Pledging a Fraternity, While God was Calling Me
In the Fall of 2008–at the age of 21, I arrived on the campus of Aurora University, a small liberal arts college in a suburb near Chicago. I transferred from a community college in Michigan. Both afraid and excited, I moved to a place I had no prior knowledge of and no family or friends who lived there.
Before moving, I didn’t know much about on-campus—college—culture; I was the first in my immediate family to attend. I knew nothing about fraternities and sororities until I got involved on campus by attending student-led events.
My first encounter with a fraternity was at an event about the historic Presidential election with Barack Obama as a primary candidate. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and the Organized Action Council discussed who should be our next President. I remember hearing a fraternity member speak his opinion—he had so much confidence—I was impressed. Seeing a young Black man who was self-assured and intelligent inspired me—deeply. I can’t put into words how much it impacted me.
After that event, I was on a quest to learn about his fraternity. I spent a lot of time researching the organization and its history. I had to join. It seemed like everything I’d been searching for and needed—a place to belong. Brothers to inherit. Purpose. Passion. Service. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity was created just for me. To further validate my feelings, I learned that Martin Luther King Jr. was a member.
Once I understood the fraternity, I expressed my interest and took all the proper steps to pledge. By my senior year, I was initiated and became an Alpha—which was everything I imagined. I inherited brothers and prestige on campus and became confident like the brother I had seen at the event. To me, things were perfect, but the thought of being a committed Christian stayed rent-free in my mind. I’d hear a voice telling me—God is calling you.
Ignoring that voice, I enjoyed being a Neo (new member). I wore Greek letter shirts, hats, and necklaces. I bought Egyptian artifacts which were symbolic of my fraternity. I was social. I partied, drank, worked, went to graduate school, and served my community. Although I was productive and thriving, many of my social choices did not reflect Christian principles— I lived by my own rules.
Once I moved off campus, I started to grow in my faith. I wanted to respond to the voice in my head, but I knew I’d have to quit doing things that didn’t align with living for God. I’d essentially have a new set of rules to follow. Eventually, after losing my job and dropping out of graduate school due to some unfavorable events—I responded to the voice and said, “God, what do you want from me?”
Shortly after, to validate my Christianity, I publicly accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior in the Fall of 2012. I began to change my behavior, contrary to my established behavior. My abrupt change came from naturally maturing and being held accountable for my poor behavior. I was no longer drinking alcohol and partying, and I distanced myself from anyone still doing those things.
I disconnected from most of my fraternity brothers and quit all fraternal activities. I married, joined a church, and immersed myself in serving the Church. At the time, it felt like the right thing to do.
Although I don’t regret my decision to pledge—I wish I were a committed Christian first. That way, I could have built my fraternal activities around Christian principles. It would have kept me from a lot of poor decisions I made. Nonetheless, it’s been 10-plus years since I joined the fraternity, and I haven’t been an active member. Now, I am thinking about getting active again and joining an alum chapter. In the meantime, I’m reflecting on my journey and wanted to share it with you
For any Christians thinking about pledging—here is my advice:
1. Don’t make an idol out of the organization—keep God first
2. Don’t compromise your Christian principles
3. Don’t worship any objects or people
4. Understand the mission of the organization and aim to fulfill it
5. Don’t join just for the social components
6. Respect yourself
7. Understand the pledging process as a character builder—if you’re in danger or harm—quit!
8. Don’t base your value and identity on the organization
Lastly, being a young Black man who is Christian is complex. Don’t reduce yourself to fit in. Don’t seek people to validate your existence. Don’t let anyone or anything replace God in your life.