The Paige of Enlightenment (or not)

Right off the bat, I apologize for my puns (Age of Enlightenment…Paige of Enlightenment). But as we go on this journey together into the past of Dr. Paige Patterson–a former trustee at Cedarville University among many other titles–you will see that this man was practically the Anakin Skywalker of the Southern Baptist Convention. He was supposed to be the chosen one who led the convention to a conservative resurgance–a theological enlightenment. To an extent, he achieved his goal. But in the end, his image went down in flames and he is but a shell of the conservative visionary he was touted as in the 20th century.

Dr. Paige Patterson about to preach his first sermon at age 16, probably.

If you grew up in any evangelical church—especially a church that was a member of the Southern Baptist convention—you may have heard of Dr. Paige Patterson. Patterson served as the President of both Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), two of the most prestigious Southern Baptist theological seminaries, alongside Gateway Seminary, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“Paiging all Baptists, Paiging all Baptists, we need a Conservative Resurgence…stat!”

Patterson began preaching from a young age (even as a teenager), but his first real position of leadership was in 1975 as President of the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies, from which he was fired in 1992 after “he had spent too much time on denominational politics and not enough on insuring the school’s financial well-being.” In other words, he focused less on his job as a financial leader of the school and more on the networking and political side of his job (as well as frequent Scriptural debates). While he was in that position, he made an important connection: W.A. Criswell. Criswell went on to serve as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention for two years, which became an important asset to Paige Patterson’s rise to leadership in the church. After being dismissed from Criswell College, Patterson was appointed as the President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1992-2003. While in this position, he was elected as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention for two years in 1998 and 1999.

Dr. Paige Patterson (left) Debating the Doctrine of Atonement in 1987 (Courtesy, Christian Index: https://christianindex.org/stemming-tide-of-theological-liberalism/)

Paige Patterson is so well-known largely because of his role in the conservative resurgence that transformed the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) into a staunchly (and, I would argue, paranoia-ridden) conservative coalition. When Adrian Rogers was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1979, Paige Patterson and Judge Paul Pressler (remember that name because we will come back to him later) saw their chance to “expose” liberal theology and ideology they saw as a disease within the Southern Baptist Convention. They practically coined the phrase “liberal theology,” which even now serves as a buzzword that triggers paranoia akin to the degree the phrase “Russian spies” may have in the 1980s.

In fact, nowadays the phrases conservative or liberal theology do not refer to your adherence to certain non-essential doctrines, but rather whether or not you are theologically right-minded or even a Christian at all. Patterson rallied thousands upon thousands of supporters to fight against the “left-leaning” ideas of the SBC under the banner of defending the inerrancy of scripture (which was, of course, a worthy agenda). Since this overwrite of the convention, Southern Baptist churches, colleges, seminaries, and institutions of any kind have held tightly to conservative ideology.

Things Start to go South…Literally

Dr. Patterson followed his time at SEBTS with fifteen years as President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) from 2003-2018. While at Southwestern, he met Dr. Thomas White, who was completing his degree but later served as his second-in-command as a Vice President. While they served as President and Vice President, Dr. Anthony Moore served as the Dean of Student Life. What a dynamic trio. Nothing bad could possibly come of three bros serving Jesus at a prestigious Southern Baptist Seminary!

In 2012, Paige Patterson sent a letter to former Southern Baptist Convention president Jimmy Draper saying he was worried about the election of the SBC’s first black president because “among many of the ethnic groups there are not so many of them who understand the issues involved and the seriousness of them.” In other words, black people just don’t get the issues Southern Baptists are dealing with, Jimmy. This is incredibly disturbing coming from someone who surrounded himself with seemingly likeminded individuals and pioneered the modern-day theology of an entire denomination. In a response, Draper said Patterson meant no harm in his objective discussion of “the ethnics.” Yeah. The ethnics. That’s definitely an okay thing to say.

(I hate to cut in on this history lesson, but “the ethnics” is just so beyond confusing to me. That’s like saying “the races” or “the cultures don’t understand.” It is so strange that this terminology was used to describe black people specifically)

More recently, Dr. Russell Moore—the former leader of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) who recently resigned after being accused of being “too liberal”—cited Patterson as saying, “I was really just concerned about that black girl, whether she’s egalitarian” in reference to former ERLC staff member Trillia Newbell. I’ll just let you make of that what you want.

Paige Patterson began serving on the Cedarville University Board of Trustees during the Purge (aka the firing of “liberals” and hiring of “conservatives” including Dr. White), beginning his time right before the White administration. He served from 2013 until 2018 and oversaw the hiring of his two homies from SWBTS, Dr. White and much later Dr. Moore. The Justice Collective commented the following on our post about censorship:

“Fundamentalists have always confused uniformity with unity, and CU is a perfect example of that problem at the root. Paige Patterson’s brand of SBC fundamentalism took over the Board of Trustees, hired White, and the crackdown began–all because they believed CU was ‘going liberal,’ which was absurd, considering its doctrinal statement never changed.”

A Paige in History We would Rather Forget

2018 was just a horrendous year for Paige Patterson and ultimately signaled the downfall of his conservative empire (but not the ideology behind it). Over the course of the year, multiple scandals broke out which left him as more of a disgraced former Southern Baptist figure than a key voice in the Biblical community.

In 2018, several comments Dr. Patterson made regarding women at SWBTS resurfaced. One disturbing example is when he told campus security that he wanted to meet with a student alone in order to “break down” the victim of rape. He told her had obtained nude photos of her that proved she and her abuser were in fact in a consensual relationship (uhh, ew) and that even if there was a problem, he was too busy to deal with it. He did, however, take the time to call her in to a room full of men for her to recount graphic details of her rape (men who, reportedly, included our own president, Dr. White). Plus, if you think about it, he said, it was a good thing that she was raped because only the right man would accept her after that had happened. Unbelievable. It’s like he pulled out the book on how not to handle sexual assault allegations and memorized it.

When the woman’s mother questioned the school’s admission of the abuser who had an apparently violent criminal past, Patterson lunged at her and told her he would unleash his lawyers on her if she questioned his leadership (nice guy). After the victim left the school, Patterson’s wife (who, disturbingly, has published six books on women’s roles in the church) told the girl she had made the right choice and needed to stop putting the blame on someone else for what had happened to her.

Paige Patterson and his wife, Dorothy at the time of his election to President of the SBC, 1998

Ah, but this was not the last of Paige Patterson’s woes in 2018. After this allegation of misconduct became public knowledge, people (especially the board at Southwestern) began to wonder why Patterson had left SEBTS in 2003. Turns out, a 2003 sexual assault allegation had occurred and been mishandled at his previous job. He had refused to report the victim’s rape, told her not to report it either, and told her she just needed to forgive her attacker. Don’t worry though. Patterson did not try talk his way out of that situation when he moved to SWBTS—oh no, Patterson just directly lied to the board after he was asked about assault allegations at his previous position by saying no such incidents occurred.

This led me to wonder why? Why would he cover up such abuse? Because as it turns out, one of the abusers was none other than his cohort in the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention, Judge Paul Pressler (told you we’d come back to him later). Patterson had abused his position to cover up the sexual misconduct of his friend, lied about it to the Southwestern Seminary hiring board, and returned to that dishonest and abusive behavior. I can’t believe someone would use their position to cover up sexual misconduct, mislead a trustee board and student body, and not be held accountable.

Former Judge Paul Pressler

These were not isolated instances either. Several other women had similar or even identical experiences. One woman was told that when her husband was abusive, she should kneel down and pray as he fell asleep even though that would probably cause him to hit her more (and it did) rather than leave the abusive relationship. After he beat her senseless, Patterson described this behavior as Biblical female submissiveness to her husband and used it as a sermon illustration after the husband started to come to church. I am not saying that it’s bad he started coming to church, but counseling a woman to be a scapegoat to get her abusive husband to come to church is not good Biblical counsel…good Biblical counsel would have been to leave the abusive situation immediately but continue to pray for him from a safe distance. But this was his standard advice for the lesser gender, and he has said on several occasions that he would never condone divorce since it is always wrong advice, even in most situations of abuse.

With the emergence of this information, he was very rightly stripped of all benefits, rights, and privileges including his position as President Emeritus at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Between the time of Patterson’s reemerging scandal and his resignation from the Cedarville board of trustees on May 31 of 2018, a petition had been signed by 1,300 people demanding he step down. Patterson did not attend the June Southern Baptist convention, but a resolution was proposed by his loyalists to reinstate him and fire everyone involved in his removal. According to the Washington Post, this resolution was “soundly defeated.”

In response to Patterson’s emerging scandal, Cedarville University President Thomas White wrote to reassure students, parents, faculty, staff, and outsiders that “some time ago [in 2014] in consultation with outside experts we developed and implemented policies that thoroughly investigate any reports of abuse. These processes operate across multiple divisions outside of the President’s Office increasing transparency and decentralizing authority.” He continued, “I can tell you that at Cedarville University we want a culture that supports and values women. We want a culture that defends and protects any victim.” Yeesh, not so much.

Dr. White also wrote, “These issues have been brought close to home with the recent reports involving Dr. Paige Patterson. I am burdened as I have friends on all sides. He is not perfect. None of us are, but I would have handled several situations differently from him. I appreciate the opportunities he gave me years ago and will always love him.” As a Paige Patterson protégé, statements like these come as no surprise.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Turning the Paige (or not)

If you’re Paige Patterson, you’re sooo glad 2018 is over. Whew. All those scandals in the past. Time to settle down and retire. 2019 is a nice year of relaxation and groveling for your remaining supporters to keep funding your lifestyle. But then 2020 hits. The year of COVID-19 and, if you’re Dr. Patterson, even more scandal.

In 2020, Baylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) filed a lawsuit against a charity organization with close ties to Paige Patterson when—after his removal—the organization diverted funds they donated to the school in order to pay themselves a salary instead. The founder of the foundation (Harold Riley) died in 2017 after creating the organization to fund Baylor and SWBTS years before. He stipulated that the schools may appoint the majority of the board, but the board created red tape to prevent the schools from having a say and sold off a large portion of the funds the schools were entitled too. Patterson’s supporters diverted the funds of the late founder after Patterson’s dismissal as president.

Just a few days ago, Southwestern published a report accusing Patterson of theft and improper donor solicitation. According to the report, “The Pattersons have continued to use institutional records for their own personal benefit and to the detriment of the Seminary. The Pattersons’s actions have caused substantial financial harm to the Seminary.” (https://wordandway.org/2021/05/28/southwestern-accuses-pattersons-of-theft-improper-donor-solicitation/) Patterson apparently stole (among many other things) boxes of confidential student and donor information and used it to contact donors in order to convince them to stop funding the University in favor of his own personal “charity”. The school’s lawyers have repeatedly contacted the Pattersons to request their property be returned, but to no avail. Patterson apparently talked SWBTS donors into diverting their funds to his personal nonprofit, and with their diverted donation funds, the Pattersons are living comfortably in a $1 million home made possible by generous donations to the cause of Christ. As Cedarville students, we know the difference that a $1 million donation can make to a school. But hey, Papa Patterson needs his walk-in shower.

Paige Patterson continues to play a role in a lingering number of churches, including Victory Baptist Church where he received a “Defender of the Faith Award” and as a keynote speaker at Fellowship church’s “Great Commission Weekend,” which sparked a flurry of controversy from within and outside of the church, including a statement of warning from the Southern Baptist Convention president. However, it would seem that his reign has finally ended. But his legacy continues to live on, even at Cedarville University.

A Paige of Cedarville History

Patterson had an effect on every organization he came in contact with, to include our own Cedarville University. Most directly, Dr. White was involved in the cover-up that got Patterson fired from SEBTS while White served as director of student life. According to the victim in an article published by Julie Roys, he was present during a meeting where Patterson urged her to share graphic details of the rape and—according to White’s secretary—the victim had another meeting with White during that time. She was placed on probation after her report (uhh, why?!) and required to meet with Joy White, who questioned the truth behind her allegations.

Paige Patterson joined the board during the Cedarville purge soon before Dr. Thomas White, his protégée from SEBTS, was hired. Four years later, Dr. Anthony Moore–another of Patterson’s protégées–would be hired under a restoration plan. And we all know how that went.

I won’t go into too much detail, but I will make a few key points on this subject.

  1. Patterson, White, and Moore represent a cycle of abuse that has become increasingly evident in the Christian community. Patterson covered up for Paul Pressler, White covered up for Patterson, and White covered up for Moore. This is evident in the way each of these situations have been handled. Dr. White hired a known sexual predator after knowing all of the information about his abuse (he claimed to only know some, but the Village Church said White knew the full extent of the abuse). Not only that, but Dr. White put him in vulnerable positions with male students.

(Courtesy of Thou Art the Man: https://thouarttheman.org/2020/04/27/oh-what-a-tangled-web-we-weave/)

2. Cedarville University’s handling of sexual misconduct is far too reliant on who knows who. Dr. Moore was hired because he was a friend of Dr. White and Dr. Patterson’s. Surely, the great guy they knew back at Southwestern wasn’t capable of anything that bad so they put him into a “restoration plan.” This “restoration plan” is absolutely ridiculous considering Cedarville’s willingness to expel students and faculty over questionable doctrinal insistencies such as alcohol, literature containing explicit materials, modesty, a literal six-day creation, same-sex attraction, and a menagerie of other unredeemable sins. Below is the story of a former Cedarville staff member who was offered no such “redemption plan” courtesy of Thou Art the Man.

