Midwestern Baptist College: The 1978 Yearbook Incident

From 1976-79, my wife and I attended Midwestern Baptist College (IFB) in Pontiac, Michigan. Midwestern, an unaccredited Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) college, was established in 1954 by the famous IFB pulpiteer Dr. Tom Malone. Forty years later, the college campus is up for sale, Tom Malone is dead, and the church he once pastored, Emmanuel Baptist Church is shuttered with weeds growing around the buildings and through the cracks in the parking lots. Due to increased costs, buildings that are falling apart, and declining enrollment, Midwestern moved to Orion, Michigan so it could use the buildings of Shalom Baptist Church for classes. David Carr, Midwestern’s president, is the pastor of Shalom Baptist.

In the spring of our sophomore year, Dr. Malone gathered the student body in the chapel so he could talk to them. Students were told to bring the recently released 1978 yearbook with them. As the students settled into their seats, Dr. Malone stood up and came to the pulpit. It was clear that he was quite upset about something. We quickly learned that Dr. Malone was livid about three of the yearbook pictures. The photographs were shot by Mike Veach, currently the pastor of First Bible Church, a fundamentalist church in Staten Island, New York. Mike was (is) a wonderful photographer. A few months after what students would later call “The Yearbook Incident,” Polly and I went to nearby Cranbrook Gardens so Mike could take pictures of us. We still have these pictures, reminders of the youngsters we once were some forty years ago.

What was so offensive about these photographs, that a noted IFB pastor and college chancellor would deem it necessary to talk to the entire student body about them? See for yourself.

1978 midwestern baptist college yearbook

Photograph number one was taken during Founder’s Day. Always held on the Friday after Thanksgiving (students were not allowed to go home for Thanksgiving), Founder’s Day was a day set aside for showing the college to prospective Fundamentalist high school students.  Part of the day’s events included a singing talent show. This picture is of a group from a nearby IFB church.

1978 midwestern baptist college yearbook

Photograph number two is a picture of Julian Lyons, the Emmanuel Baptist Church bus pastor. Lyons and I did not get along. He considered me a slacker because I didn’t want to work in the bus ministry after my freshman year. (All students were required to work in the bus ministry their freshman year.) I considered Lyons a racist because he stopped running the buses in Detroit. (The overwhelming majority of the kids from Detroit were poor and black.) One day, as I was exiting the school building, he and I ran into each other and had words, each telling the other what we thought about them. We never spoke again. I was surprised that I did not get expelled from school for what was surely viewed as insubordination.

1978 midwestern baptist college yearbook

Photograph number three was shot during one the chapel services. Pay close attention to the student in the middle of the picture.

I am sure you are scratching your head right now, trying to figure out what is wrong with these pictures. Can’t you see it? Look closely. Put your IFB alternate reality glasses® on…Still nothing?

In the first picture, the boys have long hair, and in the second picture it looks like Lyons’ hair is over his collar. Midwestern had/has a strict policy against men having long hair. Male students were required to keep their hair short, with the college even going so far as to legislate that the back of men’s hair had to be tapered and not block cut.

And the third photograph? The student “looks” like he has bushy, long hair on the back of his head. What he really has is the hair of the student in front of him, that student being my future wife, Polly. As photographers know, perspective and angles can do strange things to photographs. Sadly, Dr. Malone was only concerned with the “appearance of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:22).

Dr. Malone was furious over these photos, so much so that he took one of the yearbooks and tore it in two right in front of the student body. He then ordered the yearbooks collected. The yearbooks were later returned, but not before the offending photographs had been marked-out with black, permanent ink felt markers.

So why do I have an unaltered copy of the yearbook? I refused to turn my yearbook in to prison authorities. Even then, as Fundamentalist as I was, I knew that Dr. Malone was acting like a crazed wild man over these photographs. It made no sense to me to mar the yearbook just because three of the pictures showed men with long hair. If Dr. Malone was serious about giving “sins” the black permanent marker of death, why not mark out:

  • The numerous photographs of the man who was having an affair with the wife of the dean of men
  • The photographs of the homosexual teacher who lived in the dorm

Both of these “sins” were well known by students, yet they were pushed to the deep recesses of the Midwestern closet. Instead, very ‘70s looking hair became the target of Dr. Malone’s “righteous” indignation and wrath.

