Victims were also condemned for their feelings of anger and fear. They were instructed to call their attackers and not only extend forgiveness but to ask forgiveness for their anger toward their attacker. While forgiveness is an integral part of the Christian faith and should be the goal we strive toward when we are wronged, it is not up to someone else to dictate the timetable in which we forgive, nor is it up to them to tell us how we deal with our forgiveness. Furthermore, to suggest that it is sinful for a rape victim to feel anger is beyond insensitive; it is unbiblical and theologically dangerous. The Bible is clear that there are two kinds of anger, justified and unjustified. Anger aimed at the act of rape and the perpetrators of rape is justified and righteous.
While the university continued to harm the victims of rape with its damaging version of “counseling,” the perpetrators suffered little real punishment. One rapist who was expelled was later allowed to return to campus, and when his victim expressed concern over this, she was told it wouldn’t be fair to keep “a man of God from getting a biblical education.” (You can read the whole article here). This attitude is, unfortunately, not an anomaly. Remember the Steubenville rape trial? Many people talked about how the trial could “ruin the lives of promising young men.” Rape victims’ lives, through no fault of their own, are permanently changed by the actions of their attackers, yet some people have more sympathy for the rapist because he must face the consequences of his CHOICE to rape.
This story in and of itself is highly disturbing, but it is also part of a larger story that I find disturbing: that colleges such as BJU still exist, that is, that enough people choose to attend and pay tuition that they are financially viable. Until this story came to light, BJU was known to me for its legacy of racism. This is a university that didn’t admit black students until the 1970's and didn't allow interracial dating until 2000. 2000! And we all know that while it may be okay now “on the books” at BJU, any interracial couples there are probably getting the stink eye.
Christians should rail against racism and victim blaming wherever it is found, but especially within churches, colleges and other organizations which purport to follow Christ. I am going to assume that I don’t need to persuade my readers of this. However, I do think there is another issue involved in this situation that needs our attention, and it affects many Christian colleges across the country. That issue is legalism and cult-like control of students which goes against the doctrine of our freedom in Christ.
You see, there are two kinds of Christian colleges: those that encourage students to be discerning and make their own decisions on “conscience issues,” which I’ll explain in a minute, and those that lay out a litany of nonbibical rules which adult students must obey. By “conscience issues,” I mean things that are not laid out in black and white in the Bible. One example would be the consumption of alcohol. The Bible’s only instruction on the matter is to avoid getting drunk. Some Christians, therefore, do drink alcohol in moderation. Some Christians decide not to touch the stuff at all. It is a personal choice and neither one is inherently right or wrong. There are many such “conscience issues” ranging from choice of dress to views on military service to entertainment options to dietary choices.
Institutions like Calvin College, for example, don’t have rules about style of dress, dancing, dating, or what movies and music students are allowed to consume. The focus is on academics and on encouraging students to discern for themselves which activities and life choices are best for their faith walk. The understanding is that by the time a person is an adult in college, they should be capable of deciding for themselves whether wearing a tank top is in keeping with their views on modesty and whether watching The Godfather is going to do irreparable damage to their soul.
Places like BJU, on the other hand, do not trust that adult students can make good decisions (and, to be fair, it seems the students who choose to attend places like BJU don’t trust themselves to make these decisions either). Therefore, even small decisions are made for them. Reading the student code of conduct for BJU is an exercise in witnessing the cult-like control the university exerts over its students. “On and off campus, physical contact between unmarried men and women is not allowed.” This means no hand holding, no brushing schmutz off someone’s back, and certainly no co-ed sports wherein a person could accidentally touch a wrist while trying to steal a basketball. My favorite is this one though, “The following music is…excluded from…personal listening on and off campus: any music which, in whole or in part, derives from the following broadly defined genres or their sub-genres: rock, pop, country, jazz, electronic/techno, rap/hip hop or the fusion of any of these genres.” Also, “any music in which Christian lyrics or biblical texts are set to music which is, in whole or in part, derived from any of these genres or their subgenres.” Wait until someone breaks the news that many hymns are spirituals: the musical origin of blues/jazz/rock.
Certainly colleges should make reasonable rules they deem conducive to academic functionality on campus. I understand why a college would, for example, not allow alcohol on campus. But in places like BJU, rules apply not just on campus, but off campus as well, so if a student were to take a sip of champagne, or worse, dance, at his sister’s wedding two states away and the college found out, he would be disciplined.
This level of legalism and imposing rules for which there is no biblical basis is highly problematic in Christendom. It does not teach discipleship and discernment; it creates Pharisees. And it presents to the world a false theology based on dos and don’ts, on brownie points and, in the actual disciplinary structure and semantics of BJU, demerits. Following Jesus is not about racking up more good deeds than bad. To suggest otherwise is to lie. When a person or institution exerts this level of control over students (or parishioners), it is not a member of the Church; it is a cult. It is time Christians recognized this.
Now, the very issue of whether to attend a Christian college is, in a way, a “conscience issue.” My personal belief is that unless a person is studying to go into professional ministry, they should attend a secular school so they can be salt and light there. I have friends who would disagree with me and have themselves attended or would want their children to attend a Christian college. And that’s okay, because it’s a “conscience issue” and there’s room for disagreement. But can all my brothers and sisters agree that a good Christian college is one that encourages students to think for themselves while places like BJU are detrimental to spiritual growth and poor representations of the Christian faith?