(https://thouarttheman.org/2020/04/27/oh-what-a-tangled-web-we-weave/)

3. It’s time to stop protecting abusive behavior and calling it benevolence. Cedarville is starved for consistency in their handling of Biblical issues. We’ll fire student Avery Redic from his successful position in SGA for same-sex attraction but hire Dr. Moore who was a same-sex attracted voyeur to work with the basketball team and teach theology classes within months. This culture of preference set forth by the leadership of Cedarville University extends beyond its own abuse. It is contagious. Like good little Baptists, RAs hand out Personal Cautions (PCs) like candy to those leggings-wearing harlots at Chick-fil-A but turn a blind eye to the make-out sessions of their friends in dorm lounges. I do not doubt that many of our trustees may be great guys or that Dr. White may be a great guy but being a great guy with charisma does not qualify you for a position in ministry or leadership. It merely gets you there.

4. The phrase “liberal theology” is still a paranoia-ridden buzzword at Cedarville used to shame students who have less restrictive ideas about their faith. “Oh, you’re okay with being in a car with your significant other on the way back from a break? Have fun rotting in hell with the rest of the lukewarm Christians, Benjamin and Sarah.” (Sorry if I called you out) It’s time to realize that we are united by our common faith in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice. All those extra legalistic rules and regulations are unnecessary and sinful additions to the gospel. No one is perfect, which is why we need to find strength in unity with our fellow believers. So next time you call someone liberal or a “right-wing,” first find common ground in the gospel and discuss your differences with that as the foundation.

Where to Go from Here

When we survey the life of a figure such as Paige Patterson who has brought so much change alongside so much pain and abuse, it is reasonable to leave feeling cheated. If you fall in line with conservative theology, you mourn the discrediting of figures like Patterson. If you are a Christian at all, your heart aches when you see public figures of Christianity fall because it reflects poorly on believers as a whole.

Remember that there will be many people like Dr. Patterson whose legacies damage the gospel’s spread. But we know that God has preserved this good news throughout all of history by using people like you and I to draw the lost closer to him. By loving our neighbors and by holding our leaders accountable, we can create an environment of comfort and freedom for those who are weary from their sin. We have the opportunity to be different and to be nonconformists against the abuse that has pervaded organized religion for far too long. It begins here, on our campus by showing love to those who disagree with us and by confronting ideas that may offend us or make us uncomfortable. When we do that, we will not only grow in an academic sense, but will ebb closer to Christlikeness in our words, actions, and attitudes.

The Blame Game that Started with Eve pt. 3: Silence and Shame

This concludes our three part womanhood series. The Editorial Staff would like to extend its heartfelt gratitude to the anonymous female author of this series. These articles have been enlightening, edifying, and inspiring and we could not be more pleased with these submissions. For our readers, we hope you have enjoyed this series and we thank you for your support and for your dialogue.

-Editor, The Cedarville Interpreter

Title IX is a federal law that requires and regulates the investigation and punishment of sexual discrimination in the educational environment. Discrimination is defined to include “standard discrimination,” inequality, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.

In 2013, shortly after Dr. White took over and during the continuing “Purge” that hailed the incoming administration, a federal investigation was launched to look at Cedarville’s Title IX policies. This was due to numerous complaints about their system and was extremely important because it can threaten their accreditation. Cedarville was forced to establish a Title IX office to address complaints and policies at Cedarville. However, the Title IX office is still a slave to the administration. Cedarville remains “exempt” from Title IX complaints as a private institution and can hide any Title IX complaint under the guise of religious exemption.

The Stories

The purge continued after this investigation, wherein faculty were fired over any doctrinal differences with the new White administration and the opinions of the Board. Dissent was crushed, many female professors were shamed, and dozens of new taboos emerged such as sexuality, inclusivity, and openness to change. Along with the faculty, one of our predecessors in spirit, The Ventriloquist, went out the door as they dissented against some Cedarville policies and doctrines. Cedarville continued its policy of glossing over issues and making free discussion impossible.

More recently, Paige Patterson was (finally) removed from the board after several comments sexualizing women and even telling them to stay in abusive relationships. Two board members left after Dr. White was reinstated as president after knowingly hiring a sexual predator. There are countless stories of sexual assaults covered up and even the dean of the highly regarded School of Pharmacy was dismissed very quietly over sexual assault allegations over the summer. As part of that process, Cedarville refused the formal hearing the victim was entitled to. They avoided any confrontation of the issue and even brushed off her decision to leave the University. Thankfully, Dr. Bates has stepped up to the role and will undoubtedly lead the School of Pharmacy in the right direction.

Many may think that Dr. White’s debacle with the hiring and firing of Dr. Anthony Moore was a one-off mistake—something that can even be forgiven and learned from. But the Moore scandal was not Dr. White’s first run-in with Title IX—in fact, way back in 2003, he participated in the cover-up of Megan Lively’s rape alongside former board member Paige Patterson. His wife, Joy, counseled Megan as part of a “disciplinary plan.” Why a victim of rape was being “disciplined” is beyond me. Regardless, the handling of this situation was inappropriate and disturbing. Patterson stepped down over similar allegations, but White received minimal consequences when this news emerged.

The Dr. Moore “incident” was not President Dr. White’s first run-in with Title IX.

In the Fall semester of 2018, a student named Kiara had sexual rumors spread about her behind her back and was completely dismissed by the administration. Title IX simply was not a priority: for Kiara, that meant she was not a priority. Another former Cedarville student and employee experienced sexual harassment during their time at Cedarville. Kat said, “As a former employee of Cedarville, I do not believe that the actions of those in leadership in this case represented the values and character of the faculty and staff that I had the opportunity to work with. I believe that Cedarville has a strong foundation built from individuals who desire to show students and the world how to live “For the Word of God, and the Testimony of Jesus Christ”. Unfortunately, this was not reflected in the tough decisions that needed to be made by those in leadership.”

Former Cedarville professor Melissa Faulkner was publicly shamed for teaching about a book that included a description of a sexual assault. The board refused to have a discussion about its value and simply shut it down. Unfortunately, Cedarville takes that approach to the vast majority of Title IX issues.

Last year, a female student at Cedarville filed a complaint with the Title IX office after her application was refused to run for chaplain. Their reason was that she was a woman, and women cannot apply for that position. She would not be allowed to campaign and her name could not be voted on. She began a petition (please check that out, since it speaks better to her beliefs and motivations) for women to be allowed to speak in chapel. She posted her petition to classifieds hoping to gain some traction. Her post was repeatedly removed by the Cedarville administration and one day she tried to re-post it, but she had been banned from Cedarville Classifieds. After going up the chain to find out why she was banned, she was told that ideas that are different from Cedarville’s are always welcome and students do not have to agree with the University doctrinal statement. But later in her statement, she wrote that any disagreement with a Cedarville policy or doctrine cannot be communicated across any Cedarville medium. Cedarville does not value differing opinions—Cedarville medium or not (as we know from the fate of The Ventriloquist‘s forceful censorship). Nearly a year later, the student’s Classified privileges have not been restored. After several months of back-and-forth with the Title IX office, she was informed that—as in all matters regarding Title IX violations—Cedarville was religiously exempt as a private Christian university.

Earlier in this semester, Cedarville launched a brand new Title IX campaign aimed at letting students “Speak Up” about Title IX allegations. In fact, they even dedicated a chapel to it. However, since then very little change has occurred. The reality is that a chapel and some signs will not fix this deeply systemic issue; so, you may ask, what will?

Cedarville is on the right track with increasing awareness, and chapels such as the one with the new Title IX coordinator are good steps, but more needs to be done.

  1. Leave it to the professionals. Get Dr. Wood off the stage. He has done so much to cover up allegations of sexual assault and does not deserve a place on stage with a qualified woman who really seems to know her stuff.
  2. Stay out of it. The Cedarville administration needs to have no affiliation with the Title IX office except to offer it resources and raise awareness. Title IX staff should not be the spouses of faculty or staff and should be fully independent of the University in order to provide due process to student allegations. Cedarville—and whoever heads the Title IX office—also needs to be more persistent in raising awareness and offering resources to students. Signs and a chapel are not enough.
  3. Don’t pin blame on victims. Cedarville’s HR has a lot of say when it comes to sexual assault allegations, especially if such allegations require or encourage the dismissal of a staff or faculty member. The HR staff must not pin blame on accusors, especially if a Title IX investigation has warranted the abuser’s dismissal.
  4. Own up to abuse. This is much more difficult as a step Cedarville can take because it comes down to individual integrity. Cedarville is terrified to address the claims we have made in this article. They quietly dismiss deans, silence accusers, empower abusers (I know of two victims of dating violence whose cases were refused because the Title IX office would not believe them), reinstate presidents after endangering students, and put the very people who allow abuse on the stage to preach against it. Cedarville must own up to its abuses as a Biblical organization. From a Biblical perspective, it is better to lose reputation to honesty than to lose integrity to good PR.
Be a resource to the men and women around you. You never know who could fall victim to sexual assault and being ready, willing, and able to help them can make all the difference.

 What Now?

Unfortunately, at this point, corruption is evident within the administration. Any one person who tries to go against them or talk gets a stern talking-to from Mindy May, Jon Wood, or Brad Smith alongside a threat to be removed. However, this is exactly why awareness is extremely important, especially in the way we treat others. While this series has focused on the negative, there are redeeming qualities about Cedarville. The school’s academics are highly rigorous and there are many students who value the humanity and wellbeing of others. However, these qualities do not excuse the real issues that need to be addressed. The administration ultimately does not define the campus culture, we do. So from wherever you are as a student, faculty member, staff member, or parent stay committed to shedding light on abuse and do everything in your power to create a culture of openness, vulnerability, and boundaries. Whether that means talking to your roommate and some friends, making yourself a resource for students you teach, speaking up when you see abuse, or formulating policies that will improve Cedarville’s Title IX response, stand out in courage and take the steps to right the wrongs of the past and pave the way toward a safe, Christ-centered, academically rigorous campus culture.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts, feelings, and opinions alongside the impactful stories of those who have fallen victim to Cedarville’s damaging position toward women on campus. It might not feel like it, but there are students on campus who understand the damage that purity culture has caused and are working to prevent it in our actions and words.

Sincerely,

A ‘qualified woman’

Resources for Victims of Sexual Assault, Harrassment, or any other Title IX-related issue:

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673

Ohio Sexual Violence Hotline: 844-644-6435

RAINN Resource Center (including live chat if you’d prefer not to speak on the phone): https://centers.rainn.org/

Title IX Information: https://www.knowyourix.org/college-resources/title-ix/

https://sites.ed.gov/titleix/policy/

http://changingourcampus.org/regulations-and-policy/title-ix/

Cedarville University’s Title IX Office: https://www.cedarville.edu/offices/title-ix

Our Contact Form and Social Media: Open at all times to anyone. We will do our best to find you the resources you need with full anonymity.

Picture Credit: Incredible student artist Rayna Markle

Student Voices #002

Our Student Voices series is a compilation of student stories with the intent to give voice to those who cannot speak out otherwise for fear of dismissal or judgement from their fellow students. To tell your story, send us a message through our contact form or by emailing cedarvilleinterpeter@gmail.com

This marks our second “student voices” article, where we take submissions from students that do not require a full-length article and combine them into one. Our goal for these articles is to, as always, shed light on the very real problems Cedarville students are facing every day and this allows us to do so in their own words. Today’s student voices article is particularly exciting because it includes a very real action step you can take today to make a difference at Cedarville University, some incredible insight from another student on the importance of allowing for open and honest conversation about our scars, and an all-too relatable story about the overreach of students in power at Cedarville.

It’s time for change.

The first section of this article is the text of the petition created on Change.org by Jonathan Sweetman (whose name appears publicly on the petition), a current Cedarville student who created this petition just a few days ago. We offer our wholehearted support to his campaign. Please take the time to read his words and consider his proposal for the University. This is a way for us to really make a difference.

In order to preserve free expression and the open exchange of ideas by all members of the Cedarville community, the administration ought to publicly agree to and sign the Chicago Statement on Free Speech as outlined below. Cedarville University must commit to creating policies consistent with the principles of free speech. Cedarville cannot protect Second Amendment rights by allowing professors to carry weapons while ignoring First Amendment rights by preventing students from carrying dissenting opinions. The guns that have defended our democracy are of far lesser importance than the free exchange of ideas that once invented and still preserve it.

Cedarville’s unfortunate history of censorship must come to an end and policies must be set in place in order to cultivate the pursuit of truth and academic rigor. Cedarville University has been called out by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) as a hotbed of an “invisible free speech crisis” at private Universities that see themselves as exempt from Constitutional Law. (https://www.thefire.org/is-speech-suppression-at-religious-colleges-the-invisible-free-speech-crisis/ While this is technically true, any institution dedicated to freedom, academic rigor, and truth must embrace free speech.

According to the FIRE institute, “Faculty bodies, administrations, and institutional governing boards have officially endorsed the Chicago Statement at over fifty-five institutions including Princeton University, Purdue University, American University, Columbia University, Georgetown University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, among others.” (https://www.thefire.org/get-involved/student-network/take-action/adopting-the-chicago-statement/

It is time for Cedarville to join the fight against censorship and speech regulations inconsistent with the freedom of expression–a fundamental human right that Christians are obligated to protect.

This statement allows Cedarville to exercise its religious liberty, but only insofar as it allows the proper function of the University. Differing opinions may not be silenced simply because a student or faculty member disagrees with minor doctrines. Rather, ideas that are deemed wrong are subject to debate. Ultimately, the truth comes to the forefront in its purest form when tried by the fire of public opinion. Cedarville University must recognize this by accepting and signing the Chicago Statement on Free Speech.

