Browsing Tag

Pensacola Christian College


things not even tolerated by the world: Christians and hypocrisy

A little while ago I read “All Christians are Hypocrites” by Jayson Bradley. I don’t really disagree with him or any of the points he makes, but I want to highlight something.

Jayson opens his article musing that many people associate “Christian” with “hypocrite,” and I don’t think he’s wrong. However, he spends the bulk of his article pointing to behaviors that are frequently condemned by Christian culture: drinking, going to move theaters, secular music, affairs, drug addiction, liberal politics, etc. Part of his argument is “Feeling forced to hide these things from our Christian neighbors is part of what makes us look like hypocrites to The World,” and that’s where I disagree with him.

Sure, I knew people growing up who believed that Christians didn’t drink alcohol and would be judgmental if they saw me tossing back a pumpkin ale, but Jayson’s focus on movie theaters and rock music is downright laughable because those things are not why “The World” views us as hypocrites.

It’s because we condone things that “not even the pagans” would tolerate (I Cor. 5:1).

Josh Duggar molested his sisters and girls from his church, and I personally knew people from previous churches who defended his actions as “normal.” More than one Christian told me I was wrong for daring to talk about it.

Saeed Abedini– who pled guilty to abusing his wife and now has a restraining order against him— was handed a massive pulpit by Christianity Today to call his wife a liar and say she’s in league with Satan. That’s not even the first time they’ve done something that despicable– their Leadership Journal published a piece by a convicted rapist where he referred to raping a minor as an “affair.”

Baylor University administration and staff has spent years covering up rapes and assaults committed by not just football players, but debate champions and other students. They threatened retaliation if the victims went to the police, they rewarded rapists with staff and coaching positions. What they’ve done is an order of magnitude worse than what happened at Penn State and they’re facing practically no repercussions at the moment. It’s hardly unique for a Christian university to do this, either. Patrick Henry has done it, as has Bob Jones, and Pensacola Christian … at this point I’d be shocked if there’s any conservative Christian university that hasn’t spent decades retaliating against rape victims.

The New York Catholic Conference spent 2.1 million dollars making sure it would be impossible for pedophilic priests to ever face justice. Pope Francis, who is being hailed as some sort of progressive icon, won’t reverse Benedict’s decision to make child sexual assault allegations a “pontifical secret” and the Church explicitly told priests that they’re under no obligation to report child sexual assault if they know of it.

And just in case you think that this sort of massive cover up is isolated to the Holy Roman Catholic Church and college campuses, it’s not. The Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE) has spent several decades hiding the fact that several of their missionaries are habitual child rapists. After hiring GRACE to investigate, they fired them weeks before they were about to release the report. Years later they eventually got around to releasing a report compiled by Pii (which you can find here), but when Christianity Today posted something about it, they happily went with ABWE’s position of “oh, that will never happen again even though we’re not really admitting we did anything wrong and we’re doing absolutely nothing to make sure it won’t happen again,” as if a mea culpa could ever be enough. Only a handful of Christians are even talking about this, and when we do it’s mostly to make sure ABWE escapes any serious consequences for being complicit in the rape of children.

And it’s not just Baptists, just in case you’re the sort of person who hates on Baptists. The PCUSA (that’s the liberal one) and New Tribes Mission have both issued “apologies” for the dozens of children who were raped by their missionaries.

This is why Christians are hypocrites.

Not because we drink when we’re not supposed to. Not because some of us get tattoos. Not because we have the occasional affair (which is clearly always the wife’s fault anyway, have you seen how she’s let herself go?).

It’s because when our pastors, college administrators, celebrities and missionaries rape our children we shrug and call it “normal” and we call those children adulterers. We make girls who have been impregnated by their rapists stand in front of their church and confess. We write letters to judges begging them for leniency when our “preacher boys” turn out to be rapists. We scream and scream and scream about predators in bathrooms, but when there are actual predators raping our children, we do something worse than nothing. We call the victims liars, we make sure their abuser can do it again, and when those rapists say “oh, oops, I’m sowwy” we publish long think-pieces on forgiveness.

Jesus said to let the little ones come unto him, that only people who become like a child will enter the kingdom of heaven. Seems like we’ve forgotten that.

Photo by Will Beard
Social Issues

5 Good Reasons Not to Attend Pensacola Christian College

Last year, I wrote a piece that condemned Pensacola Christian College for its habit of expelling rape victims for being “fornicators” or “liars.” It went viral, and now I consistently get people writing to me for advice. Some are from teenagers wanting to know how deep the problems go, some are from parents who are wondering if they should send their children there, some are from people trying to convince their loved ones not to go.

My answers have been consistent: I tell each of these people to ignore a lot of what they’ve heard about PCC, even from my own blog. Yes, the rules are completely and totally jacked. Some of the rules seem insane. Yes, it’s an extremely legalistic place. Yes, the administration has a well-deserved reputation for treating their students terribly.

However, none of those things are the real problem with PCC. The real problem is that you will not receive even a passably adequate education– and since that’s the primary reason for shelling out thousands of dollars for college, that should be the way to evaluate an institution of higher education.

1) They are accredited. Sort of. But not in the way you think.

When I attended, PCC had no accreditation, and they were extremely proud of that fact. They had no interest in accreditation, because they refused to be held accountable by any outside body that could bully them into giving up their “standards.” This meant that no student could get FAFSA, and many other places that offer student financial aid wouldn’t qualify you. It also meant that no one qualified for educational tax credits.

Most of that hasn’t changed. PCC is technically accredited now, but by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. If you look at the list of colleges that they’ve accredited, it becomes obvious fairly quickly that TRACS is a joke. They’re a rubber-stamping agency for conservative and fundamentalist Christian colleges that want to say they’re “accredited” but still go right on with business as usual. I know some of the people who go around “evaluating” these institutions for TRACS, and, trust me, they’re all in bed together.

They did make a few slight changes. They told PCC that forbidding their students from using Facebook and Twitter was a bit overboard. It’s also important to note that PCC makes it clear that they are not licensed by the state of Florida, nor do they wish to be.

2) They do not allow any form of open, reasoned discourse.

This is most obvious in that it is absolutely forbidden for students to either hold any form of public demonstration or create or sign a petition. Those two things are some of the gravest infractions any students can commit. There is a “student government,” but the officers that students elect do nothing more than put together skits that they perform in front of the student body a few times a semester– skits that are vetted extremely carefully by people in the administration. Dale Fincher was Student Body President, and he has some harrowing stories about the brutal questioning he was put through by doing his best to simply be encouraging.

3) Questioning any of the school’s ideologies could get you fired or expelled.

I’ll just share two examples: one of my professors was fired after a student asked him a question in class and he answered it honestly. The question: “What does Calvinism teach?” The answer: a brief summary of TULIP. After that happened, I approached a professor of mine about the nature of the grammar in the Gospel of Mark, and it didn’t take me long to realize that I’d just asked a question that could get him fired if he was honest.

For an Old Testament Survey class, we were required to read and “write a critique of” a dissertation on why the King James Bible is the Only True Bible that Christians Should Read: All Other Versions are Evil. I was pro-King James-only at the time, and was familiar with the arguments– and I thought that the argument was incredibly weak and filled with shoddy scholarship and lies. Since the homework assignment was to write a critique, I wrote one, taking the dissertation to task for presenting such a poor argument when many other better ones could be made.

I was called up to Student Life– the disciplinary branch of the administration– and interrogated and lectured. Even after I explained that I agreed with them, they continued to bludgeon me. About a homework assignment where I disagreed with something the school required its students to read.

4) Students are not taught critical or independent thinking.

While I was there I never experienced –not once in four and a half years– a “classroom discussion.” Every class I took, every day, for nine semesters, was lecture-based. We came, we sat in chairs, we took notes, and we left. Lather, rinse, repeat. There was never anything else. I was an Secondary Education major, so I even got the rationale for this: a classroom discussion made the learning environment too “student-centered,” and that was not to be countenanced. “Student-centered” or “student-directed” anything is of the devil.

I didn’t even realize this was a problem until I was in graduate school. Granted, graduate school is different from undergrad, and there’s a different dynamic between professor and student. However, I went to grad school at Liberty University and my peers were all very shocked to learn that a teacher had never once even asked for my opinion on something. I was to essentially find and then read aloud some notes I’d taken in previous lectures (or simply recall them from memory), but I never had the experience of a professors asking an open-ended question where the words hadn’t already been handed to me.

Students learning to think for themselves? To reason, and then articulate their own opinions? The horror.

5) They are simply not qualified to be an institute of higher education.

Out of almost 120 full-time faculty members, fifteen have terminal degrees in their field of study. Many of those MFAs and PhDs were granted by Pensacola Christian College. At a time when PCC was accredited by nothing. They literally made up their own degrees– licensed and accredited by no one– and are now using those “degrees” to pretend as if they have a semblance of respectability.

This next thing makes me laugh– the textbooks used in many of the required general education courses are the same ones they use in their high school. The book I bought for HI 101 and 102? The same one I’d used as a homeschooler in tenth grade. The anthologies we used for American and English Literature? Hardcover versions of the books I’d used in 11th and 12th grade with some of the artwork removed.

When I began graduate study, I realized that I had not been equipped to handle to rigors of my program. At all. On any level whatsoever. And I wasn’t even at some prestigious university– I was at another conservative Christian college, for crying out loud. I was so upset I called the Dean of English at PCC to ask why they hadn’t bothered preparing me for grad school in any basic, fundamental way. Why had I never even been shown– once— how to write following MLA guidelines? Why did they never even breathe the words literary theory? Why had I never even heard of Jacques Derrida? Why had not a single literature class I’d ever taken required me to read anything written by someone born after 1857? His answer: they felt that none of that was necessary– in fact, they saw those things as actively harmful and “detrimental to the program.”


In conclusion, Pensacola Christian College does not care about education. They are there to indoctrinate, and absolutely nothing more.

Photo by Moyan Brenn

Moni's Story: How PCC Re-Victimizes Students


As I was interviewing people and researching their stories for my article on PCC, I had to make a tough decision about the stories that I would include. I didn’t have space for everyone, and I needed to be able to tell the stories clearly, but succinctly. There is not a whole lot of time for nuance in 1,200 words. A lot of people assumed that I chose the stories I did because they were “sensational,” which they are, but I actually chose them because their stories were simple, easy to explain, and easily understood by those who aren’t familiar with how predators operate and how they groom their victims.

However, I believe that the vast majority of victimized PCC students don’t have such cut-and-dried stories. So far, most of them have been far more complicated—however, they are also far more typical of what happens on the campus of Pensacola Christian and in the broader culture.

Monica Varela, “Moni,” has a typical story.

She is from Taiwan, the child of missionary parents, and started her freshman year, her very first semester, at PCC this January. As I’ve been talking with her, I’ve gotten to know a very gentle and incredibly sweet young woman, but she’s also incredibly brave—she decided to attend college in a foreign country, reached out to me, and is sharing her actual name. I am fiercely proud of her for being willing to do this.

After she arrived on campus, she quickly became friends with a young man who had also started in January. Her first impression of him was that he was a little awkward, but when he initiated a friendship with her, she thought that she should give him a chance. At first, everything seemed to be going well. He was incredibly sweet and generous—he gave her his favorite hoodie, and showered her with attention and compliments.

As their friendship progressed, he began “opening up” to her, telling her that he had never been able to open up to any other girl before, that he trusted her and valued her. She was helping him. He told her about some horrible things he’d experienced and said that her friendship with him was allowing him to trust people again, to realize that maybe people weren’t so bad.

If you have ever been in an abusive relationship, you will recognize this stage. It is one of the very first things that some predators do to groom their victims—they make their victim feel needed. They do everything they can to make sure their victim has bonded with them emotionally; the goal is to ensure that their victim feels compelled to stay in a relationship with them once they begin the abuse. You’ll hear this sometimes from domestic violence victims: they’ll excuse their abuser’s actions as part of them being “troubled,” and they see it as their responsibility to remain in a relationship with them in order to “fix them.”

The abuse in Moni’s relationship, like in most abusive relationships, began very slowly. One of the first steps he took was to isolate her from her support structure—she had family on campus, and had made other friends. He began asking her to go to dinner “just the two of them” because he wanted to spend time with her. When she would protest and say that she wanted to spend time with other people, he would ask her to accommodate his “social awkwardness.” He didn’t like big groups, he didn’t feel comfortable. Being the sweet person that she is, Moni capitulated to what he was saying he needed. Over time, she began seeing her friends and family less and less.

Another thing that predators do is test boundaries, or to outright violate them and see how you react. He began doing this to Moni, asking her to send him pictures. At first it was all incredibly innocent—he wanted a picture of her wearing the hoodie he’d given her, for example. This made her uncomfortable, but he would insist and eventually convince her that there wasn’t anything wrong with his request and she shouldn’t freak out, it wasn’t a big deal.

That is called gaslighting, and it is a very common abusive tactic. Predators employ gaslighitng in order to make sure that the victim doesn’t trust their own instincts or to respect their own boundaries—abusers convince victims that they cannot trust themselves or their perceptions.

(I explain more about how abusers can operate here and here.)



As Moni’s relationship continued, the abuse progressed and he began using threats. He carefully never threatened Moni, but he started saying things like “I’ve never wanted to punch someone [referring to a female friend] so much” or “I could totally beat up your brother.”

