When the door closes to the college classroom there’s something of an artificial environment that is created. That sealed classroom is totally disconnected from the real world. I’ve often wondered if some of the more bizarre antics that go on in the classroom would be less likely to happen if the classroom was beamed onto the computer screens of taxpayers, alumni, and parents who foot the bill for four years.
In one of my classes, the teacher asked how many of us were familiar with the term B.C., which, of course, stands for Before Christ. Everybody looked around with faces that said who wouldn’t be. The general response was “huh?” Then she asked if we had grown up with the term B.C. We were then asked to raise our hands if we had used the term B.C. Everyone raise a hand. The teacher then told us that the use of B.C. could be offensive, so we should use C.E., which stands for Common Era. Everybody looked a little puzzled, but nobody challenged her or ignited any discussion.
Such nonsense almost makes sense in a closed environment where the professor holds the power and students instinctively consider the academic cost of questioning the authority. As a result, ideas that have never been tested or tried by reality have the ability to flourish in a college classroom.
In a fine arts class, a guest professor, known for being a postmodernist, lectured for nearly thirty minutes one day on the difference between naked and nude. Nude, he said is physical. It is when you are without your clothes in the presence of someone else. Nude is when you are in front of someone you love and are entirely comfortable. Naked, he said, is more emotional. Naked is when you are without your clothes and you are alone. He drew a diagram on the board with the word nude on one side and the word naked on the other. At one point he listed the word emotional under nude and then erased it and moved it to under naked. He wasn’t just confusing students; he had even confused himself. He talked on and on highlighting the differences between nude and naked and injecting the words with all kinds of meaning and connotations.
You don’t approach college strictly as a consumer, but still, I wondered how much that thirty minutes of nonsense about the difference between naked and nude had cost. After class I went to the dictionary and looked up naked and nude. Naked was defined as “having no clothes on: nude.” No mention of being emotional and alone. Nude is defined as “bare, naked, unclothed.” No mention of enjoying your lover looking at you. Shocker. That monologue on naked and nude had been an exercise in the deconstruction of language, where the prof arbitrarily assigned his own personal meaning to words.
Creationism and Closed Doors
Not everything that happens behind closed doors is as fluffy as distinguishing between naked and nude. And not all that happens behind closed doors, stays behind closed doors. Consider a Christian student by the name of Micah Spradling. Spradling was in a biology class at Texas Tech. The professor, Michael Dini, began outlining his criteria for any student wanting a recommendation to medical school or a graduate science school. Dini said he would only write recommendations for students who had: earned an A in his class, for students he knew fairly well, and for students who would affirm the theory of evolution. Spradling, like a growing number of scientists, did not believe in evolution. So, Spradling rose from his seat, walked out of the classroom, and dropped the class.
The professor may have thought that was the last he had seen of that student, but it wasn’t. Not by a long shot. Spradling enrolled at Lubbock Christian University. He received a medical school recommendation from LCU and then returned to Texas Tech with lawyers from Liberty Legal Institute of Texas.
When what was happening in that closed classroom aired in public forums, professor Dini didn’t fare so well. Dini had attempted to practice an egregious form of intolerance within a cloistered classroom. When the doors were flung open, the situation changed, and Dini had a change of heart. That often happens when people have attorneys breathing down their necks. Dini no longer requires students believe in evolution, although he does require that they are able to articulate an understanding of the theory of evolution. “This new policy rightly recognizes that students don’t have to give up their religious beliefs to be good doctors or good scientists,” said Assistant Attorney General for civil Rights Ralph F. Boyd Jr. “A state-run university has no business telling students what they should or should not believe in.”1
Spradling pulled back the curtain and exposed an injustice. He did the right thing. Spradling was in a unique position where he didn’t have many options. He could compromise and betray his convictions, or he could take a stand for what he believed in.
