Undercover at an Evangelical University


There’s a great excerpt in Esquire from Kevin Roose’s book The Unlikely Disciple, where the author goes undercover at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University to find out what goes on there. Liberty University is the evangelical bapist university that advertises its goals as "training champions for Christ," which I believe translates to "spreading misinformation in favor of blind idelogy."

Students there appear to live under a bastardized, Christian version of Orwell’s 1984. What does this mean, exactly? Rules against drinking, smoking, cursing, dancing, and R-rated films. It’s a real party in Lynchburg, VA. The school advertises "exciting extra-curricular activities," though "Every Man’s Battle," the support group for chronic masturbation, doesn’t seem especially exciting. To each his own.

It’s sort of easy to predict what the classes consist of, as they champion the traditional arguments evangelicals often scream about (Evangelism 101 argues against evolution, sex before marriage, etc.). It’s not clear what the educational value of any of the classes is; it’s brainwashing, plain and simple. One of Roose’s anecdotes, concerning feminism, is particularly outrageous and infuriating:

In today’s GNED II class, Dr. Parks announces that we will be talking about gender roles in the evangelical world. Dr. Parks spends the first ten minutes of class laying out the two main positions evangelical Christians take on gender issues. The first position, egalitarianism, means exactly what you’d expect it to mean — men and women are equal, both in the church and in the home. Women can be pastors of a church, they can teach Sunday school, and husbands and wives share equal authority in marriage. The second position, called complementarianism, means, in Dr. Parks’s words, that "God created man and woman with different roles that complement each other." Complementarians believe that only men can be pastors, that only men can teach Sunday school or other Christian education classes (unless it’s an all-female class). Complementarians also maintain that the husband should be the head of the household. They quote Ephesians 5:24, "As the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything (NIV)."

 

Remember, also, the frightening fact that Liberty has one of the best debate teams in the country.

But with the great, heartwarming news today about gay marriage being legalized in Iowa, one can’t help but smirk at their dire attempts to win a culture war they’ve all but lost.  

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  • otaku1960

    a shock for those poor kids. Gays daring to believe they are equal, women in authority over men, people dating BEFORE marriage, et al.

    Your grievance shall be avenged.

  • invalid-0

    OK so he went to a radical Evangelical school and was shocked SHOCKED to find radical Evangelicals among the faculty and students. Otaku1960 is right, life will be a shock for these kids especially if they are totally isolated within their campus and never watch television or go online or get ahold of a newspaper. But, even in that case they will adjust to life on the outside. They’ll remember the positive lessons of their faith and education (trust me there are some) and go on from there. If I were gay I wouldn’t be terribly worried about kids graduating from Liberty University. I’m certainly not worried about them as a woman. I think the first job will pretty much introduce everyone to the real world and how to function in it (if they don’t already know). A much scarier thought is: “What ideas are students going to get when they listen to Ward Churchill at University of Colorado (who thinks we’re all Nazis) or Bill Ayres at University of Illinois (rapist, murderer, terrorist?)”.

  • invalid-0

    I believe a lot of these kids just USE them to get an education. BUT are free thinkers and will go on in life doing the right and moral things of their own convictions!

  • invalid-0

    Someone I know who went to Liberty was fined $50 for kissing the woman who has now been his wife for 10 years in public. No, it wasn’t a big huge slobbery kiss…just a little peck goodnight. The PDA rules are so over-the-top that it’s insane. You’re not even supposed to hold hands in public, from my understanding.

    Although I don’t have a problem with people not having sex before they’re married–to each his or her own, right?–this kind of phobia of all things physical is unbelievably damaging. While I know plenty of well-adjusted Christian kids who waited until they were married to have sex and they have perfectly fine sex lives, those two Liberty graduates had one hell of a wedding night: she and her husband hadn’t even down a little good old-fashioned making out before the wedding night, and so they didn’t even consummate their marriage that night…instead, she was in the hotel room bathroom with the door shut, crying on the phone to her mom because she was scared. That’s a beautiful thing, huh?

    I’m a little curious, though: in “complementarianism,” what exactly is it that the woman brings to the table? The ovaries and uterus to produce more good male Christian leaders?

  • progo35

    I went to Gordon College, the policies of which are less restrictive than Liberty’s. What bothers me about this post is that the author seems to be functioning with the desire to portray all Christian education as a repressive social mechanism and highlights every ridiculous-sounding thing at Liberty as the sum and all of its parts as an educational institution. For instance, why do you care if they have a group that deals with masturbation? Why do you present the prof’s discussion about gender roles as bad, as you do not establish that he was advocating complementarianism? If they were only covering the difference between those historical viewpoints, why should women be offended, as this issue is being considered out in the open as something that the Church has had to work on/struggle with?

    Moreover, it disturbs me that you find the Liberty debate team’s strong performance “frightening.” Like other schools, Liberty has strengths and weaknesses, of which the debate team is one of its strengths. If you are truly confident in your own opinions and believe that those opinions reflect the will of the general populace, than you need not be frightened by Liberty’s debate team. Rather, such debate should be welcomed-don’t you want an able opponent in the culture war?

    Getting back to the issue of Christian education, schools span a diverse spectrum of theology and practice, with Liberty falling toward the more extreme right and others, like Gordon, Hope, and Wheaton falling in between. I chose to attend a Christian college because I wanted to be somewhere where I wouldn’t have to choose between education and my faith, which I found difficult during my last years at a secular high school. My point in bringing all of this up is that it is close minded to portray everyone at Liberty university and/or at Christian universities as brainwashed automatons. The same can be said for people on the far left who blindly fling to a secular ideology and schools that do likewise. It all depends on the individual.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • progo35

    I went to Gordon College, the policies of which are less restrictive than Liberty’s. What bothers me about this post is that the author seems to be functioning with the desire to portray all Christian education as a repressive social mechanism and highlights every ridiculous-sounding thing at Liberty as the sum and all of its parts as an educational institution. For instance, why do you care if they have a group that deals with masturbation? Why do you present the prof’s discussion about gender roles as bad, as you do not establish that he was advocating complementarianism? If they were only covering the difference between those historical viewpoints, why should women be offended, as this issue is being considered out in the open as something that the Church has had to work on/struggle with?
    Moreover, it disturbs me that you find the Liberty debate team’s strong performance "frightening." Like other schools, Liberty has strengths and weaknesses, of which the debate team is one of its strengths. If you are truly confident in your own opinions and believe that those opinions reflect the will of the general populace, than you need not be frightened by Liberty’s debate team. Rather, such debate should be welcomed-don’t you want an able opponent in the culture war?
    Getting back to the issue of Christian education, schools span a diverse spectrum of theology and practice, with Liberty falling toward the more extreme right and others, like Gordon, Hope, and Wheaton falling in between. I chose to attend a Christian college because I wanted to be somewhere where I wouldn’t have to choose between education and my faith, which I found difficult during my last years at a secular high school. My point in bringing all of this up is that it is close minded to portray everyone at Liberty university and/or at Christian universities as brainwashed automatons. The same can be said for people on the far left who blindly cling to a secular ideology and schools that do likewise. How to regard oneself, God and the world is a choice, and how one executes that choice all depends on the individual.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich