Friday, April 06, 2012

"I'm Gunna Use Worldly Lust to Lure Kids to Christian College"

A few months ago now, someone I don't really even know sent me a hyperlink to see a new promotional video for my alma mater, Maranatha Baptist Bible College.  Yes, I went there.  I lived in Watertown for 13 years.  My dad, sister, brother, and I all graduated from there.  I graduated from the academy, college, and twice from the graduate school.   Now I'm alumnus persona non grata.  No problem.  I am not writing this with any axe to grind.  That ship sailed long ago.   The cliches, I'm afraid, are here to stay.  But I digress.

The promotional was titled, I'm Gunna Apply, and was styled after a Broadway musical.  I've noticed many others have critiqued it (David Cloud, Sharper Iron, and Dissidens at Remonstrans).  It's not available any more, as I gather that board members viewed it and didn't approve.  I don't know of any kind of public admission of error, but the video is gone.

When I was at Maranatha over 25 years ago, I did things at least as silly and really enjoyed it.  My senior year, when I was president of the student body, for the first time in school history, a student was asked to do a humorous program in the gym (not room 306) for the college days, the biggest visitor time of the year.  One of the skits went awry and I took a requisite 25 demerits for the administration.  What I am saying is that this type of fare has been part and parcel of Christian college campus for a long time.  Seeing that promotional was not a shocker.  Our technology was waaaay behind today's.   Something of what I would typically do was posted on Maranatha's facebook page (I'm on the bottom front right, pre-follically-challenged).  We made a super 8 movie of a new Christian film, Cheffey, the touching story of an itinerant chef, who gave his life for the cuisine of backwoods America.  We spoofed the Bob Jones University promotional, All in One Package, by making our own, entitled, All in One Building.  I liked.  all.  of.  it.  They are actually fond memories.  So  some might say I'm the wrong guy to be criticizing Maranatha's Broadway promotional, featuring even Larry Oats, the man who gave me my 25 demerits and one of my most memorable speeches from college around that time for something else I did wrong.  My student body went 20 minutes overtime during mid-terms.  I told him, "I wasn't thinking," to which his answer ended with, "You need to start thinking!"  Very often I say that same line to myself and smile.  Perhaps I should say to Dr. Oats upon his appearance in I'm Gunna Apply, "Dr. Oats, you need to start thinking!"  Larry Oats gave me ten demerits when I was in high school for counting the number of coughs and snorts during a Jack Hyles sermon.

But I'm going to criticize anyway.   Let me first say that a lot about the video was funny.  I liked the quiet pause to finish chewing the steak in the cafeteria.  The kids looked like they were having a rollicking good time, putting that together.  I even think that having the video pulled will sort of make its producers feel legendary.  Kids made it.  "Yep.  We were the ones who made the promotional that got the school in trouble."  Smiles.

None of this kind of thing is new in fundamentalism.  It's rather typical in fundamentalism.  If you weren't doing these types of things in fundamentalism, you probably weren't trying.  Have you seen Patch the Pirate?  Have you heard his song Initiative in the Patch the Pirate Goes to the Jungle recording?  Ron Hamilton's calypso music, um, for the Lord?  Hasn't anyone seen or heard Steve Pettit and his Celtic and bluegrass?

Most of fundamentalism is man-centered.  It has been for awhile.  It didn't dawn on me then, because I operated inside the barrel.   Fundamentalism has been dumbing down the Bible for a long, long time. Everything looks like the barrel when you're on the inside.  Of course, the barrel's fine.  But it wasn't and it isn't.  And it isn't because the music was so terribly wrong, like David Cloud is straining at.  Don't get me wrong.  I don't approve of the music, but it wasn't so bad.  That's not the problem with these Christian colleges and their philosophies.  Let me tick off what I'm Gunna Apply exposes about fundamentalism and it's colleges.

First, it drops the "ing" in "Going.  It should be, "I'm going to apply."  Come on!  Use proper grammar!  Just kidding.  So let's start over.