Moni’s reaction to these threats was the reaction that most people would have: he could not possibly be serious. He must be making a very bad joke, she thought, and she blamed it on his “awkwardness.” She responded with “that isn’t funny” or “please don’t say things like that.”

Personally, I believe that abusers might use ridiculous threats like this in order to further isolate their victims. At one point during my abusive relationship, my ex threatened to hire a hitman to assassinate my two closest friends. It just sounds so crazy—who exactly are we going to tell? I didn’t really take him seriously, but it did make me horribly afraid. I knew he was capable of violence, and I had no idea how far he’d actually go. Moni began feeling and thinking very similar things—what was this young man actually capable of? Who would he hurt?

He continued his threats, continued gaslighting her, and began coercing her into sexting with him. When I asked her to describe those interactions, it all felt so familiar to me. In the early days of my abusive relationship, John* had pressured me into sexting and, eventually, phone sex. It’s difficult to explain how that process works if you have never experienced it, but the constant needling, the never-ending drone of “please please please please please” eventually wears you down to the point where you give in. When you’re simultaneously being gaslighted and drowned in flattery and “affection” and “baby I need you so badly,” things can get incredibly confusing, especially for a young woman who has nothing to compare it to. Especially for young women who belong to a culture that puts what men need at the top of our priorities.

During this period, he sexually assaulted her twice—while they were on campus.

After all of this, Moni still had the courage to stand up to him: she told him that she did not believe him, did not trust him, and that she did not like their relationship. She says that he “blew up” and broke up with her. She was relieved, and thought “finally, he’ll leave me alone now.”

That is when he began stalking her.

He followed her all over campus, even when she was in a group. Her friends noticed, and commented about the way he was looking at them—he made them feel unsafe and was giving them “evil looks.” A cousin asked her about what had happened, and when she heard everything Moni had been through, told her to take it to her floorleaders (which is exactly what PCC tells students to do).

The second her floorleaders heard what was happening, they were appropriately concerned and immediately sent her to Student Life the next day.


pointing finger

Moni went to Student Life feeling hopeful. This was her first semester at PCC, so she innocently believed what Student Life said—they claimed to care about students, and they had publicly assured the campus that they take things like what Moni was going through very seriously. It’s even in their handbook, the Pathway, that they respond to “harassment” (which supposedly includes stalking and sexual assault) very seriously.

However, the several women that she spoke to in the Student Life office did not take her seriously. They told her that because the threats he had made were verbal and not written that there was nothing they could do, and their only “solution” to his stalking was to tell her to “remain in groups and very public places,” confident that he would eventually give up and leave her alone, and that she was “letting herself be too controlled by fear.”

In an attempt to explain what this man was capable of, she told them about how he had sexually assaulted her twice, and about how he had been coercing and pressuring her sexually.

That’s when they finally became interested. They switched from being dismissive to being hostile and demanding—they repeatedly asked her variations of “do you know what your sin is?”. After several hours of interrogating her, they concluded that she “had been too willing” and she was sent in front of another “council” and told to “defend herself.”

She explained everything that had happened, and the council decided to expel her for “sexual misconduct.”

In her own words, this is how Moni described her encounter with Student Life:

They treated me like I was a dirty, sexually disturbed person … how they mentally and physically exhausted me that day and then made me defend myself without really knowing how is the most horrible memory I have. I looked into their faces and saw no sympathy and Christian love. Only disdain and judgment as I sat there trembling.

Did the women, when interrogating me, try to comfort me as I cried? No: instead they were trying to elicit a confession of my sins, and a repentance for what they thought was my “seduction.”

This is called re-victimization, and many sexual violence victims report that their encounters with authority figures after their assault is more traumatic than the assault itself. That is what Student Life did to Moni—they listened to a story about verbal abuse, physical threats, stalking, and sexual assault, and instead of reacting with empathy and compassion, they began attacking her.

Instead of helping her, they expelled her.


That is what Pensacola Christian College does. I’ve heard dozens of stories from other victims in the past few months, and most fit this pattern. The administration, Student Life, and their “counselors” do not understand sexual violence, trauma, or abuse, and so they almost invariably re-traumatize victims.

This must change.

author’s note: I was able to independently corroborate this story with several PCC students and staff, all of whom have asked to keep their identities private for fear of reprisal from the college.

*edit: ordinarily I keep my comment section fairly open. For posts like this one, however, I moderate more closely. Because of the content, it is vital that the comment section remain a safe place for me, Moni, and other survivors. Also, if you believe that whether or not Moni has reported her assault to the police is at all relevant, you have missed the point of this article.


