Nofri, fellow Copts in college. I saw this old article on the troubles of the US college atmosphere and Coptic community expectations.
I had two instinctive responses:
1. Angrily defensive. Being Coptic is the most amazing thing ever ever ever ever and the whole world wishes they could be Coptic too, they just don’t know it yet.
2. Immersed in self pity. Being Coptic means straddling two worlds no matter what your heritage is, and straddling two worlds is more than just a hat trick of languages–it’s a collision of cultures. (Plus she goes to Duke… imagine if she went to the number one party school in America!) Life sucks, liturgy is too long, excuse me while I curl up to complain about it.
After a few deep breaths, I could resentfully admit that there is an underlying truth to this article that doesn’t require me to be a drama queen. The fact is there are certain aspects of being Coptic and being in college that simply do not want to work together.
Sometimes, college life and Coptic life don’t even feel like they came from the same puzzle box.
Do you know when “normal” college students catch up on work? Sunday. Ha, that’s what I have to say to that. While other students might go to church early and come back early (if at all), spending the rest of the day in the library catching up on work, what do I do?
Copts can’t rely on Sunday at all, am I right? Wake up early, travel to church an hour away, stand through a thoroughly enjoyable but also exhausting hours long service, teach Sunday School, attend a servant’s meeting, travel an hour back, plan next week’s lesson, and by the time my Sunday is finally, finally done, it might be 5 or 6 o’clock, and I’m pooped!
Is that fair?
And the expectations! She says it so cleverly. “The church…preach[es] against the Five Ds: dancing, dating, dressing (provocatively), drinking, and drugs.” And we good Coptic guys and (in particular) gals*, we can do this so well! We can make casual conversation and laughter instead of dancing, we can turn down dates with grace, we can find clothing that’s humble and pretty, and we aren’t even tempted by drinking and drugs.
What do we get for this martyrdom of a life? Complaints that we don’t come home on the weekend often enough. Rebukes that our knees are showing in this dress or we’re getting too much cleavage in that blouse.
Is that fair?
Well… no. It’s not fair, and it’s definitely not fair to everyone else.
There isn’t really much that holds a candle to Tai Shori.
It’s not fair that people not born Coptic might never witness the majesty of Pharaonic chanting that goes back 3000 years, and we get to sing along with it every week. It’s not fair that they might never come all the way up to stand before the altar and receive the Holy Communion with the Lord, and one average-life-span Copt will have partaken of it 3,000 to 5,000 times. It’s not fair that when they take an exam, they don’t have the army of El Baba Kyrillos, St. Mina, Anba Karas, Elijah the Prophet, Abu Sefain, and St. Daniel praying for them and rooting for them. It’s not fair that their parents haven’t been praying for an acceptable spouse and a happy, fruitful marriage since they were babies; that they will face heartbreaks and heartaches without assurance of God’s promises. It’s not fair that when they feel overwhelming loneliness, they don’t have a relationship with God that they can lean on. It’s not fair that when they face shame and guilt, they have to try to forgive themselves without a Father of Confession to tell them “Your sins are forgiven you. God is so proud of you.”
It’s not fair at all. It’s downright unfair.
We complain, (and I’ve always enjoyed complaining so I can’t pretend it’ll stop any time soon), but we are so blessed. The truth is, we are not of the world.
We just aren’t.
Because we aren’t of the world, our standards are not of the world. Our behavior is not of the world. Above all, our God is not of the world.
That’s not something to regret–that’s something to rejoice in.
*Let’s face it girls, it’s much less acceptable for us to drink or dance, and the dress code is almost exclusively on us. It’s because we’re more gorgeous creatures
**Of course, other Christian denominations have similar blessings and similar restrictions. I’m merely speaking from a Coptic point of view because it’s the only one I’m even semi-qualified to speak on.