Chem, Physics, and Literature
For the most part I found that my hard science classes were cut and dried. The chemistry and physics professors were professional. The material was challenging but well-organized. As long as I paid attention in class and studied, I did well. Ironically, the place I ran into significant problems was in the English department. This seems to be fairly typical, as it is easier to inject personal opinion and subjective values into classes that lend themselves to interpretation. Dinesh D’Souza explains this phenomena in a little book every college freshman should read titled, Letters to a Young Conservative. D’Souza says because conservatives tend to be practical people—they emphasize what works—they are “usually concentrated in economics or the hard sciences. The reason has to do with the conservative bent toward practicality: equations that add up, theories that can be tested, and so on. By contrast, liberals prefer such fields as sociology and literary criticism because in these areas their theoretical perspective never has to meet the test of reality.” 2
He was right. The most intense challenge I met was in a class titled, “The Art of Literature.” Course material didn’t include Shakespeare, Plato, or Milton, or any of the classics for that matter. The required materials were two books containing contemporary short stories and essays. Even so, very little class time was spent examining the contents of those books. The professor had his own agenda. More often than not he would pass out articles he had printed off bizarre websites on the Internet for us to read.
The professor was very casual. He usually came to class wearing cuffed jeans and white Reeboks. As best I could tell, his idea of the classics were Dockers and a Polo shirt. He didn’t mind if we called him by his first name or his last. He was fond of starting sentences with the word dude and often slipped an occasional curse into his discourse. I assumed he did so to let us know he was hip.
On the first day of class, after explaining what the course would be like, he admonished us to be open to changing our views. He said, “Check your ego at the door because we’re right and you’re wrong.” That seemed a pretty bold statement to make. I couldn’t help being mildly offended at being told I was wrong before I had even said a word. I held out hope that maybe I was in with a conservative professor. (Some dreams die hard.)
I stayed after class and asked whether he had found himself to be more liberal or more conservative than his students. For a guy that was so adamant about being right, he was somewhat sheepish in answering. He said he felt his students were much more conservative than himself. This should be interesting, I thought. Or awful. I wasn’t sure which, but I had an inkling. Whether he was a liberal or conservative would not be a big deal as long as he possessed intellectual honesty.
Our first assignment in English class was to write an analytical response to our choice of pre-selected essays. Among the topics of the essays we could analyze included pieces on big business (aka corporate terrorism), taking “under God” out of the pledge, and an essay on why we should sympathize with the murderers at Columbine. Our assigned reading topics were so predictable it became fun to guess which politically correct topic he would introduce each day.
The essay that I chose to analyze for the first assignment was titled “Cutting God in Half,” which had been photocopied from Philosophy Now magazine and was written by Nicholas Maxwell. In “Cutting God in Half” the author attempted to discredit the Judeo-Christian view of God, saying that a God that is all-powerful and all-loving cannot exist because of bad things in the world. He reasoned that an all-loving God by nature cannot let bad things happen, but since there are bad things in the world, God must not be powerful enough to intervene. Or, God is all-powerful but he allows bad things to happen because he is not all-loving.
An entire class period was devoted to discussing Maxwell’s piece. The professor opened up the floor to any comment or question about the article. Although the desks were arranged in a circle to encourage conversation, no one was speaking. It was dodge ball time. Look anywhere but at the professor. Students looked at the floor, out the window, at their watches. I finally spoke up and said that while Maxwell made a good attempt at a compelling essay, there were major flaws in his argument, which led me to draw a different conclusion. I said that I personally believed that an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God can and does exist.
Dodge ball was over. For the next 45 minutes the class zeroed in on me and the statement I had made.
“Religion is a crutch,” said a classmate.
“There are no absolutes!” chimed in another.
“Wait,” I said. “Saying there are no absolutes is an absolute in itself!”
“People are naturally good,” another classmate said.
The comments were coming rapid-fire, and it didn’t take long to see that I was standing alone. There may have been other students in the classroom who were people of faith, but if they were there, they were tongue-tied or scared.
“Good people go to heaven,” someone said.
