Monday, August 07, 2006

Storytime

Ordinary Time

I was a member of a conservative Baptist church in my late teenage years. (As a reminder, I had become a Christian when I was sixteen, and between then and my departure for college, had been involved with two churches. This was the second.) It was Rose Hill Missionary Baptist Church, and it had a reputation in the community. I'm not certain what that reputation was or is, but I did know that if I mentioned attending Rose Hill, people knew what I was talking about. But that's beside the point. They ran a Christian school which was pretty infamous, but I thought the church was alright. I was only really connected to the youth ministry anyway, and this only for my last year and a half before college.

I remember when it became known that I was considering attending Georgetown College. Georgetown was (at that time) one of three college's supported by the Kentucky Baptist Convention, the others being Cumberland and Campbellsville. The former was the one with "the best reputation for serving the Lord," and the latter was pretty good too, but Georgetown was considered more than a little out to lunch: it was liberal. That made no sense to me, and I'm not certain that it does now. No one who derided my prospective choice could tell me anything they knew about Georgetown, or any terrible stories or anecdotes of unfaithfulness, they merely insisted on calling it Liberal. And that ought to have been damning enough, they seemed to think.

So here's the thing. In that particular microculture, it was normal for folks not to go to college. What was especially worrisome (even then) was that it was most common for the graduates of the Christian school to attend Ashland Community College - likely not a private college or a public university. It was perfectly acceptable to attend ACC. Now if someone wanted to leave home and attend a university, there were two Best Options. For those seeking to Serve God in a religious profession ( e.g. missionary, preacher, Christian school teacher, youth pastor) the best possible option was Liberty University, the school founded by a preacher named Falwell in Lynchburg, VA. This was usually recommended in a slightly tongue-in-cheek fashion, phrased like, "When you decide to get right with God and go to Liberty..." or "When are you going to get your life straightened out and to go Liberty?" I was never really certain how much was serious, and how much was teasing. Since I was going to be a preacher (I am not making this up), for some folks my matriculation at this institution ought to have been a foregone conclusion.

My best friend at the time was determined to attend Liberty, and I actually completed an application. I didn't quite bring myself to submit it however. My high school teachers thought the idea was nuts, and I didn't have enough church mentors to turn the tide on that one. Mind you, I was also thinking at the time that a "Christian college" might not offer the best possible education and formation anyway - I'm just saying I could have been pushed.

Now the other Best Option was to attend the University of Kentucky. Because they have a popular basketball team. The fact that it was a secular school didn't matter; it was UK. It was UK, and that's what mattered.

I have never understood that.

My best friend did go to Liberty. We've not seen each other much since then. I visited him in Virginia once. He was giving me a tour of campus, and an RA stopped us because I was wearing shorts in a classroom building (after hours). He asked if I was a visitor, so I presented the paperwork to prove it: the Student Life office kept the white copy of the approval of my weekend visit to the campus, while I was left with the yellow copy to keep and the pink one to give to my friend's RA. I am not making this up.

He said he didn't need to see the paperwork, as I clearly wasn't a Liberty student.

Update: Lots more anecdotes in the comments section...

28 comments:

Ben Finger said...

Liberty.... well I have good friends there but from most of what I can tell they have no liberty. For the sake of fun does anyone want to imagine what Kyle would of turned out to be had he gone to Liberty?

D. P. said...

Hey! My wife went to Georgetown. She never told me she was a Liberal!!!

Young and Aspiring said...

They say "You are what you eat"...and I don't remember you eating any liberals, Kyle. So you're still ok in my book.

+ Alan said...

Very interesting. Makes me wonder a couple of things, generally. I wonder why the hallowed halls of Eastern Kentucky Universtity were never mentioned, in Eastern Kentucky. Party school probably, hYper secular. But there WAS a Baptist Student Union at EKU and it was NOT at all populated by "liberal" Baptists. Hmmm. I wonder if people in their churches saw them as going off the deep end by going to Eastern?? I never heard anything about it and I knew quite a few of them. Hell, I married one of them! :)

Kyle said...

Ben, I do shudder to think. I'd probably be a lot angrier, if anyone can imagine that - and possibly an apostate!

D.P., sometimes the truth about these things doesn't come out for years...

Jeremy, that's a good point. Weirdo. ;0)

Alan, when you're in northeastern Kentucky, EKU is much too far away. Morehead was the farthest anyone could handle. Only about a half-dozen people from my 200 person graduating class went farther than that and completed a degree. It's just not our culture, man.

-mike- said...

I was accepted to Liberty. They still want me to go. If I were to go, I would ave evrything paid for. I just can't bring myself to it, you know?

J Hearne said...

I went to GTown and I don't think I'm a liberal.

I think I've told you that I had a similar experience about GTown at my church growing up because I was told that it would corrupt me and then when I told them I was double-majoring in Religion and Philosophy, I was told Philosophy would corrupt my mind.

Furthermore, when I was accepted into Duke Divinity, I was told that it was a shame I couldn't get into somewhere good where they'd teach the truth like Liberty or Southern.