Pensacola Christian College & Me

August 2008-1
from August 2008, while I was still a student at PCC

If you’ve never meandered around xoJane, well, now is your golden opportunity. I’ve been a loyal reader for almost a year now, and it’s a pretty cool place. So, when an xoJane editor reached out to me and asked if I’d be willing to tell a piece of my story for them, you can imagine that my reaction looked a bit like this:

my little pony clapping seal

I’ve never really written out the entirety of what my experience was like after my rapist ended our engagement, although I’ve alluded to it a few times. I try to keep what I write about here focused on bigger-than-just-me things, although my story is a good example of what being at PCC can be like.

You can read the whole thing here.

Feminism, Theology

blessed are the peacemakers

knotwork peace
by Bradley Schenck


Yellow journalist.

Rabble rouser.

A lot of names like these have been tossed in my general direction in the last month, and I’m fully expecting that they will continue to be hurled at me. Calling me a liar and telling me that I’m writing about these things just so I can be internet famous for 15 mintues isn’t going to stop me from talking to survivors and collating their stories. It doesn’t scare me.

However, I’ve been in a few conversations recently where I’ve been accused of going about this an entirely wrong way. I should never have published that article about PCC. I’m stooping. I’m stirring up controversy for no reason. I have an agenda and I’m attacking an institution with nothing more to gain than making them look bad.

When I explain that no, the only reason I had for publishing that article was to help make sure these things don’t keep happening, most of the time I’m told well, if you actually want things to change than this was the worst way to do it. All you’ve done is made them defensive– now they’re simply going to entrench themselves deeper. Their only response to anything you say from now on will be damage control or dismissal. You’ve accomplished nothing– you’ve made it worse. You had a real opportunity to make things better and you blew it. If you keep publishing stories, you’ll be nothing more than a bitter gossip.

If you wanted things to change, you should have approached the administration privately. You should have engaged in conversation with them, shown them gently and lovingly how they were failing, and worked with them in Christ to make things better.

You should have followed Matthew 18.

If you’re not familiar with Matthew 18:15-17, it’s the go-to passage on how Christians are supposed to handle confrontation. If you have a problem with someone, go to them in private first and tell them; don’t just sit there and stew about it. If they don’t listen to you, go back with a moderator. If they still don’t listen, that is when you can bring what they did into public.

However, Matthew 18 isn’t the only thing the Bible has to say about confrontation (and I also have problems with forcing Matthew 18 to be about confronting power systems, hierarchies, and institutions). There’s also Ephesians 5:

Let no one deceive you with empty words … Therefore do not be partners with them … Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them … everything exposed by the light becomes visible–and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.

What PCC has been doing for decades and that they are continuing to do today are the deeds of darkness. They have done wrong, damaging, hurtful, and evil things in order to protect themselves as an institution, and they are still doing them. I will have nothing to do with it, but will rather expose them. If there’s another institution or system that hurt people, I will do my best to expose that, too.

It’s the difference between being a table-sitter and a table-flipper– or a table-burner, in some cases.

I’ve slowly worked my way into becoming an activist, and one of the things I’ve learned is that it takes all kinds is especially true of activism, no matter what sort of activism you’re a part of. Movements need Martin Luther King Jr.– and they need Malcolm X and Huey Newton.

The problem is, most of the MLK-types I’ve encountered want everyone else to be MLK-types and they tell the Malcolm Xs of the world that we’re wrong. That what we’re doing is counter-productive and we’re hamstringing our own cause. We need to be nicer, calmer, more logical, more compassionate; otherwise, the institutionalized power will never listen to us. We have to talk to them the way they want to be talked to, or it’s pointless. Anger and rage, they say, is fruitless. You’re screaming into the wind. We all need to sit down at the same table and talk. Take the time to discuss our differences politely and respectfully.

There’s actually a word for that in conversations about race: respectability politics.

Another term is tone policing.

I will never, ever tell someone that they can’t sit down at the table that I’d sometimes prefer to burn to the ground. So please stop telling me that I should not expose the deeds of darkness that an institution has been committing for decades. Don’t tell me that if I talk about the rampant abuse present in the IFB movement I’m “sowing dissension.” Don’t tell me that it’s more important for us to engage with our oppressors than it is to expose their oppression. My activism and my writing isn’t for the institutions– it’s for the oppressed. Sometimes, it’s simply to let other hurting people know that they’re not crazy and not making it up, that it happened to other people, too, and they have a right to their fury.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said “blessed are those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”

There can be no peace as long as injustice and marginalization and silencing are daily experiences.

