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Another Ebenezer — Reading is Fundamental

Fundamentalists often hear and repeat, “My Bible is all I need.” And while I understand and affirm the sentiment that God’s Word is well. . . . GOD’s WORD, the expression is full of hubris. It’s not that God’s Word is incomplete or inaccurate or insufficient. We are. It’s the old four blind men and the elephant problem. If that Eastern example doesn’t do it for you, there’s always good ol’ Francis Bacon. In sum, idols distract us. We’re blinded by our infirmed humanity (idols of the tribe), our idiosyncratic personhood (idols of the cave), our reified culture (idols of the marketplace), and our inadequate education (idols of the theatre). One way of seeing around those idols that stand in our way of understanding God’s Wor(l)d is through a iron-sharpening looking outside of ourselves. Otherwise, we just see ourselves in Scripture instead of seeing God. That’s why God gave us the Church — to edify each other and point out our blindspots. We’re not islands unto ourselves. Or we shouldn’t be!

And that’s what these books did for me. Reading them is an Ebenezer — a monument to seeing my presumptions and my own microculture as badly flawed. All these books are, ironically enough, within the conservative Evangelical hermeneutic. I have some mainline liberal Protestant friends who read them and were left with only a “meh!” These don’t speak to them. But they do speak to us and are eye-opening, earth-shaking, Church-building, and Christ-centered.

I got into trouble for reading and for talking about these books. So if you want to upset the Powers that Be, read them. If you’re content with things as they are, avoid them like the plague. Trust me.

Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson. Clarkson set out to prove that the usual punitive advice that circulates in conservative Evangelical circles is from Scripture. He found out otherwise. That negative testimony is pretty persuasive. His basic argument is that if you take the rod verses totally literally (and I’m not saying that Proverbs are intended to be absolutely literal. I mean, does a stitch in time literally save nine?), then you would beat with a rod on the back (not with a hand on the bottom) of a na’ar — 5-20 (some say 15-20) year old boy (and not on an eight-month old baby!!!).

Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel. Kimmel is a great alternative to the punitive monopoly in Evangelical parenting advice books. He’s experienced, logical, and biblical. He asserts that all children need a secure love, a significant purpose, and a strong hope. They need the freedom to be different, vulnerable, candid, and to make mistakes. All that’s only possible with Grace as a guide. I can’t say enough good about this book. I found myself seeing God and my responsibilities to my sons in a whole new way.

Why Christian Kids Rebel by Tim Kimmel. Here Kimmel scared me. I saw so many of my students in his words. It changed the way I talked and interacted with them. He describes Compulsory Christianity (where the religious practices become a hobby for the family. Like that pirate family on Wife Swap.), Cliché Christianity (the kind of life foregrounded in Christian education, according to Kimmel. “The problem lay in the fact that everything about the school was designed to prop up your ability to appear spiritual. With very little effort, you could act and talk ‘Christian.'”), Comfortable Christianity (an easy Prayer-of-Jabez kind of focus on material acquisition and loss), Cocoon Christianity (a.k.a. The Village. Shyamalan showed us how well that worked.), and Compromised Christianity (A parent living under the veneer of a top-notch Christian but who abuses his family and drives them away from the faith. Notice that the compromise is not in whether or not the family watches movies or plays video games, but in whether the mom and dad see themselves as needing a daily dose of the Gospel as much as their kids.).

What will always ring in my memory is his chapter on the Prodigal Son. I had never heard the story explained in that way. God, as the perfect Parent in the story, acts differently than the Clueless parent, EMT parent, or the Special Forces parent. It really hits “home” when Kimmel points out that in contrast to God’s way of parenting us and welcoming us back after our sin, “some [prodigal] kids never go home because they can’t recall their parents dealing with them in understanding, patience, and grace” (66).

And I saw so much of a very familiar discipline system in his critique of “Special Forces Parenting”:

Families don’t live in war zones. If there were any kind of zone a family should be living in, it would be a grace zone. Unfortunately, if Special Forces-type parents aren’t careful, they can create a war zone in their child’s heart.

There was a time when this autocratic style of parenting actually worked. The gears of industry and the wheels of commerce turned under the inertia of an autocratic system. . . .

Special Forces parenting makes a lot of noise, offers up a lot of threats, and tries to rule by intimidation. When it’s time to deal with a problem in a child’s life, these SF parents love to pull out the heavy artillery and often turn to some form of punishment. Unfortunately, that tends to miscarry with overuse. That’s because punishment is one of the least effective forms of correction. Why? Lots of reasons.

Punishment is more about getting even or balancing the score than it is about correction. It’s also about communicating who is boss. But it is ineffective because it’s not the way our world deals with short-comings. . . .

As we’ll see in the story of the prodigal son, the most effective form of correction is consequences. And the more natural the consequences, the better. That’s the way the real world operates, that’s the way God operates, and that’s the method most helpful to rebellious kids in figuring out why what they are doing is unacceptable.

Another reason why the autocratic control of a Special Forces parent doesn’t work well over time is because it conditions children to respond to outside voices and forces in their lives. They get a little bigger and a little older and it’s easy for them to start submitting to the barking orders of overbearing boyfriends or girlfriends or the outspoken voice of the crowd. I guess you kind of figured out that Special Forces parents make it easy for their kids to find their way into rebellious lifestyles. (56-58)

Families Where Grace is in Place by Jeff VanVonderen. This book jarred us both from the unbiblical errors and extra-biblical extremes that run rampant in our previous life. Most startling is VanVonderen‘s rather matter-of-fact correction that the Bible doesn’t say that I’m supposed to make my husband love me, nor is he supposed to make me submit. I have my responsibility to submit, and he has his responsibility to love. That’s our division of labor, so to speak.

The same goes with parents and children. My responsibility to not provoke my sons to wrath is actually greater than their responsibility to obey/honor me. I can’t make them honor me, but I need to act honorably. VanVonderen was the first for me that made that very simple, mind-blowing point.

Tired of Trying to Measure Up by Jeff VanVonderen. In talking about this book, I might even say “it all started with reading VanVonderen.” It still makes me giggle that whenever I mention this title to anyone inside fundamentalism (even those at the very “top”), the reaction to the title is always the same — a jaw-dropping, eye-rolling, sighing, empathetic, but sardonic laugh that says “Ha! Somebody gets it!”

This book got me into some deep trouble. It so poignantly speaks to the problems in our former life that I bought a dozen copies and had them stacked on my desk, ready to give away to the next frustrated student or colleague that unloaded on me (and yes, I gave them all away quite quickly). Once this got up the food chain, the Powers that Be weren’t pleased. The Gospel is usually unsettling.

On October 16, 2006, I was told to stop recommending this book. I agreed. I said, “I figured you would ask me that, and I’m okay with that. I’ll just point people to Romans and Galatians instead.” Tee-hee. My little joke got lost, I think. Later I was told that VanVonderen had “very dangerous theology.” In response to that declaration, I smiled and said, “We’ll have to agree to disagree on that point.”

Go see and read for yourself why it would be unsettling or dangerous. Fact is, it’s pretty standard stuff for the rest of Christendom. It’s fundamentalism that’s out-of-sync with the Bible. That fact alone might make you stop reading me. I understand. I remember that feeling too.

Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by Jeff VanVonderen and David Johnson. I’ve heard from other believers around the world that many autocratic Christian leaders despise this book. Of course they do! I read it the first time in a rather cursory fashion. I’ll admit it, I first came to the book trying to deconstruct the definition of “spiritual abuse.” Some descriptions just sound like bad management — something that could happen at Disney or Microsoft. But I found in VanVonderen and Johnson, who coined the term, a very substantial case. I was still in denial though. Not here, right? No, no. . . . not here. Please, please not here.

On the second reading though, I wept.

Soul Survivor by Phil Yancey. Yancey is hands-down an excellent writer. He’s just a joy to read. And this is the first book of his I read in the Fall, 2006, thanks to my old buddy’s recommendation. While he introduced me to Chesterton and Dostoevsky, I couldn’t shake his rebuke of Southern conservative Evangelical organizations for never repenting of their racist sins of the past. Sigh. . . .