In its original form, the authors wrote, “As Robert M. Hutchins observed, without a vibrant commitment to free and open inquiry, a university ceases to be a university. The University of Chicago’s long-standing commitment to this principle lies at the very core of our University’s greatness. That is our inheritance, and it is our promise to the future.”

Join us in securing the inheritance of free and open inquiry for Cedarville University:

This could be us, if you sign this petition.

The Chicago Statement:

Because Cedarville University (hereafter referred to as “the University”) is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn. Except insofar as limitations on that freedom are necessary to the functioning of the University, it fully respects and supports the freedom of all members of the Cedarville University community “to discuss any problem that presents itself.”

Of course, the ideas of different members of the Cedarville University community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although Cedarville University greatly values civility, and although all members of its community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.

The freedom to debate and discuss the merits of competing ideas does not, of course, mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish. Cedarville University may restrict expression that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the University. In addition, Cedarville University may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of Cedarville University. But these are narrow exceptions to the general principle of freedom of expression, and it is vitally important that these exceptions never be used in a manner that is inconsistent with Cedarville University’s commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas.

In a word, Cedarville University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the community, not for Cedarville University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the Cedarville University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of its educational mission.

As a corollary to Cedarville University’s commitment to protect and promote free expression, members of the University’s community must also act in conformity with the principle of free expression. Although members of the Cedarville University community are free to criticize and contest the views expressed on campus, and to criticize and contest speakers who are invited to express their views on campus, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. To this end, Cedarville University has a solemn responsibility not only to promote lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.

Sign the petition at: https://www.change.org/p/dr-thomas-white-and-the-board-of-trustees-cedarville-university-adopt-the-chicago-statement-on-free-speechhttps://www.change.org/p/dr-thomas-white-and-the-board-of-trustees-cedarville-university-adopt-the-chicago-statement-on-free-speech

Dismissed for our Scars.

This next piece written by an anonymous Cedarville student about an experience that many of us share: the fear of showing our scars for fear of judgement. It perfectly describes a disturbing culture of self-censorship, especially in the area of mental health. TW//self harm

At Cedarville, people are dismissed for their current or past scars in life. Instead of loving them, they turn them away or “hide” the truth. Scars make us who we are today and no scar is too small. People should be allowed to embrace their scars and grow from them, but Cedarville just tears them down making them think that they can’t speak up and they are left to fend for themselves. I know so many people who are afraid to talk to their friends about a mistake they made or a trauma they went through because of the judgement they will receive. Being a Christian is more than just reading your Bible and going to chapel everyday and praying 24/7.

Though we may be scarred, our Savior has scars of His own, and they are the scars that define us as loved and free from judgement.

Being a Christian is loving your neighbor and to walk with people through their struggles and love them through that. We are not called to judge someone because they made the mistake because as we all know, no one is perfect and God knows that. God knows that we are not perfect and yet He chooses to love us anyway, so why can’t we? Why are we so quick to judge people and tell them they aren’t a Christian because they put themselves in a situation where something bad can happen. We all learn from our mistakes and it is about time Cedarville understands mental health should not be dismissed, but instead be accepted with open arms. The students shouldn’t be afraid to speak up and talk to someone, they should feel comfortable walking into the counseling department without fear of dismissal.

Abuse of Power

We have written previously via our social media channels about the excessive degree of power Cedarville has given its RAs. We performed polls and asked questions and unfortunately the vast majority of students have negative experiences with their RAs abusing the authority they have been give. This is one such story from an anonymous author.

One time freshman year, I was in my dorm attempting to get water with my Brita filter. In Willetts you have to go to the kitchen to do this because the sinks in the bathroom are not deep enough for Brita filters. Anyways, it was about 8 o’clock at night when I ventured to the dorm kitchen. I was met with 3 lovely couples who were shamelessly showing PDA; and I mean *showing* PDA. I ignore these common nuisances, and go about filling up my water filter. Just then an RA comes in and I think, “Wow, finally someone will tell these people to, I don’t know get a room, (just kidding) but you know, break-it-up, you’re in public. To my surprise, the RA walks up to *me*, who just so happens to be wearing a tank top (because I live 3 feet away from the kitchen and it’s my dorm) and tells me that I am making her and everyone else uncomfortable with my inappropriate attire, and will need to return to my dormroom to put on a sweater and then come back for my filter. I was shocked, embarrassed, and confused.

Have fun getting a massive PC for getting water in that tank top, Bethany. And showing ankle too. Ugh.


This was only my third or fourth week at Cedarville and I was completely appalled by her complete disregard of the couples were being inappropriate in the dorm.
If you live in Willetts you know that couples who do not live there will come to the dorm to “chill”, because it’s co-Ed.


I was completely embarrassed and infuriated at the fact that she completely ignored the people who were actually making the residents of the dorm uncomfortable, and instead choose to talk to me, the tank-top wearer, (which by-the-way, dress code within the dorm is not discussed at length anywhere). After this incident, I had two other run-ins with this same RA, in both incidences she was extremely rude and demeaning to me over small, accidental dress code mishaps.

RA’s should not hold this type power over other students, especially when they have blatant bias towards their friends and certain rules.

Caution or Cowardice: Addressing the Critics

“When the liberty of the Press shall be restrained. . . the liberties of the People will be at an end.”

Merriweather Smith

Transparency. Authenticity. Reliability.

These three words have been used over and over to address problems with The Interpreter. After all, we exist as an anonymous website. However, we are students who want to see change in the policies and culture at Cedarville University. We do not want the school to be torn down, its programs to be destroyed, or its faculty or staff to be shamed. We want to see change for the better.

The purpose of this article is to defend our credibility against the plethora of criticism we have received. To do that, we will look at our mission, our motives for publication, and finally look at our reliability from historical and pragmatic perspectives.

Our Mission

No one can deny that Cedarville has problems. Legalism is deeply pervasive among the student body and the administration. Third-tier Christianity (i.e. so-called doctrines of personal preference) has become too much of the focus of the administration. There is a noticeable sense of moral superiority. The school has permitted abuse and mistreatment, discrimination and disrespect, censorship and ignorance to very real issues. Its dress code is too strict, its punishments too severe, and its code of conduct too vague. Such vagueness perpetuates abuse: rules that do not clearly define free speech, for example, can be interpreted by the University in favor of censorship.

With all of that said, Cedarville does have its bright spots. A recent Title IX campaign attempted to highlight real issues at Cedarville. There are generally bad college professors wherever you go, but on the whole, Cedarville’s faculty are incredibly smart, talented, and encouraging individuals. There are many students who are genuine, loving, and respectful. At best, our hope is to spark real and legitimate change at Cedarville: we have proposed amending alcohol rules and the dress code, eliminating the practice of censorship, avoiding Groupthink in decision-making, improving mental health resources, and end overt discrimination against LGBTQ+ students that is not excused by out-of-context Bible verses or religious exemption (as well as more articles to come). At worst, we hope to offer differing opinions on key issues among students to spark discussion and bring openness and change to the student culture at Cedarville.

Free speech and open conversation are the ultimate catalysts for change.

Our Motives

All of this to say, our motives in creating The Interpreter are pure. We hope to see change in a university with thriving academic programs (Cedarville’s pharmacy program ranks as one of the best in the nation and its computer science program recently received national recognition, among many other excellent academic programs). However, we will not tolerate abuse or the elimination of dissent. Our mission is to be a voice of the student body and to shed light on the hidden problems at the University. We do not claim to have perfectly correct opinions, but these are our opinions. As we have mentioned repeatedly, however, our firmness of belief does not mean we are not open to conversation, disagreement, or even ‘hateful’ responses. All of these are conducive to free speech and open conversation. Free speech and open conversation are the ultimate catalysts for change.

We do not make money off of The Cedarville Interpreter. We write because we are passionate about these issues and want to see change for the better. We are inspired by those who reach out to express their appreciation for our articles and motivated by those who reach out to express their disagreement.

A transparent orb. Not featuring Cedar Lake, you’re welcome.

Our Transparency

Perhaps the most common critique of the Cedarville Interpreter is in reference to our anonymity. Many have said that our anonymity is unethical. Some have said that opinions are more respected with a name attached, the information can be perceived as unreliable, and one follower said we cannot be trusted because the truth has already been filtered through our eyes. People often ask, “If you really believe what you’re saying, then why don’t you reveal who you are?”

Pastor David Epps, a proponent of such arguments, asked, “Who wants to read the writings of someone who refuses to own up to their opinions and will not engage in some dialogue?” The key here is that the problem lies in anonymous sources not opening themselves up to criticism, refusing to own up to what they believe, and preventing dialogue from ocurring.

In the Weekly Vista, Houston Enzymes CEO Devin Houston wrote an opinion piece arguing that writing in anonmity is a cowardly act: “The cowards in the dark have always been with us. The hidden voice in a crowd and unknown phone calls were predecessors to the anonymous online commenters and bullies of social media. Regardless of the venue, the motive is to make their target afraid of speaking out again. Because the coward cannot form an appropriate answer to an argument, he resorts to using fear as a means of control. The coward’s biggest fear is being exposed for what he is: ignorant and small of mind and character.

He continues, “The skin of a writer must be thick. There will always be those with differing opinions. Most writers welcome respectful arguments and actually look forward to a civil debate. This is why they put their names and addresses in their bylines. I have had my share of those who do not side with my views. I am always willing to reply to their arguments personally or at least acknowledge their disagreement. Some go so far as to express their differences publicly in a letter to the editor of the newspaper rather than in a private email or letter. I actually find this exhilarating, because a public discourse on any subject promotes understanding and makes newspapers more relevant.

Is it cowardly to write without attribution? Yes, unless the system you live under or that holds control is hostile toward what you have to say.

I present these arguments exactly as they were presented to us. They are valid by nature of their existence because clearly these are legitimate concerns for several in our followership. However, I would argue that these positions do not take into account the whole picture. In short, as one of our followers said, “A system where honest opinions have to be hidden behind anonymity is flawed.” We would undoubtedly prefer not to be anonymous, but Cedarville deems our opinions and our stories too dangerous for their liking and would gladly silence our voice by any means possible. If you don’t believe me, check out our article on censorship. But to go more in depth, I’d like to take a look at two aspects of anonymity: First Ammendment rights and our personal case for anonymity.

The First Ammendment: The Federalist Papers are widely considered to be some of the most important documents in American History, in particular in regards to free speech. They argued in favor of the ratification of the Constitution in its current form. The Antifederalist papers, similarly, are key documents that favored state’s rights but opposed the ratification of the Constitution in its current form. All of those authors wrote under pseudonyms in order to prevent bias on the part of the reader so that they would not read their opinions in light of their identities or positions. Furthermore, considering the divisiveness of those topics, the authors wrote anonymously to protect themselves from threats and from censorship. Back then, the media consisted of random dudes who owned printing presses and published what people brought to them. They got to decide what was published and what was not (which relates to the idea of “filtering truth” previously mentioned), similarly to how The Interpreter accepts anonymous submissions from students for publication. Not comparing ourselves to the significance of these publications by any stretch, but the principles are the same: we write anonymously about policies and behaviors in order to prevent the perception that our authors are “just students” or “a faculty member we must agree with.”

According to the Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, “After reviewing the weight of the historical evidence, it seems that the Framers understood the First Amendment to protect an author’s right to express his thoughts on political candidates or issues in an anonymous fashion.” It would appear to me that this principle applies not only to the political establishment, but to any social establishment that someone lives under (i.e. a University).

“Many professors, especially in the Bible department [not pictured here, since this professor is not a qualified male], must teach disputable doctrines they do not agree with as if they are fact in order to keep their jobs.”

The Personal Case for Anonymity: We have been asked dozens of times, “If you have problems with Cedarville, why don’t you just leave?” Yet we would not ask the Antifederalists why they didn’t just leave the country if they had a problem with it and their ideas did not need to have a name attached to them to be a valid opinion. Again, not comparing ourselves to the significance of these publications, but the principles are the same. An environment where dissent is not tolerated is a deeply fractured one and one which will see stagnated innovation and growth. Cedarville is uniquely positioned to be a school where Christian students can learn important skills from a viewpoint that aligns with their own, but to enforce your non-Biblical standards on students is completely unacceptable. Many professors, especially in the Bible department, must teach disputable doctrines they do not agree with as if they are fact in order to keep their jobs. I know this because my professors as well as several others I have been told have made statements that they are teaching a certain doctrine as a Cedarville requirement, not because they agree with it. These professors’ livelihoods depend on Cedarville and–in a less direct way–so do ours. Going public with our identities alongside our dissenting viewpoints would risk our educational and career pursuits. If we eliminate our anonymity, we are opening ourselves up to discipline or even dismissal for our supposedly “anti-Cedarville” views.

But beyond that, publicizing our identities could threaten the viability of the Cedarville Interpeter and end in its censorship. This publication is the second of its kind at Cedarville. The first ultimately fizzled after substantial pressure and censorship from the University. The staff of that paper did not give up their principles, but are only able to make their arguments and express their opinions in less student-directed mediums. Because of this, in reference to our approach, I have to agree with an old Ugandan proverb which says, “Caution is not cowardice; even the ants march armed.”

Many Chinese Christians engage in “truth without attribution” to remain in China but still spread the truth of the gospel.

