It’s All About Jesus!
Faith as an Oppositional Collegiate Subculture

Paper: 978 1 57922 355 7 / $35.00
Published: March 2009  

Cloth: 978 1 57922 354 0 / $35.00
Published: March 2009  

Lib E-Book: 978 1 57922 953 5 / $95.00  
About Library E-Book

Published: June 2011  

Publisher: Stylus Publishing
368 pp., 6" x 9"
What it is like to be a collegian involved in a Christian organization on a public college campus? What roles do Christian organizations play in the lives of college students enrolled in a public college? What are evangelical student organizations’ political agendas, and how do they mobilize members to advance these agendas? What is the optimal equilibrium between the secular and the sacred within public higher education? What constitutes safe space for evangelical students, and who should provide this space?

This book presents a two-year ethnographic study of a collegiate evangelical student organization at a public university, authored by two “non-evangelicals.” The authors provide a glimpse into the lives of college students who join evangelical student organizations and who subscribe to an evangelical way of life during their college years. They offer empirically derived insights as to how students’ participation in a homogeneous evangelical student organization enhances their satisfaction of their collegiate experience and helps them develop important life lessons and skills. Ironically, while Christian students represent the religious majority on the campus under study, Christian organizations on this campus mobilize members by capitalizing on members’ shared sense of marginalization, and position themselves as cultural outsiders. This evangelical student organization serves as a safe space for students to express their faith within the larger secular university setting.

The narratives and interpretations aim not only to enrich understanding of a particular student organization but more importantly to spark intellectual discourse about the value of faith-based organizations within public higher education. The role of religion in public higher education, student involvement in the co-curriculum, and peer education are three examples of critical issues in higher education for which this idiosyncratic case study offers broad understanding.

It’s All About Jesus! targets multiple audiences – both sacred and secular. For readers unfamiliar with evangelical collegiate organizations and the students they serve, the authors hope the narratives make the unfamiliar familiar and the dubious obvious. For evangelicals, the authors hope that the thickly described narratives not only make the familiar, familiar and the obvious, obvious, but also uncover the tacit meaning embedded in these familiar, but seldom examined subculture rituals.

The authors hope this book spurs discussion on topics such as campus power and politics, how organizations interact with the secular world around them, and how members can improve their organizations. Additionally, this text urges secular readers in student affairs to consider the many benefits, as well as liabilities, of “parachurches” as co-curricular learning sites on campus.

Lastly, given that the authors lay bare their methodology, their use of theory, and the tensions between their perspectives and those of the participants, this book will serve as a compelling case study for courses on qualitative research within religion studies, anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies fields.

Table of Contents:
Acknowledgements; Foreword; 1) Jesus and Higher Education: Rituals of Faith; 2) Research Processes: Rituals of Inquiry; 3) Researchers’ Tales: Rituals of Disclosure; 4) Evolving Christians: Pre-college Evangelical Rituals; 5) God’s Squad: Rituals of Recruitment; 6) Praise Jesus: Rituals of Difference; 7) Getting to Really Know Jesus: Teaching and Learning Rituals; 8) Bridging the Gap Between Evangelicals and Non-Believers: Outreach Rituals; 9) Leading by Following Jesus: Servant Leadership Rituals; 10) From College Seniors to Real-World Evangelicals: Transition Rituals; 11) The Chosen: Rituals of Vocation; 12) SSC Revelations and Reconciliations: Rituals of Understanding; 13) Capstone Principles: Exit Rituals; 14) It’s all about Jesus: The Last Word; Notes; References; Index.

Reviews & Endorsements:
"Written by a scholar of educational leadership and an academic advisor, this book offers an ethnography of "Students Serving Christ," an evangelical student group chosen form among many types of organizations to exemplify student subcultures and their role in undergraduate lives. The authors' choice of group-and their passion for its exploration-comes in part from their lack of familiarity with the evangelical world and the dearth of literature on parachurch groups, which crisscross college campuses. Neither author is a scholar of evangelicalism nor of religion per se; perhaps this is why they accomplish their aim of "making the strange familiar and the familiar strange." As indicated by methodological and personal reflections, their approach is "thick description." By focusing on rituals of recruitment, teaching and learning, Magolda and Gross offer insight into the structure of the group membership. More crucially, they offer details of dailies, allowing readers to imagine this life-world effectively and to reflect in new ways, whatever their own level of engagement with evangelicalism. Beyond their contribution to the ethnography of religion on today's college campuses, the authors emphasize student engagement and offer recommendations to higher education leaders (faculty and staff), parachurch leaders, and students themselves. These include clarifying the role of religion in the curriculum, examining its place in the co-curriculm (and thus not ignoring the prevalence of parachurch groups), and reflecting on the ways such organizations enhance and sustain student involvement in the life of the mind.
- Susan E. Henking, Hobart and William Smith Colleges , Religious Studies Review
"The first three chapters introduce the student organization and provide an overview of ethnograhic research, providing a helpful tutorial about values of qualitative research, especially ethnography. The language and writing style is easy to follow, unmasking the mystery surrounding rigorous research. Magolda and Ebben Gross tell their own stories of spiritual search and development in an attempt to interrogate themselves and identify ways that their own identities may have influenced the study. It is rare that professionals tell their stories of spiritual struggle, so this section captivated me more than I would like to admit. This is the first book I have found that includes both a short introducation to research and then follows with an actual study modeling that approach... As the authors suggest, this book is useful for evangelicals to understand the way outsiders perceive us and it is also useful for nonevangelicals interested in understanding the perspectives, values, and practices of an evangelical subculture... The authors stepped into a fairly typical evangelical organization for two years and then tell us what they observed. Those of us who occupy such organizations, whether they are campus organizations, churches, or colleges and universities, will benefit from listening to the perspectives of those outsiders. Rarely will a neighbor, friend or student feel safe enough to tell us what they really think. Magolda and Ebben Gross offer such a perspective."
- The Journal of the Association for Christians in Student Development