What’s so Amazing About Grace? by Phil Yancey. Yancey at his finest. Babette’s Feast is now one of my favorite films after Yancey explained its mirroring of Christ’s gracious love feast within a harsh, cold, unhappily pious world. In the middle of all our abuse in that last year, I couldn’t forget Babette’s culinary demonstration of grace. If you can only read one chapter, though, read the “The New Math of Grace.” God’s calculator defies any one that we create. Ironically enough, Yancey says he got in trouble for the chapter/article as well. We Christians are so protective of the status quo.

With these books, I found a story of redemption in Scripture that I had never heard before. And I realized that the Church had been proclaiming this Good News for millennia, independent of my sliver of Christendom. I discovered the Gospel anew.

And that led to another book. . . . But we’ll talk about that in a future post.

[tags]Phil Yancey, Jeff VanVonderen, Tim Kimmel, Clay Clarkson, David Johnson, Francis Bacon[/tags]

33 thoughts on “Another Ebenezer — Reading is Fundamental

  1. While several of these books have had an impact on me, others of them I’ve never read–though I know of them. Guess what just got moved to the top of the reading list?

  2. Soul Survivor was SUCH an important book to me in my spiritual history and journey. I had forgotten that. Thank you for reminding me what an important book that is.

  3. “ready to give away to the next frustrated student or colleague that unloaded on me”

    Spring of 03 after the Finney class–that was me (except you weren’t giving away free books yet) 🙂
    Your encouragement meant a lot!

  4. So, you’re familiar with my man M. Night and his movies? I simply love them (at least his earlier ones) both for how he scares you with what you don’t see and for the depth of his themes.

    The Village is great. I can reduce the move to two profound questions. One, what is the source of evil? Answer: it lies with, not without, and we cannot hide from it or cloister outselves off from it. Two, what is the only thing that casts out fear? I think you know the answer to that one.

  5. I haven’t read most of those, but I have read the two by Yancey. Those were huge in helping me to know that there were others out there who went through some of the same things I did. I think I’ll recommend the parenting books to my two when they get married.

  6. Thanks for the recommendations! Hope you and Grant and the boys are doing fabulously these days.

    I know you’re not asking for recommendations, but I’d be curious to get your response on Schaeffer’s The Mark of the Christian, Plantinga’s Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning & Living and more casual books like Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz or Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies.

  7. I’ll have to check out some of those books — we struggle with being bullying parents sometimes. For the most part we get it right, but other times we just don’t.

    I would also recommend books by Wayne Jacobsen — found at http://www.lifestream.org. His writings helped open our eyes to the intense love of the Father and how there are no hoops to jump through or rules to follow in order to have a relationship with Him or to earn His love, grace, or approval — we already have them.

  8. As a fairly new Christian, I have been in search for more teachings about grace. It was what I perceived to be lack of grace and punitive, hypocritical parenting styles touted by prominent Christians that in part kept me from fully embracing Christianity for some time.

    Now, I realize more fully my own weaknesses in the area of extending grace to others, especially in my own family.

    It seems like the books you recommend will help me in this effort.

    Thank you for publishing this encouraging blog.

    Snowed in today in Ohio,


  9. I don’t know anything about Chip Ingram or Life on the Edge, but he’s been talking about JVV book “Tired of Trying to Measure Up” on the radio this week, and sharing some of the key points of that book that jumped out at me when I first read it.

  10. (Yes, I’m answering an old post, but it’s new to me.)

    Nice to find another BJ grad who is also into VanVonderen’s books. I too have been one to recommend his books every chance I get.

  11. Great list. Definitely books I’d like to read.

    While I’m here, let me add for those of you who are educators:

    Teaching Redemptively, by Donovan Graham. He’s the former head of the education dept at Covenant College, and he really shakes up the normal paradigm of Christian education. His central premise is that we educators “talk” Grace but live out the Law in our structures of education.

    Great book. Really challenges a lot of what people naturally assume is part of a ‘Christian’ education.

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  13. “Go see and read for yourself why it would be unsettling or dangerous. Fact is, it’s pretty standard stuff for the rest of Christendom. It’s fundamentalism that’s out-of-sync with the Bible.”

    I am loving reading your stuff. I found you when I googled “Tired of Trying to Measure Up”. I followed the embedded link from the quoted section above and downloaded the pdf. Loved that. Later I found his book on google books and the page numbers do not jive with the pdf. I want to verify with you that the embedded link is indeed an excerpt from the above named book. I want to buy it but want to be sure. Thank you for your time and for your writings. I will enjoy reading more.