I know these kind of stories sound bat-shit crazy to some readers, but this is a good example of the Fundamentalism I was raised in and a part of for many years. To this day, there are IFB pastors and churches who preach against the “sin of men having long hair.”  A man with long hair is considered rebellious and effeminate. If you have not read my post Is it a Sin to Have Long Hair?, please do so. I think it will help you understand the kind of thinking that goes into someone concluding that men having long hair is some sort of mortal sin.

Note

Every week, there are a dozen or so Google searches on “is it a sin to have long hair”  which result in a person being brought to this website (first page, seventh search result).

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12 Comments

  1. mary

    good thing you told us the answer-i never would have seen it. these pics just looked like kids in chapel. so strange. thanks for your writings. you are helping so many people that you will never know. here’s to hoping for good things for you and yours.
    mary

    Reply
  2. Scott

    What a nasty petty legalistic twerp!

    Reply
  3. Scott

    I’m still worried about the lack of a trigger warning regarding the blatant exposure of ’70’s fashions and hair styles. Having lived through that decade, there is NO need to re-visit it. (snark off)

    I had fun putting together a family slide show for my parents 50th wedding anniversary. I was able to assemble a nice mix of family photos but was aghast when I found out I had missed the family photo in which me and my two younger brothers were wearing (gasp) leisure suits. Luckily it was one of the younger brothers who got the sky blue one, whew.

    Scott

    Reply
  4. Justine Valinotti

    Actually, I thought the second photo looked like a caricature or parody of a preacher, though Dr. Malone may not have seen it that way. I don’t know what he could have found offensive about the other two photos. Then again, I have never been a fundamentalist preacher.

    Reply
  5. Karen the rock whisperer

    I figured the problem with the second pic was someone standing on a chair with their shoes on. (Shoes on the furniture–my mother would have had his hide.) Then I figured the problem with the third pic was that the student in the center had his arm over the pew back, in a pose that suggests he was too relaxed for church.

    It didn’t occur to me that any of those men, young or older, had long hair. Long hair is ponytails, like the wonderful, fluffy, fox-tail-like one sported by a black man who teaches aquatics at my therapeutic pool. (Swoon.) Long hair is down to shoulders, or below. Long hair is significant. It stands out. Hair that argues with your shirt collar is not long hair.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      In the 1970s, most IFB pastors believed long hair on men was a sign of rebellion — identifying with the drugs, sex, rock and roll youth culture. Thus, young men were expected to have short hair. A minority of pastors were more liberal, allowing men to wear hair over their ears and on their collars.

      The irony today is that many of these IFB preachers and their descendants are still preaching against long hair on men, while today’s “worldly” men are wearing their hair short. And some men with short hair are gay. Damn, what a conundrum, right? Seems all so silly, now.

      Reply
  6. Rebecca

    Oh dear!! I couldn’t figure it out & I grew up in the church! ?

    Reply
  7. Fred Parris

    It was not just men with longer hair! It was also women with short hair. I attended Midwestern in the mid 1980s and my wife (who had relatively short hair) has to pass Mrs. Malone’s evaluation before she was permitted to join the Emmanual choir that Mrs. Malone directed. This past week my wife and I detoured back from Chicago through Pontiac. The memories of my two years there are bitter-sweet. It’s sad to the see the church deserted and overgrown with weeds, but perhaps it’s fitting.

    The focus of evangelism, as I have painfully learned over the past 30 years, is not the appearance of righteous but the true righteous that comes only from Jesus. He’s the Ideal, not the self-righteous image that comes from having your hair a certain length, or wearing a certain type of clothing, or even from reading a particular translation of the Bible (at Midwestern, non-KJVers where often ostracized and forced out).

    Having a personal relationship with Jesus is what counts. All the rest of the pious add-ons only leads to producing modern-day Pharisees. Perhaps it is best that the entire institution is passing.

    Reply
  8. Clinton Veach

    I am Mike Veach’s brother. I also attended Midwestern from 1981-86. Dr. Malone Sr. was a godly man who wanted his preacher boys to be above reproach. Long hair on a man is simply parading around in what the Bible calls “the glory of a woman”…her hair. It is not necessary for salvation for a man to have short hair. Long hair on a man doesn’t “un-save” him. I feel sorry for the “atheist” Gerencser, who, if he is indeed not saved, will discover his error in an eternal lake of fire…not because he mocks a preacher like Dr. Malone, who is human…but because he rejects Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who loves him still! (ROM 5:8).

    I am a “fundamentalist”, and not ashamed of that tag. The true children of God are what the Bible describes as a “peculiar” people, and in today’s climate of hatred, we and our position are not popular.