One.  The title of this post.  It uses worldly lust to lure kids to Christian college.  The grace of God teaches us to deny worldly lust.  Maranatha teaches students to admire worldly lust.  Broadway tunes "check" at a Christian college, all depending, but increasingly about any or all of them.  Some of them might not be wrong to listen to, but Broadway is something from the world, invented by the world, and worldly kids will find it acceptable.  Hey, Maranatha gets it.  They get Broadway!  Maranatha thought they could get away with using it, because it would connect with its target demographic---worldly kids.  Most of them professing to be saved, but many not actually saved.  You get them to a Christian college by offering them worldly stuff that they like.  Maranatha might even say or at least think, "We didn't produce these kids we're trying to get, but we've found that this is the best way to get them."

Two.  Maranatha doesn't even have the discernment to see what they're doing.  They've probably got rules against going to the movie theater.  But they love the world.  Almost all of fundamentalism is perverting the affections of their young people.

Three.  This twists the meaning of beauty and goodness.  God is One God.  Truth, beauty, and goodness go together.   Bob Jones and Pensacola and Maranatha have replaced beauty with a placebo, with kitsch, with lawn gnomes.  Goodness is what checks.  Grace means the line gets lowered, when grace isn't even about the line.  It's not about honoring God and giving Him what He wants and deserves at these places.  Truth has steadily diminished year after year.  Bob Jones replaced godliness with excellence.  Others imitated them.  However, now excellence is a Broadway tune and a video production that people in the world would appreciate.  If the world likes it, it must be excellent.

Four.  Maranatha and these colleges corrupt what the Christian life is all about.  Nothing of being a soldier.  Nothing of hardship.  Nothing of suffering.  Nothing of bold proclamation of the truth.  Nothing of steadfast and pure conviction.  It's steak.  It's girls.  It's guys.  It's fun.  It's money, because of the accreditation.  It's having friends.  They remind me of what amusement parks did to make money.  They asked their customers what they wanted, and they said "rides."  They don't want a museum.  They don't want hard work.

I say that none of this should surprise.  It shouldn't.  Think of Neighborhood Bible Time.  Think of the summer camps.  Think of the strategies to get people to church.  Scripture alone hasn't been good enough for fundamentalism.

If this is the means of attracting Christian kids for college, why are the means wrong that Rick Warren uses to get people into Saddleback?  Maranatha diagnosed the felt needs of its target demographic and made merchandise out of them.  Why wouldn't its graduates just go out and do the same in their churches?

As I pound on Maranatha, don't get me wrong.  Pensacola is just as bad or worse in many ways with its water slides and bowling alley.  Bob Jones has been doing similar.   Fundamentalist churches have done the same with their youth activities and marketing techniques for building their churches.  Recently Northland bragged about their March Madness discipleship,  what they called the faculty inviting over students for NCAA tournament games.   This has been the norm for years.

It's tough to keep the parachurch Christian college going, pay for the buildings, meet payroll.   Keeping up enrollment is necessary to perpetuate.   They are bound to slide.  They don't have a pastor, church discipline, or the Lord's Table.  Jesus didn't promise His presence to one of these organizations.  They are bound to fall.

12 comments:

d4v34x said...

Bro B.,

The head of the nail here you sum up well in 1) "None of this kind of thing is new in fundamentalism. It's rather typical in fundamentalism." and 2) "Almost all of fundamentalism is perverting the affections of their young people." The latter being borne out by Jim P's comment at SI, "Have you see the typical church youth group lately?"

The irony is that, while I too was given over to silliness for most of my time at MBBC, there were a few people there who awakened me to the leanness of that and encouraged me towards sobriety. So I really do have them to thank God for in planting seeds which, admittedly, took longere to spring up than they should have.

It's sad to see the kids do such a great job at something so unworthy.

Susan R said...

I'll never understand why we (generally speaking) think we can make the Gospel appealing to young people by frosting it with frivolity, then get cranky when they don't take Christianity seriously.

Alan Kurschner said...

Hi Kent,

For some reason you tapped into my thoughts. I think I agree with most of what you said.