    1. Cheryl, I find your comment ‘fundamentalism being out- of- sync with the Bible,”so spot on brilliant! I feel tempted to ‘torment’ my fundy cousin with that one, but I will resist such ‘sinful thoughts’ and ‘be nice!’ I remember when I first began having ‘conflict’ or ‘trouble’ with my very first Bible study Fellowship group. It was at a time when I was getting a little more ‘free’ than two others in the group, ‘approved’ of or felt ‘comfortable’ with. Unconsciously they perceived my growing freedom, as a problem to be ‘fixed’. Not long after that, I started coming under constant scrutiny from them. Things became unbearable. and it was just no fun any more to even felowship with them, let alone try to enjoy reading the Bible study together. The group which had started out so free, healthy fun and happy, had completely changed. Their personal train had ‘left the tracks’! I really loved my elder sisters in the Lord. But I had to make a painful decision to love them and leave them. BJU could have good books on spiritual freedom in their book store. But have an unwritten rule of ‘better not enjoy them too much.’ Just like the true message of spiritual freedom in the Bible, which Fundies try to ‘control’, the message of real spiritual freedom in those well witten books, could not be controlled. Not when the readers had discovered the ‘message’ was really for ‘them’ , for them ‘personally,’ and not just for ‘the herd mentality’ to continue to follow the herd and ‘please the firm.’. I guess the power brokers are afraid of ‘losing’ their ‘hold’ on people. Too bad that they don’t understand what real trust is ! Because the students applied to that school out of respect for the institution, and they did so out of trust for the school’s main leader! Again, Thanks Cherly for that brilliant comment. It’s really given me something to look at that I never saw in that light before.

  14. Camille, I’ve been re reading your Ebenezers,from beginning of them onward, to better understand your ‘amazing jouney’ out of fundamentalsism. Truly a work of God’s Grace. I do not in any way ‘minimize’ the pain of your exodus from fundamentalism, nor would I ever invalidate any of your very real and deep emotional suffering, from ‘their’ invalidation of ‘you’. I would never do that to anyone, as, I know how it feels to have that done to me, and it really hurts bad and deep. But we can forgive, heal and go forward. It just takes a lot of Grace and love, as well as patience with ourselves. I’m somewhat of a slow learner, but when I learn something that’s good and right,I eventually really do ‘get it’. Your blog and amazing journey sure helps me in my own personal journey of better understanding Grace. it’s such a blessing to read the responses of those who are being blessed by your blog on their journey too. Barbara.

