The Elephant in the Closet: A Male Perspective on Purity Culture

I still remember the image. It’s burned into my mind. I was fourteen when my dad called me into his room. On the bed were two sheets of blank paper and a bottle of Elmer’s glue. He sat me down to talk to me about the dangers of relationships.

There was no talk of the blessings of love and affection, the sense of belonging and purpose, or the excitement of growing together with someone that dating can bring.

Instead, he told me to pick up a piece of paper and put six dots of glue on it. I did, and he told me to press both pieces together. We waited for a few minutes as the glue dried. He told me to try to separate the pieces of paper. As I did, the page tore in six places.

“This is what happens when you date someone you don’t end up marrying. Every time you give your heart to a girl, a little bit is taken away from the person you’ll one day marry.”

Free public domain CC0 image.

The image terrified me. I suddenly became afraid of liking a girl, much less dating her. I saw the contents of my heart as a lump sum, a quantity that could decrease if I made the mistake of loving the wrong person. This perspective destroyed my confidence and twisted my perception of relationships. Dating could not be about getting to know someone and figuring out if they are the right person. Instead, dating (a word frowned upon in my upbringing and often replaced with “courting”) was a one-way road to marriage with no exits along the way.

The purity culture I was entrenched in growing up demonized relationships. Loving someone was a stumbling block and merely threatened to plunge me into a world of lust. My image of love, sex, and relationships was skewed from day one.

After a lot of research and thought surrounding my personal experience, I realized that the enforcement of purity culture by parents in particular often stems from the belief that parents’ personal convictions are equal to God’s law and any deviation from or disobedience of parents’ unreasonable standards is a direct sin against God. So I decided to take a slight detour to look at the parenting methods that many of our parents were exposed to and used to justify purity culture.

My entire upbringing was incredibly strict, with books such as Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp and Growing Kids God’s Way by Gary Ezzo (a member of John MacArthur’s church, which has since dropped its endorsement of GKGW) influencing my parents’ beliefs in authoritarian obedience and discipline. We already know from the last article that purity culture began in the 80s and 90s, so when these parenting books came out, they were merely the icing on the cake for many young parents who were experiencing this anti-sexual revolution.

The Teachings: Growing Kids God’s Way

Growing Kids God’s Way’s title immediately portrays Ezzo’s disciplinary style as the definitive godly method of parenting, dismissing other forms of parenting whether intentionally or not. This book has some redeeming qualities, such as condemning legalism and verbal abuse. However, it ironically contains very legalistic perspectives and abusive parenting techniques. The book goes as far as to recommend corporal punishment (typically using some sort of tool such as a paddle) to children as young as six months old (there is also a discussion of using rubber tubing to whip an 18-month-old) and “training” babies not to cry by leaving them unattended in their cribs and refusing to give them milk to “train” them against using crying to “manipulate” the parents, something babies are cognitively incapable of. Babies must be fed, napped, and played with on a strict schedule and ignored at first when they start to cry. It is recommended to “gently admonish” your child for “minor offenses” such as spilling water.

Parents are described as arbiters of God’s wrath against their sinful children. Children are intentionally held to unreasonable standards and punished for their failure to obey even when it is not possible for them to do so. If children wish to go against any of their parents’ commands, they are instructed to ask, “May I make an appeal?”

The focus of this method was on the parents, not the children. As the executors of authority and discipline, the parents are portrayed as divine vessels appointed by God. Therefore, well-disciplined children who are quiet and obey immediately are testaments to the fortitude of their faith. Having this type of emotionally lobotomized children was a status symbol in my church community.

Dr. Barbara Francis, a psychologist and member of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, writes of the Ezzo method, “In all areas, babies are taught to obey at levels that are not consistent with their capabilities. This skewed perspective results in what could be dangerous interpretations of a child’s behavior.”

