During my junior year of college (if memory serves) I was leading an evening song time with some friends from my “literary society” (though it bore little resemblance to the fraternities of ordinary colleges, but that’s a story best left for another time) along with friends from our society’s “sister society” (again, bearing little—if any—resemblance to sororities found at other universities).
I believe I need to set the stage a bit here since most—if not all—of you have almost no understanding of the culture found in my alma mater. For starters, there are extremely strict rules governing music styles. I won’t go into detail on that because this story will help you understand.
Another thing to note is that there was a demerit system at the university. A student was given one semester to abstain from getting 150 demerits. If he/she received 150 demerits before the end of the semester, he/she would be expelled. There were also certain milestones a student could reach with different rewards along the way. For example, when a student reached 75 demerits he/she received the distinct privilege of no longer being permitted to speak with members of the opposite sex. Upon reaching 100 demerits, the student was honored with confinement to campus (in addition to no talking to the other sex). No off-campus trips after 100 demerits.
The final thing you need to know is that in order for guys and girls to hang out together, they had to be chaperoned. All the time. So, in order for our group to get together and have this worship song time, we needed to have a chaperone. Yes, college students need a chaperone.
I was given the responsibility of selecting the music and Bible selections for the evening, and since it was getting close to Valentine’s Day I chose Scripture passages and hymns that had something to do with love. One song that I chose was Michael W. Smith’s “Above All.” (Please refrain from the Michael W. Smith questions. I was a very different person back then.)
A few days after the event I was called into the dean’s office. Now, every meeting with the dean starts off with something to the effect of, “Do you know why you were called in here?” I learned through experience to always answer with a “no.” It’s better than accidentally giving away more information than they actually know.
He told me that he had received information that I had led a group of fellow students in singing a song that was “unacceptable for Christians because the author of the song also writes songs that contain a ‘rock-and-roll rhythm’.” He continued with a lot of information I don’t remember, and then asked, “Were you aware of this fact about the song’s author?” Before I could answer, he gave me an out. “If you were aware, I’m afraid that offense carries 100 demerits because you knowingly led other students in sin. If you were not aware, the offense carries only 50 demerits because you didn’t willfully help other students sin.”
So what did I do? I lied. Right to the dean’s face. I told him I had no idea that the song’s author was a “rock-and-roll” musician. I already had over 50 demerits; another 100 and I would be expelled.
Did I have a choice? Yeah. I certainly could have told him the truth. Part of me wishes I had. I would have been freed from that place with my conscience intact. Instead, I didn’t want to experience the embarrassment and shame of being kicked out of college, so I lied, and I continued to subject myself to an environment where I would continue to compromise my conscience.
My story is insignificant. It pales in comparison to the stories of sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse that have recently come to light at my alma mater. I don’t want to pretend that the things that happened to me at that university (which eventually grew to be far worse than this story) were anywhere near as heinous as the acts that were committed against others. But I wanted to share that the fear-mongering existed at even the smallest scale.
Why bother with me? My offense was inconsequential at most. I would offer that the administration needed to maintain control. As soon as they lose control of the minutest detail, they will have lost control of the entire university. Little did they realize just how much the students were getting away with right under their noses. But they were too busy fighting pointless battles like mine to notice the bigger problems plaguing the university.
“Welcome to Fundy U. Where we force you to conform to our image and compromise your morals in doing so.”