“Prove the Bible is true; I shouldn’t have to prove it’s false,” demanded someone else.
I did my best responding. As soon as I responded to one student, another student fired a different question.
“Who wrote the Bible? How do you know they were telling the truth?”
“The Bible isn’t the same because it was written in a different language than we read it in today. The meaning changes with the translation.”
It would have been a good discussion, but there wasn’t much discussing. It was like a Whack-a-Mole, the carnival game where you whack the mole every time he pops up out of the hole. Classmates were taking turns whacking at me, the strangest mole of all who said she believed in God and believed that God was good.
Someone asked if I believed in the Bible. I said yes. There were shocked faces all around. The professor spoke up and said, “Dude, wait, isn’t that the book with a talking snake and the magic fruit? I’m not going to believe in a book with a talking snake.” He then looked at me and asked if I thought snakes could talk.
“If I looked out the window and saw a snake, sure, I wouldn’t assume that it could talk,” I said. “But, I can’t rule out the possibility that it could, or did, happen through God’s enabling. If you do that, you’re completely ruling out the metaphysical. Are you prepared to dismiss the existence of the metaphysical plane?”
The professor didn’t answer. He just turned his head and waited for the next person to jump into the discussion.
For the first time in the classroom, the class was showing almost as much passion as they did during Welcome Week activities. People were speaking up. The discussion continued, well, if you could call it that. A Canadian student who had previously identified herself as liberal, spoke in defense of denying moral absolutes. She said it was arrogant of me to claim that I, and all other Christians, could know truth. Then she identified herself as a religious person interested in spiritualism.
The student sitting next to me suggested that the Bible was full of inconsistent philosophies, then identified himself as a hedonist. I thought relief was on the horizon when an openly gay student spoke out. He said, “Well . . . class . . . hold on. Let’s be nice about this. Listen, Abby probably doesn’t really mean what it sounds, to us, like she’s saying.” I smiled and jumped in to stop him, explaining that I really did believe the ideas I was conveying. After being called closed-minded several times, someone spoke up in my defense. It was a female student. She said that the class was being more closed-minded than I was. She was agnostic, and the most civil person in class. She was courteous. I regret that I didn’t find her later and thank her for her kindness.
As the class filed out, the professor pulled me aside and asked if I was OK. What an odd question to ask a student who had simply been part of a lively discussion. But it hadn’t been a discussion. It had been an attack. I smiled, told him I was fine, and walked out. As I walked back to my dorm room, I replayed what had just happened. I’d held my own. I’d done a decent job at apologetics. I had several excellent high school Bible teachers to thank for that. I’d done better than decent; I’d done well. But if I’d done so well and held my own, why was I crying and why was my entire body shaking like a leaf?
I realized that beneath the hurt I felt from the attack on my personal beliefs, was a sharper pain aroused from a startling fact. Those people, little more than strangers to me, desperately needed God, the very Being they were so quick to reject. It was hard to sit in class with the knowledge and conviction that God does exist when they insisted on saying He didn’t. God not only exists, He created the air we breathe, the water we drink, and every 18-year-old filling a seat in that class. I wanted them to see that they wrong, not for the satisfaction of being right, but so they could move on to a fuller life. I wanted to grab hold of them and say, “You’re so wrong! And you’re so bullheaded! Open up your mind and listen to this God idea!” But it doesn’t work that way. I had to take my cues from God. Obedience to Him would have to overpower my natural feelings and frustrations.
In all honesty, I admit there were days when I didn’t care all that much whether my professor ever grasped the truth. There were times when I so angered and humiliated by him that I would think to myself, Why should I want this guy in Heaven anyway?
Fortunately, God can soften hard hearts and work through bad attitudes like mine. God placed a nagging ache in my heart for a couple “unlovable” people throughout the year. Even though I’m not in that English professor’s class anymore, I still run across articles and think, Oh, if only my English professor could read that, then maybe he’d believe.