Ezzo’s recommendations for a strict feeding schedule, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “has raised concern among pediatricians because it outlines an infant feeding program that has been associated with failure to thrive (FTT), poor weight gain, dehydration, breast milk supply failure, and involuntary early weaning.” Establishing authority is prioritized over the medical wellbeing of the child.

As far as crying, AAP neonatologist Dr. Lillian Blackmon points out, “trust is the major emotional attachment task of the infant, trusting the adults in the environment to respond to their needs. And the infant has a limited repertoire of ways to bring those needs to the attention of the adults. Initially, it’s only crying.”

Dr. Francis decries Ezzo’s model by saying, “Babies are taught from the day of birth not to be demanding, and yet the parents are encouraged to be extremely demanding of their child’s behavior. Children are not allowed immediate gratification (even as newborns), yet parents are given the right to have immediate gratification of every request. (“first time, every time”)…Time after time, babies and children are expected to behave in ways that are inconsistent with their God-designed level of development in order to satisfy the (often-arbitrary) comfort of the parents…Age-appropriate, God-given needs are labeled as sinful.”

“Teach him [your child] to obey according to the character of true obedience-immediately, completely, without challenge, and without complaint.” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 169)

Why does the Growing Kids God’s Way model of parenting matter in a discussion about purity culture? Because it taught parents who were coming off the tail end of the conception of purity culture that their personal beliefs were equal to God’s authority. In other words, their beliefs in unrealistic purity standards were validated as commands from God for their children—commands their children must be strictly disciplined into obeying and even emotionally manipulated into believing. It also raised a generation of children who were punished into a state of fear for their parents. They were never able to form their own opinions or understand concepts of relationships and sex while they were busy avoiding a paddle.

As a sidebar, Ezzo responded to questions about his methods by saying, “who are the critics? What are their families like? Are they sought after by young parents as role models to be emulated?” In other words, Ezzo is looked up to by other Christians. He is admired. His discipline is blessed by God. Any questions are simply dismissed as anti-Biblical nonsense.

The Teachings: Shepherding a Child’s Heart

Tedd Tripp starts off strong by pointing out that most parents’ focus is on reacting to and preventing bad behaviors. Too many parents forget to win their children’s hearts and guide them to fulfilling lives.

But the problems arise quickly. He argues that children must be held to standards that are impossible to achieve. He writes: “The alternative is to reduce the standard to what may be fairly expected of your children without the grace of God. The alternative is to give them a law they can keep. The alternative is a lesser standard that does not require grace and does not cast them on Christ, but rather on their own resources.” (Shepherding a Child’s Heart, pg. 123)

This mindset opens the door for parents to hold their children to unrealistic standards of purity and consider it an offense against God if their children stray from their parent’s convictions which are seen as equivalent to God’s law. Purity is not a pursuit or an intention. It is an unbreakable and unnuanced command.

But isn’t parenthood meant to be a reflection of our relationship with God? Does God merely establish his dominance over us and give us a list of rules to follow? No, God gives us commands to follow but we simultaneously find comfort in his grace and forgiveness. We find the blessings of friendship, security, and free will.

Credit: Psychology Today

Of course, Tripp also mandates physical punishment as the only Biblical form of discipline. Spanking is not just an option, it is the exclusive acceptable method of punishment. But this physical pain is used to enforce the all-important authority of parents which, he argues, is the most important parental virtue. Parents must establish dominance and superiority so that their children are obedient and pliable–of course, so that they can be guided to the Gospel, not so they can be guided along a path of legalism, abuse, and stunted emotional growth…right?

The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children published a report on corporal punishment (i.e. spanking) finding that, in summary, “Corporal punishment, even the “light” variety, is associated with poor outcomes in terms of mental health, cognitive development, aggression, and antisocial behavior, and education achievement.”

