Tuesday, October 18, 2005

An Apologetics of Christian Fraternity

My brother in Christ and brother under Christ Casey Zumwalt, BYX -- Mississippi State Omicron '05, brought a very interesting blog to my attention tonight. After reading it, I couldn't help but respond.

I thought it might be beneficial to post its contents here.

* * *

As a past president of Nu Chapter of Beta Upsilon Chi at Vanderbilt University, I feel like I can answer the concerns your raise.

We should have a group of guys that hang out together, have meetings together, worship God together, and love each other with a Christian love. That sounds like a great idea. So do Bible studies, which are basically the same thing, without the added cost of dues.

First of all, BYX is not just a Bible study. As you (sarcastically) point out, we have dues, and our membership is closed. BYX is a Christian, social fraternity -- we host tailgates, parties, semi-formals, and swaps. I haven't heard of too many BCMs or RUFs hosting swaps with Tri-Delt (though I suppose that could happen, I imagine it would be awkward for the women of those organizations).

Any IFC fraternity has parties, which Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX) also says they will do. So that’s not different.

BYX is very different: in Beta Upsilon Chi, all brothers and pledges are required to attend a weekly accountability group called a Cell Group. These groups are designed to keep the brothers and pledges strong in their Christian faith and grow them into leaders. Being in BYX means that you're in a Cell Group. We require it of all our members.

I don't know of any IFC fraternities that require all of their pledges and members to be in a Christian Bible study. Maybe in Starkville, but certainly not in Nashville.

What about alcohol? According to some people I’ve talked to, BYX plans on allowing alcohol. "Jesus turned water to wine," [is] a common response from Christians who favor drinking to those who are against it. I honestly have no response to that.

These remarks really demonstrate an ignorance about Beta Upsilon Chi that I feel like the author should have addressed before opining on the subject.

All BYX brothers and pledges are required to adhere, under penalty of suspension or expulsion, to our Code of Conduct. That Code addresses alcohol:

(1) If you are under the legal drinking age in your State, you may not consume alcohol. Period. At school, at a fraternity function, at dinner, at home, over the summer: no how, no way, no where.

(2) If you are at or above the legal drinking age in your State, you may consume alcohol, but you are prohibited from drunkenness; you are prohibited from drinking at all Fraternity events; and you are prohibited from drinking while wearing Fraternity paraphernalia.

(3) If you are a pledge of our Fraternity, you may not consume alcohol. Period.

(4) If you are an elected or appointed officer of the Fraternity, you are prohibited from drinking alcohol during your term of office.

Caleb, I turned 21 in February 2004 while I was president of Nu Chapter. I did not drink until January 1, 2005, when my term of office expired.

As for your theological comments on alcohol, I must take off my BYX alumnus hat and put on my Christian hat (which I never really take off): drinking is not a sin. Period. If you believe otherwise, I'll gladly agree if you can show me Scripture that says, "Thou shalt not consume alcohol."

The Bible says that it is sinful to be drunk; the Bible talks about fools are often drunkards. But the Bible never, ever says that drinking is a sin.

This is a taboo from recent Christian history (recent = the past one hundred fifty years).

I'll tell you what the Bible does say: Jesus, as you pointed out, did turn water into wine so that He, his friends, and his mother could drink it. The cup at the last supper held wine, not grape juice. For more than two thousand years, faithful Christians gather every week to share a cup of wine.

Drinking alcohol can be a sin: if you abuse it, and become drunk, you are sinning. If you are under the legal age for consuming alcohol in your State, then you are breaking the law, which God has allowed to be passed: this is a sin (in as far as human law corresponds to God's law, it is sinful to break human law).

But BYX says they will encourage responsible consumption. Wow, so does every IFC fraternity.

We don't just "encourage" our brothers and pledges not to drink. We strictly enforce our Code on this provision.

Show me a fraternity who has impeached and removed one of its chapter's vice-presidents for drinking HALF of one beer. That has happened before in BYX.

Let's be realistic, Caleb: while most fraternities tow the party (and University) line about encouraging safe alcohol use, where are most of the alcohol poisoning cases that make it into Starkville hospital(s)? Where do most students know they can get large quantities of free (if cheap and disgusting) beer on most weekends? At least at Vanderbilt, the answer to both of those questions is "IFC fraternities." That is not to say that some houses are less beer-oriented than others, but I've yet to see a Fraternity house that doesn't play beer pong at least once during the year.

