- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 16, 2005

Call it Christianity boot camp. Every year, thousands of evangelical Christian college students and teens from across the U.S. and Canada forgo traditional summer camps to immerse themselves in sessions that teach apologetics and Christian thought.

These classes — known as worldview conferences — typically run for a week and are held at churches or on college campuses throughout the country.

“A worldview is how you make sense of the world,” says Nancy Pearcey, senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute.

“For many people, it may be only partially conscious. Whether it’s intentional or something you absorb from the culture, everybody has to make sense, and you have to have some basic belief,” said Mrs. Pearcey, author of “Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity.”

Worldview courses, says Randy Sims, co-founder of the Worldview Academy, teach how to answer the essential questions of life. “Primarily, the two questions that are answered by every worldview [are], what is the nature of God and what is the nature of man. For a Christian to be consistent in the culture, they have to answer those questions.”

Each year, Mr. Sims’ Texas-based academy holds 17 weeklong classes around the nation.

The knowledge gained in the classes, say event organizers, is crucial for teens as they enter college or move into the work force. Christianity is a religion that is to be applied beyond the confines of the church pew — its teachings and guiding principles should influence every decision and every action of followers as they go through life, they say.

Included in the worldview classes are studies of everything from entertainment to science to social history.

“However you answer [the nature of man and the nature of God] it really affects most every discipline. The sciences, literature, history — pretty much everything. Because whatever decisions you’re making and lifestyle that you have, how you see God and how you see man really determines how you’re going to view those things,” Mr. Sims says.

Learning how to apply a Christianized understanding of the world is paramount to being a responsible Christian, conference attendees and organizers say.

“How do [young people] understand their vocation, how do they interpret politics? Because of that kind of immaturity or ignorance, we want to expose those in our area to speakers that would address these topics,” says Steve Simmons, a co-founder of the Great Lakes Worldview Conference, held annually in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The conferences are especially designed for teens in high school and college underclassmen.

“High school is the age where people start thinking through these things. It’s appropriate for that stage of life. Talking out the beliefs you absorbed from parents and saying ‘OK, what do I really believe?’ — it’s extremely important in that part of life,” Mrs. Pearcey says.

Not every moment of the camps is spent in sheer intellectual pursuit, says Pastor Byron Snapp, organizer of the Christian Worldview Student Conference, held annually in Hampton, Va.

“We also have preaching each evening [of the conference], because we want to speak not only to students’ minds, but hearts as well. Christianity begins in the heart and then captures mind,” he says.

“Christians were not only called to love God with our heart, soul and strength, but also with our mind, so to be consistent with a biblical assumption that we need to know what those assumptions are,” says Mr. Sims of his conference.

But for attendees, the conferences are all learning and little play. Most of the days are spent sitting in session, taking notes and listening to speakers discuss applied Christianity. At the West Coast Worldview Conference, held annually at Bethany College in Scotts Valley, Calif., teens break up the intense sessions by organizing old-fashioned dances in the evenings after class. Each student is also assigned a roommate with whom they usually become close during the conference.

“When kids come here, they make friendships that last a lifetime, meet speakers, some of them find their future spouse — and then they go back to their homes stronger Christians, better ready to go to college and take Christian faith [into the] classroom and to people they meet in college and high school,” says Mr. Snapp. “There is no area neutral to Christianity.”

At the annual conference in Hampton, he explains, students have no free time to visit local tourist attractions.

“Although we are located near the beach and amusement parks, we don’t have time to go to those places,” Mr. Snapp says. “We also do not encourage any parent to force their child to come here. We want them to want to be here. It’s a very intense week.”

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