Tag Archive: Christian Education

Guest Post: #ExposeChristianSchools Part 2

exposechristianschools

Guest post by by ObstacleChick

In the wake of Karen Pence’s decision to accept a position at Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, Virginia, which requires parents of admitted students to sign a statement that they do not participate in or condone any sexual immorality, including homosexuality or bisexuality, ex-evangelical Chris Stroop created the social media hashtag #ExposeChristianSchools. Please see Part 1 for some of my experiences in a fundamentalist Christian school from 1981-1988.

After reading an article that Ms. Pence had accepted the position, I went to the school’s website to find out more about the school before jumping to conclusions, and I found that it is very similar to the fundamentalist Christian school I attended in the 1980s. While I am not surprised that Ms. Pence would support such a school, and I believe she has a right to teach wherever she wishes, I also believe that she should not act surprised or offended when other people call her out on teaching at a school that promotes bigotry against LGBTQ people.

One of my friends from the fundamentalist Christian school came out as gay after he left the school. Fortunately, his parents were very supportive of him. He and I have stayed in touch through the years because I was one of the few former classmates who did not treat him like a pariah due to admonishments from writings of ancient, ignorant people.

I noticed my friend shared the story of Ms. Pence’s acceptance of the job at Immanuel Christian School on his social media page with the comment, “I went to a private Christian school. I wish I had come out during my time there to shake things up.” It made me sad to read his comment, knowing that he would have either been silenced or expelled. Knowing full well that my post would probably upset former teachers and classmates, I posted my own #ExposeChristianSchools story. I believe it is important that people from my post-evangelical life understand what these schools are and that they may actually know someone who attended one of those schools. Also, I felt it was important for people from my past and present to realize that people can change their views.

Several friends from my post-evangelical days thanked me for posting and sharing the story. None of them knew my background with regard to religious indoctrination. Many commenters were members of my husband’s family or were former coworkers. I am sure they were shocked to find out I was raised that way, especially as I no longer hold the bigoted views espoused by these types of schools. Only one of my former classmates commented, and she thanked me for posting and admitted that she did not think about these things while growing up, is currently sending her children to this type of school, and struggles with the legalism.

My father-in-law, who attended Catholic schools through grade school and undergraduate university, was concerned that I was judging all Christian schools, so we had a telephone conversation and cleared things up. My brother and my former mathematics teacher, however, were not pleased with my assessment. I had already decided that if any of my teachers saw my post, I would not feel bad, as they must be held accountable for their complicity in such a system regardless of whether they were active perpetrators of abuse. While my former mathematics teacher is a nice lady who is in her early 90s, she still holds unapologetically to the abusive fundamentalist evangelical beliefs that I wish to expose. I thanked her for her response, but she did not apologize for being part of the system and I did not offer absolution.

My brother, about whom I have written before, stated unequivocally that he cannot understand how we were brought up in the same system yet have such completely divergent world views. He and my former mathematics teacher then proceeded to orgasm over each other’s conversion stories and how Jesus has saved them from their depravity. I let them have their little orgasmic bonding on my post, hoping that previous commenters would read what sounds to outsiders like ridiculous ranting and raving in order to solidify the points that I was trying to make. I won’t bore you all with the details of their stories, but suffice it to say theirs are typical tales of “I was a sinner and Jesus totally saved me glory hallelujah amen praise Jesus.” Evangelicals really have no idea how ridiculous their “testimonies” sound to those outside the system.

In any case, my husband and I were concerned that my brother would cut us off as we have feared, given my brother’s increasing zealotry. This particular interchange led me to realize that my brother is too far gone to have a rational discussion about religion, and I have determined not to bring it up to him anymore. If he wishes to persist in his beliefs, he will need to follow his own journey. My pointing out scientific and historical flaws in his beliefs has no impact on his desire for faith in ridiculous (and harmful) views. I commented a few days later on one of his few non-religious posts, and we had a nice banter back and forth, so he is not averse to banalities. I think he understands that my children and I are the only blood relatives with whom he has any type of relationship, and if he cuts us off, he will only have his wife’s family. They are definitely more Christian than we are, but even they do not seem to be participating in his hard-core fundamentalist zealotry. I don’t think he has any friends outside his Skype men’s prayer group.

In any case, I accomplished my goal of raising awareness about the abuses in fundamentalist Christian schools. And while I am not ready to be completely public about my atheism for fear of prompting my brother to sever ties, I will say that my name is Laura, and I #ExposeChristianSchools.

Please share your experiences with Christian schools in the comments. We would love to hear your stories.

Guest Post: #ExposeChristianSchools Part 1

exposechristianschools

#ExposeChristianSchools, created by ex-evangelical Chris Stroop, has been trending on social media since Second Lady Karen Pence accepted a position at Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, Virginia. Readily available on the school’s website is the agreement which parents of admitted students must sign. Included in the agreement is the paragraph as follows:

I understand the biblical role of Immanuel Christian School is to partner with families to encourage students to be imitators of Christ. This necessarily involves the school’s understanding and belief regarding biblical morality and standards of conduct. I understand that the school reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission to an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a student if the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home, the activities of a parent or guardian, or the activities of the student are counter to, or are in opposition to, the biblical lifestyle the school teaches. This includes, but is not limited to, contumacious behavior, divisive conduct, and participating in, supporting, or condoning sexual immorality, homosexual activity, or bi-sexual activity, promoting such practices, or being unable to support the moral principles of the school. (Lev. 20:13 and Romans 1:27). I acknowledge the importance of a family culture based on biblical principles and embrace biblical family values such as a healthy marriage between one man and one woman. My role as spiritual mentor to my children will be taken seriously.

As a parent of a student, one must sign an agreement that one does not even condone homosexual or bisexual activity upon threat of expulsion. Additionally, the school teaches creation mythology instead of evolution, and of course, the school teaches typical Evangelical doctrines regarding sin and salvation through grace, along with “the rapture” eschatology.

I attended a fundamentalist Christian school much like this in grades 5-12 (1981-1988). My mom and grandparents heard a rumor that students living in my district would be bused to a mostly-minority community, so they acted fast to enroll me in the private (almost completely white) Christian school. Entering the school, all students were subject to a gender-based dress code and a comprehensive code of conduct. Girls were to “appear as God made them — feminine” (yes, I distinctly remember that description from the student handbook). There were strict guidelines for skirt length and sleeve length, and when we entered 6th grade the female teachers taught us how to go through physical contortions in front of a mirror to determine whether our clothing would properly cover us if we bent over or reached over our heads. Girls’ dress code also allowed for pants/slacks/culottes to be worn to extracurricular activities such as ballgames (but we were never to wear jeans – somehow denim is fine in the form of skirt, dress, jumper, or jacket, but it transforms into pure evil if it is cut into the form of women’s pants). Boys’ dress code included strict guidelines for hair length including a diagram in the handbook and the requirement for a belt to be worn and shirt tucked in at all times. No one was allowed to wear anything with obscenities, racial slurs, or the American flag.

We had a strict code of conduct that allowed the school to suspend or expel students for activities outside the school. Students could be suspended or expelled for having sex, for smoking, for drinking alcohol, for profane language, and for playing rock music on school grounds. There was a year when anyone caught going to the roller-skating rink would be suspended. During my tenure at the school, three boys were expelled for attending a party that served alcohol. A girl overheard the boys talking about it and turned them in. Naturally, we were in a culture that encouraged us to report behavior of other students to the administrators. Additionally, two girls were expelled for getting pregnant. One would think that pro-lifers would commend the girls for giving birth to their babies, but for some reason the administration thought that the correct course of action was to expel the girls. I suppose they wanted to remove the quite-visible reminder that the girls had participated in sexual activity.

To be fair, I was never told that I could not excel academically or take a class because I was female. It was clear that females were not allowed to preach, but we had a female high school principal. However, there were other things that we learned about being female. First, of course, was the emphasis on the dress code as described previously. Girls were sent home from school if their skirts were too short, too tight, or if their shirt was “too revealing” in some way. When I was in 6th grade, our health and physical education teacher taught us that the “perfect female form” had the dimensions of equal measurements of bust and hips with waist measuring ten inches less. Homework required that we take our measurements, and the next day she asked girls to raise their hands who had the “perfect female form” measurements. Three girls raised their hands — we all knew they were liars, but I remember feeling like a loser because at age twelve I had nowhere near the “perfect female form.” My entire life, I never had those measurements, though I have always been fit and active except while pregnant and postpartum. Those measurement parameters and their association with the “perfect female form” have stuck in my mind my entire life though.

Another traumatizing moment at school was in preparation for our senior class trip to Florida. Girls were allowed to bring one-piece swimwear on the trip, but we were only allowed to bring pieces approved by female faculty. I will never forget having to put on my two one-piece swimsuits while my female teachers examined them to determine if they were modest enough. They approved both suits, wrote down their descriptions which would be available to the female chaperones, and they told me I looked good. There are few incidents in my life that were as mortifying as this. I do not know what the requirements were for boys’ swimwear.

Our school had a culture of pointing out misbehavior/sin. Among students, people would comment upon other students’ failings “in a spirit of love” but really, we all knew it was just an opportunity for people to judge others and to highlight things they didn’t like to other students. As teachers were the authorities and in charge of correcting misbehavior, they were allowed to point out misbehavior at any time. There was a lot of watching, observing, and judging going on. Faculty sometimes even tried to prevent dating situations from occurring. One of my friends was a PK — preacher’s kid — whose father was friends with the headmaster of the school. The headmaster did not approve of my friend’s boyfriend (also a student at the school), so he approached my friend’s father who broke up the relationship.

Yet there was, of course, rampant hypocrisy. Teachers as part of their employment contract were not allowed to attend movie theaters. It was explained that observing students would not know whether a teacher was entering or exiting a rated-R movie, so in order to protect the testimony of the teacher, the teacher could not attend the movie theater. However, all the young teachers had memberships to the local video store, and they openly discussed movies with students. I never understood how it was acceptable for the teacher to rent movies from the video store, as by the same reasoning that students would not know whether a teacher was attending a rated-R movie, how could we know whether the teacher was renting a pornographic film? Additionally, I always found it odd that two female students married teachers from the school and wondered if any dating was going on while the girls were students.

Students were told that we received the best academic education available, but I learned when I went to a top ranked secular university that this was not necessarily the case. (One could argue that my education was good enough to gain admission to a top ranked secular school.) Of course, as a fundamentalist Christian school whose statement of beliefs included inerrant, inspired, and literalist view of the Bible, evolution was not taught in science courses. Our science textbooks were from Bob Jones University Press, and they included some odd rebuttals of evolution. One of the main rebuttals was that radiocarbon dating was contaminated and inaccurate on the magnitude of millions of degrees of error. The curriculum taught that the earth was only 6,000-10,000 years old and that God had created the earth with the appearance of age. Fossils existed due to upheavals that occurred during (the story of) Noah’s Worldwide Flood. I remember the explanation that spontaneous generation of life does not occur because rotten meat that produced maggots and flies meant that flies laid eggs in the meat, not that the rotting meat generated flies; therefore, evolution is false. It’s a fair analysis that flies lay eggs in rotting meat, but it has nothing to do with spontaneous generation of life – it just means that ignorant people who thought that rotting meat gave rise to maggots and flies had no understanding of the reproduction and gestation of flies. As for mathematics, our course path was a year behind the honors track at public or private secular schools, so those of us who were “advanced” students were a year behind other top students. History courses were taught from a Christian inclination, and I do not remember much mention of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or of the civil rights movement. Our foreign language curriculum was not very rigorous, and I was required to repeat basic French in college in order to fulfill the foreign language requirement. What the school considered Advanced Placement courses were not the true Advanced Placement courses one finds in other schools in which an AP exam is administered for which one can earn college credit. On the positive side, our writing skills were impeccable as the school focused on constructing proper paragraphs and essays. My college literature professor pulled me aside after our first composition and asked me if I was sandbagging his course because my writing skills were beyond the level of other students in the class. I told him I was not offered another option and explained I had attended a private Christian school. I think he felt sorry for me as he allowed me to take a leadership role in the class.

Many of my teachers were kind, compassionate people who were dedicated to educating students. However, most newer, younger teachers did not last long at the school due to the low pay and the heavy course load — each middle school and high school teacher was required to teach a minimum of four individual classes, each with a separate course prep. The shortest tenure I recall is 5 weeks; a couple of teachers lasted through the first half of the year; the majority quit after the first year. The teachers who made it past the first two years generally stayed for a long time. Male teachers were required to prepare and preach sermons on chapel days (Tuesdays and Thursdays) in addition to teaching courses. A few teachers coached sports or drove school buses in order to make a little extra money, and all had summer jobs. The teachers chose life in a Christian school whereas most of the students did not — our parents and guardians chose for us.

Stay tuned for more about #ExposeChristianSchools.

#ExposeChristianSchools Guest Posts Wanted

exposechristianschools

Chris Stroop, an ex-evangelical, recently launched the #ExposeChristianSchools hashtag on Twitter in response to “Vice President Mike Pence and conservative commentators like David French lambasting liberals over legitimate criticism of Second Lady Karen Pence for choosing to teach art at Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, Virginia—a K-8 school that explicitly discriminates against members of the LGBTQ community.” Needless to say, Stroop’s effort has caused a tornado-level shit-storm. You can read Stoop’s article on the fallout from #ExposeChristianSchools here.

