The Castle frat party incident is a symptom of our own depravity

On September 4, one of our fellow classmates at the University of Pennsylvania was allegedly assaulted at a fraternity party.

As The Daily Pennsylvanian reports, a member of Psi Upsilon, also known as “Castle,” repeatedly punched the victim even after he lost consciousness — and as his fraternity brothers watched without intervening.

Conflicting accounts exist about the incident; although the Office of Student Affairs has opened an investigation, the Department of Public Safety has not yet made the police report available. In the interim, our campus has erupted in debate over “frat culture” — and some have even floated the idea of abolishing Greek life altogether.

In any case, no Penn student was surprised in the slightest to learn that an intensely violent incident occurred at a frat party. Such environments are rife with violence of every stripe — violence toward men, violence toward women, violence toward oneself. 

We are all aware that party culture on our campus leads to drunkenness, drug abuse, sexual immorality, rape, and other evils. Even if we abolish every fraternity on campus, however, this culture will continue in some form or another. Indeed, these vices are mere symptoms of a deadly disease that infects our campus — and every student on it. 

That disease is called “sin” — rebellion against the God of the universe. 

Sin — inherited from our first ancestor, Adam, and willfully continued by every member of the human family — ruins every aspect of our being. Sin defiles our minds and consciences (Titus 1:15) and corrupts our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) — the seat of our affections and desires. 

As Jesus explained, our depraved actions flow from our depraved natures: “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:23).

In other words — our campus culture is depraved because we are depraved. The problem is not oppressive systems and hierarchies. The problem is not “privilege.” You are the problem. I am the problem. We are the problem.

The majority of Penn students operate under the assumption that their chief end is to spend their days seeking pleasure and self-exaltation. Some seek it by earning a perfect score on every exam; others seek it by landing a top internship on Wall Street; more seek it in partying. All of these pursuits are idols — lifeless replacements for the living God. Indeed, our chief end is to glorify our Creator and enjoy Him forever — not ourselves or our preferred vices. 

Instead of loving the Lord with all of our hearts, souls, and minds (Matthew 22:37), we revolt against Him — the fount of all righteousness — by our idolatries (Romans 3:10-18). We exchange the plain truth about our Creator for lies (Romans 1:24). 

God is the holy and righteous Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25) — before whom all of our deeds will one day be laid bare and exposed. We are warned that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) — an eternal death carried out in hell, which is the only fitting penalty for offending our eternal God. “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” (Revelation 14:11).

Scripture plainly states that the standard for passing through this final judgment is the perfection of God (Romans 3:23) — a standard of which all of us have woefully fallen short.

But there is hope. In His love, God freely offers us a righteousness that is not our own. His Son, Jesus Christ, fulfilled God’s moral law on the behalf of sinners, died on the cross, and was raised from the grave. When we turn to Him in faith, God exchanges our manifold sins for Jesus’ spotless righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Through the cross, Jesus extinguished the punishment due to sinners, so that God can uphold His justice while freely offering forgiveness (Romans 3:26). It is on the basis of Christ’s work alone that anyone may be saved from the wrath of God. Instead of finding fulfillment in meaningless vices, those who have bowed the knee to Jesus are continuously being transformed into the image-bearers of God that they were made to be — experiencing lasting joy through a renewed relationship with God through Christ.

What is the only way for Penn’s culture of depravity to change? If we change. What is the only way we will change? By being born again. By trusting in Christ alone. By dying to our old selves and being made alive in Christ. 

Friends and fellow classmates — turn from your wickedness and turn toward Jesus in faith!

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).


  1. Kelly says:

    Understanding that fraternities further perpetuate a culture that encourages partying and normalizes sexual assault, but failing to hold these institutions accountable for doing so and stating the problem is because of a sin nature is poor journalism. Many atrocities that happen on college campuses would not occur without the toxic culture that Greek life produces.

    1. Thanks, Kelly. My point here is that the toxic culture inherent in Greek life is produced by toxic people, who are fallen in sin. Individuals are accountable for evil; institutions are not. While we can have a conversation about reforming the institution of Greek life, I am noting that we will always see depravity on our campus apart from God’s work of redemption. — Ben

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