Peace-making doesn’t have to be peaceful.


discovering the will of God


The bell rang, and I heaved a sigh of relief. My first day of attending classes was over, and I hadn’t made any major mistakes. Maybe being in a classroom won’t be as hard as I thought, and, feeling brave, I turned to look at the young man I’d recognized from auditions earlier in the week. We were in the same program, and he seemed nice– in a sudden fit I asked if he’d like to come to dinner with some of my friends.

I was shocked at myself. I’d just asked a guy to dinner. After I’d just officially met him an hour ago. After not even being on campus for a week. Samantha what were you thinking but I managed to keep a pleasant expression plastered on my face. He thought about my invitation for a second, then said “sure, where and when?”

“6 at the Four Winds? Meet outside?”

He nodded, then we gathered up our bags and left.

At dinner that night, as we introduced each other and made small talk, I realized that one of the “getting to know you” questions spelled trouble for me. Hometown, major, age– I had all those covered. But I quickly learned to dread the “so how did you know God wanted you to come to PCC” question.

I didn’t have an answer. At least, not an answer that I could give.


I started thinking about where I might want to go to college when I was a sophomore in high school, and at the time, I thought I only had three options. All through high school, I only ever really considered three schools: Patrick Henry College, Bob Jones University, and Pensacola Christian College. I’m not sure exactly why I never bothered looking into other schools like Maranatha or Cedarville or Liberty, but it probably had something to do with me thinking that they were all too liberal. Considering the response I got from my fundamentalist friends when I announced I was going to Liberty, it was probably the “liberal” thing.

The summer after my sophomore year I went to PCC’s “Summer Music Academy,” and I absolutely loved it. The environment was much more lax than what I’d grown up with, and I loved the music faculty.

When it finally came time for me to start applying to colleges, I took a more careful look at BJU and PHC– talked to people who’d gone to each, got their informational packets . . . but, in the end, I realized that attending PCC would mean that I would be closer to home, it was cheaper, and because I was already familiar with the campus and how the school operated I figured I wouldn’t be as nervous. Also, I’d made a lot of friends at the summer program who were going, and that seemed like a huge plus. So, I sent out one application. In the fall, I packed my bags, made the one-hour drive to Pensacola, and never really looked back.

However, when I started staring down the question how did the Lord reveal his Will to you? over and over and over again . . . I started wondering if I’d made a mistake. There was entire sermons and chapel services to the concept of “discovering the will of God for your life,” and some of the people around me were agonizing over decisions that I had never thought needed to be agonized over.

How did you to decide to be a music major? Uhm . . . I like playing the piano? (Corollary: it was a degree a woman was allowed to get.)

Did the Lord call you to education? Not exactly. I just don’t like the classes I’d have to take if I were in the ministry major, and the performance major was too much work.

And, the biggie: do you know what the Lord’s plan is for your life? No. Idea.

I’d decided which college I was going to go to based purely on practical, real-life considerations. I had friends there. It was close to home. I liked the faculty. And while those would probably be considered “normal” reasons to non-fundamentalists, they certainly were not the reasons I was supposed to have. I was supposed to feel “called” to PCC. I was supposed to have “guidance from the Lord” when I picked a school. I was supposed to just know that this is where God wanted me.

After about a month of hearing all of that, I called bullshit.

I believe that many of the people I spoke to honestly, genuinely believed that God had led them to PCC. I also believe that there were probably just as many people who were puffing up their stories with “spirituality” in order to get some bizarre version of Christian brownie points.

I ran into the same idea again in my senior year– only this time it was graduate school, and my process was similar: I wanted to study English and I needed a school that would accept my credits so I wouldn’t have to start over. Liberty was the only school I found that had an MA program that I knew wouldn’t be a nightmare to try to get into.

When I announced that decision to friends, though, nearly everyone told me that they would be “praying” that I would “find God’s true will” for my life. To them, there was no possible way that Liberty University could be what God wanted, and that’s when it hit me:

It wasn’t really about God’s will. Not really.

“Being in the center of God’s will” actually amounted to doing what your fundamentalist community approves of. Pensacola was one of the few viable options available for most of the people I went to college with, which almost automatically made it “God’s will” for a lot of them. However, when you’re inside that framework, there’s no real way to separate “God’s will” from “what fundamentalism allows.” They are taught to us as being the same thing. Fundamentalism allows this because it’s God’s will. So the second I stepped outside of fundamentalism and went to the-still-conservative-but-not-fundamentalist Liberty, I was viewed as needing to be “brought back.” I was straying away from God, backsliding, ignoring Him to pursue what I wanted instead of what He wants.