This form of discipline has been proven many times to be detrimental to children’s growth and has no Biblical foundation. Tripp uses Proverbs’ vague statements about “the rod” (none of which are commands or specific references to literal tools used to beat children) and Hebrews 12:11 (which simply says all forms of discipline are painful at the moment with no specific reference to corporal punishment) to mandate spanking. Tedd, just because Christians have done it for forever does not mean it is Biblical.

Tripp promulgated the concept of hyper-authoritarian parenting that subjected children to painful punishment so they could be scared into being “shepherded” along their parents’ perfect paths–or wait was it God’s perfect path? Who knows. By the end of the book, the line is conveniently blurred beyond recognition.

This is the danger of books such as these. Striking fear in your children’s hearts is not godly parenthood. It leaves children stunted in their growth and emotionally repressed. They can’t explore the emotional nuance of important topics like purity because they are afraid to express emotions that could go against mommy and daddy’s perfect plan and lead to getting hit.

The Teachings: I Kissed Dating Goodbye

Josh Harris’ notorious critique of dating culture certainly played a role in my upbringing. I could go on for hours about the damaging teachings in this book which Harris has since recanted, but the main problems with this book were its extrabiblical total dismissal of dating and kissing before marriage as well as its implication that following this method would result in a happily-ever-after marriage.

It taught that every relationship before marriage was a betrayal. Kissing was sexual immorality. Dating was described as an attack on God’s perfect plan. Paired with the authoritarian parenting books many parents read, I Kissed Dating Goodbye was added to the lengthy repertoire of legalistic doctrines, aka their parents’ opinion, children were expected to accept as God’s law.

The Teachings: Passport 2 Purity (aka Sex Education)

One of the strangest experiences of my life was the sex education weekend I did with my dad using the curriculum Passport 2 Purity. The concept isn’t bad: take your kid away for a weekend and talk to them about sex, its consequences, and what the Bible has to say about it. However, the problem is that P2P was two-fold. First of all, it did a poor job of informing its readers/listeners how sex actually works leaving kids to try to figure things out for themselves. This course taught that the climax of the sexual experience was the male orgasm—specifically unprotected ejaculation (can you say breeding kink?). After the audio explanation of “intercourse,” I was super confused. I asked my dad for clarification and still managed to leave thinking that sex was basically peeing in a girl. Not good at all.

The notorious “Wait-to-Date” Contract from P2P

The other problem with P2P is that it fell in line with all of the parenting techniques of GKGW and Shepherding a Child’s Heart by placing the parent at the focal point of the discussion. At the end of the course, children are forced to sign a “binding” contract promising to wait to date until their parents allowed them to. For my parents, that meant waiting until I was 22, graduated from college, and had a full-time job (and I had to be interested in a girl they approved of, of course). The manipulative portrayal of sex as male-focused is pretty disgusting. But most disgusting is the emotional manipulation behind tying “purity” to parental obedience. If you are “impure,” you have sinned against God, yourself, and also your parents.

The Results: Modesty and Friendships

Purity culture emerged in response to the hyper-sexuality that dominated culture during the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Sexual experimentation, diversion, and publicity were met with rigidity, abstinence, and shame. The pendulum swung completely. This played out for me not only in how sex was presented to me but also in how I was allowed to dress and interact with girls. When I went swimming, I had to wear both shorts and a swim shirt because being shirtless was immodest. I could only wear dark-colored jeans and shorts that extended all the way to the knee. Tank tops were out of the question. I was ushered away from girls in public wearing clothes deemed immodest by my parents. These rules and practices left me constantly struggling with self-image issues. I was torn between taking care of myself, trying to dress well, or being friendly and being “pure” by not trying to be attractive at all physically or platonically.

Modest is Oddest

S*x was a four-letter word and anything that could possibly be interpreted as physically attractive was deemed perverse and impure. My sister couldn’t even wear shorts until late in high school after an intense battle of wills with my parents. When I talked to any girl, I was told to keep it short and concise and could never develop a real friendship with them. Even female acquaintances were questioned.