Never give up caring for a person, even your adversaries. Especially your adversaries. Most people will be more open if you take time to sincerely win their heart before attempting to win their head. Caring for a person doesn’t mean being a doormat. And caring for a person should never result in a compromise of God’s truth. Committed Christians on secular campuses will quickly learn what it means to be used by God wherever He puts you. For me, it meant an English class where I might have been the only Christian. If God decided it was time to plant some seeds and see some growth, then I would be fortunate to be a small part of the process.
But Can You Write?
The instructions for our first writing assignment stated that we were to use our “own reasoning, personal experience, and understanding of the topic as you see it.” After tossing around different ideas and arguments, I felt confident in my essay. I chose to analyze Maxwell’s heretical theories about God. I could have chosen a safer topic, but I had to respond. Maxwell had called God a “co-torturer and co-murder.” My thesis was that Maxwell had structured a flawed argument based on dualism, splitting God into half; one part good guy and one part monster. Even Maxwell himself questioned how to put the two halves of God back together again.
Maybe the outcome wouldn’t be as bad as I thought. My roommate, who was in another English class, had already received her first paper back. She had argued an issue from a conservative Christian viewpoint, too. She had received a good grade, although the professor had written on her paper, “I see you have taken the stance of a moral absolutist. Please make an appointment to see me.” The professor disagreed with her views, but he sincerely encouraged the free exchange of ideas and was civil. Of course, he was also going to make an attempt to meet with her in order to “re-educate” her.
When my paper refuting Maxwell’s blasphemy about God was returned, I was disappointed to see I received a B-. I did appreciate the fact that the professor put a lot of effort into reading my paper. There were thirty-three hand-written comments on it, a number of them of considerable length. All but one or two of the comments pertained specifically to my beliefs. He circled sentences, underlined phrases, boxed words and drew little arrows to various comments: Is this accurate? Can you substantiate this claim? Evidence? Evidence? Evidence? If I told you I’m an alien from another planet, would you believe me? Wouldn’t you demand evidence? Adam and Eve appear to be to be mythology. Define “good.” Faith: firm belief in something for which there is no proof. Your main source of authority is a book of stories that appear to me (and many other scholars) to be largely intended as myth (fiction).
Maxwell had used words like faith in his essay. He’s used the words, God and good in his paper. He had cited the God of the Bible as he shredded Him into kitty litter. But I couldn’t use the same lexicon. The words were different—meaningless, vague, ambiguous—when they came from the keyboard of a Christian. They had to be substantiated, every phrase documented, and every noun defined.
We had clearly been instructed that it was fine, and even had been encouraged, to use our personal beliefs in order to analyze the essay. This grade and this chicken scratch wasn’t about writing, responding to an argument, or constructing a conclusion. This was personal. This was about what he said the first day of class, “Check your ego at the door because we’re right and you’re wrong.”
I tucked my paper under my arm and walked back to my dorm room, once again feeling discouraged, isolated, and defeated. Again, I was wondering why I had chosen to come to a secular campus. I could be on a Christian campus, hearing great speakers, discussing fine points of theology, but I was here with a professor so bent on deconstruction and stripping words of all shared meaning that he wanted me to define the meaning of “good.”
It’s amazing how good a girl can feel after she does her nails. After taking a few moments to regroup and refresh, I picked up the phone and made an appointment to meet with the professor and the head of the English department. I outlined what I wanted to address in the meeting.
The morning of the meeting arrived and I began to waffle. My professor expects this, I thought. He’s attacked my views, he has let the class attack my views, he expects me to come out swinging about this paper. Maybe I’d take him by surprise. Maybe I’d just show up with a cup of coffee, give it to him, say I just dropped by to say hi and leave. I knew a meeting wouldn’t change my grade. I didn’t want a grade change; I wanted something more valuable than an A. I wanted freedom of speech and freedom of thought. I wanted academic integrity.
Time and again I found myself referring to D’Souza’s book Letters to a Young Conservative. That little book was a great primer as to what to expect in the secular college environment. It became a second handbook of sorts. D’Souza articulated so much of what was happening around me and put it into perspective.
