1) During my first summer break I stayed in the dorms and attended a movie at the local theater. There was a “spy” at the theater who reported my nefarious activity to the Dean of Students who called me to his office. He asked me to admit whether or not I had committed the said offense. I readily said I had and that school was out. He proceeded to explain to me that truly spiritual and God-honoring students followed the rules of the school whether the school was in session or not. And that he had had higher hopes for me.
2) During a beginning of the year chapel session, a team of students that had traveled and sung together over the summer were asked to share. They explained that they had become friends over the summer and played the song “Friends are Friends Forever” by Michael W Smith to close out their chapel service. (Here is a link in case you are unaware of this death metal song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ped1jYLFtkA). This song was so strongly considered evil rock music – that the dismissal of the students from chapel was stopped and a speech given the apologized for the sending out of that group of students as the could not have done the Lord’s work as evidenced by the evil music they had chosen to play at the end of the chapel service. As I walked away from that service vowing to myself to find a way never to return, I walked through the admin building and a professor was talking to another professor and vigorously celebrating the bold stand and defense of righteousness that had been made by the administration member who had condemned the students.
3) So rigid were the beliefs and so desperate were they that not one iota of the perfect theology they had be modified or lost, that many of my classes largely consisted of 40, 50, 60-year-old notes read verbatim sometimes off of purple mimeographed copies. I took out student loans for this opportunity.
4) My primary professor from whom I took nearly half of my classes on the study of God was extremely intimidating. He prided himself on hard tests and if you made the slightest noise or caused the slightest distraction in his class – his lecture would pause and he would stare intently at the perpetrator for what seemed an interminable length of time. During this time, I, and I assume everyone else, would keep their head down desperate to avoid eye contact. Sometimes the lecture would pick up as if nothing had happened, sometimes a lecture to the student would ensue, and sometimes the prof would storm out abruptly. This was my teacher of theology.
5) Another professor had just joined the staff after an absence and he prided himself, he told us, in being an extremely difficult grader on papers. In fact, he said many of you should probably not even try as we would just receive an “F” for our efforts. I took it as a challenge and typed out 4 pages (of a 12 page paper) and brought them to the prof to see if they were satisfactory to him. I had worked hard on them and was proud of them. I went with my friend who also wanted to see if this professor would approve. The professor condescended to read it and said nothing as I waited – then without a word took a black sharpie and wrote “clean fill” on the bottom of my paper and left. I asked my friend – “What is “clean fill?”. He informed me that it was clean fill dirt – ie without substance or merit.
6) I had come to school with some theological convictions – these were not appreciated by some and so for most of my tenure at the school people – many who had never talked to me – would chant in a sing-song voice – “Ken preaches heresy” I know this was meant as a joke and I tried to not let it bother me – but I hated it and felt it undeserved but had no opportunity to defend myself.
7) I was in my room listening to some head banging music by a group called Glad. The song was “Amen” you can enjoy it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdOIY3KH0nI It is a 70-fold “Amen.” My roommate came in, shut it down and said it was against God because it had repetition and so it was evil. I had the presence of mind to read Psalm 136 in the KJV as a defense that God was not against repetition https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/… The roommate stuck to his guns and insisted it was wrong and I should not listen to it and that the Bible can do what it wants, but that doesn’t mean I should do it.
This is a sampling of stories. A sampling of the culture I was immersed in for 5 years. These are not one-offs – they were my routine experience. This is not to say there was nothing I enjoyed – I had come to college expecting a “Dead Poet’s Society” experience in the study of God https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7OE6bDfM2M Instead I got cold indoctrination with one notable exception – by God’s grace one professor Dr. Myron was kind and encouraged me. Nevertheless, I struggled mightily throughout my college years with sexual issues unable to confess them even to myself for the most part – after all if attending “Eraser” or listening to “Glad” put me out of God’s graces what would real sin do. So I learned, for the most part, to play along – to keep my religious mask in place and to try with all my might to conform to the religious expectations placed on me – to gain the approval of them which meant to me the approval of God.
I’m 18 years removed from this place. But I’m still haunted by it. And God has gently taught me grace – taught me his love – but I still default to performance-based Christianity. Human nature does – and I trained it further –
Many of the people above are equally victims of a system of religion. Had I not been so obviously failing – if I had been able to adhere to the code – I would have joined them. But God showed me my true sin and then showed me he loved me in the midst of my sin. That alone has been able to reach me. And I forget it too. But then God shows me again – “Ken I love you – where your sin abounds grace abounds all the more – as far as the east is from the west so far have I removed your transgressions.” Call me antinomian if you want – but I believe, that while the law can reveal my sin it cannot change me. It is only by grace – when I see the love of God given for me APART from my performance, DESPITE my failures – only then is my heart set free to love like HE loves.
Thanks for letting me vent.