According to Stanford, many Chinese Christians “want to tell the truth, but they want to stay [in China] too. So it’s truth without attribution. Take it or leave it. They didn’t make the rules. Persian Gulf women are forced to write under pseudonyms because they are “trapped by tradition and afraid of the social consequences. Many women writers in Persian Gulf Arab states are using pen names to air their views to the general public.”

Similarly, we want to stay at Cedarville to achieve our goals and to hopefully make an impact on the student body and the campus community. The only way for us to continue to make an impact on campus on our own personal levels and also publish The Interpreter is through “truth without attribution.” We ask only that you examine the soundness of our arguments and their legitimacy before dismissing our work because it is anonymous. Anonymity in and of itself does not decrease reliability: otherwise, we wouldn’t have half the Bible and authors such as Shakespeare, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Mark Twain, George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), Mary Shelley, and a host of others would have had their work dismissed as inaccurate, unworthy of respect, and “filtered truth.” The problem with anonymity comes when it is used as a form of cowardice to avoid the need to construct valid arguments.

Accuracy is in the Eye of the Beholder
~Probably Ghandi

Our Accuracy

Admittedly, when it comes to accuracy and reliability, it is ultimately in the eye of the beholder. We can tell you we are accurate until our faces turn blue, but establishing ethos when discussing matters of opinion is not as easy because there are some arguments that are simply not fact-based. However, we do our best to provide as much outside research as possible as well as considering different opinions in order to demonstrate our commitment to impartiality and accuracy.

Pastor Epps, quoted earlier, said no one wants to read a source who refuses to own up to what they believe and refuse to engage in dialogue. We will gladly own up to everything we believe and certainly do so in our personal lives, but doing so through this medium would be inappropriate since it would assume everyone involved with this publication has the same viewpoint and also could endanger each of them over an opinion that is not their own. Furthermore, through our social media we engage in dialogue on a consistent basis. Epps’ concerns about anonymous reporting are concerns for us as well, and something we have and will continue to strive to guard against.

In response to Houston’s claims, I fundamentally disagree with one of his statements. He claims that for all anonymous writers, “Regardless of the venue, the motive is to make their target afraid of speaking out again. Because the coward cannot form an appropriate answer to an argument, he resorts to using fear as a means of control.”

Our publication in no way has used fear as a means of control and in fact we have worked hard to exemplify the principles he noted in the next paragraph such as welcoming differing opinions, conducting civil debate, replying to arguments, acknowledging disagreements, and accepting dissenting viewpoints to consider them for publication (which, sadly, we have yet to receive). We are diligent to construct our arguments logically and are always open to our minds being changed.

If nothing else, we can offer our commitment to all of our readers that we do not publish without extensive thought, consideration, and consultation. When we feature stories or make statements saying multiple students deal with issues, it is because those issues have been submitted to us dozens of times. We do not write an article unless that topic has been brought up a substantial number of times through our DMs, on Twitter, or on Instagram.

Hopefully as you read our posts you will see our principles of honesty and genuine care demonstrated throughout each of them and if you reach out to contact us you will have a sense of the heart behind this publication as well as our commitment to free thought and free speech. We will, however, continue to remain anonymous until we are able to have a constructive conversation with the administration without fear of reprisal for ourselves, our contributors, or any other students involved. In other words, for us to change our approach to publication, Cedarville–on a much larger and more important scale–must in turn live by the standards our critics ask of us: transparency and authenticity. A system without those principles necessitates anonymous publications that will voice differing opinions, offer action-steps for change, and protect the identities of those involved. Our anonymity gives us opportunities to talk about things that cannot be talked about anywhere else and out from underneath the thumb of the administration. But we commit to each of our readers that our accuracy will never suffer as a result of our anonymity. We will always strive for the utmost quality of journalism that is ethical, relevant, and accessible.

In Conclusion…

In previously cited article from Stanford University, they write, “New Jersey governor, William Livingston [pictured left], was at work writing anonymous articles that defended the right to publish anonymously as part of the freedom of the press. Under the pseudonym -Scipio,- Livingston wrote several articles attacking the Legislature’s failure to lower taxes, and he accused a state officer of stealing or losing state funds during the British invasion of New Jersey.” After it was demanded he give up his name, he wrote, “And pray may not a man, in a free country, convey thro’ the press his sentiments on publick grievances…without being obliged to send a certified copy of the baptismal register to prove his name.”

We will not be sending a certified copy of the baptismal register to the administration unless they begin to value the principles of transparency, authenticity, and reliability. Until that day, enjoy The Cedarville Interpreter for what it is: opinion pieces, student stories, and calls for much-needed change for a University with vast potential and widespread flaws.

William Shakespeare, who once published his controversial plays anonymously, famously wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Whatever name our articles fall under, maybe they’re at least worth a sniff.

Doubling Down on Double Standards: Addressing the LGBTQ+ Community at Cedarville

Disclaimer: I am not member of the LGBTQ+ community, so my writing does not reflect the perspective of that community. My writing instead reflects the degree to which I understand the issue, which is admittedly far from comprehensive (hence this article taking months to write). I use the terms LGBT, LGBTQ+, “homosexual”, and gay interchangeably to encompass the core community at Cedarville. As mentioned in the article, I think that homosexuality is probably wrong but even if that is true I don't think it is my place to judge others considering the egregious sins I commit every day and I am open to my own human opinion being wrong, so please feel free to share your thoughts and engage with this content. This issue is massively polarizing within society and especially within the church, but contrary to what society says, we do not have to agree on every single thing in order for us to respect each other and learn from each other. I hope you—gay or straight—enjoy this article and that it sheds some light on some key issues facing Cedarville University today.

Avery Redic once served as the SGA Campus Community director at Cedarville. He was an active participant in SGA events and meetings and ended up hitting it off with SGA advisor Eric Garland. Garland was very friendly, including making casual, innocent remarks that he loved Avery and missed him over breaks. This was purely platonic and–more notably–both Avery and Eric were men.

But Avery was gay.

Avery (pictured left, credit: Caleb Morris, https://www.caleb-morris.com) was abstinent and was not engaging in “homosexual activity.” (I use quotes to express the weird cringe I experience when I hear that phrase and imagine an old Bible-thumping preacher raining down hell-fire on the evil homosexuals) But nevertheless, Dr. Jon Wood labeled him as spiritually unstable and threw a handful of pamphlets at him to hopefully cure his same-sex attraction. The next day, his fellow SGA members were informed of his “resignation,” which seems to be a Cedarville code word for “unknowingly fired,” since Avery had no idea he was being removed until that moment.

Dr. Wood’s rationale included a statement that—were Avery in a less visible position—he would have maintained his position.

Avery writes, “How did I feel? I hated myself. Immediately after Jon’s decision I asked myself these questions and I hated myself for it: Should I have asked God to take homosexuality away from me more often? Should I have cried out more often than I had? Should I have asked for more counseling in high school than I had already received? Should I have been receiving counseling now? Should I have tried dating women, to see if I’d like it? Should I have never come to Cedarville, knowing that this would be an issue?”

Avery had executed the largest diversity event the campus had seen just weeks prior. He was the newly appointed officer of the Cedarville gospel choir. He was a charismatic believer who exerted a positive influence on those around him at every turn.

But Avery was gay.

There was never any talk of restoration. No, Avery was publicly removed in the midst of the excellent work he was doing on campus for the gospel and for the student body because the position he held was “too visible.” In other words, his (at the time, latent) sexuality posed a threat to the University’s reputation. Imagine if the Southern Baptist Convention found out that Cedarville had hired even a non-acting homosexual to a position of leadership? That would be a disaster. Yeah, we’re going to wrap back around to that at the end.

What the Bible Says

In this discussion of the LGBTQ+ community at Cedarville, it is vital to ground ourselves in Biblical perspectives on sexuality. I’m going to skip over some of the verses that are always brought up in this discussion because I assume you’ve heard them a thousand times by now (i.e., “a man shall leave his father and mother” etc.) To summarize the following paragraphs, I have an unpopular opinion, which is that there are valid arguments on both sides and while I err on the side of believing it is probably wrong to act on same-sex orientation, I am open to the possibility that I am wrong. But here’s the bottom line: it is not my place to cast judgement, make assumptions, or claim to know God’s opinion on someone else’s lifestyle. The reality is that we really don’t know anyone’s hearts. For example, Christians are far too quick to cast judgement on someone they perceive as “effeminate” or “butch” when those behaviors are not inherently sinful: they are simply stereotypical comparisons of someone’s personality to society’s expectations.

Playing the devil’s advocate here, the Bible really does not say a whole lot about homosexuality. There are a couple of Old Testament passages that address it (admittedly, very harshly), but it is addressed alongside nearly every other aspect of Old Testament law that we gladly disregard today. We cannot use Old Testament verses about homosexuality to argue for its sinfulness when listed alongside other things we don’t believe are sinful anymore after the New Covenant was established. I mean, we can hold to that standard if you want and next time Cedarville serves pork at Chucks I’m going to be LIVID. The reality is that Christians have far too often cherry-picked verses from the Bible to justify condemning something that makes them uncomfortable. This may not be the best comparison, but under slavery many “Christians” used verses about slavery, servitude, and “mastery” to justify their horrible actions. We must be careful to be consistent in our interpretation of Scripture. If we are going to teach in Old Testament Literature back in freshman year that the Old Testament Laws were purity codes under the covenants God created with the Israelites; that the whole point of the Law was to separate Israel from other nations so they would be fully committed to Yahweh; and that Jesus removed the need for that law on the basis of the New Covenant, one could argue that Old Testament Laws against homosexuality no longer apply.

At Cedarville, it’s easy for minority students to feel like outcasts.

So, what does the New Testament say about homosexuality?

1 Corinthians 6:9–10: Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Timothy 1:8-11: “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.”

Romans 1:26–27: For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

There are many Biblical scholars who interpret New Testament texts about homosexuality as referring to male prostitution, pederasty, or even the many cults that existed in Rome when Paul wrote his letters in which older men abused young boys. These are certainly legitimate thoughts, but in Romans 1, for example, Paul references the fact that all of these individuals strayed from the original design of God’s creation into sin. According to Genesis, God did create humans with two genders, so it is more plausible that Paul is referencing the fact that those who were engaging in homosexual activity were participating in something that goes against God’s original design and—in some cases—were promoting abuse within Roman culture.

So what does all of that Biblical interpretation mean for us? Contrary to the opinions of far too many believers, the next action step is not to condemn the LGBTQ community, but to welcome, encourage, and edify them as fellow believers who struggle with sin. In fact, let’s go through those lists of people who, according to Paul, deserve death alongside those who engage in homosexual behavior:

The Sexually Immoral: Homosexual or heterosexual, you cannot try to convince me that you have never lusted, had inappropriate sexual thoughts, or viewed pornography in any way or of any kind. We have all done it.

Idolators: Don’t even get me started with this one. Think of the thousands of things throughout your life you have—even for just a moment—put before God. Think of all of the times you sin and thereby idolize your personal wants above the commands of God. The reality is that most of us are living a lifestyle of idolatry even as Christians. We put money, status, relationships, work, possessions, and even seemingly Biblical things like service, missions, and church before God who is the one who gave us all of those things or the ability to have them in the first place. We have all done it.

Adulterers: This falls in essentially the same category of sexual immorality, so just reread it for emphasis. We have all done it.

Men who Practice Homosexuality: Yeesh, listed right up there with all the things we perfect straight Christians are in the habit of doing as sinful people. While we’re on the subject, could someone remind me where the verse is about God condemning people who don’t act on their sexual temptation? I can’t seem to find it anywhere.

Thieves: Okay, this one may be more of a stretch to say we’ve all done, but we’ve all wanted to have something someone else has: all of those things we idolize that our friend has that we covet after. I think it’s safe to say that—at least on some level—we have all done it.

The Greedy: The sickness of greed pervades each and every one of our lives. We are constantly seeking to achieve or obtain things for ourselves, and too often push God to the background. “Oh, I’m doing this missions trip to Tahiti for God!” Yeah, okay Bethany. But don’t worry, we have all done it.

Drunkards: This is where someone gets excited and is like, “See, Cedarville Interpreter, drunkenness IS wrong which goes against what you said in your article on alcohol!” To which I say, “Ya didn’t read the article, G.” Anyway, this one is more of a stretch than thievery, so for the purposes of illustration I will say that we have all given way to the passions of our flesh in one way or another and—if we’re honest—we probably do that every day. We have all done it.

Revilers: Well this just got awkward. Paul just said that people who insult and degrade others deserve death. I don’t know, maybe Paul realizes that degrading and dehumanizing other people is very, very wrong and believers should not do that even if we think we are “discipling” them. But, sadly, we have all done it.

Swindlers: This one is fun, just because it’s fun to say swindlers out loud. But seriously, how many times have we purposefully or unconsciously manipulated others to get what we want? We do it all the time and call it “persuasion” or “exhortation.” The reality is that, as sinful people, we will do just about anything to get our way. We have all done it.

People who Dishonor their Parents: Yeah, okay at like two years old we all started doing this constantly. Even as we get older, we still rebel against our parents and dishonor them with the intent of getting what we want. We have all done it.

I think you’ve probably gotten the point by now. The homosexual behavior listed in the New Testament is listed alongside a dozen other sinful behaviors that arise as the result of the curse, nearly all of which pervade our lives every single day. So maybe we should consider the fact that acting upon a non-heterosexual desire is no “wronger” than most of the things we do and don’t think twice about every day. So before we start picking the dust out of our brothers’ and sisters’ eyes, we should start sawing off the plank in our own. In Romans 1:27, Paul even writes that those who engaged in homosexual relationships did so “receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” They received the due penalty for their actions, meaning that whatever judgement God placed on them was sufficient. God does not need our help judging others’ sin, so let’s back out of that area and love others like Jesus told us to.