He even had a handle on my professor. D’Souza splits classical, old-line liberals from new liberals. “The difference between the two groups may be illustrated by their attitudes toward free speech. Classical liberals believe in free speech because they are confident that, in a clash between truth and error, truth will prevail. The left does not believe in free speech. Of course, the leftists are happy to invoke the principle of free speech when one of their own guys is being threatened. Once they are in power, however, leftists are perfectly comfortable with suppressing the views of those they abhor.”3
D’Souza nailed it. Absolutely nailed it. It was almost like D’Souza had been coming to class with me. There were two types of college professors, he wrote, reflecting on his own college experience: “The first group was made up of old-line liberals; they usually wore jackets and ties and spoke in an elegant, formal tone. Then there were the radicals whose politics were shaped in the 1960s. These professors wore informal clothing, wanted to be addressed by their first names, and used [curse words] in class. The radical had their ideological agenda; but at least they were balanced by the old-line liberals, who believed in such things as high academic standards, teaching the classics, and maintaining the basic canons of civility. Now, however, the old-line liberals are gone . . . ”
Maybe not all the old-line liberals were gone. Maybe one would show up in a tweed jacket with elbow patches for the meeting between my professor and myself. I arrived at the conference room where the department head was waiting. My professor showed up a few minutes late, looked at me quizzically, and asked, “What’s this about?”
I simply said, “My paper.”
We sat down at an oval table. I sat next to the department head and my professor sat across from us. I introduced myself, then the department head asked what was going on.
I began by explaining that I was convinced that I had fulfilled the requirements of the assignment in a manner that was focused, cohesive, and concise, yet my paper was graded based on a dislike for my personal ideology, not on content or writing ability. I expressed my understanding that grading English papers is highly subjective, but my professor’s personal opinions and intolerance for my opinions obscured his objectivity. I pointed out the amusing irony that my grade was based on a personal dislike for my ideology at a university seeking to build a national reputation for diversity and tolerance. The department head and the professor did not find this funny. Apparently, I was the only one amused.
My professor avoided eye contact, studied the table surface, and furrowed his eyebrows. The department head looked over a copy of my graded paper. He asked what I had a problem with, so I pointed out that the majority of comments criticized my personal ideology and were anecdotal based on the professor’s personal ideology.
In my paper I had made a comment that doubt is not a sin; pointing out that God was patient with doubters such as Job, Thomas, and Elijah. The professor’s comment said, “I have known more than a few Christians who, as far as I could tell, seemed to look upon doubt as a sin, or at least a character flaw.” Since when was truth based on the opinions of my English professor’s acquaintances? I also supported one of my points with an example from chemistry, but my professor noted on my paper that his “feeble mind” didn’t care for analogies using chemistry. Just because he couldn’t follow a basic analogy regarding the makeup of water doesn’t mean it loses its validity. A host of other comments followed the same lines. None of the comments were relevant to assessing my essay or writing abilities.
As the department head quietly listened and nodded his head, I went on to explain how there were three comments on my word choice. The most astounding one was where I was told to “define good.” I said, this sounds remarkably similar to former President Clinton asking, “What is, is?” If we can’t agree on the word good, how can I write a paper? How am I to know which words will require a definition, and which words don’t? Doesn’t the deconstruction of language limit what one can write in an English class?
To define every word and present evidence for every statement would require a three-volume treatise on apologetics, which was not the assignment. We were told to write an analytical response using our worldview. We were clearly allowed to write using our beliefs as our foundation, without the added task of substantiating each claim. That is exactly what I did. I analyzed. I responded. I said I believed that my professor didn’t really want me to prove my assumptions. The fact is, he doesn’t want anyone to hold to any assumption that is not in sync with his own.
The department head was ready to attempt to cover for the professor. He pointed to a sentence I wrote, “God is not evil.”
He accusingly asked, “Where did you get that from?”
