That Beacon Lights requests an article of this nature shows two things: the staff is aware of the growing number of Protestant Reformed young people attending colleges and universities, and that the apostasy of both public and private institutions is well advanced and may be expected to proliferate. The undersigned is also aware of these facts, and thus will gladly endeavor to write a few lines of explanation and warning concerning this matter.
Fraternities, as well as sororities, had their beginning in the late eighteenth century. In the following two hundred years, the number of these organizations increased to 103 social orders and 183 honorary or recognitional orders. Social fraternities draw upon the undergraduate student body for membership. The honoraries confine their membership to specific professions or homogeneous groups such as medicine, education, or scholarship. We will see that basically they are the same, and that they differ only in degree when held up to scrutiny that is scripturally founded.
The above statistics represent the fraternities at the national level. Each one of the above may stand for as many as 270 chapters on various college and university campuses. It is thought that much prestige is added to the fraternity if it has national affiliation. The national office busies itself with such matters as publications and constitutional decisions. It also handles most of the publicity, which of late is mostly of a very defensive nature. Even liberal groups have formed phalanx against these brotherhoods!
The method of obtaining membership in a Greek organization is worthy of mention, in that it approaches the height of the ridiculous. As Wade Thompson of Brown University writes, “It is the lamebrain organization that must douse itself in ritual to creep through their existence.” He mentions as prime offenders the D.A.R. and the American Legion, along with the fraternities. (Nation 189:170) The callow youths who desire this, nonetheless, go through a period of rushing. Prospective pledges visit a number of “frat houses” to show them¬selves off. They are judged on such superficialities as looks, dress, handshake, and conversation. Later the current members of the fraternity vote for the ones who created the best impression. After being informed, the rushee becomes a pledge. He now enters upon “hell week” during which he is made to suffer mental and physical degradation, and memorize the sentiment, smoothness, and ritual of the particular fraternity. From the pledge manual of a national fraternity we include one of the many nauseating expressions of sentiment that brothers are taught to feel for each other: “I love you because you have done more than my creed could have done to make me good, and more than my fate could have done to make me happy.” (This from a pledge book, not Elizabeth Barret Browning.) If he is conscientious, he is allowed to take the esoteric oath of which we will speak later.
Criticism advanced by modern churchmen is usually evoked because of the discrimination which the Greek organizations practice and foster. After a Chinese student was denied membership in a frat at Northwestern University the school paper remarked, “The existence, the very foundation of these houses is based on discrimination.” Many bar Negroes and Jews thus profaning the very word fraternity. (Approximately fifteen per cent of the 3.6 million college students belong to fraternities.) To these charges the National Interfraternity Council responds, “Choosing of one’s friends and associates is a social right which cannot be confused with civil right.” (Commonweal 67:277) The inadequacy of this defense deserves no comment.
Suppose all fraternities stopped all discrimination. What then? Modem critics would be silenced, but how about us? Would we then be satisfied? The answer is no on two counts. First, the fraternities would still turn out the same product: gregarious, party-loving, well dressed men, held down to scholastic mediocrity and inculcated with a perverted set of morals and values. Perhaps our doubts concerning Nor¬man Vincent Peale may be confirmed and somewhat crystallized when we consider the following statement by this very American pastor: “All that I am I owe to God and my college fraternity.” (Christian Century 78:1229)
Secondly, by probing deeper we get to the heart of what these fraternities are. They are secret organizations which require an oath and an allegiance above any other group, including the Church of Christ. I suggest the reader become familiar with articles in our church literature which treat lodges. That this is pertinent is evident when we realize that fraternities pattern their initiation, oath, constitution, and ritual after the Masons. In fact, Acacia, a well-known frat. is a Masonically controlled organization. It is not permitted to admit to membership anyone who belongs to an organization “which seeks to restrain its members from affiliation with Masonic organizations.” (Catholics on Campus, W. J. Whalen, p. 79) Clearly, Acacia is not for us. Nor are any of the fraternities, for they are all teenage lodges, designed to lead young people away from church life and all its blessings into an atmosphere of blasphemy.
Next, the oath deserves our attention. As Christians, we must consider very seriously the taking of an oath. Swearing of oaths should be kept to a minimum and then as required by the state. Otherwise the oath has no proper use outside the church. (Standard Bearer 14:239) Furthermore, the oath that is required is a blind oath; you don’t know what you are agreeing to or what its ramifications are. You are actually joining yourself with a false religion which knows not Christ, is pagan in its ritual, and whose overall belief is autosoteric.
Joining these groups means you take these men (women) as your brothers, to the exclusion of children of God, for you owe them your highest allegiance. And this is for all time; there is no resigning. As one constitution reads, “No member can voluntarily sever his connection with the organization.” (Nation 189:171) No child of Cod who earnestly seeks the way of sanctification, who refuses to be “unequally yoked together with unbelievers …” (II Cor. 6:14), who has as his goal the praise of God’s Name, can knowingly join these groups.
In conclusion, fraternities and sororities have nothing to offer Protestant Reformed students. They fall far short of the professed aim to encourage excellence. That they serve as an easy step to popularity is true, but beware of vainglory. On the contrary, we as young people have much to lose by aligning ourselves with this force of darkness. Rather let us avail ourselves of the many opportunities for Bible study that come to us in the realm of the church. Here also will we find the brotherhood for this life and the life to come.
1. For the sake of convenience, and be¬cause some women’s organizations use the name fraternity, fraternity will be used to denote sororities also.