Speaking of which, Jesus preached against hypocrisy, but to date the church continues to condemn some sins as more evil than others based on what makes them the most comfortable. It’s time to put an end to this belief. If we see homosexuality as merely one of dozens of other vices believers struggle with, we can have a more Biblical perspective on the issue. I can’t offer all of the steps required for all hearts and minds to be changed on the issue of the LGBTQ community at Cedarville, but maybe it just begins with recognizing that it is just another struggle we face even as believers.

Something to chew on as we conclude this section: if I made the claim that it was possible Jesus experienced same-sex attraction (or we can even use the word temptation, if you want), I would probably get burned at the proverbial stake on Cedarville’s campus. But is that really so wild and disgusting of a claim when Jesus (the literal Son of God) was tempted to physically worship at the feet of Satan? Maybe that’s a double standard we need to think about.

Cedarville alumni Zach Schneider, Zak Weston and Josh Steele during the Cedarville purge in 2013.
Credit: Andrew Spears, New York Times

What Cedarville Does

First of all, I have some breaking news for you good Cedarville boys and girls: The gay does exist. In fact, there is a large LGBTQ community at Cedarville much to the university’s chagrin. If you need proof, just take a look at “Cedarville Out,” which operates as a way for Cedarville students to out themselves in a safe environment. Unfortunately, the LGBTQ community is still woefully underrepresented in every aspect of campus life because these individuals feel that their voices are suppressed by the university and their opinions are not tolerated or accepted. Coming out at Cedarville would mean shame, emotional trauma, and/or expulsion or being removed from your job. Listen to one student’s story:

“My experience being a gay Christian on campus has been difficult. The vast majority of the student body is closed off to the idea that there are opposing viewpoints regarding homosexuality. I’ve experienced condemnation from certain people. I would even label someone homophobic in my dorm for making crude and insensitive comments. Most students aren’t willing to understand the other side.As for the university, it’s quite obvious that they don’t care to listen to the LGBTQ+ community. According to the handbook, I’m not allowed to believe or say things that differ from their values. Furthermore, I cannot openly oppose them for fear of expulsion. Due to Dr. White’s mistakes, they added a Title IX office on campus to prevent discrimination. However, they have a legal exemption from that office that allows them to purposefully discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. This is so hypocritical. While some faculty have been helpful and cordial when I share my feelings, others have not.

I am forced to believe that the faculty stands with Cedarville, so it automatically feels like a hostile environment to live in. This is dangerous to my mental health and for others as well. Finally, Dr. White has hurt me the most. Regarding Dr. Moore’s fiasco, Dr. White let him participate in basketball locker room activities while being a same-sex attracted male. Dr. White knew Dr. Moore had recorded another naked male, yet he still turned him over to the lion’s den of temptation. Dr. White’s ignorance on the issue destroyed any trust I had in him. I have never been to one of his chapels since then, and I never will. Cedarville and the student body need to learn to love and understand people who are different from them. That doesn’t mean they have to agree, just try to understand.”

This student poses some great points, and demonstrates that many LGBTQ+ students have lost trust in the University. Another student said:

“I’m gay and coming to Cedarville was really hard. There’s a kind of underground culture of LGBTQ+ kids on campus. This has two sides to it. One side that’s a good encouragement and support system, but it’s also scary because you never know who’s gonna be a snitch. Even if nothing happened, if things are said to the administration there’s a risk you could be kicked out if whatever is said is taken in the wrong way. The University’s stance creates a culture of fear, isolation, and secrecy. I would argue that a stance more similar to Biola university would be healthier for the LGBTQ+ population on campus. Biola isn’t affirming, but they are accepting and have an LGBTQ+ support group on campus. Cedarville on the other hand says that they’re accepting of people struggling with same sex attraction, but then have a no tolerance policy with individuals who act on their sexual orientation, kicking them out when they need help most.”

Another student wrote:

“I’m a fairly closeted gay man and I can straight pass when I need to so I really haven’t had any negative experiences myself. But I still hear everyone casually talking about how gays are going to hell and then get surprised when they find  out there’s a gay student at Cedarville (gasp!). I also know someone here who is constantly called the f word (the bad one) because he doesn’t straight pass. And of course I’ve heard all the stories of students losing their  jobs and positions because their secrets got out.

Cedarville is not, in any way, an accepting community, and I think everyone can see that. I have to be very careful with what I say and how I act when in public. And Lord knows I can’t let anyone see my YouTube recommended unless I want to be publicly lynched. There are a lot of chill people here but sadly not enough, and especially not enough that are in positions of power. I just wish it was talked about more and not treated as an issue with a clear-cut answer because it’s not. Really, the main thing I want to happen is for Cedarville students to realize that LGBT people exist right next to them. One of my closest friends used to be against it and he didn’t like gay representation in the media. But once I came out to him, he realized that the LGBT community isn’t just out there in the middle of nowhere, they’re here and they can actually be pretty cool. I feel like that’s the first step for most people here, to just understand that we’re real.”

LGBTQ students don’t all feel like they need the University to affirm their lifestyle, they need them to support them as fellow believers and allow them to live without fear of expulsion or overly harsh judgement from the University.

Those statements are powerful and that those suggestions are well thought-out. There is undoubtedly a culture of suppression in the area of sexual orientation at Cedarville University, but the good news is that there is also a supportive community to some extent. We have a help group for those addicted to pornography on campus. Why is there no support offered to LGBT students? Cedarville ought to adopt a policy of acceptance, not necessarily affirmation because the reality is there is no biblical support for systemic discrimination against any member of the LGBTQ community who is addressing their sexual orientation in a biblical manner. How amazing would it be if Cedarville said, “You know what? We’re going to lead the way on this issue by demonstrating a Christlike spirit of tolerance and love toward believers who have different sexual orientation.” Ah, but alas: Cedarville would lose too much of its massive donor base to address this problem. Money is king.

Dr. Anthony Moore…I told you we’d wrap around to it at the end.

The Double Standard

Avery’s story was a disturbing and upsetting story of blatant discrimination with no thought of supporting him or understanding what he was going through. Avery—like so many other students—simply deals with a different set of feelings than most other people and when he expressed that, he was publicly shamed and, whether he left voluntarily or not, he was essentially forced out of the University.

Fast forward from Avery’s story to 2018. Dr. Anthony Moore—a man who openly dealt with same-sex attraction—was hired into a leadership role at Cedarville University as part of a “redemption plan.” The difference was, Dr. Moore had engaged in disturbing sexual harassment and took advantage of a youth pastor at his previous church.

What message does Cedarville send when they fire a single gay man who did nothing but great things for the university and then five years later hire a known sexual predator? Do you mean to tell me that Dr. Moore was more qualified for a position of leadership than Avery Redic? And a more public one at that? Ah, but Dr. Moore was Dr. White’s pick for the job, while he knew nothing about Avery Redic. Dr. Moore was favored by the administration over godly individuals like Avery. The reality is clear: Cedarville does not support believers who are LGBT. They would love nothing more than to see them expelled from the University. Last time I checked, Jesus did not throw sinners out of his presence. He sought them out, ate with them, talked with them, understood who they were as people, and ministered to them in the most effective way possible. Cedarville must change its policies to reflect the actions of our Savior. Let’s be honest, they probably won’t. But we can initiate change from where we are so that—no matter the administration’s policy—we create and sustain a culture of openness and acceptance that will bring our brothers and sisters closer to Christ. We are all deeply broken people in dire need of abundant grace from those around us. Let’s give it as we need it.

“God made you exactly the way you are for a perfect reason and you deserve to be respected, humanized, and heard.”

RESOURCES FOR LGBTQ+ STUDENTS:

For our LGBT friends, even in the strictest Biblical interpretations, simply “being gay” is not a sin. There is nothing wrong with you: God made you exactly the way you are for a perfect reason and you deserve to be respected, humanized, and heard. Unfortunately, Cedarville does not agree with this and because of this does not offer any resources for LGBTQ+ students, except maybe forcing them into counseling. Below are two resources (far sparser than I would like) to help you along the way during your time at Cedarville.

Cedarville Interpreter: www.cedarvilleinterpreter.com (we are here to support and encourage you no matter who you are or what you’ve done!)

Cedarville Out: www.facebook.com/CedarvilleOut/; www.cedarvilleout.org (We are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered (GLBT) alumni of Cedarville University. We are straight alumni who support our GLBT friends. And we are bound together in our belief that everyone’s sexuality is a precious gift from God.)

Cohesion or Adhesion? Groupthink at Cedarville

Albert Einstein wisely noted, “When we all think alike, no one thinks very much.” Many of us have heard of the theory of “groupthink,” which, at its core, is the idea that groups can be too similar and can become ineffective at best and abusive and totalitarian at worst. I began to wonder where this concept came from. I had heard it used particularly in the discussion of totalitarian regimes in books such as 1984 or Animal Farm by George Orwell, both criticisms of Russia’s brand of communism. But through research, I discovered that the term “groupthink” was coined by Yale professor and psychologist Irving Janis. As I explored this theory, I noticed some alarming similarities to the culture at Cedarville University.

Groupthink lurks quietly and lures its victims subtly and if we are not vigilant we may fall prey to the cultural and practical destruction. Groupthink is an acid that slowly but surely corrodes. It is a fall of dominoes that can only be stopped with firm intentionality. It is a creeping virus whose symptoms seem minimal until you find yourself crippled and muted.

Background

So what exactly is Groupthink? According to Irving Janis, groupthink occurs when an organization or group prioritizes cohesion over problem-solving. But the idea of problem-solving means more than using deductive reasoning to find a solution to a problem. Problem-solving also encompasses debate of different ideas and use of critical thought. It could more accurately be defined as the way organizations handle dissent or conflict. Groupthink, at its core, involves too much cohesiveness, internal focus, and closeness. Too quickly, cohesion (coming closer together) turns into “adhesion” (becoming stuck together by identical principles and homogeneity) and there is a total loss of impartiality or tolerance for dissent.

According to Janis, there are three catalysts that create groupthink. First, there is an illusion of invulnerability. This means that the group ties moral superiority to what they do and so they see themselves as indestructible. After all, good always wins out in the end, right? Second, the group develops a spirit of close-mindedness. The group will begin to shut out ideas that are contrary to the group’s agreed values or beliefs and members of the group will rationalize each other’s statements and beliefs and thereby further affirm the group’s correctness. These lead to the third catalyst, which is pressure toward uniformity.

“When you find yourself on the side of the majority, you should pause and reflect.”
-Mark Twain

This pressure can be spoken or unspoken pressure including threat of a job, loss of money, blackmail, school admission (wait, who added that into this article?!), or reputation. Spoken pressure can also be a form of psychological manipulation: “Well, you are allowed to believe differently but we’ll subtly call you a coward for compromising our group’s principles” or “Of course we allow other opinions, but this is how we’ve always done things and it’s always worked” or “Oh…you think…that? Okay…I mean I guess I could see where you’re coming from but I don’t think any of us really agree with you.” This manipulation is especially effective in the university setting where reputation is everything, both for the University and for faculty and staff whose academic success depend on their reputation and levels of respect remaining intact. These pressures toward uniformity result in self-censorship, which is the idea that someone withholds their dissenting opinion and stays silent for fear of judgement or negative consequences. They’re probably the only one who thinks that, anyway. After all, everyone believes everyone else is on the same page and that everyone agrees on all values and all decisions. This can result in a scenario like this: “Well, we all agree that sin should be punished, and being gay is a sin, so being gay should be punished, so I think we can all agree that anyone who engages in that activity should be punished by the University since we don’t ever want to condone sin, right?” Do you see what happened there? Deductive reasoning that originates with those “fundamental truths” (whether or not you believe them to be true…don’t yell at me until we publish our article on the LGBTQ community at Cedarville), pressures toward conformity, and the illusion that everyone agrees on what actions should be taken.

“The important thing about groupthink is that it works not so much by censoring dissent as by making dissent seem somehow improbable.”
-James Surowiecki

One interesting aspect of the theory of Groupthink is the “self-appointed mind guard,” who—as the name suggests—appoints themselves to a position of moral authority within the group. They strongly pressure conformity to group ideas, advocate for total consensus, and they shut down dissenting voices. This person can be an individual who sits on a board of directors or any number of people who reside in a large group where conformity has become the norm.

Student Body

By now, like I did when I read about Janis’ theory, you may have already noticed for yourself some similarities between the concept of “groupthink” at its base meaning and the culture at Cedarville. What do I mean? Think about it: How many people at Cedarville think that Cedarville has moral superiority? So many students believe that Cedarville’s theological stances are the “be all, end all” of Biblical academia. There is no doubt in their minds that Cedarville’s (admittedly, mostly right) Biblical principles are critically impenetrable. No one could come onto campus and successfully argue their case for evolution, homosexuality, or political liberalism because Cedarville is simply right, and there is no more to it, not because of strong, tested argumentation against these viewpoints. There is an illusion of invulnerability within the community.

Think about how many self-appointed mind guards reside on the Cedarville campus. How many students are willing to correct others on their nonconformity? Students are quick to judge girls who break dress code, people struggling with mental health issues, or anyone struggling with sin they deem “more egregious” than their own.