You will /not/ see that at an event hosted by Beta Upsilon Chi.

Seriously, what’s the difference between BYX brothers and Sigma Chis?

In two words, a lot.

What IFC fraternity requires its pledges and members to agree to uphold a Code of Conduct, and then actually enforces it (in addition to alcohol, the Code deals with vulgar language, sexual behavior, athletics sportsmanship, fair and honest dealing with University officials, and provisions about hazing pledges)?

What IFC fraternity (1) has a Doctrinal Statement of Beliefs and (2) requires its pledges and members to agree to it?

What IFC fraternity prohibits alcohol at its events?

What IFC fraternity requires all of its members to be actively involved with an accountability group, and has a mechanism to enforce that involvement?

The answer to all of those questions is NONE.

Of course, now you will resort to your Bible study argument.

But again, our parties, and our swaps, and our formals, and our ritual, and our pledgeship all belie that fact.

"Well surely you can't actually be successful, not at a school with fraternities that are actually fraternities."

Au contraire, mon ami.

Let me list how Beta Upsilon Chi is a leader in the Greek community at one of the most Greek schools in the South (Vanderbilt) and yet maintains its Christian identity as described above:

(1) The ultimate Greek "popularity" contest is Homecoming Court. For the past three years, a BYX man has one of five men on the homecoming court, and at Homecoming 2003 and Homecoming 2004, a BYX man was elected Homecoming King. His queen, both times, was a Kappa Delta.

(2) In the two years I was President, and therefore the two years that I have statistics, BYX did as good or better than the IFC fraternities in Rush: in Rush 2003, BYX was third of 15 fraternities in the size of its rush class; in Rush 2004, BYX tied with SAE for first among all fraternities at Vanderbilt.

(3) Our parties are consistently among the largest and most well-attended at Vanderbilt; the only ones bigger are Pike's Peak (Pi Kappa Alpha), ZBTahiti (Zeta Beta Tau), and Paddy Murphy Day Party (Sigma Alpha Epsilon). We are probably about the same size as Derby Days Paint Party (Sigma Chi).

Those are just three criteria by which you can measure BYX's identity as a true social fraternity. And yet, on top of all of this success, BYX men are still meeting weekly for their Cell Groups; they're having Bible studies at their Chapter meetings; and there's not a drop of alcohol at any of our events.

When you really break it down though, the ideas of fraternities and them being Christian are two ideas that are entirely juxtaposed.

Beta Upsilon Chi, the brothers under Christ, is the living, breathing contradiction of this statement. We are distinctly and boldly Christian; we are proudly and loudly Greek. A fraternity is about brotherhood, unity, and life-long friendship. There is nothing about being a Christian that contradicts these principles -- in fact, Christianity encourages them.

The point is Jesus never told anyone he couldn’t be a part of their group. Ever. Are these Christian Greek groups going to have any sort of cuts? According to what I’ve heard, yeah, they will cut people.

Yes, BYX membership is selective. But there is nothing un-Christian about this practice.

Your statement that Christianity is the most inclusive religion in the world is right on target. Jesus Christ died and rose for the whole world, and His sacrifice is for all.

As a result, any person who "confesses with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in their heart that God raised Him from the dead will be saved."

God welcomes them into his loving, covenant community: the Church.

Caleb, you and I may have different notions of what the Church is, but I would assume that we could both agree that BYX is not a church.

Certainly, BYX does not call itself a church.

As such, why is it incompatible with Christian faith to identify those individuals who are most dedicated to being a part of our Fraternity? After all, we are a fraternity, not the church.

Under your logic, it would be un-Christian for the local parks & recreation baseball team to cut players that don't show up for practice or can't make the team.

In your system, the church basketball team couldn't hold try-outs, because it would be (gasp) exclusivistic.

It just doesn't make sense: not being on the little league baseball team or the church basketball team has nothing to do with membership in the Bride of Christ, the Church. It certainly has nothing to do with salvation.

And neither does pledging and being initiated into a social fraternity that happens to believe in Jesus.

Christ tells us to "be in the world, but not of the world." I know he didn’t mean for us to hide in our own social group, hiding behind the idea that we’re trying to protect ourselves from anti-Christian activities.