This mentality trickles down into everything– it’s God’s will for women to be in subjection to men. It’s God’s will for women to be modest. It’s God’s will for us to be keepers at home. It’s God’s will for women to be silent in church.

In the end, discovering God’s will becomes follow all the rules.


How Three Christian Colleges Sided with Sexual Assailants


I’ve had a few incredible opportunities come from my original post about PCC. I was interviewed on a live radio show, and for the Pensacola News Journal, and now I have another guest post for Convergent Books. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a huge fan of this publisher– and yes, I’m one of those English nerds that have favorite publishers (Tor being my absolute favorite, just in case you were wondering).

“At these colleges, because the administration has a commitment to uphold strict morality codes, what were you wearing? where were you walking? were you drinking? become the automatic line of questioning. It often is found that the victim of sexual abuse did, in fact, commit a minor infraction. When that is the case, such an admission on the part of the victim is used to paint the victim as an equally guilty party . . .

Questioning of the victim can turn into a type of psychological warfare, in which the student is led to question who, in fact, was responsible for the attack. They are forced to ask themselves: “Would someone in the administration think I was dressed immodestly?” or “I know I wasn’t supposed to be in a classroom alone with him. What will they do to me if I tell them?””

You can read the rest here.


PCC starts backtracking

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The day my guest post “God is Done with You” came out, I was contacted by a lot of people trying to find out more about what I’d described. One of them was a radio show host, who managed to accomplish what I could not: to get PCC to go on record. Their reaction was about what I’d expected– “categorical denials” and accusing those of us who have come forward of “victimizing and harassing” the college.

Their first statement came out last Wednesday–on March 12. Yesterday, March 18, President Shoemaker read off a statement during chapel. I have an audio clip of his announcement, which Dale Fincher uploaded. I encourage you to read both the official statement and Dale’s response– I think Dale addressed some significant problems with how PCC has handled everything so far.

I’m not going to go over every line of the statement, but I would like to point some things out.

Through the years, the Lord has protected PCC’s students, faculty, and staff; reports of harassment in any form have been quite rare. However, in today’s world there are increasing incidences of sexual violence, assault, harassment, and abuse. I imagine that in a student body as large as this, some of you have had to deal with these terrible issues.

Shoemaker is far from alone in this line of thinking. It seems typical, at least in my experience, for American evangelical culture to turn a blind eye to the harsh reality of abuse today. That attitude probably isn’t that far off from American culture in general– I think we’d all prefer to believe that abuse is rare, so many of us decide to believe that it is. Shoemaker is choosing that option here when he says “some of you” when the horribly reality is that it probably is many of you. Using the most reliable statistics we have, up to 37% of PCC’s student body has probably experienced some form of sexual abuse.

When he says that PCC has been “protected” because “reports of harassment . . . have been quite rare,” he is dismissing  the basic premise of my article– that reports of “harassment” are rare because students are terrified of reporting. From the research I’ve been doing with the Escambia County records department, I don’t think “rare” is a good word to use, either, but I’ll know more for sure when I have all the records from the past 12 years in my hands.

Also, in this speech and in the Pathway, the word that they’ve chosen to describe sexual violence is “harassment.” That happened in David’s story– when he was interrogated by the Assistant Dean of Men, he was asked if he’d been “harassed.” What had happened to David is legally defined as aggravated rape, and the Dean asked if he’d been “harassed.”

That is a problem, because PCC has chosen to use soft, minimizing language. I know that words like rape can be intimidating, but as long as we describe the brutal horrors of rape as “harassment”— and treating sexual harassment as inconsequential by putting the idea inside parentheses– they are handicapping victims. They are saying you’re getting upset over nothing. It’s just harassment.

Reports of sexual abuse can be made without fear of recrimination; and no student is punished for being the victim of wrongdoing.

No, instead they’re punished for being fornicators and liars.

It is the responsibility of any student who believes that he has been the subject of legitimate harassment (not frivolous or groundless allegations) to report the incident immediately to a representative of the Student Life Office who will follow the College’s due process in the investigation of the alleged harassment.

That is one of the quotes from the Pathway that Shoemaker used. I think this passage is especially important, because it highlights the unhealthy attitude that PCC has. If a student has been “legitimately harassed,” it is the responsibility of the student to report it immediately.

There are multiple problems with this policy (“legitimate rape,” anyone?), but the primary problem with this is that it has enabled victim blaming. That might seem like a stretch, so bear with me.