Furthermore, Cedarville is notoriously close-minded. As referenced in our article on censorship (which, by the way, is the natural descendant of groupthink), Cedarville consistently and systematically shuts down opposing voices. This goes beyond the policies of the administration, however, into the community Cedarville has created. The concept of “intentional community” could more accurately be described as “pressured community,” where students are peer-pressured by other students to constantly be social and engage in campus activities. These activities tout the correctness of the University’s stances on everything, never on new ideas or differing opinions. Every event on campus is a celebration of unity and cohesion, never of diversity and critical thought that may dare to stray outside the bounds of Cedarville’s markedly Southern Baptist ideology.

Of course, events that build community, teamwork, and togetherness are very important, especially in a Biblical education environment. But when these types of events are the only events Cedarville hosts and they try to shut down organizations like Turning Point USA or the College Democrats (R.I.P.), it builds a culture of adhesion, homogeneity, and intolerance towards other ideas. According to SGA President Jake Johnson, in reference to the availability of SGA election results, “No, historically those haven’t been released for the purpose of protecting the candidates and encouraging student unity following an election.” This is not Jake’s fault: this is the policy SGA has always had and, like all policies, promotes cohesion (or, more accurately, adhesion) even at the cost of transparency and openness. Ironically, as evidenced across non-Cedarville-affiliated student-run social media accounts, it creates a culture of division among students and doubt about election results.

The McChesney Manifesto posted this meme, implying, “No matter who is SGA President, Brian Burns is king.” This demonstrates SGA’s attempts at unity may actually cause division among students. After all, they may ponder, why we as students want to be governed by someone who we can’t definitively say won the election?

In The Lego Movie, the antagonist Lord Business’ goal is to use Kragle to solidify the perceived perfection of Bricksburg. Nothing can break, nothing can be changed, and everyone and everything is frozen in time. Cedarville’s intentional community encourages this type of adhesion: it never allows students to fail or encounter challenging ideas, it never offers alternatives to the self-appointed truth it propagates, and it resists any sort of change or forward-thinking perceived as “progressive Christianity.” Students are frozen in time: permanent residents of the Cedarville bubble whose behaviors are all but predetermined by the fear of judgement instilled by this community. Groupthink is winning the day at Cedarville.

“Oh, yes, the supposed missing Piece of Resistance that can somehow magically disarm the Kragle. Give me a break!”
-Lord Business

At Cedarville, you are expected to fit the mold. You must always be growing in your faith. You must be involved in as many ministries as you can handle. You must incorporate Biblical principles into every assignment even if it has nothing to do with the assignment (yep, I’m calling you out, Humanities). People who dare to break that mold are viewed as “struggling with their faith,” being in pursuit of “liberal ideology,” or “not adhering to the Cedarville covenant half of the campus definitely didn’t sign when they were minors.”

“At Cedarville, you are expected to fit the mold.”

Think of the amount of judgement you would face on campus if you had an unexpected pregnancy, had an emotional breakdown in the middle of Stingers, or accidentally exposed your leggings (yeah, that’s a thing. Read about it HERE). Think of how many people judge alongside others who use Christianese to support their legalism. Think of the backlash The Interpreter received after merely requesting an interview with SGA candidates. Think about the fact that the request for an interview resulted in many people with no prior engagement with our content reaching out calling us cowards, internet trolls, traitors, and even ungodly people because two individuals in authority said an anonymous interview did not support their values of transparency (a decision they had every right to make which we fully respect). Rufus and Kasey did not create that monster: Cedarville’s culture of groupthink did. Surely, if two godly individuals decided against an interview with an organization, they must therefore be ungodly, anti-Cedarville, and nonconformists. We always look to approach issues from a godly perspective, we are not “Anti-Cedarville”, but darn right we’re non-conformists, because this type of close-mindedness, this pressure to conform, and this reaffirmation from other students merely demonstrate that Cedarville’s culture is sick with the disease of groupthink and adhesion. So stop and ask yourself: how quick am I to judge others based on my friends’ opinions? How often do I express moral superiority over others in sin while I ignore my own? How often am I that self-appointed mind guard who dictates morality without considering the consequences it could have on that person or based on my interpretations of Scripture rather than its contextual meaning? “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” Jesus said to a group of religious leaders who wanted to enact “justice” on an adulterous woman. They all walked away with the realization that there is none without sin. We are all imperfect: our ideas, our perceptions, our morality, our behaviors, our attitudes are all broken by the curse of sin.

“Groupthink occurs when a group values harmony and coherence over accurate analysis and critical evaluation. It causes individual members of the group to unquestioningly follow the word of the leader, and it strongly discourages any disagreement with the consensus.”
Psychology Today

Ultimately, our sin is what makes conformity so dangerous. When we conform to the religious ideas, rules, regulations, or pressures of people (key word: of people, not God) broken by the curse of sin, we simply mask our sin under the guise of Biblical truth. The sin of judging others flies in the face of God’s ultimate justice and judgement. We are saying that we have the right to make judgements rather than or in addition to God. Matthew 7:1-5 says, ““Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Do you think Jesus is saying you’re only judged if you judge others? Absolutely not. Jesus is saying that our judgement is sin: disgusting, ugly, dark sin. When Jesus came to earth, most of his interactions involved undermining the religious leaders of the day who had taken God’s word to be used for their own wellbeing, personal advancement, and domination of God’s people. They were considered the “end-all, be-all” of Biblical academia. But when the Pharisee prayed about all the ministries he participated in and all the community he had engaged in, Jesus was all, “Wow! Step on in to the Kingdom of God!” Wait no—Jesus sided with the money launderer who cried out to God for forgiveness of his sins. Yeesh—that doesn’t bode well for groupthink.

Encouraging diversity of thought with your words means nothing if you live in an echo-chamber of thought.

Leadership & Closing Thoughts

Former Vice President Carl Ruby “resigned” at the conception of the White administration along with dozens of other professors because of their differing opinions. The “Purge” is the widely documented event that occured before and alongside the appointment of Dr. White into the role of Cedarville’s presidency. Cedarville forcefully eliminated any and all dissenting voices at the University, building a theological and social echo-chamber. In our articles on mental health, censorship, and womanhood, we have outlined a pattern of silencing differing opinions, beliefs, or anything that may damage the University’s “impenetrable” reputation.

Cedarville’s administration must not continue in this pattern of groupthink and homgeneity. To do this, Irving Janis proposes a few ways to overcome groupthink. 1) Leaders must open their ears to outside voices and avoid isolation. For Cedarville, this means inviting speakers with differing opinions and allowing dissenting opinions on campus. I’m going to suggest that physically confiscating an independent newspaper was not a step in the right direction. Free expression must be allowed on the campus of Cedarville, regardless of their place out of the bounds of Constitutional law as a private institution. Furthermore, we ought to be actively engaged in our community, not an isolated Christian bubble in Ohio. 2) Eliminating groupthink requires the appointment of responsible, impartial leadership who allow, encourage, and respectfully resolve conflict. I won’t make any specific comments on that step to eliminating groupthink. I’ll leave that to your interpretation of how that could apply to Cedarville University. 3) Instead of self-appointed mind guards, individuals must be willing to encourage skepticism. This involves being loyal to the organization or group but also offering up different viewpoints. The truth can only be argued at its best when it has been tested by criticism and skepticism. 4) Janis proposes dividing groups to present different perspectives. This isn’t really practical at Cedarville, but I would recommend a greater degree of autonomy between the administration and student organizations. For example, Cedarville could let discipleship groups pick their own study material (within reason). Or perhaps reduce regulations on how campus orgs can operate to allow for the free flow and exchange of ideas without being tied to the University’s specific flavor of Christianity, politics, etc. Maybe leave in the comments some ways you think Cedarville can overcome groupthink and become a more open, vigorous academic environment.

As I conclude, let me as you this: Do you feel like a misfit? Do you feel like you’re alone in your thoughts and ideas? If you do, don’t be fooled by the strong grip of groupthink on Cedarville’s student body. The fact that this newspaper even exists and continues to grow evidences that there are more students than any of us thought in search of something different: of new ideas, of critical thought. There are more students around you than you’d think who have unique, different perspectives who are not judgemental, who are seeking to grow in genuine faith, and who would gladly stand against damaging policies at Cedarville if they were given an opportunity. But self-censorship born of the pressure to conform have silenced our voices. Do not let the University silence your voice. Continue to share your stories, your experiences, your thoughts, and your feelings. Your voice matters. Your differences are important. Your thoughts mean something.

You are not alone.

Student Voices: #001

Our Student Voices series is a compilation of student stories with the intent to give voice to those who cannot speak out otherwise for fear of dismissal or judgement from their fellow students. To tell your story, send us a message through our contact form or by emailing cedarvilleinterpeter@gmail.com

This article contains two personal stories of two former students who faced a culture of inconsistency and works-based salvation when they attended Cedarville University.

No consistency.

Cedarville University is a place for intentional community. Everyone is equal, and everyone loves each other. No one matters more than anyone else, because God made all of us and we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

So much rhetoric.

This is what Cedarville states in every chapel they teach, in every dorm meeting, and on every webpage you can find. If you asked the president, Dr. White, or any of his constituents if this is true, he would vehemently agree with you. If you asked the students? They would generally have a drastically different answer.

“Double Standard” by Ed Ruscha (1970)

Many individuals, including myself, feel that the RA’s (lol don’t we love ‘em) disproportionately distribute punishment to students. The first time I noticed this was in a dorm lounge. I was sitting next to my boyfriend, about 3” away, focused on my own laptop as I wrote a paper. He tapped on me to show me a meme. I looked over at his phone right as one of the RA’s was walking past.

Within an hour, I had gotten an email stating I’d earned a PC for sitting on my boyfriend. Given the fact that, well… I wasn’t, this was infuriating. It was especially so because at the same time, right behind us, a couple was expressing far more *physical affection* than I was. The RA told them hello, so I know they were noticed. However, the RA and the girl in the relationship were friends, and so they didn’t get in trouble as I did. These people were within 6’ of me. This was the first time I noticed the bias of the leadership towards the people they liked more, or that were more popular.

PDA is NOT allowed…unless you’re popular enough to get a pass.

Without even getting into the legalism of the rules which Cedarville has in place, I believe we can all see the issue here. There is no consistency. The handbook condemns actions such as “intimate forms of touching” (page 12 of the 2020-2021 handbook), but as far as PDA, that’s the only rule I can see.

Another personal story that should be included in this involves two friends of mine. One of them is a little edgy but absolutely wonderful, and the other is quite popular, especially amongst the authority figures on campus. This involves the dress code (specifically where it regards length of clothes) and how it is applied by those in authority. For context, the dress code states: “Clothing should not be excessively short or revealing. For example, skirts/dresses should fall mid-thigh, midriff and underwear should not show…” and that’s the relevant portion.

The first girl got pulled aside for breaking dress code recently. I don’t believe she got a PC, but she did get a talking to. She was wearing a knee length pencil skirt which had a slit for mobility (like all pencil skirts do). Basic officewear, but since it had a slit the RA told my friend that it was “inappropriate and distracting.” This also shows a lack of understanding on the part of the RA as far as what basic business formal clothes look like and what is considered immodest by most (Christian) people.

What does modesty really mean? Read our article on it here.

My other friend runs well within the popular crowd, including those with authority. Within the same week as this other story, she wore a pair of sheer tights with a skirt far above her mid-thigh. Many of the popular girls on campus wear similar things to this, and when I’ve spoken with them it has been clear that they haven’t been dress-coded for it.

This comparison may seem like a stretch, but these stories are barely breaking the ice when it comes to times that the “authorities” —fellow students who are supposedly under the same rules—take it upon themselves to bully those who are less popular and just allow those that are popular to do whatever they want. I could list countless instances that I’ve seen just in my time here, but there’s not enough space in this article for it. Let alone the fact that these legalistic rules regarding interpersonal relationships and “modesty” shouldn’t even exist in my opinion… but since they currently do, they should be applied to everyone justly. If we are called to “above all else: seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God,” (Micah 6:8) why do we ignore this justice and humility in its most basic applications?

We say our rules are based in Christianity. If this is the case, we need to apply them the same way that Christ would. Equally and without preference towards people who have this “social status.” As Christians, popularity and how much we like a person should have nothing to do with how we treat them. Our internalization of the Holy Spirit is the only thing that should change that.

Faith by works is an uphill battle to disappointment. While it is not a doctrinal norm, this former student argues that it is a cultural norm at Cedarville.

Saved by Works or Faith?

At Cedarville University, what they preach and what they practice are very different things. If you spend much time in their Bible classes or their chapel services, you will hear the gospel of grace preached; that is, a person is saved by grace alone. However, what they practice is very different. They put such an emphasis on the “spiritual disciplines” and “doing” Christianity that the truth of salvation through faith by grace often gets pushed to the background.

I was a student at CU for a little over 2 years and I fell into the “saved by works” mindset that has overtaken the campus. One example of this was the big emotional altar calls that would happen at the beginning of each semester. They’d have a mandatory multi-day  conference focusing on a particular topic with sessions morning and evening for the first few days of the semester. Without fail, one predictable thing that would happen during one of the evening conferences was an alter call presented by one of the faculty members who would call for the students to turn away from the sins they had lived in during Winter/Summer break and return to the Lord. The emotions are high and the pressure is higher. “Be a good Christian and repent” hangs in the air of the chapel during the dramatic  altar call. I gave in to this pressure a few times while I was at CU. I thought “if I do this I’ll be a good Christian, right?” I truly believe that God was at work during those times.  However, I also believe that oftentimes the focus was too much about “doing the right thing” and not enough on the relationship with God.