“The Bible” I answered.
“The Bible doesn’t say that.”
“Yes it does.”
I offered to get a Bible and show him verses if he was interested. He quickly steered away from that topic leading me to think he wasn’t interested or perhaps the Bible had been banned from the English department. He pointed to another sentence I had written and, as if he had pinpointed the problem that led to my low score, said, “You’re making an assumption there.”
“Yes, I agree” I said. I asked if that was a problem, as the assignment specifically allowed us to use our assumptions.
He stammered a drawn out, “Well, yes . . . .” and then I realized it was because it was a Christian assumption.
I said, “Oh, your point is that I used a traditional Christian assumption? Other people’s assumptions are OK, so long as they are not Christian. Please tell me, can I hold to my Christian assumptions when I write for this class?”
No answer. The lack of response (and tolerance) was deafening.
I wondered if we’d be sitting here if I was working from a set of lesbian assumptions, Wiccan assumptions, or even militant Islamic assumptions. Probably not. This is what happens when you stick to the traditional line.
As our conversation progressed, it became apparent that both the department head and my professor knew a lot of “scholars” that view the Bible as a book of myth. I countered that I knew a lot of scholars who believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God.
“So,” I asked, “Do I have to believe the Bible is a book of myth just because you do?”
Again, neither of them said anything. There were a lot more questions at this meeting than answers. An uncomfortable silence lingered. Then, as if to put a final wrap on the meeting, the department head said, “You cannot use the Bible in academic circles because it is regarded as a book of myth.”
The meeting was over; we were walking out when my professor asked what grade I thought I should have received. I replied that I wasn’t there to discuss the grade. I came on principle. “Oh,” he said, seeming a little taken aback.
I sincerely had come to the meeting wondering if I would continue to be penalized for my nonconformist thinking. I sincerely wanted to know if the goal of the class was to help us learn how to understand essays, or if the class was simply a way to indoctrinate us so that we would mimic the politically correct crowd? Was the only view truly tolerated in the English department the politically correct view? If that’s so, what is is and what is diversity? Many of my specific questions went unanswered, but the big one was answered loud and clear. Sure, I could continue to hold to a Christian worldview, but it would be to my academic detriment, as no “credible” scholar believes that book with the talking snake and the magical fruit.
While it was emotionally draining and stressful to face the intimidation of the professor, make the appointment, feel the impending doom as the day got closer and closer, and actually go through with it, I knew it was the right thing to do. I knew I wasn’t the first, and I knew I wouldn’t be the last. I also knew that in order to have an impact during the meeting and retain respectability, it was imperative to act in a professional manner. As a Christian, it was also imperative to be respectful and loving. I had to keep in mind the student/professor relationship. The professor is in a position of authority and is due respect. When you are disrespectful, whether it’s by name-calling, getting angry, being flip, or turning on the tears, it just fuels the stereotype of Christians being fanatical, emotional, or anti-intellectual.
If you find yourself in a situation like this, I would advise role-playing the situation in advance. Grab a close friend or family member and have them let you practice on them. Practice your emotions and reactions in addition to your words. Prepare what you will say and how you will say it.
When all is said and done, you will have a feeling of success. Not quite the full-blown thrill of victory, but you will feel better having engaged rather than having chosen to sit back and ignore the explosions. In addressing evangelicals and the cultural mainstream, Chuck Colson writes, “Some leaders have recently argued that Christians are aliens and can always expect to be persecuted and reviled. So instead of fighting back, we ought to be content in our roles, or just build our churches. This can only lead to passivity and despair. As one friend of mine noted, being a peculiar people needs ‘to be set against the fact that we are called to be ambassadors to the world, fully engaged with it, and followers of a faith in which the Incarnation is central. . . retreating to a Christian cul-de-sac is not the proper outworking of what we believe.’ I couldn’t agree more. Only by contact with the culture can we effectively seek to change it so that the City of Man more consistently resembles the City of God. And if we don’t seek to engage and change the culture, the culture inevitably changes us.”4
I was glad I went to the meeting with the prof and the dean, but not right away though. It took time and distance to gain perspective. On paper the tangible risks may have outweighed the benefits, but truth was worth taking a stand for, and faith is always worth defending.