I'm glad I went where I went.
I'm glad I am where I am.

I can testify to Kyle's renderings on college selection for NorthEastern Ky. I was considered exotic for being 2 hours away.

+ Alan said...

I totally forgot about Morehead. Sorry Morehead peoples. That's right. I wondered about the NORTHeast as opposed to SOUTHeast - there is a difference. Very odd.

Tom Mohan said...

That is a scary story.

A said...

All these comments are making me glad I live in the "liberal" Lutheran-bible-belt up here. ;) (A little ribbing, guys! You know I love all the Kentuckians I know, which is pretty much the the VBCC crowd, Sherwood, and 'ol D. Finch in Louisville.)

Kyle, I enjoyed this story. You've done some journeying in your years. Congratulations for that. It felt like you just sort of stopped and left the narrative hanging though. Will there be a part 2?

Garrett said...

Right before I left Lexington for med school, I remember getting pulled aside by a doc who attended church at Victory, where I played bass in the praise band and taught 3rd graders Sunday School. "You better watch out, because they'll always try to put a lot of ungodly things into your head these days in medical schools." Hmm.

I'm so glad to be a recovering northeastern/central Kentucky Baptist. It's like I spent twenty years learning what God wouldn't want me to do, so I could get the hell out of there and maybe do a little of what he might want.

The last straw, I think, was when my students were pulled out of Sunday School on Mother's Day so they could learn a song to sing on Father's Day. Let me repeat, these kids did nothing for Mother's Day. They didn't get a nice lesson about a faithful mother in the Bible, they didn't even make some sort of crappy card with a bible verse, and they sure didn't have to be bothered with honoring your father AND your mother. They got pulled out, by a mother, to start work for a song to sing in church on Mother's Day. If the blatant misogyny doesn't ooze from that place...

I'm proud to know Kyle, I'm proud to know Mr. Hearne, because they GOT OUT. Thank God, they got out.

And, remembering playing guitar while Josh played harmonica as we tried to get a song into one of the talent shows one summer while we were church camping at Liberty, I'm amazed that any of us got out alive.

Kyle said...

Here's the context, guys, as Garrett probably makes clear: JHearne, Garrett and I are from pretty close orbits around the same dark star back in Northeastern Kentucky. Garrett knew us both back in the day, I didn't know Josh until just a couple of years ago.

Now when's Josh Williams going to chime in? That's what I want to know... ;0)

Fight the darkness, Mike.

Josh, you're double post-liberal, remember? Which I guess makes you "not liberal," in a sense. But the point of all that is, there are battle lines that mean nothing. Conservative means "faithful" and liberal means "bad," and nobody has a really good idea what people on either side believes and if they do know what they're rarely interested in why. And yes, that still pains me, because even though I was merely confused by it, if I'd stayed around, I could have been hurt by it - hurt like a lot of people are.

Maybe that's going to be part II, I've not decided yet...

Oh, and Josh, they wouldn't know "truth" at Liberty if he came into the room and multiplied loaves and fishes. At Southern...? I dunno. :0)

A., Tom: What do you want to hear about in part II?

Garrett, thanks for the stories, and thanks for the affirmation. :0)

Legal Alien said...

Wearing shorts in a classroom building was grounds for an interrogation? Wow.

Not that it was ever on the table for me, but I'm relieved I never went to school anywhere like Liberty.

Ben Finger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ben Finger said...

Typo error in the last comment. I am trying to get better at writing in proper english in these online communities.

I do regret this. When I made application for seminary/divinity school I was accepted into Duke. However from the fundamentalist Pentecostal undergrad I attended I was eventually pressured enough to attend a more "moderate" seminary known as Asbury. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like had I attended Duke. **Ponders the thought** Who knows maybe I could have met this Josh Hearne cat who is always poking his head around this here blog.

Plus Duke is only about 2 to 3 hrs instead of 13 to 15 hrs that Asbury was. (Can we say Airplane...)

But hey the past is past and the future is coming now. So live it up. =)

Kyle said...

Forms in triplicate, Pat! Triplicate! :0)

Ben, maybe you could have led a Pentecostal revival, perhaps even kept our boy "Stan" from the Episcopalians. :0)

When I think about things like that and wonder what could have been or if things could have been better, I try to remember that "everything's formation." We're all being moved into the same ultimate goal, but the tools can look greatly different along the way. Thanks for chiming in.

Garrett said...

Asbury is "moderate?"

*gulp*

In undergrad, I looked into taking some greek at the Lexington Theological Seminary, which was about 50 yards from my apartment and right across from the UofKentucky law school, because our classics department was offering any koine yet. But I was scared away from that "crazy liberal place" by my fellow baptistians. Hehe, baptistians.

Josh Williams said...

Yeah, I've heard plenty of comments around Ashland about how Georgetown is "liberal." I think the term "liberal" is kinda useless, though, mainly because in fundamentalist SBCville, "liberal" tends to mean anything that doesn't fit their agenda. I could go on and on about that, but I won't.