The parable of the priest and the tax collector demonstrate the dangers of valuing one’s own works over genuine repentance and faith. This painting by Bryn Gillette illustrates the spiritual status of these two worshippers

But it was more than just the conferences that taught me Cedarville’s version of Christianity. While I was there I struggled quite severely in my personal life. When I would ask for advice from faculty—one faculty member in particular—they’d almost always respond with asking me how much I was reading my bible and praying.  Most of the advice that I got regarding my struggles was similar. This began my first semester as a student there and continued until I left partway through my Junior year.  I learned that if I read my bible every day, prayed every day, paid attention in chapel, etc., I was a good Christian. If I didn’t do those things I felt guilty and was a bad Christian. I learned from Cedarville that if I did all the spiritual disciplines, my struggles would ease back and life would get easier. Fall Semester 2019 was no different. I had spent the summer of 2019 mad at God and not wanting much to do with Him. Fall Semester came and Bible Conference was powerful as usual. And once again I repented from my sin and thought “maybe this time will be better” That was August 21, on August 24th I fell back into self-harm, and on August 31 I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt. 10 days… 10 days between me “returning to God” and me being hospitalized for the suicide attempt. I had planned the attempt in about the 12 hours leading up to it and part of my reasoning was “I have done all the right things, and my anxiety/depression/borderline is still bad. Maybe this will help.” It didn’t. My mental health continued to deteriorate after that incident until I ended up withdrawing from Cedarville Mid-October 2019. I am by no means saying that the incident was CU’s fault, I was just me badly coping with what CU had taught me.

Recently I went back and read through journal entries from various times during my time at CU and I saw a theme. Most of them were written when I was struggling and they all said essentially the same thing: “I’m doing all the right things, yet my mental illness is still really bad. I don’t get it, what am I missing?!!” Time, after time, after time. I poured out frustrations about how life just didn’t make sense. I’d do everything my profs and leaders told me, yet life still sucked. There were several times throughout my time at CU that my mental illness was so bad and I was so confused with my faith that I was suicidal. It was one of those suicidal times that led me to the severe self-harm that ended me in the hospital. But what I didn’t understand it at the time is that I was frustrated because Cedarville had been teaching me a works-based gospel with a seasoning of the prosperity gospel in there. “If you stick to all your spiritual disciplines, your general quality of life will get better, that includes your mental illness.” This hurt me deeply while I was there, but I kept making excuses of why it was my fault that I kept failing time and time again.

Rob Stimpson, June 2017
Mental health is a challenge that none of us should face alone, especially at a University that holds to Biblical approaches to compassion, unity, and grace.

When I left CU in October 2019 I was barely holding it together. It took over 2 weeks for the anxiety and stress caused by CU to leave my system. But worse than that I left frustrated, frustrated at the university, frustrated at myself, frustrated at God. I went to Cedarville to learn and to grow, and instead, every semester felt harder than the last. The Christianity that I learned at Cedarville didn’t make sense in my life. So for months I just was kind of apathetic toward God. And now, February 2021, about 15 months after I left CU, I’m angry once more about the Christianity CU taught me. I am thankful to God that He has drawn me back to Himself and I am now finishing my degree at an online school. But I still hold emotional, mental, and spiritual wounds and scars from my time at CU.

Below is a excerpt from a letter that I wrote to CU, but never sent.

When people talked about CU they said what I wish was true of me. “CU has amazing community!” then why did so many of your people wound me and made me feel like an outcast. Where was that community when I’d melt down in tears from an panic attack in public and no one would help me? Was it that “amazing community” that cause so many of my “friends” to either ghost me or turn their back on me? “CU has a gospel of grace and loves their students.” Where was that gospel of grace when I couldn’t turn in assignments on time due to anxiety? Where was that love when my RD lashed out at me and made me feel like a criminal when I was hospitalized? Where was that grace and love when I watched friends leave in silence due to how you mishandled their high-profile sin? “We’re saved by grace” your chapel preachers and professors said countless times. Yet your faculty, staff, and students chastised me and judged me repeatedly for not reading my bible enough or praying enough. Yet your people blamed my anxiety on not doing enough Spiritual disciplines. Your “genuine community” was mostly fake. You taught people to lie and to just put on a good show. This recent scandal there nails in that point. It’s all about what you look like on the outside, not what’s actually going on. It’s all about keeping up appearances. I get it. You’re a private Christian University, you rely on appearances to keep students and money coming in. But I’m choosing to not live that life anymore. I’m choosing to not let my personal wellbeing stuffer just to stay at an expensive Christian school that is treating me like crap. It’s not worth it.

The Blame Game that Started with Eve, pt. 2: Virginity Rocks

This is part two of our three-part series on womanhood at Cedarville. In this article, our anonymous female student continues her contribution with input from our Editor to discuss virginity, purity, and pregnancy.

Uh oh, sex. The topic that is so taboo that two biology professors told their students that they have had students in their classes who didn’t know what it was…yes, in college. This taboo inherently exists because purity culture–the belief that Scripture tells us we should abstain from physical connections with others–requires extreme innocence under threat of “not being a good enough Christian.” I once knew a girl who told me that she wanted to watch Lord of the Rings on her honeymoon because it was sinful to have sex if it was not for the explicit purpose of childbearing. Abstinence-only viewpoints result in an inability to face reality and a lack of education on sexuality provides an opportunity for attackers that may have been avoided.

Two Cedarville students on a romantic date, with one of their roommates as a chaperone (far right), c. 1843 or 2021, I can’t tell at this point.

There is such a strong emphasis placed on arriving to marriage with your virginity fully intact in both Christian and Cedarville cultures that some parents will even make their children sign purity contracts (and hold them to it). While the concept of purity is biblical it, like far too many things, has been taken to an unhealthy extreme within faith-based cultures. It has come to the point that even kissing your significant other or (even worse) sharing a blanket could earn you a PC (personal caution) from an RA. One time, a guy kissed his girlfriend on the cheek after a chapel message because she had been going through some hard times and was informed that chapel wasn’t the place for that. This culture of purity-shaming forces well-meaning (and, admittedly, sometimes less than well-meaning) couples to put themselves in dangerous situations in order to be able to kiss or even sit close to together (pro tip: don’t go to the Indian mounds late at night, kids).

Problems with purity culture’s pervasiveness at Cedarville extend beyond merely their annoyance to couples. For some, both their childhood homes and Cedarville have taught them that their worth and their virginity are interconnected. Not only that but is it their fault if anything were to happen to their virginity. This means that having sex before marriage or being sexually assaulted will completely remove your worth in the eyes of God—and in the eyes of your peers. This is quite contrary to what the Bible says but unfortunately this is the way most Christians act. In Romans 8:38-39, Paul says, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:1 reminds us that there is no condemnation in Christ, but forgiveness of sins. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul points out that those who engage in any sin, including “sexual immorality,” are made pure through Christ’s sacrifice and will inherit the kingdom of heaven in spite of their pasts. He even says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

We hear over and over that “sin is sin,” but do we really believe it? If we did, why would we shame others for when they sin sexually but not when they in other ways? More importantly, why do we shame others at all? In John 8:7, Jesus asks the Pharisees who are shaming an adulterous woman, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Jesus’ death was an act of shame and public humiliation. How could we subject his creation, made in his image, to such ungodly shame?

This purity culture is most famously touted in the book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” by Josh Harris. If you are curious on my thoughts of this book, its life ended in blazing glory and ultimately a pile of ashes in my yard after the effects it had on me and my partner. Here is the introduction, summarized by Premier Christianity: Anna stands at the altar on the day she has dreamed about for months. The church is crowded with family and friends. But as the minister leads Anna and David through their marriage vows, the unthinkable happens. A woman stands up in the middle of the congregation, quietly walks to the front and takes David’s hand. Anna watches in horror as six others follow suit. “Is this some kind of joke?” she says. “I’m…I’m sorry Anna,” he answers, staring at the floor. “Who are these women?” she asks. “They’re girls from my past. Anna, they don’t mean anything to me now, but I’ve given part of my heart to each of them.” You get the idea: every relationship you have before your wedding is just baggage you bring to that relationship and pieces of your heart you’ve lost along the way. In fact, marrying a guy or girl with a dating history means dating their past as well. As Christians, we know that our past is what ultimately defines us…just ask Peter or Paul.

According to Harris and Washer, those with a dating history are incomplete when they arrive at the altar.

Harris suggests that society’s idea of dating ought to be rejected by Christians in favor of “courtship,” which means that a relationship should not be pursued until you are planning to pursue marriage with that other person. While recreational dating for the fun of it shouldn’t be our goal, to say if we date more than one person we are tainted is ignorant at best and extremely harmful at worst. In fact, in the text, Harris said that he needed to forgive his wife for dating other people before she met him. While his point may have been well meaning, we need to take dating seriously, it promoted a culture of shame that today still contributes to Cedarville’s culture. Harris also argues that a man does not own a woman outside of marriage. Uh, he doesn’t own her inside marriage, bud. *sassy snap* The book leads Christians to believe that in order to truly love God they must not only save sex for marriage, but also their emotional connections.

Furthermore, courtship is essentially a fancy word for friends with absolutely zero benefits. No emotional benefits, no physical benefits, and—I would argue—no spiritual benefits. Harris argues that parents ought to sit at the center of courtship and couples—err, friends? I don’t know at this point—should not hold hands, kiss, or be alone before their wedding day. This is damaging because the physical connection you share with your partner can help you determine how they will treat you physically in a long-term relationship. Furthermore, time alone together is incredibly important for couples who are planning to get married. Um, not to make this weird but y’all need to have a talk about some things before the wedding night. I know of one couple so ill-equipped physically to get married that they thought sex involved the belly button. These conversations need to be had before the relationship. Advocates of Harris’ dating style (which, to his credit, he has renounced…along with all Christianity, but we don’t need to get into that here), including Paul Washer, conclude that if you have a dating history, and I quote Washer from one of his sermons here, “You arrive to the altar an incomplete man.” Washer has also used an illustration of a random guy stealing his truck as equivalent to a guy—random or not—engaging with his daughter without permission. Dude, it has to be exhausting being that controlling. But unfortunately, this is the culture that had pervaded Christian circles since 1997.

If you grew up going to church, then at some point you may have seen an illustration of the ‘ungodly girl’. They take 5 or so guys and line them up on the stage, then one girl passes by each guy tearing off a piece of her paper heart and giving it to them. By the time she reaches her ‘husband’ she only has a little bit of paper left. Each guy represents someone that she dated, and by the end she has saved nothing for her husband and is essentially worthless.

Illustrations like these are not only harmful but also teach young girls that they ought to be ashamed of enjoying emotional relationships. Purity culture is filled to the brim with shame. It subtly (or overtly in many cases) forces you to be ashamed of your sexuality, rather than confident in it even within the confines of marriage. The reason that this emphasis exists is because the more ashamed and scared we are, the easier we are to control. Cedarville can easily take a group of uneducated ashamed young adults and determine exactly how they are supposed to live sexually. Professors at Cedarville have gone so far as to even suggest what sexual positions are ‘Godly’ for spouses in their ethics classes.

You may be wondering what happens to those that defy a culture this centered on shame. Just take a moment and ask yourself a question: how many pregnant women have you seen on campus? As The Ventriloquist once asked, “Where have all the pregnant women gone?” Surely someone on campus has gotten pregnant. Undoubtedly, many have. Sometimes it ends in a shotgun wedding and other times, the young women have been accused of giving up their ‘greatest gift’ that ‘belongs’ to their husband they are simply left on the side of the road. Getting pregnant while in college is an incredible challenge, and women should not be left alone to grapple with this struggle. We know of one student was definitively dismissed for becoming pregnant. They provided her no assistance and she was made to reapply to Cedarville and was forced to make an apology statement to the school. To restate, she got kicked out and was forced to apologize to the University for getting pregnant. Cedarville contributes to this culture of shame. Those policies must be changed.

Cedarville claims that they show grace, however that often only applies to certain individuals within Christian institutions (cough—Dr. Moore—cough). There are numerous reports of girls being kicked out if they are to become pregnant. The irony of this is that Cedarville takes a pro-life stance. However, rather than acting upon that stance and attempting to help them with the resources they need, they kick girls out on the street. This just perpetuates the idea that they are worthless, which is far from the truth.

However, if you do end up pregnant and want to stay at Cedarville during that time, try coming to the leadership first. Unfortunately, you may be strongly judged and admonished, but according to some women if you “confess” to them they typically give you a lesser punishment and you may be even allowed the grace of staying in their presence and giving them your $42k next year (thanks Dr. Wood!).

Most women at Cedarville have not had the experience of getting pregnant, but what would you do if you did? What resources has Cedarville made available for women facing an incredibly difficult time in their lives? What would your friends say? What would your peers think? These should not be questions that cross the mind of a woman who is pregnant during college. She ought to be recognized not dismissed, supported not ignored, appreciated not devalued, and accepted not judged. We must change the degrading and damaging culture surrounding sex, virginity, and pregnancy at Cedarville. It begins with us: with our recognition, our support, our appreciation, our acceptance. We are made in the image of a God of mercy and grace. It’s time our lives and our institutions reflect that.

The Puppetmaster: Cedarville’s Interminable History of Censorship

There is nowhere where free speech is more important than colleges and Universities. These years are the most academically formative years of our lives. According to the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education, “Freedom of speech is a fundamental American freedom and a human right, and there’s no place that this right should be more valued and protected than America’s colleges and universities. A university exists to educate students and advance the frontiers of human knowledge, and does so by acting as a “marketplace of ideas” where ideas compete. The intellectual vitality of a university depends on this competition—something that cannot happen properly when students or faculty members fear punishment for expressing views that might be unpopular with the public at large or disfavored by university administrators.”

