Uncle Eddy's E-mail -- May 27
Saint Augustine of Canterbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, England (entered heaven in 605)
My dear temperamental niece, don’t make the proverbial mistake of throwing the baby out with the bath water. I suspect that you are exaggerating a little bit when you say that sororities are “evil” and that you are going to abandon yours and start a campaign to eradicate them from your campus. We must make some important distinctions before you go off and do something so rash. (As a budding philosopher, you ought to be learning how to make distinctions.) I will take your word for it that the normal behavior of your sorority sisters is scandalous; if gossip, backbiting, promiscuity, abortions, drinking, and drugs are the norm, you are right to be disgusted and repelled. And if they are the norm not only for your sorority but for all the other ones as well, then you are indeed in the midst of an “epidemic of vice and sin,” as you so energetically put it.
Now for the distinction: do your sorority’s statutes state that the institution exists to encourage and foster those activities? I highly doubt it. Rather, they probably claim to further sound human values like friendship, loyalty, community service, solidarity, etc… So the problem, perhaps, is not the sorority itself, but the current state of the sorority. Therefore, destroying the sorority system may not be the best option. You could use its current state of decay as a springboard for a movement of reform, or as an inspiration to start a new sorority (a Catholic one maybe?). And since sororities are still such a big influence on campus, you might end up doing more good for campus culture by trying to return to their original purpose rather than wasting your energy on the futile task of eliminating them altogether. Anyway, keep me posted and I’ll be happy to keep sending ideas.
By the way, your situation reminds me of today’s saint. Augustine and some of his fellow Roman monks were sent by Pope St Gregory the Great to re-evangelize England after it had been conquered by the pagan Anglo-Saxons. Queen Bertha (Christian, noble daughter of the King of France) had wed King Ethelbert (later St Ethelbert) and brought her private chaplain with her across the English Channel, so the Pope saw a golden opportunity. When Augustine and company arrived, they faced a people and a culture imbued with superstition, violence, and idolatry (sounds a lot like your college). They worked patiently and prayerfully, energetically but tactfully, and in the mere seven years of Augustine’s mission there (OK, he had seven years and you only have four years – but you have computers and telephones, and he didn’t) they converted the majority of the mini-kingdoms. One of their brilliant strategies is particularly apropos for your current struggle. Instead of demolishing the old pagan temples, they would simply rearrange and re-consecrate them for Christian worship. Thus they eased the transition from false religion to Christ’s truth. Food for thought, isn’t it?
Love, Uncle Eddy
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