For example, when I was 15, a girl I knew asked me to help her lead music for Vacation Bible School at her church. My parents immediately asked, “Why? Does this girl have an interest in you?” and no matter how much I assured them she did not, they refused to let me lead worship at VBS because it was a girl who asked me to.

Sex was feared rather than respected, forbidden rather than cherished. Because of this, sex became a focal point of shame. It was the focus but could never be openly discussed. It was the ultimate elephant in the room—an elephant that was forced into every room just to be shoved into a locked closet. It’s difficult to put into words, but anyone who grew up under the pretense of purity culture understands the feeling. It all begs the question, where is the Biblical justification?

The Results: Relationships and Marriage

Purity culture taught me that watching porn in my teenage years meant I had cheated for years on a spouse I didn’t even have yet. It left me socially inept. It left me feeling inadequate because I could never be perfect. It caused me to objectify women as sexual objects to be feared rather than valuable people to be respected and admired. It forced me to look to terrible sources for sex education because it was feared so much that it was never fully explained.

When I told my parents that I liked someone, the response was always immediate disapproval. When I was fifteen, I expressed interest in a girl I knew and they logged into my accounts to inform her that they had “set a boundary” and that I was not allowed to speak to her. I was heartbroken, but deep down I knew it was coming. That’s how I had been raised. My future spouse had to be approved before my parents before I ever expressed interest to her. Any girl I made the mistake of dating before my wife was portrayed as an affair. That’s right, anything I gave to a girl that did not become my wife was cheating.

My upbringing affected me deeply in my first relationship. I was terrified of physical contact. I ran from anything remotely sexual. I was committed to saving myself for marriage, and I did. But when I did inevitably get married to the first person I dated—as I believed was the godly way—I faced serious issues with intimacy and came to the frightening realization that I had forced things. While I stayed firm to my commitment until the end, so many challenges I faced could have been avoided had I not been so hyper-focused on shoving the elephant in the closet.

It took me years to overcome the guilt of “betraying” my parents and “breaking” the contract I had signed as a young teenager by dating without their permission. I can’t entirely blame purity culture for the failure of my marriage because there were other issues, but sexuality incompatibility certainly came into the mix. Expectations were muddled by abstinence and sexual repression.

When I went through the divorce, the image of those pieces of torn paper made me question if I could ever love or be loved the same way ever again. I had expended so much of my heart for so many years and I didn’t know how I could recover it.

The Results: What I Believe Now

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Elephant in the Room,” used to describe something everyone sees but is ignored. For many people, this is how sex was presented. It was a big, scary object that should not be recognized or discussed. For me, this elephant was locked away in a closet where it could not only be unaddressed but also unseen. Every effort had to be made to avoid and denounce anything remotely sexual.

Purity culture left me broken. But as I grew and matured I found hope in what I discovered. Perfection is impossible, and that’s okay. Relationships can be about getting to know someone before you decide to marry them. Sexual things don’t always have to be shied away from. When we can openly discuss matters of sex and purity, the potential dangers of sexual relationships decreases drastically. Your past does not define you.

Purity culture is a cancerous product of legalism enabled by hyper-authoritarian parenting. There is nothing wrong with valuing sexual discipline and choosing abstinence. That is a decision everyone has to make for themselves. The problem comes when purity is set on a pedestal and used as the primary indicator of faith.

Your purity does not define the solidity of your faith. Love and sex are not things to be feared but instead things to be cherished. Your love is not a lump sum depleted by your relationships. If or when we find the right person one day, time grants us a full refund of what our hearts may have lost in the past.

Purity culture has done profound damage to our generation, but by understanding its roots and dispelling its discrepancies we can turn the tide against its legalism and shame. It starts when we stop believing what we were taught simply because it’s what we’ve always known. Do your research. Form your own opinions. Own your beliefs.

Stop believing the lies of purity culture. Live in freedom.

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.


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.

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. ( 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.


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.