I know the following criticism has been pointed out many of times, but I'll note it again since for me it is a paragon of fundamentalist hypocrisy and what I discerned when I attended the Academy:

You said: "They've probably got rules against going to the movie theater."

Yes they still do. And yet the students and staff are allowed to rent from a video store the same movie that was at the theater three months earlier!

A stupid objection I remember hearing was: "yea, but there are Rated R movies at the Theater." And Blockbuster does not have Rated R movies as well?!

It was idiotic rules like this that sapped the testimony of Christ from unbelievers in Watertown.

In fact, I would argue that a video rental store contains more explicit, salacious, imagery on its movie covers walking through the aisles than a movie theater could ever expose someone to!

There is no moral difference going to a movie theater than watching a movie through netflix or renting at blockbuster. Why is a theater considered "wordly" and renting a movie was not? I was never given an reasonable answer. And the administration of Maranatha to this day cannot give anyone a good answer.

But we all know it comes down to legalism—trying to be more holy than God.

Alan Kurschner said...

Hi David!

Did not see you there.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi,

I thought all good comments.

There was more I could have said, but truthfully, I got a little weary and the brain was shutting down, so I just pushed publish and it was done.

Now that I've had some sleep, and preached chapel and taught two history classes, two of the comments were additions that I liked.

We can have fun, sure. But we don't train people for that. We don't offer people that. We give them truth and goodness and beauty. We fill them up with God through Jesus Christ, the Word of God. We give them the best, not what passes, not what they like. The best music, the best poetry, the best literature. But no. The kids don't like that, so we let immaturity, self-centeredness, self-gratification rule, which so clashes with Jesus.

Alan,

Hi. I remember when the video store became an issue. A kid in my dorm worked in one, and he was told he couldn't any longer, even though he regularly served faculty who walked in. What a conundrum! I'm not saying that someone should go to a theater. I think there are many good reasons not to go. It's just that the biggest problem with going happens to already be the biggest problem. You don't solve the biggest problem by making the rule. It's all worth thinking about.

Kent Brandenburg said...

D4,

There was enough Bible around and people who weren't into the frivolity that were like little marks on the trail to lead me out. I'm not saying I've arrived. But the whole thing is a trap, I believe. Thanks.

Alan Kurschner said...

Kent,

Speaking of making movies/skits, I actually have the original of a 8(or is 9) millimeter film that you and Ed made. It was filmed in Ed's basement. I think Randy filmed it. Ed was trying to lift a barbell of heavy weight but could not, and you came along and lifted it just fine. I recall as a kid you guys made a lot of these film-skits.

Reforming Baptist said...

I am not familiar with anything "Broadway" so it didn't register to me as "lustful". If someone is familiar with the Broadway lifestyle, then perhaps it will come across that way to them.

However, I thought the video was trivial, juvenile, and silly. This isn't what the ministry should be portrayed as. I agree that IFB Colleges make the ministry appear to be a recreation field or a prolonged summer camp rather than boot camp prep for warfare. The latest GSBC video (http://www.gsbc.edu/gallery/video/) is just as silly.

Anyway, it's much different than the way Jesus recruited people. His methods thinned out the crowd to just the committed! (John 6:66-70)

Kent Brandenburg said...

Alan,

I remember that film. You have it. That would be funny to see.

Will,

You nailed it. The words you used are right. And your evaluation of Jesus' recruitment is what we should use. Right on.

d4v34x said...

Hi Al!

Bro B. I definitely don't want to imply I've arrived either. I tried to indicate that in spring up rather than flower, bear fruit, etc.

AKK said...

I think the skit that sticks in my head the most was a certain MBA principal and teacher who did a Laurel and Hardy sketch titled "I did it their way"......just ironic it wasn't "God's way" but yet, the fundie way. I was thankful for a small handful of teachers who did encourage a person to seek the truth and think for yourself, but there are still way too many who put themselves on cruise-control through college but, that's what they wanted, (don't question, just do) and then are lost when out in the "real world".

Steve Rogers said...

More evidence of the type of students MBBC is drawing.
https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10153031127723442