What this policy has done, in practice, has made it possible for victims to be at least partly blamed for what happened to them. It has to be “legitimate” (with zero explanation as to what constitutes “legitimate”), and the report has to be made immediately. I’ve talked to a lot of people about their experiences, and one of the common patterns has been the administration asking them “why did you not come forward sooner?” and then using their delay as evidence that the victim was not really a victim. A true victim would have reported it immediately. Since they didn’t report it immediately, they must have “wanted” it.

The college employs four counselors credentialed by graduate degrees in counseling, and a fifth credentialed by over 40 years of counseling experience. These trained counselors are equipped to provide biblical guidance and confidentially assist students with a variety of concerns include sexual abuse.

I’ve talked about “nouthetic” or “biblical” counseling before, and I believe that PCC is on the extreme end of the spectrum as far as their views on “biblical counseling.” While I was a student there, the only textbook required for the class Educational Psychology was Why Christians Can’t Trust Psychology, and everything I learned about the “pseudoscience of psychology” while a student there was that it is evil, corrupt, humanistic, and anti-God. Given that this was their attitude (at least, in 2009, but I don’t think much has changed), I find it extremely unlikely that their counselors are “equipped” to “assist students” with any form of abuse, much less sexual abuse.

Anyway, while this statement is “better” than the one they released on March 12, it still is illustrative of larger problems at PCC. They act on the belief that abuse is rare– when it is not. They have policies in place that reflect some of the dominant myths about rape. They minimize the suffering of abuse victims by calling it “harassment.”

In short, I stand by my original statement: that PCC is not a safe place for victims.


PCC has released a statement

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When I was writing my post “‘God is Done with You’: Pensacola Christian College and Sexual Violence“, I tried contacting four different departments at the school. All refused to speak with me, citing policy, and referred me to Amy Glenn, the Chief Communications Officer. It took me several days to reach her (she was out sick and very busy when she got back), but when I did eventually get in touch with her I asked her to confirm some very basic facts about the administration and their policies. When she got back with me, she stated that she could not answer most of my questions and that PCC did not comment on “blog-type articles.”

However, since the post has received almost 80,000 shares and climbing, I guess they decided to re-think that decision. They have released a statement:

PCC official statement

Pensacola Christian College is being harassed and victimized through recent online accounts. We have no way of verifying the unverifiable stories, but an exhaustive review of our records has revealed nothing to support these claims. Not only were such incidents never reported, but we categorically deny that any student has ever been expelled from PCC for being a victim of rape or any other crime.

The internet provides an open forum that allows unfounded assertions to be spread without proof. There seems to be no defense against such attacks getting started when someone has an agenda.

While we cannot speak for how well other institutions respond to victims of crime, PCC has upheld the law, will continue to uphold the law, reports criminal acts when we are made knowledgeable of them, and fully cooperates with any investigation. Further, the college, its administration, and counseling staff stand ready to support and assist victims.

Just to clarify a few points: first, the post made it clear that the reasons PCC had for expelling Beth, David, and Whitney were fornication, deceit, and impurity, respectively.

Also, as part of my research, I know that the last paragraph is absolutely false. One of the respondants was a PCC staffer who was expressly forbidden– by three people in the administration — from reporting a child sexual assault to the police and informed the staffer that they would not make a report. This was confirmed by other staffers. While this was not technically illegal at the time (it was 2011, before the 2012 change that makes every Florida citizen a mandatory reporter), it still flies in the face of what they claim here.


Pensacola Christian College and Sexual Violence

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It’s been almost a month since I asked for your help in exposing at least one of the problems at Pensacola Christian College: how they respond to and treat victims of sexual violence. Thank you, everyone– without you I could do nothing, and your help means everything to me. We worked together on this one.

Since then, I’ve been interviewing dozens of people and drafting articles, and I’m incredibly proud of all the brave, fierce, wonderful, magnificent people who told me their stories. Every single last one of you has my gratitude.

While I wasn’t able to find a major news source willing to publish it, Fred Clarke at the Slacktivist allowed me to do a guest post for him. I am excited that Clarke was willing to be a part of this project, and I think his platform will help get the story out. As Mr. Universe would say, “You can’t stop the signal.”

You can read the post here.

Now that it’s out, I want to ask you all for yet another thing: to help get this story out. If you’re the kind that uses social media, please think about sharing it. Talk about with people you know. If you hear someone considering to attend a college like this, please let them know about it. I couldn’t have a blog without you, and this story can’t go anywhere without you, either.

As a part of this process, I was extremely honored to be interviewed by Grace Wyler for her article at Vice, which I am proud to be a part of.

Again, thank you.