Anyone who’s ever claimed that universities are the bastions of liberalism and left-wing thought has clearly never dealt with a school loan officer. Or heard about evangelical Christian universities. You know about them, right? They’re those private institutions with strict dress-codes, regressive ideas about sexuality, and “science” courses that are divided into Old and New Testament. Well, that’s what we all think but is that the reality? I was wondering about that so I talked to Michael who attended a hardcore Christian university, and this is what he told me:
Research by Evan Symon.
Some Of The Rules Are Admittedly Weird
There is a lot that a university can ask of you: school spirit, a passion for knowledge, not telling anyone that most of your classes are actually conducted by overworked TAs. But at Michael’s university, there was another thing the students were frequently asked for: their blood. And sometimes their urine. Well, it’s no use hiding it anymore. Yes, Michael attended the famous Dracula R. Kelly University.
“What shocked me most after getting in was finding that they could demand my blood at any time,” Michael explains his school’s honor code. “I had to be tested a few times, and both times it was urine. But if they suspected you [of drug use], they could legally draw some blood from you. I had been OK with going [there], but as soon as I found out about that, I began to have doubts, since that seemed like a huge invasion of privacy, at least to me.”
And then there was the points system. Usually, points are great. They instantly let you know which sports team (and therefore their fans) are superior. But they can be also used for evil.
“The points are what gets you. When I was there watching a rated R movie could get you 4 points. Anything having to do with witchcraft was 30 points.”
“I’m not talking about Harry Potter, but if you started talking about covens, then a trip to a counselor was in your future.” Once they hit 22 points, the student is on probation. And at 30 they can be kicked out. No word on what happens when they get to 69 points, but I don’t think they get a high five.
Of course, just because something’s forbidden doesn’t mean it never happens. That’s actually a succinct summary of all of human society, but especially a Christian university: “R movies were smuggled in or discreetly viewed on Netflix. Everyone swore when you knew you were out of range. People believe in the rules, but part of it is an illusion. Just by having the rules in place everyone assumes we’re all good, Ned Flanders Christians. But we’re human, and we’re in college. The rules are on paper, but most are ignored by at least half the student body.”
It Does Teach You An Important Life Skill
Mike’s college had a lot of restrictive rules about how the students had to conduct themselves, and you might think that it took a special kind of religious nutjob to want to go there. But the thing about us humans is that we will try to find the good in any crapsack situation. I’ll start: the birth of Sandman in the atrocious Spider-Man 3 was one of the best comic book scenes of all time. Mike brings up a more relevant case in point:
“Part of it is the Christianity behind the school, but it’s also about being respectful and building you up to be professional.”
“We had a discussion in class with many students saying how unfair the restrictions were. No earrings, (until recently) no pony tails, no counterculture clothes. [It’s] a Christian college, and wearing something like that can be disrespectful to others. It’s what our religion believes for proper dress for each sex. If you go against that you may think you’re being ‘yourself’, but to others, especially those going into religious studies or becoming a reverend, you’re disrespecting those beliefs.”
You might believe that individual rights trump the feelings of others, and that’s a totally valid point. But let’s not sit here in our underwear with chip crumbs on our shirts (just me? OK then) and pretend like that’s how the real world works. In the real world, you compromise and conform to some degree. When you think of it like that, Mike’s university did an OK job preparing them for the real world, and isn’t that what we want from universities?
“Off campus you’re going to see guys who had pierced ears put on their earrings, swear and act like normal college kids. But on-campus it’s like being in a church.”
“[As] much as some people may not agree with anything, you have to be respectful there. You wouldn’t barge into a church and tear down the cross or go into a mosque and have a woman not cover her head. I know I keep saying this, but it’s respect.”
The On-Campus Speeches Are Surprisingly Fair
The biggest question about free speech nowadays is whether universities should allow far-right and/or conservative speakers on campus when most of the student body doesn’t wish them there. Well, liberal universities anyway. At Mike’s school, they probably issued people like that Frequent Speaker Miles or something. That was a joke, but this isn’t: the speeches were actually mandatory.
“You have to go to convocations. They are speakers who come [three] times a week. Many are small-time people not many have heard of, and other times it’s a big-name preacher or Donald Trump. I got out of two when I was there, and I only got permission after I showed them my doctor’s note. Otherwise you had to check-in there. They were serious about it. I had the nicest RA in the world, but the University was so hardline about these that you got points for missing one.”
Even worse, students have been fined for missing them: when Ted Cruz gave a speech there, students who missed it were fined $10, along with points. But here’s the thing – the university also didn’t ban left-wing speech. They in fact had some pretty heavyweight lefties visiting their campus in the past.
“Nowadays they’re more diverse and the school is incredibly respectful. Bernie Sanders went [there] recently.”
“Before he went, news outlets were waiting to pounce on Bernie. One of my former classmates was approached by a network and asked him if he ‘was upset at all that Bernie was coming.’ When he told him no and started to tell him why, the reporter turned away and asked another, and another. The media wanted to believe the students would be against him. But Bernie killed it. I drove all the way from North Carolina to see him.”
And anyone who missed Bernie talking about how he uses a balloon to style his hair (I assume) was issued the same fines as the students who sat out Ted Cruz. Plus, these days, you are apparently also allowed to miss one convocation if you don’t agree with the speaker’s beliefs.
Attitudes On Homosexuality Are Not What You Expect
Alright, bad news first: if you are openly gay, you cannot enroll in Mike’s old university. Semi-good news: recently, they started hiring openly gay employees, so things are definitely starting to change for the better. As things are, there is a weird… well, not acceptance but more of a quiet tolerance of homosexuality on the campus.
“A lot of people on campus believe homosexuality is immoral. More than once I heard a student say ‘fag’ right in front of an RA and nothing happened … [But] I think it’s where Christian compassion and belief meet. We want to love one another, but it conflicts with passages in the bible. We had a few good discussions in class about it. Our professor played devil’s advocate and argued that homosexuality was fine. A few students got upset, but most of us saw what he was trying to do: If you are going to believe an entire group of people are evil, you better back yourself up and think it through.”
“Every professor I had was the more compassionate type. They didn’t think [homosexuality] was moral, but on a human level, still loved them because they were a fellow human.”
Jesus’ main lesson WAS to love everyone, and if there’s anyone who should really take that to heart, it’s people who are deeply Christian. Of course, we all know that it doesn’t always work like that in the real world, but it did sort of work at Mike’s school. Most of the time. It’s not a perfect world, but a begrudging tolerance is probably the most “liberal” that some evangelicals will get, and if it means that they’re not actively hurting LGBT people, maybe we should be happy about it for now and try to build from that.
“From what I hear from pastors in general, homosexuality is ‘falling by the wayside’ on your road to God. While it’s insulting to people who are accepting or are homosexuals, for many evangelicals, it can seem liberal to say … It’s easy to point at [my university] and say everyone here is rabidly anti-homosexual. But it’s a college filled with people who are taught to, at the very least, love everyone. If anything, it’s a step in the right direction.”