in their pack. I would not say that all oaths are bad. I would say, however that we have to watch the oaths we take as the Word states. God strongly discouraged oath taking and promise making and just because man has developed a form does not mean God approves it.
But someone taking an oath to defend the human race as a whole is very different from oaths taken in secret societies. I've been there and I know. And as I stated in another post to Galen, I do not agree with placing your hand on the Bible and swearing anything. Then the Word of God serves as a Talisman. Especially in a world where all people do not even honor the Word or hold it dear. What's the point in putting your hand on it? It won't magically make you tell the truth. It won't convict those who don't believe on it.
Luunty, a few years ago I would have agreed with you. But again, I have been there - seriously been there. And I did not leave out of disgust for my org or because someone made me mad. I dealt with the ups and downs of being in an org for almost 10 years before GOd showed me. So I was tenacious, loyal, and faithful with my org. There is a bigger picture here.
And, yes I have been severely hurt by the church. Starting when I was 11 and up to this point. REad the Bible, being amongst the brethren IS difficult sometimes. However, Iron sharpens iron. The world is full of sick people. The church is a hospital where people realize that they are sick and that their only cure is Jesus. There is a song that says better is one day in GOd's house, One day in HIS courts than thousands elsewhere. And just because there are hurts and drama in the church sometimes doesn't mean that God won't deal with it. He said that judgement BEGINS in His house. So whatever happens in the church is in HIS hands and HE is our justice who will make all wrongs right in due time.
Selling out to Jesus means to accept the imperfections of the brethren and gently restore each other accoding to the Word. It means exhorting and edifying each other in one common purpose, that the will of the Father be done. My mother is an Evangelist who recalls the old saying that everyday may not be Sunday and every month may not be the month of May, but lean on the Lord's side.
Unfortunaely there are some heritical churches out there and people truly need to come from under those teachings. The devil in all his efforts is going to be in the pulpit sometimes. That's why GOd has given us the Word so that with His discernment and a pure heart we can clearly see the truth.