So why, we ask in this article, does Cedarville continue to silence and censor opposing viewpoints?

Act I: The Purge

In 2009, Cedarville’s student newspaper Cedars received backlash after it published controversial articles about modesty panels, ROTC, and other non-conservative viewpoints, none of which had been reviewed by University administration. In response to the outcry of alumni and conservative leaders, Cedarville University caved and began requiring articles written by staff to be pre-approved prior to publication. The problem is, this policy led to Cedars becoming nothing less than the propaganda mouth of Cedarville. Most of the staff of Cedars, including its faculty advisor, recognized that this was wide-scale censorship and quit in protest. Cedarville wouldn’t budge on its policy, and several of these students still wanted their journalism to make a difference. Thus, The Ventriloquist was born. The Ventriloquist existed as an indepdendent student-run newspaper who sought to publish four issues per academic year. They ended up publishing thirteen issues between 2010-2014 in addition to some articles criticizing the Purge of 2013-2014.

Before the White era of censorship began, The Ventriloquist had a cordial relationship with the University under the Brown-Ruby administration. Of course, The Ventriloquist advocated many ideas the University did not support, but they were given a grant from the University to print their publication and distribute it on campus. Dr. Ruby even went to lunch with the editor at the time to talk about the role the paper played at Cedarville.

Enter Dr. Thomas White.

The Purge began with the removal of dozens of members of Cedarville’s faculty and staff, including anyone who dissented incoming president Dr. White’s specific ways of doing things. Victims of the purge include Dr. Carl Ruby, Dr. Michael Pahl, Dr. T.C. Ham, Dr. Shawn Graves, Robert Rohm, Dr. Andy Runyan, Shelly Nutter, Nancy Ranger, Dr. Dan Ebert, Dr. David Mills, Dr. Carl B. Smith, Dr. David Mills, Dr. William Rudd, and Rev. Chris Williamson. According to the Justice Collective, there are many more names that cannot be added to the list because hey were forced to sign NDAs or risk loss of severance pay. Furthermore, many “self-purged” because they could no longer stand abuse from the administration. Reverend Williamson wrote:

“The board of trustees repeatedly mishandled God’s servants while virtually ignoring the cries of students and alumni alike. Any hint of due process was abandoned, and the ability to have respectful dialogues on key issues was non-existent. I resigned because I could no longer be associated with a group that was constantly untruthful and unjust.”

Accoring to FIRE, “The right to due process refers to the idea that governmental authorities must provide fair, unbiased, and equitable procedures when determining a person’s guilt or innocence.”

This lack of due process is continued by this the same board of trustees we know today: Dr. White’s personal theological echo-chamber. While the president does get blamed for pretty much everything, we have to remember that the board of trustees was here before him and initiated the purge. Dr. Brown tried to turn the school around, but in Joshua Steele’s article for The Ventriloquist in 2013 hit the nail on the head when he called the incoming administration “The New Cedarville of 20 years ago.” But what did that mean for The Ventriloquist? When the team tried to distribute the April 2014 issue of the paper, as they had done for four years prior, Dr. White and Dr. Wood roamed the campus physically seizing copies of the paper. You heard me right: because of the crime of exercising free speech, differing ideas, and voicing student opinions that did not fall in line with Cedarville, the heads of the administration took time away from their important work of leading the University to physically silence The Ventriloquist.

Now, to clear up a major rumor that we have fallen victim to as well: the editor of The Ventriloquist was not removed from Cedarville. However, Cedarville did remove the professors listed above for believing differently than the University. Cedarville may not be as strict now as under the Dixon administration (spoiler alert: skirts aren’t actually more modest), but any viewpoint deemed as more “Liberal” is instantly silenced. Dr. Pahl was removed two months after immigrating from Alberta for not lining up with every single belief of the University. If it cannot be silenced, kiss your tenure, job, scholarship, leadership position, enrollment, or professorship goodbye.

The Show Goes On: Continued Censorship

After Cedarville had its fifteen months of fame after shutting down The Ventriloquist and firing a plethora of liberal insurgents, they shifted their approach in order to shy away from the limelight. Nowadays, Cedarville has become much more subtle in their methods of censorship. I cannot tell you how many messages we received saying Cedarville silenced me. They have silenced the conversation on mental health. They have silenced the conversation on the LGBTQ+ community (don’t worry, our little gay rebels, we’ve got a doosie coming for you here soon). They have silenced the conversation on female leadership. They have silenced the conversation on a non-six day creation (which, does it really matter if God created the world in six literal days or created it so perfectly that over a period of many years it formed into the world we know today?) Despite what they said in chapel on Monday, they have silenced the conversation on discrimination and sexual assault and relational violence and tried to hide scandal after scandal after scandal after scandal after scandal, censorship after censorship after censorship after censorship after censorship, belittlement after belittlement. They have silenced conversations created by secular voices by limiting materials professors may provide to their students (hey guess what, Dr. White? Boobies and bad words exist *gasp* and students will find that out whether or not the cirriculum covers it. It only comes down to whether they learn about it from culture or with a Biblical foundation. Wait–wasn’t that the whole reason Christian colleges are a thing? I digress…)

It comes down to this: tow the University line or tow yourself to another University. Do you know why The Ventriloquist got shut down? They published an article exposing the fact that Dr. Wood removed a student from leadership for being gay (oh, and they were also celibate and under full conviction that their desires were ungodly, but let’s just ignore that part).

Cutting the Strings: Where do we go from here?

You may be thinking…uh, hey yo Interpeter, this does not bode well for you. You would be right. Should we be scared of censorship? Most definitely. Are we? Absolutely not, and for two reasons that eats away at administrative staff who would have our website, Instagram, and Twitter (well, maybe not. Our three followers aren’t much of a threat. Please follow us) removed in a heartbeat if they could.

  1. Truth always wins. Believe it or not, there is justice in this world. In fact, that justice is out-of-this-world because God brings justice to all things in the end. We truly believe that the truth we expose through our articles bring glory to God, as does all truth. The light of truth outshines darkness and exposes abuse, restores victims, and enriches communities.
  2. We’re anonymous. Yeah, it’s that simple. There is no way for Cedarville University to know who we are. The Ventriloquist suffered primarily from exposure, making them an easy target for disciplinary actions. Unfortunately, everything from our domain registration, IP address, email addresses, and social media accounts are 100% unequivocally anonymous. I did hear reports of an undercover police vehicle on campus today, however, which gave me pause.

So here’s the bottom line: Let your voice be heard, whether through The Cedarville Interpreter or your own avenues, but know that we are here for you. We are 100% student-run, student-led, and student-written. Our goal is logical, accurate, and impactful reporting. There is no such thing as censorship here at the Interpreter. If Cedarville takes issue with that, then the student body should take issue with Cedarville.

“It was the Woman” – The Blame Game that Started with Eve

This begins our three-part series on womanhood at Cedarville University, written by an anonymous female student in tandem with our Editor.

Part 1: Stumbling Blocks

Picture This: You arrive on campus at Cedarville University as a wide-eyed freshman ready to experience your first taste of freedom. Your first day, yippee! As you walk into your new dorm, your RA informs you of a mandatory meeting that night so you can get to know the girls in the hall a bit better. After gathering all the gals together, your RA starts to go over some basic rules. No problem, we’ve all had a meeting like this before. You notice your RA wearing leggings and a t-shirt while discussing the dress code and think, “Maybe the dress code isn’t as strict as I thought!” But your RA informs you that the reason she is wearing leggings is for a demonstration. You start to wonder what’s going on when marshmallows are being passed out. Then something crazy happens: your RA instructs you to ‘stone’ her with the marshmallows because she deserves it for going against the rules and wearing leggings. This was the actual experience of one CU student and the rest of her hall.  While this might have just been a bad idea that was cooked up at 1am, it unearths an even larger, more systemic issue at CU:

Purity culture.

Purity culture lies at the root of many of the issues surrounding the way that women are treated at Cedarville. Seldomly talked about, yet sometimes so pervasive it can be felt in the air, purity culture can be boiled down to a blame game: Blaming victims for rape, blaming the clothes women wear, blaming the way that a woman talks, walks, or carries herself as the root cause of how others act. If you are a man reading this, this so-called purity culture has impacts you as well. I certainly don’t believe in demonizing men, as there are plenty of great guys out there. However, I think that this issue needs to be discussed, not only for the sake of women, but also the men who are treated by the culture as if they are so sexually motivated that not a single one of them can keep their hands to themselves if they see a woman in, say, leggings.

Are women really stumbling blocks, or is Cedarville’s misinterpretation of scripture the real stumbling block?

The “Stumbling Block” Policy

My freshman year, my bro-sis went on a camping trip at the start of the semester. I received a message from my RA that if I wanted to go swimming then I would need to bring a one piece with me in order to cover up and remain modest. However, when we went, all the guys were allowed to take their shirts off when they wanted to. This is a massive double-standard. First of all, Cedarville’s policies seem to assume that women do not have a sexual drive, especially not one that can be appealed to visually. Guys are the ones that struggle with pornography, lust, and impure thoughts. This idea hurts men because it casts them as walking perverted sex-machines whose minds are so impure that if they see a woman wearing shorts above her mid-thigh or a tank top with thin straps or (God forbid) see a bra strap, they will commit unspeakable sins in their minds. Men—especially men of God—are fully capable of having pure minds. Trying to hide women’s bodies as some sort of barrier to sexual thoughts simply makes the issue worse. As discussed in the article on Cedarville’s alcohol rules, when you make something illegal, it doesn’t stop people who want to do it.

Secondly, it promulgates the idea that women’s bodies are shameful and ought to be covered up. Men are allowed to wear insanely (and, frankly, disturbingly) short shorts in the gym and tank tops that are barely there, but women get in trouble for wearing normal work-out clothes like leggings or tank tops. A former staff member of the athletic center told us that guys that wore tight fitting or short length shorts were never punished, while women were given a PC or even asked to leave.

When we think Christian modesty, this is what usually comes to mind. #homeschooled

            Regarding modesty, Cedarville often references the second half of Romans 14:13:

“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.”

That second half is extremely useful for Cedarville’s argument because it seems to be saying we should not do anything to cause someone else to sin, which in and of itself is true, but is not the point of the text. We must ask ourselves what is the ‘therefore’ there for? In the preceding verses, Paul is writing to the church to instruct them in how to welcome others into their community. Using the metaphor of food, Paul tells them to welcome those of weaker faith who may abstain from certain foods, but in doing so not to argue about petty disagreements. He continues by saying that Christian liberty permits believers to engage in activities previously not permitted by the law.

What Cedarville notably misses in this passage is verse 3: “Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.” In other words, Cedarville’s argument that women must change the way they dress because someone MIGHT be weak in faith is not Biblically grounded. Of course, women should dress in a manner pleasing to God as determined by their relationship with him. As verse 5 says, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” and do everything in honor of the Lord. Cedarville would be wise to follow Paul’s instructions to welcome others into their community by allowing differing viewpoints and by relaxing overly strict standards to allow Christians to act in accordance with their Biblical conscience.

Unfortunately, whether it was at youth group, summer camp, dance, or even at school, girls have been required to cover themselves in certain ways for the sake of men. We are told that it is so that we are not a ‘stumbling block’ (a misquote of Romans 14:13) because if a guy sees our stomach or shoulder it could hinder his faith in Christ. What’s worse, sometimes the most stringent perpetrators of this culture are other women. Another CU student once explained to me the proper way I am supposed to pick something up, just so that a guy might not accidentally see my cleavage. Another student was wearing an oversized pullover with a pair of leggings. The pullover more than covered her butt, but her backpack snagged her sweater and briefly “exposed” her leggings (*gasp*). After she sat down to eat, an RA approached her and informed her she would either have to leave or get a PC for breaking dress code. She says, “She drew more attention to the matter rather than if she would’ve just let me eat my meal.”

“Are we all dressing sinfully? Or does modestly simply depend on what our culture deems correct?”

All the hurt that is perpetuated by this topic is for the cause of modesty. However, there is no such thing as a universal definition of modesty. In fact, modesty is not a defined biblical concept. Of course, the Bible calls for modesty, but never lays out the specifics (in fact when it refers to modesty it is speaking of humility rather than sexual lust prevention). Modesty is primarily a subcultural concept within certain religions, including Christianity. This is evidenced by the way that the church’s definition of modesty has changed with the culture. For example, what women wear today would be appalling to Baptists in the 1960s. Are we all dressing sinfully? Or does modestly simply depend on what our culture deems correct? As Christians, our standards are not decided by society, but by our faith and relationship with God as described in Romans 14.

So next time, whether your reasoning is to protect a ‘brother in Christ’ or because God likes modest girls, think before you judge someone walking by in clothing you may not choose to wear. We are called in scripture not to judge others whose beliefs differ from ours. This is especially true when those choices and beliefs still fall within the bounds of godliness. Is it really sinful to wear leggings, tank tops, or shorts? Is it sinful for women to be proud of and confident in their bodies? Where in scripture did God say swimsuits are a sin? Always remember, our communication with others, both verbal and nonverbal, will leave a huge impact on them. Communication is irreversible. Consider the words of grace, love, and acceptance found in Scripture and be mindful of judgmental stares or unkind words. You never know what a girl may be struggling with.