“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.

Nonexistent: Mental Health at Cedarville

CU Later: The Unavailability of counseling services

Cedarville, OH lies sandwiched between miles of corn fields and back roads and is notably sparse when it comes to counselors, especially on the budget of broke college students. So, when I first attended Cedarville University, I immediated applied for counseling services on campus. After applying in January, I heard nothing back until March. So four months later, I finally received an email saying availability had opened up. I scheduled my appointment, which was an outstanding counseling session with a great counselor, for the beginning of April. Through the entire semester, I managed to have two sessions in April.

My application for counseling included symptoms of severe depression, anxiety, and a past of emotional and verbal abuse. Why did it take Cedarville four months for me to get help? Another former student, in this article, recounts that they were able to receive counseling after applying in the summer. However, after one appointment, they were placed back on a waiting list and were not seen for the rest of the academic year.

Cedarville has to hire more counselors–instead of maybe, I don’t know, building more buildings?–in order to address the needs of its student body. The counselors on staff, as far as I have heard and experienced, are highly proficient, skilled, godly individuals. They won’t rat you out (because they legally cannot) and seem to truly care for your well-being. The problem is, 1 counselor for every 1,000 students is woefully insufficient, especially in an environment that can be so damaging to students’ mental health through legalistic restrictions presented under the guise of Biblical truth. The availability of counselors is a simple issue to solve, but a necessary one. As we will see as this article continues, Cedarville MUST change its environment.

CU Never: Removal for Mental Health

Cedarville has a long and deeply disturbing track record of dismissing students for mental health concerns. I personally know an individual who was dismissed after seeking help for thoughts of self-harm. A website called The Wartburg Watch published an article detailing large-scale abuse of and ignorance towards individuals struggling with mental health. According to their source, all chairs and deans received an email in August–soon after Dr. White preached a message of intolerance toward abusers, aggressors, and assaulters–stating that student accounts of abuse, aggression, and assault were simply not true and that Cedarville had done nothing wrong.

Cedarville says they did nothing wrong. Not even getting into the Dr. Moore crisis, there are countless examples of Cedarville’s wrongdoing. The Wartburg Watch recounts the story of a former student who experienced an eating disorder and sucididal ideations. They met with Dr. Jon Wood (Vice President of Academics) and Dr. Mindy May (Vice President of mishandling mental health concerns). These, at the time, unlicensed individuals decided she was fine and no action was needed. Apparently, Dr. Wood found it much more interesting how people pronounce “crayons.” In spite of May and Wood’s evaluation, their friends brought them to Kettering and they were hospitalized. Tragically, they were sexually assaulted while hospitalized. After returning to campus, they were forced to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement about their experience.

Another story recounts a student named Kiara experiencing mental health issues and a roommate (an aspiring RA, no less) who spread false sexual rumors about her and rumors about her mental health on campus. Mindy May addressed this issue by meeting with her and her family at the field house during registration, surrounded by hundreds of students and their families. Very private. Mindy May disclosed that the roommate had admitted she spread those rumors after previously telling Kiara that the RA position would not be granted if her accusation was true.

Here’s the kicker: Mindy May gave her the RA position back anyway.

Kiara requested a No Contact Order against the girl through the Title IX office. The Title IX office approved her request. She was told any proximity of her former roommate to herself constituted a violation and her roommate was required to leave line. When violations occured, Mindy May responded that these were not, in fact, violations. In fact, she informed Kiara that her story probably wasn’t accurate and that she was innacurate in her details.

I’m sorry, what?

Harrassment continued to occur from this now RA towards Kiara and Mindy May continued to ignore her requests. Appeals as far as Dr. White were ignored and belittled. Kiara became actively suicidal and was hospitalized. Two days after her release, she was informed she had a meeting with Dr. Wood and Dr. May to discuss. In this meeting, Kiara was belittled and Dr. Wood actually rolled his eyes at her as she recounted the harrassment she was experiencing. Her parents emailed Dr. White. She was given the number for campus safety in case she ever felt like killing herself again.

Dr. White never responded.

Doesn’t that seem to arise as a theme with the Cedarville administration? We don’t like it, so we won’t respond.