  15. Hi Camille! I’m re reading this post again: “Reading is Fundamental.” I just wanted to say something that came to my tired mind,late last night, after a ‘very’ challenging day. I was feeling so overwhelmed with the “sin in the camp” problem, in our ‘renewal community .'” ‘Some’ leaders who are spiritually “hard of hearing”. As I was trying to rise above the heaviness of ‘why do I want to bother remain working with such people’? And “God, how could you be so merciful, compassionate,patient,loving and kind, to people who do and say the stupid, thoughtless, hurtful kinds of things they do and say,, and who act like this?” Of course I knew the answer to this cry of frustration, before I even sent up this silent prayer of desperation to Him! Why? Because HE’S God, and I, we, are not! His mercy, love, compassion, grace and patience towards us, never ceases to amaze me! The comforting thought that came to my weary mind late last night, was this: “Camille’s Blog is A BREATH OF FRESH AIR!” It really ‘is’! I realize that people criticize this blog for reasons from A to Z. Jealousy, fear of facing their own pain, fear of change, anger that they’re afraid of coming to the surface, because of fear they might ‘lose it!” So many reasons why people would criticize this wonderful log or any blog where people can enjoy the freedom of talking about things without coming under attack. I think for most of us, the ‘penny has dropped’ long ago, as to why the BJU / Bully Culture, of those who defend it, do not like, resent, and try to falsely accuse this blog for ‘being a problem!’ This blog, and others like it in their freedom to be, express, and offload years of religious frustration,… is this….They do not like their dirty laundry being exposed to the light. They do not like anyone talking about their megatie culture being exposed ‘less than perfect.’ Thier fantasy of [erfectionism about themselves, like an ugly mask, which they think is beautiful, they loath and despise, ayone whose words of truth threaten to ‘take t off’, ‘deonstruct this awful mask’. And they like even less, hearing that people who have escaped the system, are actually, get this HAPPY! Good people who love God and really want to obey and serve Him who are still IN the system, they have to try to ‘feel and look happy’ to each other and to theutside world, when on the inside they’re not happy at all. Pretending to be feel and look happy, when you are really ‘not’ takes a lot of energy. Looking at Church web sites, where people are ‘not’ in the BJU or IFB orbit, guess what they look like, because they really are, they really feel that way, and they do not have to Pretend? They are Happy. In BJU / IFB culture, people have to pretend to be perfect, to defend what goes on in their gulag! People in normal human christian church environments, where it’s not a sin to be ‘human’, have feelings and emotions, have bad days, make mistakes, and do ‘not’ have to be perfect to please any perfectionistic religious ‘nitwits’ in the pulpits. People in normal church environments, are free to be themselves. They do ‘not’ have to be driven like religious cattle towards a precipice of, follow the Simon says leader ( do this, do that, do not think ) who’ has a corner on all truth’, a mindset of being mindlessly sold out to God, so that people know longer know who they are anymore , because they have somehow they lost their identity between the altar and the recruitment to the culture / environment,and drop off the cliff into the oblivion of ‘becoming completely swallowed up’ by dead, dry, sanitized, powerless, lifeless religion!’ I ould rather be happy on the outside because I am really happy on the inside. and when I do not feel happy, I want to be hoest about that. because I know it’s not a sin to be human. Reding is fundamental, because we open our minds up to golden nuggets of truth, others have experienced, in real, genuine, authentic experiences with GRACE and the wonderful Person who IS the perfectand complete manifestation of GRACE. JESUS. When we really want to know the truth, I believe we really desire to seek truth. Those who believe they’ve already got the truth, stop seeking truth. And they can’t stand those of us who keep seeking. They get ‘jeaous of us.’ then they start falsely accusing us for ‘having a spiritual problem.’ The Gospel is not a gospel of misery. So if somebody’s version of the gospel is making them miserable, it’s probably not the true gospel at all! This isone of the best posts in the Ebenezer series. I love this Blog. Thanks for bringing another breath of fresh air into another day of a tired pilgrim’s life. I don’t feel so tiored or discouraged anymore.

      1. Hey “Mrs.Lewis”! (I’m sorry, I still call folks that were in positions of authority over me Mr. or Mrs.) I somehow stumbled onto this website of yours via Facebook (I’m not even on Facebook– go figure!).

        I’m one your former students (graduated BJU in ’95). It appears your departure from BJU was a painful experience, but I always thought you & your spouse were too good for that institution. BJU has a reputation (in my mind) of abusing, shunning & ejecting truly talented & intelligent folks in lieu of people that will drink the corporate “kool-aid” that has developed there over the years.

        I must admit, I’ve grown distant from the school (not really by choice, I went to graduate school at a western/midwestern school and now my wife [also a BJU alum] & I live in a city in “flyover territory” that has little BJU influence or connections.)

        Also, my sincere condolences regarding the loss of your child. My wife & I (married 14 years) can’t have our own [biological] children, we’ve adopted 4 special needs children from the foster system (Side Note: many more Christian families are needed to help absorb the population of foster children that don’t have permanent homes/families). We know from experience that God throws alot of curveballs at us throughout life.

        Drop me a line sometime (email?) as I’d rather not disclose my identity “publicly” on a post such as this.

        1. Dear ‘former student’, how wonderful that you and your wife have adopted children with special needs. That is so generous of you. It must be something like a breath of fresh air, to “live in a ‘fly-over territory’ that has little BJU influence or connections.” I wonder what the social / cultural/ spiritual environment ‘is’, in an area where BJU spook / spirits of IFB fundyism, ‘can’t’ alight? So glad that both of you have ‘risen above’ the negativity of your former environment, and have followed the Lord in good balance with your heads and your hearts. I so admire people who have gone through such difficult places and environments, and still come out with their integrity and identity intact. You are both is a good position to set a true christian example to others. God Bless.