    I am a street preacher, and I see firsthand how the world reacts to the gospel. I believe the King James Bible IS the Word of God, not because someone told me to, but accepted it by faith, and by the Holy Spirit of God revealing that truth to my heart. Since that time, I have done my own research, and discovered what even the “ANTI-KJVers” cannot deny-that the KJV is the ONLY bible to come through the translation lineage out of Antioch, Syria…while every single other translation came out of Alexandria, Egypt, from trash cans in the Vatican, and from corrupted texts which don’t even agree with each other! Additionally, ALL of these other translations came through two men in the 1800’s, Westcott and Hort, who were found to be necromancers (speaking to the dead) and extremely ungodly men with an evil agenda against the Word of God. The King James Bible is maligned and hated for good reason! Satan KNOWS it is God’s Word and it has the power to transform hearts and lives! These facts alone are enough to convince me of its authenticity, but the Spirit of God can lead a seeker of truth to these same conclusions if he simply asks!

    Read 2 Corinthians 4:1-8, and you will find one of the reasons for the intense animosity against the God of the Bible. Satan, the god of this world, has blinded the minds of people who refuse to believe the simple truth…that Jesus loves us individually and on a personal level, and loves us enough to lay down His life so that we would not have to pay the awful price on sin (eternity in that lake of fire).

    There are NO atheists in hell today. Each of them understands the error of their life, but there is no remedy for it once you pass beyond the bands of mortal life! Mr. Gerencser, I pray you see past the pet peeves of one preacher, and the faults of an institution before it is eternally too late for you. Don’t let your experience doom your soul. While you live and breathe, it is not too late to repent and allow God to once again demonstrate that He loves even those who are outspoken against Him! You likely already know this verse: 2 Peter 3:9-“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      *sigh*

      Do you really think regurgitating some Bible verses in a blog comment will make one bit of difference? And please don’t give me the line: God’s Word will not return void. Everything you have said in your comment has been parroted by countless Fundamentalist commenters before you — all to no effect.

      I agree with you on one thing , there are no atheists in Hell. There is no Hell, and no Heaven either. The only life any of us have is this one. There are times, however, that I do wish there was a Hell. I know of a few IFB preachers I’d love to reserve a room for in Hell.

      Reply
    2. Michael Mock

      Wow. That’s completely amazing, Mr. Veach. I had no idea that you could so completely fail to understand why someone might not believe. I am genuinely in awe of what you’ve written here.

      “I am a street preacher, and I see firsthand how the world reacts to the gospel.” Yeah, about that… that’s not so much a measure of how the world reacts to the Gospel, it’s more just a measure of how the world reacts to someone being an asshole.

      “…the Spirit of God can lead a seeker of truth to these same conclusions if he simply asks!” Yeah, except I have asked, and it hasn’t led me to any such thing. What am I to make of that? ‘Cause it certainly looks like there isn’t anything out there to lead me anywhere.

      ” Satan, the god of this world, has blinded the minds of people who refuse to believe the simple truth…” Wait, which is it? Are we voluntarily refusing to believe, or has Satan blinded our minds? I’ll tell you right now that I haven’t voluntarily refused to believe much of anything, though I have concluded that some things don’t make sense to me and are most likely incorrect. On the other hand, if Satan has blinded my mind, then I’m going to end up Hell through no fault of my own, and an unjust God is going to let it happen.

      Reply
  9. Clinton Veach

    Bruce, I guess I have to agree with you at least one thing. There sure are a lot of “preachers” out there who are either in it for themselves (loving to elevate themselves above others), and a lot of legalistic nonsense as well. And your “reservation in hell” is actually a real thing for those fake “men of God” who deceive people with their pious pomp. So hey, at least that one wish will come to pass!

    As a street preacher and evangelist I meet so many insincere preachers and church folk that it would be EASY to believe as you do! So, in all honesty, I understand your viewpoint on all this. It truly would be sad if this life were all there was! I thank my (nonexistent?) God that that is not the case. I guess if I got my eyes off Him and put them on preachers and most Christians, I would be excited to join you in that viewpoint! You seem like a very astute guy, and unfortunately most of the world can clearly see the hypocrisy in most of the world’s religions AND its religious leaders!

    But if YOU are right, I’ve lost nothing in leading the life I lead…However, if the Bible is actually the eternal truth it claims to be, then it doesn’t matter if one denies God’s existence; there will still be judgement!

    Anyway, good sir, I respect your restraint and civility in your reply. May the “nonexistent “ God work in your heart!

    Have a great day!

    Reply

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