If you have experienced trauma caused by Cedarville’s administration, please reach out and we can help you. Whether that be sharing your story, finding advocacy for you, or finding counseling services for you, we will do whatever we can to help you. Our anonymity ensures yours as well.

CU shouldn’t have brought that up (CU Never, part 2)

Why have so few articles been written on this issue? Why have so few students spoken out publicly?

Cedarville’s handbook states, “Cedarville University will permit only those demonstrations, solicitations, or distributions that, in the judgement of the University, are orderly and peaceful.” This makes sense, until the handbook further defines this stance. “Demonstrations, solicitations, or distributions [especially those people over at the Cedarville Interpreter!!] that, in the opinion of the University, involve advocacy of unscriptural positions, are disorderly, or that interrupt or disrupt [any University function].”

In other words, if you disagree with Cedarville in any way, you can get kicked out of the University. Students must receive permission from the university to distribute any materials. So I could very easily get kicked out just for writing this article. Cedarville claims to value truth, but punishes free speech or any form of dissidence. The FIRE institute put it incredibly well:

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.

Foundation for Individual Rights for Education

This free exchange of dialogue, pushed down by the Cedarville administration for the sake of self-image, is especially important in the area of mental health. Allowing students to come forward with their issues is not as easy as posters with an email address you can email. It begins with a culture of acceptance, understanding, and frankly, a lack of ignorance of mental health.

Cedarville must open their hearts and minds to the struggles of hundreds of students on their campus who fear getting help from an administration with a track record of turning their backs on students for nearly a decade.

Todd Wilhelm of Thou Art the Man and The Wartburg Watch provided some resources that may be helpful for you: Redeeming Power by Diane Langberg, Somethings Not Right by Wade Mullen, The Sociopath Next Door by Dr. Martha Stout, Healing Spiritual Wounds by Carol Howard Merrit, The Long Journey Home by Andrew J. Schmutzer, and The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen

Dry Town: Why Cedarville Township exists as one of only hundreds of dry towns in the U.S.

From Jan 17, 1920-Dec 5, 1933, the United States amended Constitution to ban the sale or possession of alcohol. In Alcohol and public policy: beyond the shadow of prohibition, Paul Aaron and David Musto write that before prohibition, “Drunkenness was condemned and punished, but only as an abuse of a God-given gift. Drink itself was not looked upon as culpable, any more than food deserved blame for the sin of gluttony. Excess was a personal indiscretion.” (Aaron & Musto, 1981) However, a social movement continued to demonstrate the “dangers” of alcoholic consumption, including heavy taxes levied on alcohol proposed as a so-called “sin tax.” You can read more in the Wikipedia article, which provides an excellent overview of the history of prohibition, even into recent times.

The point of all of this is to say that prohibition was tried and massively failed the 20th century. So why, you might ask, does Cedarville Township remain a dry town?

The point of all of this is to say that prohibition was tried and massively failed the 20th century. So why, you might ask, does Cedarville Township remain a dry town?

If you were to ask Cedarville University students, Dr. White—no, Dr. Wood—no, Dr. [insert basically any name]—no, the University itself—no, campus doge—owns the liquor license for the entire township. There’s a massive oral history of Cedarville University’s involvement with liquor licensing within the township. However, through research, we discovered that these statements are inaccurate. There is no lump-sum amount of liquor licenses available that can be bought up or controlled by one individual.

In order to obtain the most factual information about the rules and regulations behind Cedarville’s ban on alcohol, the Interpreter contacted the Ohio Department of Commerce, who deals with liquor licensing and regulations for the entire state. We inquired on why Cedarville is a dry town and who controls the liquor licenses within the township. Michael Gravely, the Public Relations officer for the ODC, informed us that Cedarville’s liquor licenses are controlled by popular vote. So, when the Rip/Shell Station apply for a liquor license, they must essentially campaign for the vote of Cedarville residents in order for their license to be approved.

Dry Counties (Red), Mixed Counties (Yellow), and Wet Counties (Blue), March 2012

Why does this matter?