      2. Hey Camille, I have been trying to make sense out of something that just doesn’t make sense to me . How could a place like BJU call istelf a Liberal Arts Institution’ and realisitically ‘offer’ the same? Especially when founder and sons, the 3 Bobs, have so loathed all things Liberal? Not referring to political context here. Or is it even possible to separate political from religious, when describing the BJU culture? Is there such an animal as a ‘Pseudo -Liberal- Arts Insitution? I am thinking of genuine Liberal Arts places such as Bryan, where the late T.D Mercer ‘escaped’ to have such a wonderful career in his field. Bryan seems like such a pace where people are really happy! Bryan is like an institution on a ‘different planet’, compared to BJU! Is it possible for a place as ‘strange’ as BJU to offer Liberal Arts education, but to ‘limit’ how much students are allowed to actually ‘enjoy’ learning, and to sabotage students’ ability to actually ‘ get or receive’ what they really ‘need’ out of the educational menu offered? And that some students seem to learn much from God ‘in spite of’ the controlling environment ? The only ‘critics’ of your web Page, seem to be BJU grads who ‘danced to’ the 3 Bobs fiddle, and sadly, became somewhat of a pharisee themselves,just like their leader, and his predecessors.! Those who like your site, who also went to BJU, have such a completely different spirit and attitude. And of course, ‘they’ have changed ‘hitching posts!’They now hitch their horse to the ‘freedom post’ of ‘be’ who God made you to be, and ‘follow’ God as HE leads you. It must have a lot to do with the individual and how they are able to relate to God in their lives, for themselves, as an individual, in spite of ‘what goes on’ in the strange environment that’s so anti-freedom! Just goes to remind me how amazing the resilience of the ‘human spirit’ is, and how much greater the power of God’s love is, than the sinful practices that His children struggle against,especially those practices coming against them from those who use spiritual authority positions to ‘control’ via excessive rules, do’s and don’t’s! Anyway, if your mental wheels turn out anything helpful in my question here, I would really appreciate your insights. Thanks.

        1. Well, first of all, no overkill here. Never fear.

          But I don’t have a short answer to your question. I’m trying to figure that out. “Liberal arts” schools educate the whole person, granted, and I’m a big fan of liberal arts schools. Big fan. But there’s something different going on here. Something 19th-century, something Alabama, something Methodist, something . . . I don’t know how yet to describe it. But I’m working on it. 😀

          1. Thanks, Camille. I’m working on it ‘too’. I googled ‘Liberal arts” and got some interesting insights. Like, what liberal arts ‘is’, such as in an ‘environment’ where , there may be an ‘artificial ceiling’ of unwritten rules ( but not the students handbook of do’s and dont’s ): unwritten rules such as, “no one must reach any higher or go any deeper” than this ‘ceiling’ of ‘imagined need for protection’ of ( everyone on campus) from some imaginary enemy or evil, that might come from THINKINGGGGGG! So maybe ‘that’ artificial ceiling of prevention for protection from, has to do with this amazing human practice of having opinions, thinking, and exercising intellectual processes’ a la the mystery of the unknown, the search for meaning, more and deeper understanding of all of the ‘whatevers’! Which individuals who ‘hold’ the reigns of presumed power, are secretly afraid of! They’re afraid of people learning in any way that would, render people less easy to be controlled. I read on the internet a short provocative article, that had observations from history that “Societies that are ‘against pleasure’, tend to violence.” Violence is not limited to the physical. There is also emotional and verbal forms of violence, and covert manifestations of ‘againstness’ that seems to go against a person’s human dignity. Liberal Arts includes ‘philosophy’ and ‘science.’ Both of which would be rather limited in scope, on such a campus as BJU. Because they’re afraid of ‘real’ science they’re , and afraid of people ‘thinking’ in any way other than the way the preacher boys want people to think. I think it’s amazing that individuals ‘do not’ come out of that environment a lot ‘more scathed’ in mind and spirit that they actually ‘do’. One diferne t definition I have about the meaning of the word ‘cult’ is “communism of the mind.” When the enemy and misguided people ‘get us in and at our minds’ they’re getting us i a serious way. And the extent to which this has gone on, for many sad souls, they have already been ‘got.’ But maybe I’m underestimating the extent of the damage that that environment actually ‘does’. Which is why I try to remember to never suggest any invalidatation,minimization, or rationalization of how such an negative environment, can so quench a human spirit and discourage an individual in their own search for understanding. I am going to be thinking a lot more about this. Reading ‘is’ fundamental, because without it we really limit ourselves to ourselves. And I don’t believe we can grow when we do that. Thanks again for your response. Have a great day.

