By Nnenna Nwaelugo
A brief background on my life: I was born in Nigeria, but grew up in Gambia and Ethiopia. My dad is a doctor, mum works for the African Union, I have 4 siblings, and we were raised in a Catholic charismatic household. For as long as I can remember I have seen the hand of the Lord in my life and in the life of others all around me. I believed in miracles and in the power of answered prayers and never for a second doubted that there was a God and he loved me.
I’ve always lived among a diverse group of people, moving within and between countries, and going to private international schools. So, the idea of people who were completely different simply loving each other and living life together was not only plausible, it was a way of life for me. I firmly believed that this was God’s plan for humanity. However, when it was time for me to go to college, I made a decision that would test that faith more than I had ever imagined – I decided to leave home.
Coming here to Iowa, I was exposed to a world totally different from the one I grew up in. I left the safe bubble that my parents and my community had cultivated for me and ventured out into “the real world” for the first time. It was also the first time I realized that Christians were capable of hate.
Before I elaborate, let me make it clear that I would have realized this eventually regardless of where I went, and it may be completely coincidental that it happened here. So, with that said, I begun to have deep conversations with several fellow Christians students who expressed very strong negative views on homosexuals and people from other religions – hatefully negative views. I experienced racism for the first time, also coming from said Christians. I saw people use their faith as a justification to think and openly say rude and degrading things about other groups of people, not always aware that a member of that group was among the crowd they were speaking to.
By the end of my freshman year, after talking to some of the targets of such remarks, I was ashamed to be called a Christian. We were the ones claiming to serve a God that IS love, a God that embodies love in everything he says and does, yet we are not able to see that our distaste, discomfort, whatever word you please, of people who were different from us was NOT love.
There is a silver lining to this seemingly drab story. I feel like I’ve grown 5 years older in the two years I’ve been in college. I was forced to look inside myself and confront those same tendencies I was ashamed of seeing in other people. When I went home this summer, it was clear to everyone I used to know that something had changed. I believe that this was God’s wake-up call for me, that just because I thought and said I was a believing Christian didn’t mean I was actively following Christ.