A graduating senior’s defense of the Hope College ‘cocoon’

As a senior, perhaps it is natural that the last few weeks have been a period of relative reflection on my time at Hope. As the senioritis kicks in, my thoughts have often turned from the task at hand to broader questions about what I have gained over the last four years.

Like many students, coming to Hope was my first real experience living away from both my family and my church. Here, I found a supportive and distinctively Christian academic community that not only made the transition easier but allowed me to grow along many dimensions.

Over the years I have heard many fellow students, and even a few faculty members, decry the “Hope bubble.” Critics of the “bubble” point out that Hope’s culture as a mid-western, overwhelmingly Christian, community obsessed with niceness is not an accurate representation of culture in the world today.

This is an observation that is hard to dispute.

Critics of the “bubble,” however, generally premise their argument on the idea that by not being more exposed to the “real world” students are put at a disadvantage.

There is no denying that Hope’s culture differs from that of our secular society today, but I would argue that this culture is one of Hope’s greatest advantages. Students should think of their time at Hope not as entrapment inside a bubble but rather as a chance to grow inside a welcoming cocoon; from which one will all too soon be forced to emerge.

That is not to say Hope’s culture or academic programs are perfect, far from it. Rather it is an observation that Hope presents a valuable alternative to the norm in higher education today.

Just as giving an eight year old a stack of R-rated movies is not the best way to prepare him for the realities he will soon learn in middle school, a college that is an exact microcosm of the broader world is not necessarily the superior way to educate students.

The truth is, there are many students who at the age of 17 or 18 are not equipped to thrive in the culture of large secular university. Throwing college freshmen headlong into the “real world” during their first experience living away from home has just as much of a chance to corrupt as it does to strengthen. This is especially true when it comes to their faith. In retrospect, I can say with certainty that such a school would not have been a good fit for me.

The Hope cocoon provided me with a chance for growth both academically and in my faith and acted as a stepping stone to the broader world. Christian professors who were able to share their faith in Christ while also being experts in their respective fields showed me how there does not have to be contradiction between faith and scientific reasoning.

The Christian nature of the institution also does not prevent differing ideas and perspectives from being presented. Our faculty today is evidence enough that even among Christians there is a great diversity of opinions.

A Christian faculty is Hope’s greatest strength. It is one that I pray will be preserved for future generations of students who come from ever more secular backgrounds.

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