          2. Well, I know what liberal arts means in the traditional sense. I’m a rhetorician, after all, and our pedagogy has been the liberal arts education for millenia. It’s a broad training of citizens. Not a technical training for “mechanics.” I get that. I’m a huge fan.


            But there’s something different on this front. It’s not liberal arts as its traditionally known.

      3. Camille, I hope I’m not getting into ‘over-kill’ re reading the ebenezers and re rerplying to them. Maybe I should take a break, eh! I do get obsessed at times. Thanks for your patience.

        1. Camille, I totally agree with that. After posting my last reply, I got to thinking that, there is this strange dichotamy, this strange almost contradictory opposing dual realities, of an ultra-conservative environment, AND ‘a Liberal Arts curriculum’ existing, or pretending to exist, at the same time in the same place. The good curriculm being offered by a ‘firm’ holding lots of ready-to-use ‘mental handcuffs’ behind their backs. So Liberal Arts being offered or promised to be given, taught, provided to eager students, and communicated by as eager, dedicated teachers as you and Grant! Something that is presented by the ‘firm’ as being truly ‘liberal’, which is to instruct the whole person. But ‘within’ an Ultra-Conservative Environment. Students do not realize how stifling the environment ‘is’ until they get ‘in’ it! Even though, many of them have already been raised in same, as in elementary and secondary cradle to university, cradle to college IBF type schools they grew up in. Which suggests, that even ‘after’growing up in ‘all such’ previous stifling ,formation methods and systematic ‘training’?, students have already ‘gone through’, the BJU ultra-conservative environment can actually be any ‘worse’???!!! Even ‘more’ stifling???!!! Now ‘that’ conclusion is hard to believe. In such an environment, when liberal looks like, the ‘firm’ perceives that ‘it’s actually liberating’ anyone, student or faculty persons, then such persons risk getting ‘stomped’ on! Here’s a delicious birthday cake, ( repesenting the good curriculum ,meant to be enjoyed ), but do not enjoy the cake. Because ‘that’s’ not allowed! What kind of a birthday party would ‘that’ be? So in such an environment, ‘liberal’ and ‘liberate’ are really ‘not’ allowed to co-habit? This discussion and others like it, keep bringing me back to the subject of, ‘we need to be teaching children and young adults, ‘how’ to exercise critical thinking,how to become free and intelligent thinkers. For educators to not realize the importance of this, , I think is ‘pedagogical neglect’! Sorry for the misspelling. I used to think that, the family environment that I grew up in, was one in which, none of us children were allowed to have our own opinions. But one day the Lord showed me, that ‘that’ was not it at all. We could all ‘have’ our own opinions. We were simply not allowed to ‘express’ them! Because our’s was such a hurting family, one in which family members never talked. About anything that family members really ‘needed’ to talk about. A family can be somewhat like ‘a culture of silence’, an non-communocative environment. But so can a post-secondary insititution like BJU and other like minded places. I better give my brain a rest from this. Because I think I may be drifting into the land of ‘analysis parallysis.’ Sorry or the spelling. I think I may need a refresher course in ‘phonics’! And google’s Wiki article about liberal Arts, is simply ‘brilliant’.

