‘Messy Spirituality’: Can you hear me (speak in tongues) now?

Written by Harrison Keely Would it surprise you if I told you that, according to statistics, Lee students who play on their cell phone or other electronics during chapel are more likely to speak in tongues than those who don’t? An informal survey of 47 Lee University students can reveal quite a bit about the beliefs, knowledge and actions of the student body on Lee’s campus. I sent messages to random students asking for honest answers to some pretty tough spiritual questions, and as a result, not only did I learn more about the students, but the students learned more about themselves. “It breaks my heart that I couldn't proudly answer each [question],” wrote one student, “I know that these questions do not make or break me as a Christian, but they do make me question: Just how serious AM I about being in Love with Christ?” “Man, you are asking things I don’t think about often enough,” exclaimed another student. The first question of the survey asked, how many of the ten commandments do you know by heart?. 47% of students questioned were able to respond with all ten while 53% failed to list them all. Females seemed to have a much better memory than males on campus. 59% of females could name the commandments in contrast to just 25% of males. The second question of the series, Do you usually pray before every meal?, provided similar results. Almost three-fourths, or 67% of respondents said that, yes, they did. Overwhelmingly, 79% of females said they prayed before meals while only 44% of males did. “I don’t pray before every meal, but I probably should,” responded one student with their survey response. “It’s been one of the hardest [habits] for me to pick up, sadly,” another respondent replied. I also asked students how many times they have read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. 67% of the sample of Lee students said they never had. 21% of students had read the Bible once, 7% had read it twice, and 5% have devoured the scripture thrice. “Time is the biggest issue,” one student wrote, when asked Do you try to read the Bible daily?. The males who don’t know the ten commandments and who don’t pray before they eat, read the Bible much more often than their fellow female classmates. Half of all males surveyed read the Bible daily while only 38% of females do. Overall, 57% of Lee students do not attempt to read the Bible daily. Only 32% of Lee University students could name all nine of the fruits of

the Spirit. 39% of females were able to list them all while just 21% of males could. Some of the most astonishing statistics came from the question: How many books are in the Bible?. Only 51% of the student body knew how many books were in the Bible. 56% of males knew the correct answer in comparison to just 48% of females. “I think there’s 88 books in the Bible,” one student replied. Some of the answers received were outrageous. The lowest number guessed was 50 while several guessed 52. The highest response given was 112. The only true or false question, making the statement God helps those who help themselves, nearly split the student body with 53% answering true while 47% said false. However, 64% of females said that the statement was true while the same percentage of males said it was false. Most Lee students prefer to pray silently, with 33% saying they pray aloud daily. 36% replied that they pray aloud often, which was at least once a week. 23% said that they did not often pray aloud and 8% said they rarely or never prayed aloud. One of the most revealing imbalances is that 39% of women pray aloud daily in contrast to just 25% of men on campus. I then asked those participating in the survey if they speak in tongues. 56% of students replied that they did not speak in tongues, yet many of those who said they never had said they did believe in the practice. More males than females claim to speak in tongues. One respondent who could not speak in tongues wrote that they longed for the day that they could “experience that much God at once.” Not surprisingly, students who had read the Bible from beginning to finish were more likely to know all ten commandments and the fruits of the Spirit. The final question on my survey asked students if they had ever played with a cell phone or a gadget while sitting in chapel. “Who hasn’t?” replied one student. Every respondent appeared to answer honestly while most of them asked that I not use their name. When I first proposed the survey one of my friends doubted that I would be able to get any honest answers from this question. However, 51% of students acknowledged playing with electronics during chapel. Half of females focused on gadgets while 53% of males did. “My gaming is usually intermittent with text messaging about the sermon or how certain speakers (whom I will remain nameless) should actually prepare a real message and move beyond speaking to us like middle school youth group attendees,” Lee student Christopher Beatty said, “I can count on one hand the times I felt enlightened, moved, challenged, God...” 47 different Lee students responded to the survey which was conducted electronically over Facebook. Looking back after all of the questions were answered, a student concluded, “I’m pretty much a horrible person… but my ‘messy spirituality’ will probably always be in the clean-up process.”