Cedarville University, as discussed in this article, is strongly and unequivocally opposed to the use of alcohol, continuing in line with social constructs not followed since the 1930s. In Cedarville’s student handbook, students must agree that they are morally opposed to alcohol. Students are also commended to participate in civic engagement and vote their conscience. If students support use of alcohol, they can be dismissed from the University. The same goes for faculty and staff who largely reside in Cedarville township.

In other words, Cedarville University controls a vast majority of the vote on liquor licensing. By forcing students to adhere to the Student Handbook and forcing staff to adhere to the Staff/Faculty/Affiliate Handbook, Cedarville essentially forces them to vote against liquor licensing under threat of dismissal or loss of their job. Cedarville University ought to strongly consider rewriting their policies under Constitutional and Biblical considerations. Controlling the votes of Cedarville affiliates should be strongly discouraged. Cedarville must come to the realization that their policies would be illegal in nearly any other environment for good reason. Cedarville affiliates ought to be free to vote their conscience and behave in accordance with their conscience, not vote and behave under threat of dismissal or getting fired.

Cedarville University must accept change.

NOTE: The views expressed in this article certainly do not represent those of Cedarville University. Articles are submitted and written anonymously in order to protect the identities of students and non-students alike who could face backlash or punishment for expressing their viewpoints that differ in any way from Cedarville University.

The Sobering truth of Cedarville’s Archaic Prohibition Rules

If you are a student at Cedarville, you know that the university resides in the historically dry town of Cedarville, OH. The university itself is also strongly anti-alcohol, arguing that consumption of alcohol is inconsistent with a Biblical lifestyle, even though Jesus drank wine and the Bible is filled with positive references to alcohol. In this article, our anonymous author discusses the practical, common sense issues with the policy, the detailed policy issues within the student handbook, and a Biblical review of the alcoholic prohibition instated at Cedarville.

The Practical Aspect

Cedarville’s policy on alcohol is simply another notch in the post of treating students like children rather than adults. According to the student handbook, “Nearly 70% of our undergraduates are under the legal drinking age. For these students, drinking is not only unwise, it is also illegal.” While this is undoubtedly true, the policy fails in two major areas.

The first is that prohibition does not equip students for the reality of the world after they leave the campus of Cedarville University. From 1920-1933, the United States unwittingly participated in a massive experiment into the idea of illegalizing alcohol of any kind. As we know from history, prohibition massively failed. Use of alcohol was simply pushed underground out of regulatory bounds and resulted in the creation of a black market.

The second problem is that Cedarville seems oblivious to the fact that the same thing has happened at Cedarville. There is no doubt in my mind that students who wish to drink will find a way to do so, just like students who struggle with sexual temptation will find a way to engage in such activities if that is truly the desire of their hearts.

The reality is this: laws cannot change hearts and minds. Cedarville’s prohibition of alcohol simply diversifies students’ tactics to engage in the habits they will inevitably choose to form. Alcohol certainly should not be allowed in dorms as this can be highly damaging to the academic environment and abuse of alcohol that affects studies or endangers other students should result in disciplinary action. But controlled and responsible use of alcohol—which Christians too often forget was how Jesus approached alcohol—should not be limited because it has the mere potential to be used irresponsibly. The only Biblical justification provided in the handbook is that it is listed as a “disputable matter” by Paul, which we will get into later.

The Policy Aspect

Cedarville justifies their policy by referencing the “Drug-free Schools and Communities Act,” which requires universities to provide, “Standards of conduct that clearly prohibit, at a minimum, the unlawful possession, use, or distribution of illicit drugs and alcohol on school property or as part of any school activities for employees (Policy) or students (Code of Conduct)” and a statement of disciplinary actions associated with those violations. Cedarville goes far beyond regulations mandated in the DFSC Act by attempting to regulate the daily lives of their students whether on or off campus. “Students are not to attend clubs or bars where alcohol is the primary feature” and “Students are not permitted to attend parties where alcohol is being used in a manner that violates university standards.”

So, to be clear: Students may not eat at a brewery, alehouse, or pub even if they are just going to eat food because they can be dismissed from the University. Furthermore, students may be dismissed if they attend a party where alcohol is present, whether or not the student makes what the University would deem “wise choices” by avoiding drinking.

Any interaction with alcohol, innocent or not, “may result in dismissal.” So next time you see a bud light in a gas station…run for your life.