I didn’t win any points at that meeting. As a matter of fact, it was possible I’d put a rope around my neck for future writing assignments. The cards were on the table. If it cost me a grade, that was fine. I wasn’t particularly happy with the outcome of the meeting, but from the looks on their faces, the department head and the professor weren’t particularly happy either.
Considering their scowls, I was probably lucky I got to keep the B-.
Try not to look so surprised.
It’s a shock the first time you hear your views scorned in a classroom, yet it shouldn’t be, especially on a secular campus. Scripture is clear that this comes with the territory of following Christ. John 15:18–20 says,
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. . . .’ They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.”
Choose your battles.
You can’t and shouldn’t respond to every slight, dig, and innuendo about the Christian faith or Christians. But there are times when you should respond. If the professor is approachable, try that route first. Some believe it is wise to have a third party present if you schedule a private meeting. If something is egregiously wrong, make an appointment with the department head. Ask who will be present. Make a list of your points before you go. Stay firm but friendly. They expect belligerence, catch them off guard with kindness.
Scripture is clear that we are to love our enemies. “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back” (Luke 6:35:). It’s easy to love your enemies from a distance, but when an enemy is pacing ten feet from your chair three days a week, it gets a lot harder. Loving your enemies does not come naturally. It comes only by prayer."scripture">
You’ve Got Mail!
Try to suspend thinking too deeply for right now and stop analyzing things. Just let yourself adapt to the new environment and routine. You need at least six weeks before you decide you really, really hate it! : )
Part of this is the culture shock from having been at a Christian school. I hate to see you hurting, but I really do think this is necessary. I almost feel sorry for some of your high school friends not having the same experience. They moved from comfort zone to comfort zone. Not that you can’t move to a comfort zone later, but down the line you will see this was a valuable experience. There are three important things you can be learning right now, not necessarily happy things, but valuable things.
- What it feels like to be lonely. This makes you appreciate companionship, esp. in a marriage on those days when the relationship may feel less than spectacular. ; ) It’s good to know what loneliness feels like. It will make you compassionate.
- You’re also learning the need for the art of hospitality. To all people—and that includes people you disagree with. Hold your friends close and your enemies closer. That’s probably not how Miss Manners would put it, but oh well. I guarantee after this experience you’ll have a sixth sense, a radar, for people in a group who are feeling awkward or out of place. You’ll go out of your way to make the newcomer, the quiet one in a group or the odd one left standing alone, feel welcome. That’s a lovely grace to possess.
- How to love your enemies. That’s an easy one to give lip service to, but it’s something else to actually put it into practice.
That’s the best I can do for now. If Dad or I can think of any other bummer forms of encouragement, we’ll be sure to send you another e-mail. jk, jk!
We love you and miss having you at home, but we also have every confidence that you’re going to milk this experience for all it’s worth. You’re going to get every ounce possible out of it. You’re going to leave a mark. Whether you stay a semester, a year, two years, or four, you’ll take something away from this, and it’ won’t just be that you were weepy!
Mom & Dad
P.S. I just flashed on Mrs. Thiennes, soccer coach, when the girls h.s. team was on the bus at an away game and lightning struck nearby. You girls started screaming, and Mrs. Thiennes screamed back: WHERE’S YOUR FAITH, GIRLS? WHERE’S YOUR FAITH?
You’ve Got Mail!
