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.