Throughout high school I played the part of the good Christian. I had to. I’d made up some story about how I’d “gotten saved” when I was just five years old. I got baptized when I was in the fifth grade. I was one of the good kids.
But no one really knew me. Because I knew that if anyone ever found out about my secret sins, I’d lose all my credibility. I knew that if anyone ever found out that I was questioning my own faith in Jesus, I’d be told to shut up.
I had all kinds of questions. I wanted to ask my pastor, but I was afraid of the consequences. I couldn’t be real with him. I couldn’t be myself.
But I wanted the church to like me. So I plugged away. I kept playing the part of the good Christian boy. And we all know that good Christian boys go to good Christian schools.
So after high school I packed my suitcases and headed down to Bob Jones University. Little did I know what was in store for me there.
I won’t go into all the details of my experience there, but suffice it to say that the institution found a way to push me far away from God. But I didn’t know any better because I had grown up being taught that God was judgmental, vengeful, and eternally angry with all of humanity.
Who would want anything to do with that kind of God?
Let me cite an example. This story is a microcosm of my entire career at the university.
I was printing a paper for one of my literary criticism classes when I noticed I had a new email. I was about to let it by when I saw that it was from the Dean of Men’s office, and they were requesting that I appear before them.
Now, here’s the thing about the Dean of Men’s office. You’re probably not going to come out of there alive. It’s not like the Discipline Committee line where you’re tried by one of your peers and/or some random person staring at a computer screen. No, you’re sitting in the fiery judgment of the man who, with one breath, can expel you from the university.
So I sat through the entirety of En305 completely unable to focus on what my professor was talking about. All I could think about was my impending doom in the Dean of Men’s office.
(Side note: does anyone else find it odd that there’s a Dean of Men at this school?)
After class I made my way down the excessively long sidewalk to the inner sanctum of the Administration Building. I sat in the waiting room outside Mr. Daulton’s office, nervous, but not nearly as scared as the first time I’d been here. Still, my fate at college hung in the balance.
He called me into his office and wasted no time getting to the point. “Do you know why you’re here, Nate?”
That was a trick question. Last time he asked me that, I got in trouble for something else entirely. I decided to keep my mouth shut this time.
“Someone from outside the university found some rather disturbing content on your MySpace page,” he said. “He forwarded your page to us because of his concern for you.”
Riiight. Because someone from outside the university who happens to be stalking university students’ MySpace pages cares enough about the university’s standards to tell the school about this.
“What kind of content?” I asked.
“For starters, what you’ve listed as your ‘favorite music’ is anything but God-honoring.”
I waited for him to continue. There was no way I was going to say anything now.
“Additionally, I see that there are several R-rated films listed here as your ‘favorite movies,’ and one that is particularly disheartening is ‘The Matrix.’ Would you like to explain?”
“Nate, do you think a film like ‘The Matrix,’ or any R-rated film for that matter, fits into the standards set by Philippians 4:8?” he asked.
I wish I’d said yes. I wish I could’ve shown him how that narrow-minded view of Scripture is what’s causing Christians to be so out of touch with culture that they’ve become ineffective and even harmful to the mission God called them to.
But I didn’t know that yet. I hadn’t discovered this perspective yet. All I knew was that I’d made his god angry. And I was going to pay for it.
From that moment on I began to slowly give up on my faith in Christ. I remember thinking, After I get my diploma, I’m done with the whole “Jesus thing.” If this is what his followers are like, I want nothing to do with any of it.
After that my life would begin to look radically different.