I think this comment reflects a lack of understanding of how the Greek system works. Beta Upsilon Chi is one of the most involved (if not the most involved) houses at Vanderbilt. We do all the sorority philanthropies, we participate in Dance Marathon, we participate in as much of the pan-Greek activities that we can.

By banding together Christian men into a fraternity, we are not "hiding," we're becoming more and more involved.

Another thing about this comment frustrates me: you seem to think that the Christian character of BYX will either (1) draw all of the Christians out of the IFC fraternities or (2) cause strife to develop between the Christians in IFCs and BYX brothers.

That is completely foreign to reality, at least how it happens in Nashville.

Over in Commodore Country, we actually have men who rush BYX, who really want to join, and who are active in the rush process, but feel led by the Holy Spirit to pledge another house. Do you know how BYX reacts? We pray for our brother -- for after all, he is our brother whether he pledges BYX or not.

There are many strong, Christian men in Vanderbilt fraternities who became interested in the Greek system through BYX and who realized that God was calling them to minister to hurting people in the IFCs.

Even more exciting are the relationships that we continue to maintain with our brothers in Christ in IFC fraternities. We pray for them, we support them, and we do our best to make sure that the message of Christ's love is made known on Greek Row at Vandy.

Let’s be honest, the real problem here is that a group of people want to be in a fraternity, but are too afraid they can’t withstand the burden of saying no to alcohol, taking care of their fraternal brothers, or respecting women when peer pressure might go the other way.

This is a sad statement. Your post was misguided, but well-meaning, until this point. At this point, apparently, you felt it was necessary to attack men who feel led of God to bring this important ministry to your campus.

It's a shame.

The men who rush BYX receive bids to join other houses -- they're not the rejects or the throw-backs. They're not "too afraid" of the so-called burdens that you talk about.

We're in the trenches, fighting for Christ in place where most people would rather not think about His sacrifice. BYX men are loving on Greeks at campuses across this country, and we're growing more every day.

Beta Upsilon Chi is the nation's largest Christian social fraternity, with sixteen chapters across the Sun Belt.

The core of BYX is Jesus Christ: our purpose is "to establish Brotherhood and Unity among college men based upon the Common Bond of Jesus Christ."

We are Christian, and we are a fraternity. It is that simple, and it has worked, under the blessing of God Almighty, for more than twenty years.

My prayer is that God will show you how He is moving through BYX so that you will be blessed by learning of the lives that He is changing through this amazing, mind-boggling creature: the CHRISTIAN FRATERNITY.


At 2:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is pathetic. The blogger doesn't give us the entirety of the original message, only picking out bits and pieces to attack.
I suggest this blogger look at the BYX chapter at the U of A- an extremely sad excuse for a "Christian" fraternity. The chapter at UA hazes more than some of the IFC fraternities on campus. They make NO cuts and are not part of the general rush (in other words, it is not selective and its rush is a joke).
As far as enforcing it's honor code, you should look at the facebooks of some of these so called "Brothers Under Christ" and you'll see them smoking from bongs and downing alcohol- some of them while wearing a BYX shirt. The Bucs do not have a great reputation at the U of A, especially in the Greek community. At a recent auction for breast cancer awareness, the Bucs proudly and arrogantly flaunted their soberness in front of the Greek Community- and in turn were auctioned for far less than any other greek guy that was auctioned that night.
The reality is this: BYX is not a fraternity. They are not Greek. They are no more a fraternity than the Music Frat, or the Engineering Frat. They are little more than a Bible Study with greek letters.
Further, they are are not entirely honorable in their dealings with other fraternities on campus. The BYX do not pay IFC dues, yet they compete in IFC events. In other words, the real fraternities are forced to pay large amounts of money to be able to participate in IFC events, while the BYX pay nothing and leech off of the financial support of the Greek houses.
The Bucs are not a prominant fraternity nationally because they are detested by the larger Greek system for their hypocrisy, arrogance, and dishonorable dealings with the IFC.
Wake up. Just because you have greek letters doesn't make you greek.

At 9:34 AM, Anonymous Michael Holmes (Baylor BYX Alum) said...