Actually, when I told people I was considering attending Eastern Kentucky University, I was criticized some because it was a "party school." At the time I went because I wanted to become a Forensic Scientist. Even though I changed my mind about my major (several times, actually), I'm still glad I went to EKU. I had no desire to go to some really strict Christian college. Especially since I had been raised in a Christian school my whole life. I was sick of dress codes and mandatory chapels and all the other things that go along with Christian schools.

I had visited Liberty before, while I was on a retreat with my youth group. The school kinda scared me. Everyone had to wear pants. I think I remember all the men having to wear ties on certain days or something like that. I just don't think I would have liked being in a really strict environment like that. I probably would have lost my mind. I really don't know what it is with fundamentalists and public schools/universities, but I'm so glad I got out of that. I was just tired of being fed some narrow view of reality.

Kyle, you said that Rose Hill was the second church oyu went to, but what was the first one?

#Debi said...

Here's a fun story for you: In the "auld church" that several of us went to, the "in" thing was to go to Rhema Bible Training Center in Tulsa. When the pastor's son and new wife went, they (like everyone else) were given the dress code. One of the things listed was "no thongs". The school meant no flipflops, but Amy thought they meant the other kind of thongs. She wondered who would be enforcing that rule, and how would they check? :^)

Oh, yeah--GO BIG E!!!!

-mike- said...

Georgetown turns you Catholic, like Kyle. Catholics go to hell. Georgetown is sending Kyle to hell...

beware.

stephen said...

I totally went to Rose Hill in Ashland in high school.

I guess that just makes me awesome.

Kyle said...

Wow, Garrett, at what point in your career did you realize that the "crazy liberals" were neither crazy nor necessarily really liberal?

Josh, your restraint is charitable. :0) I feel your pain. Hey, I wonder if you can study biology at Liberty. Hehe.

"That school kinda scared me. Everyone had to wear pants."

Everyone, go to Georgetown if you still have an option. I rarely wore pants. :0)

Oh, and my first congregational involvement was with FBC South Shore. The pastor was a good man, and it was mostly good people, but there were a few who were deeply rotten, which kind of spoiled some things for me - enough for me to leave.

Debi! Thongs will be examined!

Mike. Go to Neverland.

Stephen, I will take you to a dark alley and fight you. :0)

Pax, critters.

Ben Finger said...

My undergrad Emmanuel College (Franklin Springs, GA) had a weird assortment of rules. Then again it was a member of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. Yes Holiness and Pentecostal in the same name. Be afraid be very afraid. Oh and did I mention they tended to be fundamentalists though they claimed to be sheerly evangelical. So back to the school... one thing to remember is when you get a whole bunch of Christians bunched up together in a small rural community with a whole bunch of rules... well it turns into pretty much year round church camp. And you know what the church people say about youth camp... What happens in Youth Camp stays in Youth Camp. *big grin*

But yeah some of the rules that got to me was: no drinking (if you even tasted you were pretty much a drunk), professional atire (meaning pants & a nice short even t-shirt) had to be worn to class to promote the students future prospects as a professional, curfew at 11:00 pm m/tu/w/th/su and 1pm Fr/Sa. No Rated "R" movies. I don't know how many times I got fined by that one. Must attend church on Sunday. Must attend Wed & Friday chapel if you were a regular student and Mondays chapel also if you were a ministry student. You could miss chapel in exchange for 3 hrs of "doing good" by doing communinty service. No dancing (I got busted for this my first week in the school). And no loose language in public.



#DEBI -- RHEMA ***RUNS IN HORROR*** *** PULLS OUT THE HOLY WATER AND BEGINS DOUSING THE COMPUTER SCREEN ***

#Debi said...

Ben: AAAAAaaaaagh!!!! IT BURNS!!!!!!!!!

I got better....

J Hearne said...

Garrett,

We should start a group blog called: "The Land of Ashes: We Got Out"

The recollections could fill many pages.

I do remember playing harmonica with you many times, by the way, including on those huge steps outside of the dorms at Liberty. I'm amazed that either of us survived it all but we did. I like Ashland but not, necessarily, some of the things that happened to me there. Plus, there's no real question of: Would you move back? After all, there is no job market for people like me.

All us Ex-ATowners should get together some time in Ashland to reminisce.

Rob said...

Looks like I'm a little late for this post, but I'll add my two cents anyway.

Coming from an environment similar to Kyle's, yet not exactly the same (mine is more conservative), I see the same thing happening with college decisions.

It's humorous that it's okay for most people to go to the local secular college around here after graduating from the Christian school, but God forbid that a student should wish to attend a "liberal" university like Wheaton, or Biola or whatever.

Strange, eh? I bet Kyle and I were separated at birth. Or something like that.

Kyle said...

Yah, you could be my extremist twin.

Cheers, Rob.

Grandma said...

May God be real to each of you, conservative or liberal.

I'm a grandma and I like to answer honest questions.