Then in a moment of disturbing—yet not uncommon—hypocrisy and contradiction, the next sentence reads, “All students are expected to live independently and are responsible for their own personal care.” Unless, apparently, you violate a non-Biblically based rule and are expelled from the University.

The Biblical Aspect

D.A. Carson engages in an enlightening discourse on the “disputable matters” Cedarville references in the student handbook. You can view it here. (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/on-disputable-matters/) While I do not agree with every aspect of Carson’s analysis, he does raise some key truths about “disputable matters.”

However, his ultimate conclusion is that Christians must make decisions based on whether they will be further sanctified. While this is a nice general principle, it is not full proof. For example, can we ever seriously argue that taking jet skis out on a lake or visiting Kings Island are a means of divine sanctification? 1 Corinthians 8:8 argues, “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.” Just like if we do a 270 double front flip on our jet ski, we are no better or worse off.

Unfortunately, 1 Corinthians 8 is the famous and ever-taken-out-of-context passage used by Christians to justify substituting their convictions for Biblical truths. D.A. Carson, writing for what is arguably Cedarville’s favorite theology blog The Gospel Coalition, writes, “one should not confuse the logic of 1 Corinthians 8 with the stance that finds a strong legalist saying to a believer who thinks that eating meat offered to idols is acceptable, ‘You may think that such action is legitimate, but every time you do it you are offending me—and since you are not permitted to offend me, therefore you must not engage in that activity.’”

In other words, there is a difference between going out to drink with a friend who is an alcoholic and drinking in front of someone who is just offended by it. The difference is, God cares about the first and does not care about the second.

D.A. Carson outlines ten items that can be used to determine what constitutes a theologically disputable matter—which Cedarville claims includes use of alcohol. There are a couple I’d like to flesh out. First, he writes that something that can be disputed does not make it a theologically disputed doctrine. Drinking alcohol is certainly disputed between Christians with different opinions on it, but it is not a disputed doctrine. Rather, Carson rightly points out that dispute only relates to doctrines concretely repeated throughout scripture. Alcohol use is not repeatedly rebuked in scripture. In fact, Amos 9:14 says, “I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.”

Amos’ prophecy describes the restoration of God’s people as involving drinking wine. Hey Amos, you’ve got a very urgent meeting with Dr. Wood tomorrow. I’d go ahead and start packing.

1 Corinthians 9:4 says, “Do we not have the right to eat and drink?” Paul goes on to argue that we should not do so if it would cause a stumbling block to other believers.

Christians not overtaken by an archaic dislike of alcohol from the 1920s can read this passage and apply it to Cedarville in this way: Students should not drink with students who are not legally allowed to do so and students should not drink too much alcohol, thereby maintaining self-control over their bodies. Believers should also take 1 Corinthians 8-10 to heart and be sensitive to the struggles of our fellow believers. We should not drink alcohol around underage students or those who struggle with alcoholism. Just as with eating food offered to idols, as Paul discusses, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with alcohol consumption. The problems arise when we disregard our fellow believers who are of weaker conscience. But God does not write off enjoying anything unless it is harmful to our bodies or hurts others, neither of which are true about alcohol. Cedarville ought to take this Biblical message to heart and change their policies to allow responsible use of alcohol. Unfortunately, that will probably never happen for one simple reason: Cedarville is so concerned with their image that they are more willing to treat their students like children than follow actual Biblical principles.

Conclusion

The administration should be an example of leadership by listening to its student body, a large portion of which would support the change to the student handbook. Cedarville’s policy on alcohol is not founded in fact, policy, or Biblical principle. Cedarville would be served well to move on from archaic legalistic principles of the past towards being an example of grace and freedom in Christ.

NOTE: This is not a comprehensive argument for changing the alcohol policy at Cedarville and more articles will likely be posted in relation to this subject to review Biblical principles in depth. Additionally, using any source (such as D.A. Carson) does not equate to belief in everything they believe or agreement with any or all of their actions. Furthermore, the views expressed in this article certainly do not represent those of Cedarville University. Articles are submitted and written anonymously in order to protect the identities of students and non-students alike who could face backlash or punishment for expressing their viewpoints that differ in any way from Cedarville University.