Today in Spanish class, we watched clips from a rather pornographic movie. We’re doing the whole cultural thing. It was about Mexican muralist named Diego Rivera and a woman, Frieda. It showed Diego painting a nude portrait of a woman—bare breasts and all; it was very explicit. They began having sex, but Frieda yelled and Diego stopped. Fondling, groping, you name it, it was happening. Then the prof showed a clip of Frieda having sex in a closet with a guy. More nudity. It was very embarrassing, especially in a coed group. We had to write 8 phrases about the movie after it was over (we didn’t watch the whole thing thank goodness—just clips of it.) My partner was a girl who goes to Crusade who was disgusted by it, too. We summarized it by saying Diego was a dirty old man. This movie was graphic and vulgar. So much for Spanish being my favorite class!! It was disappointing that the teacher acted like nothing was out of the ordinary. All the students were snickering and such, but he was just watching!! Could he really be THAT desensitized to not know that the movie was something he SHOULDN’T SHOW in a college classroom!!!!????
You’ve Got Mail!
I was a senior at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro studying art education. I was in a class called ELC 381, which was basically a class to indoctrinate us into a secular humanist idea of classroom management and curriculum selection. One suggestion put forth to us in our text and by our professor was that we should place a rainbow triangle above the doors of our classrooms to “make homosexual students feel welcome.” Never one to shy away from a little controversy, I politely informed the teacher that I couldn’t go along with that suggestion. I started out by saying that I would never verbally abuse or be unfair to any student who felt like they were gay, because I don’t think that is the way that Christ intended us to treat people. I then informed her that, having said that, I believed that to be a lifestyle which was wrong and which I couldn’t condone. I said something to the effect that I would not put a beer can above my classroom door to make students who abuse alcohol feel okay about their sin, so why would I do something like that to show approval of homosexuality?
The professor sort of hemmed and hawed around, and I can’t even remember exactly what she replied. However, the shock was, I had several students come up to me after class and thank me for the stand that I took. They said that they were thinking the same thing, but didn’t know if they should say anything or not. There was even a bisexual student in the class that seemed to be more interested listening to what I had to say after that. Even the professor, although I don’t think I changed her mind, was fairly open to my opinions on that occasion and others. I had other experiences in college which did not go as well because of my faith, but that one stands out in my mind as one which was positive and ended up well.
You’ve Got Mail!
How’s it going? How’s school treating you? Ya know, I was dead set against coming to a Christian university, but my parents and a teacher persuaded me to look at Taylor. Taylor has a dinner for prospective students in Indianapolis, and they called me up and asked me to go, so we signed up. I sat through the whole meeting and was like this is not a place that I want to go, until the end. They had three T-shirts that they were giving out. Maybe I should not have done this, but I did. I said to God that if I won a T-shirt, I would seriously look into going to Taylor. I won the last T-shirt.
This year has been hard because my girlfriend broke up with me. It is so hard not being with her. You base your world, and plan out your future around this person, and then they leave. I was fortunate to talk to my Dean of Students for 40 minutes. He gave me great advice, and told me that his wife broke up with him when they were dating. He listened to me as I told my story, and sympathized with me. He prayed with me, not as my dean, but as my brother in Christ. I was talking to Jace, who is at IU, and he was like, “I don’t even know who my dean is, let alone could I go to him about my girlfriend breaking up with me.” It is such a blessing to be surrounded with people that love the Lord. I have fallen completely in love with Taylor.
The academic world presents a particularly difficult environment for believers. As one that has spent over 25 years in academia (as both student and professor), I know firsthand the pressures, criticisms, and tribulations it can present to a Christian. On occasion, I have even known of professors refusing to give students letters of reference or other support simply because they question the professor’s humanistic worldview. If you are considering an academic career (or even just 4 years of undergraduate work), it is important to understand the environment you are entering.
But, I also know that God is ever faithful. He knows the great need of our society for Christians in the academic world, both in science and education. Many of us have gone before, and we serve as a living testimony to God’s ability to strengthen and preserve His people. The world of academia is just one of many frontline battles in the great spiritual war we all engage in each day (Eph. 6:12). I would, therefore, challenge potential students to prepare themselves (Eph. 6:10–18) and come join the battle.
—Kevin L. Anderson, Ph.D.