  16. We just got our High speed internet connection looked at and improved. And boy oh boy is it good! BJU is a place whose founder and descendants have had a highly focussed agenda, since its inception.’ from Grace and into law. The fear parents had , back in the thirties, of their chidren losing their faith from attending secular colleges and universities, was apparently a reason behind a decision for good men to form Bible Institutes. Hence the beginning of that movement,called the Bible Institute Movement. But what influenced the spiritual substance of that movement and those insitututions, was perhaps somewhat similar to what influenced the spiritual substance of the BJU culture and philosophy!A need and desire to ‘protect the truth’, and a need and desire to ‘keep the kids christian!’ and free from error. But to the BJ’s, error is really a whole lot more about opinions and ‘who’ the three Bobs didn’t want ‘their’ people to ‘associate with’ and a lot less about doctrine! the narrow, rigid arrogant opinions, of the three Bobs, have been on a level ‘of’ doctrine to them, in their minds! They have just never realized that. Although I am not a protestant christian, I believe any good protestant institutions formed to keep the truth of the message alive, that The Bible Is True, is reason enough alone, to form such an institution. And liberalism which was spawned off from the heritical ‘higher criticism’, was seriously assailing that important truth, that The Bible is true! But a main motivation behind forming an institution like BJU had a lot to do with a very rigid,fixed, belief, mind set,and way of thinking, of an individual and his sons, who were all strong willed men who ‘refused to change’ with whom, no one could ever possibly ‘reason with’, being ‘taken on’ by some ultra conservative Baptists,who believed separation from liberal riff raff believers,was on the same level as ‘an essential doctrine.’Something of a ‘separatist doctrine’, which could only take those who went along with it, down the anti-social garden path of arrogance and elitism. Not only a ‘got the truth’ mentality, but a ‘got an even better truth’, than anyone else. Even got a ‘corner’ on the ‘market of truth.’ Children needing to be taught in environments where their minds would be protected from ‘error.’ Sounds good enough. But, according to BJU’s student’s handbook, the error of breaking man mad rules, is placed on the same level as breaking the laws of God! To not see this as a blatant form of idolatry is evidence in itself of the widespread systemic deception, in a BJU type environment. The common belief that members of said BJU network affiliated ‘churches’ would be ‘protected from’ the doctrinal error and riff raff of people who go to ‘other churches’ , people who who do not agree with them,’ it’s ‘why’ BJU type thinking is what it is, which in reality is a lot ‘more about personal opinions’ and ‘arrogant mindsets’ than having much to do with the truth in Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Seperatist thinking and behaviour became a way of life for the three BJ’s. And the fourth generation could hardly be different, when he, Stephen, was so immersed from cradle to president, in all of that arrogant stinking thinking of high and mighty preacher boys mentality.! “How could any of us here possibly be ‘wrong’ when we have the word of God here, when we have ‘our’ purer form of truth here,and when we hve the most accurate interpretation of the Bible” Here! So how places like BJU preacher boys, could inject ‘separatist beliefs into a liberal arts curriculum, DEFIES BELIEF! I wonder if the well used and abused “student’s handbook’ of BJU, is really the written ‘surface symptoms’ of what’s been wrong in that place for over eighty years! And ‘more’ than that. The separatist / arrogant thinking, that ‘such an insititution’ ‘had’ to take on,to protect themselves from ‘outside error’ , to provide a more ‘pure form of christianity’, and keep its students ‘in’ the network and system of ‘ultra-conservatist fundamentalism’ in order to ‘protect’ them from’error.’ It seems that there’s this ‘peculiar agenda’ and ‘strong negative influence’, spreading down from the top echelons of manipulative- soul power -mind- control, that toxifies the atmosphere and the environment there. And this negative energy, this negative undermining power and influence, is what seems to be always undermining whatever effectiveness the good and positive liberal arts curriculum is being provided to the students by well trained dedicated professors like yourself. The students learn something good and positive in lecture hall. Then they go back out into that awful environment that they have to endure,betwen classes, to have cold water sprayed all over them by stupid rules, bto be pulled down by irrational fears an false guilt, and to hve to endure fellow students ‘spying’ on them to get brownie points with the bosses. How teaching young people to ‘spy on fellow students’, and to be sneaky about it, could have anything to do with christian behavior, defies all reason and logic of any sane person who has a functioning brain! Sneakiness is far from honesty. Sneakiness serves to teach children to be hidden and dishonest. And look at the bad fruit of that in the ‘preacher boys’ network!’ Telling lies has practically become ‘a virtue’ in that culture! But, you’re right. There’s more going on in BJU than we can see or understand re how a Liberal arts curriculum could be offered in such an environment. I’m going to keep looking into this. Such a provocative concept.

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