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Christian Union
October 5, 2018

Christian Union Students Serve in Sorority, Fraternity 

by francine barchett, cornell ’20

DavidCornellIn February, a Cornell fraternity made national headlines for a disturbing hazing incident that awarded points for sexual activity and simultaneously degraded women.

Negative press on fraternity and sorority culture is hardly a Cornell-specific phenomenon. It reinforces a long-enduring sentiment that Greek life and high ethical standards are mutually exclusive. However, for Alanna Staffin ’18, David Navadeh ’19, and Chris Arce ’19, that perception is far from the complete picture. They maintain that fraternity life has not drowned their Christian faith; it has grown it.

All three students have served as leaders with Christian Union at Cornell. And Christian Union calls leaders to be bold in their faith, seeking to impact the campus by reaching students from a wide range of spheres of influence. Click to Tweet
Staffin serves as student chaplain of Alpha Zeta, a co-ed agricultural fraternity. Though she was originally drawn to the organization because of its members’ common agricultural interests, she soon realized that her membership could be a means of shining God’s light in an otherwise secular community.

“There are definitely times when I feel alone as one of the only Christians in my house, but I also have such an opportunity to create positive change,” said Staffin, who served as a Bible course leader with Christian Union.

Navedeh and Arce are members of Beta Theta Pi, a social fraternity whose vision is to develop “men of principle.” Both were influenced to join after Christian brothers they knew became involved, but their true motivation had even deeper roots. “In high school, I specifically dedicated my college career to Christ, so any of my activities had to be glorifying to Him,” Navadeh said. Arce pledged because he agreed with the fraternity’s principles and openness to his Christian call of pursuing social justice.

Since embracing Greek life three years ago, Staffin, Navadeh, and Arce have been pleasantly surprised by opportunities to demonstrate and share their faith. As house chaplain, Staffin’s official duties consist of praying and reading Scripture for events. She expanded her job to become her house’s “go-to” spiritual mentor and drove interested members to church. “It has been rewarding watching my house move towards a more loving and caring environment the last couple years,” Staffin notes, recalling her and others’ efforts.

Within Beta Theta Pi, Navadeh and Arce have not only been able to facilitate weekly Bible studies, but also lead meaningful conversations with non-believers on topics of faith. Now, as the rising chapter president, Navadeh hopes to use his term to reassert the fraternity’s social values while preventing Christian brothers from feeling compelled to compromise their convictions. Arce, the service icon of the fraternity, witnessed an outpouring of support from his brothers throughout his endeavors for traditionally marginalized communities. He maintains that “for a campus full of people passionate about social justice, the understanding that God cares deeply about social justice is so important if we hope to engage and love other communities.”

Neither Staffin, Navadeh, or Arce contend that Greek life is the best or easiest environment for believers. Instead, they demonstrate that it is possible to use the Greek system’s strengths and weaknesses as a platform for Christ—so long as students think critically and pray through how their faith can play a part in it. That involves consulting trusted Christian upperclassmen, like Navedeh and Arce did beforehand, and recognizing that not all fraternities and sororities adhere to the same level of ethics.

For those on the fence about joining the Greek system, Arce recommends reflecting on 1 Corinthians 9:19, which states, “Though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all.”

And all three students are committed to serving their fellow brothers and sisters in Greek life, seeking the Lord, and seeking to change the status quo.
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