Wow, someone is bitter. I don't know the situation at U of A, but if what you are saying is true, than it needs to be dealt with by the local chapter and if necessary, the national council. That said, you (obviously not a member) can't comment authoritatively on a group of which you are not a member. You can describe your observations, but you can't say what BYX is or isn't striving to be. It's like if I invented basketball and during a game you observed someone running around while carrying the ball, and then tried to tell me that basketball doesn't include dribbling. If I'm Dr. James Naismith (the inventor of bball), I think I know the rules better than you. Oh, and about selectiveness, after confessing that you believe in Christ as the Son of God, anyone is welcome. It may look non-selective since we don't cut people based upon how cool they are perceived to be by the mindless masses or how many ladies they can bring to a party, but the criteria was stated. Maybe you question BYX's legitimacy as a fraternity because your group of choice has no discernable direction or purpose. BYX National forbids chapters from joining IFC and if there happens to be an event at any particular university that they do participate in, I'm sure IFC is welcome to ban them. BYX has added 11 chapters in the past 6 years with 5 more on the way, so I think we're doing alright, and if we're considered arrogant, hypocritical, and dishonorable by groups who have made the word fraternity synonymous with alcohol and drug abuse, reality porn, and hazing... well, let's just say that I'm not losing any sleep or criticisms of character from groups with such a distinguished line of credibility. We may fall down sometimes, but at least we are trying to make ourselves and our brothers better men. Oh, and have the backbone to sign your name when you attack someones credibility.

At 4:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had almost forgotten about this post- but I'm glad you responded. First of all, I didn't (and won't) put my name on here because I understand (evidently unlike the Bucs at UA) that I represent my fraternity. Because my opinions are not the opinions of my fraternity as a whole, I'd rather not identify myself. It's not an issue of backbone- and by the way, ad hominem attacks are little immature.
Am I bitter? I wouldn't use the phrasology. However, am I upset? Yes. I am simply disgusted by the BYX chapter and its portrayal of christianity. I don't agree with the concept of a "christian fraternity" because it is essentially classifying all other fraternities as "non-christian". I find that very arrogant, and very incorrect. I have a great deal of respect for the Christians who are able to join real fraternities on campus and be driving forces in the Greek Community while abstaining from alcohol and other so called "evils" by the holier than thous amongst us.
As far as standing on the outside and criticizing the BYX....it draws question as to how you (as a non-secular greek, or BYX specifically) can criticize the Greek system as being "synonymous with alcohol and drug abuse, reality porn and hazing". I'm glad you take your own advice.
This rash generalization of the Greek system is exactly why people are sick of BYX. It is a counter-system. It is something developed in RESPONSE to the "corrupt" greek system in place. Thus, it stands on its own RESPONSE instead of its own productive merit.
You claim that my group of choice does not have purpose or direction... my "group of choice" has more history, more tradition, more ritual, more ethical leadership programs, more history of combating hazing and building "a brotherhood of men under the fatherhood of God" than BYX can even dream of having. Where we have been for 140 years the BYX is presumptiously stumbling.
BYX has become, at the U of A, synonymous with pompous, hypocritical, two-faced boys. And until the organization realizes that this perception of BYX is inherent in the very basis of its conception (as an Anti-fraternity that has Jesus because real fraternities don't), the problem won't be solved.
However, with the creation of more Bible clubs on future campuses, it only looks like the BYX will continue to tarnish christianity in the greek system. The problem, I then assert, is not with the individuals- I know a hand full of great Bucs that are very dear friends. However they have been misled to join a spiritually elitist anti-program.
The BYX have done for Greek Christianity what the Pharisees did for Israelite Judaism. Congratulations.

At 11:28 PM, Anonymous Shawn said...

Well I just want to say. As someone who went through rush, and is involved in BYX, one chapter does not make the fraternity. If that were true every fraternity would be crap. is it overdoing it to say that the current greek system has gotten away from the Christian ideals they were founded on yes. Greeks like you are the reason that the men at BUCs work so hard. We constantly have to work to try and co-exist with IFC fraternities. We are not better than anyone else and in no way were founded to suggest that IFC fraternities are "non-christian" all fraternities were founded on Christian beliefs, but cheering on your brother because he slept with a girl after only meeting her early in the night is not Christian, and before you respond yes I did witness this happen. Rather than sitting around talking about how much you hate everything BUC's represents why dont you stand up and be a man and help your fellow brothers where they are faltering since your a Christian


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