ObstacleChick sent me a two-part guest post detailing her experiences attending an Evangelical Christian school. As I read her submission, I thought, maybe there are other readers who would like to share their Christian school experiences. If you would like to do so, please email me via the contact form. Anonymous submissions are fine, as are pseudonyms. I hope some of you will consider adding your voice to the discussion. I plan to write a series of posts detailing my experiences as a pastor who started an Evangelical Christian school. Several months ago, the local school superintendent and I were chit-chatting and he asked me, “so where did your children go to school?” I chuckled and responded, “well, that’s a long, convoluted story I will have to share with you some day when we have time.” I hope this series will provide a vehicle by which I can share my past experiences and readers can understand why I, today, oppose the anti-culture, anti-human beliefs and practices used by many, if not most, Evangelical Christian schools and home schoolers.

Stay tuned. I have lots to share, and I hope other readers of this blog will too. Your voice is important. I look forward to hearing from you.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Questions: Bruce, How Was the Quality of the Education You Received From an IFB College?

questions

I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.

Troy asked, “How Was the Quality of the Education You Received From an IFB College?”

I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan from the fall of 1976 to the spring of 1979. Midwestern was a small, unaccredited Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution started by Dr. Tom Malone — who had an earned doctorate in education from Wayne State University — in the 1950s. Dr. Malone called Midwestern “a character building factory.” It existed for the express purpose of training pastors, evangelists, and missionaries (and providing them with wives). Most of the professors were either men and women with degrees (and honorary doctorates) from Midwestern or men and women with degrees from other Fundamentalist Christian institutions. Malone preferred having Midwestern men teach Midwestern students. It was quite incestuous.

Were the classes I took at Midwestern inferior? I guess I would have to ask, inferior to what? I took some classes out at the local community college, and I found that they were every bit as superficial and worthless as some of the classes I took at Midwestern. I found at both institutions that the quality and depth of a particular class depended on the professor’s commitment to excellence. My world history professor at Midwestern basically read the book to the class and had us take tests. Yawn. I had similar classes at the community college. The best teachers were men and women who loved teaching and enjoyed engaging students in raucous discussions. Such discussions were rare at Midwestern because what teachers could teach and talk about was limited by the college’s commitment to certain doctrinal beliefs. For example, ministerial students were required to take one year of Greek. Good idea, right? However, the professor was only allowed to talk about certain manuscripts — those that supported the Midwestern’s King James-only position. Discussions about minority texts, alternate translations, etc., were verboten.

Generally, Midwestern’s classes were easy (as were the classes at the local community college). Part of the reason for this was that Midwestern was unaccredited. Students received NO financial aid. Most students worked their way through college. I worked a forty-hour-a-week job while taking classes full time. I also attended church three times a week, taught Sunday School, worked on a bus route and took out my girlfriend twice on the weekends. A truly rigorous academic program would have been too much for most students, considering all they had to do outside of school. As it was, most students washed out, and by their senior year, seventy-percent of students had dropped out of college. This wash-out rate, in the eyes of the school administration, was God winnowing the chaff from the wheat. Married, with a child on the way, and laid off from work, I dropped out in the spring of my junior year. That said, Dr. Malone publicly said of me at a pastor’s conference, Bruce, we would probably have ruined you had you stayed in college. At the time, I was pastoring a fast-growing IFB church in Southeast Ohio. I was told when I left college that God would NEVER use me, yet here I was pastoring a successful church — a sure sign that God was indeed using me.

Most of my theological education came post-Midwestern. I read countless religious tomes and studied the Bible for hours on end. I committed myself to being a student of the Bible, and spent two decades educating myself in the finer points of Christian belief. In one church I pastored, one of the congregants was a PhD candidate at Westminster Theological Seminary. I was able to intelligently converse with him, and I never felt educationally inferior. In my mind, it’s not the degrees that matter as much as what you know. In 2005, I saw a young family medicine doctor for treatment of Fibromyalgia. He was honest, telling me that his whole knowledge of Fibromyalgia came from one class period on the subject. He knew that I had read virtually every book on the condition, so he asked me to recommend books for him to read. He was a humble man who had sense enough to know when he didn’t know something. He quickly got up to speed and was able to meaningfully help me with my condition.

I learned very little “Bible” at Bible college. Ironic, I know, but most of my Bible classes were Sunday School level survey classes. Study the text, take a few tests, write a few papers, done. On to the next one. There were two classes that did help me tremendously as a pastor: speech class and homiletics. My speech teacher was Gary Mayberry, He taught me how to structure and deliver a speech. My homiletics teacher was a southern preacher by the name of Levi Corey. On the first day of class, he said, forget everything you learned in speech class. Corey taught me how to craft a sermon and deliver it with personality and passion. I owe much of my preaching success to him.

Evangelical colleges such as Midwestern do not exist to educate men as much as they exist to indoctrinate another generation in dogma. Unfettered intellectual inquiry is never permitted, and professors who dare to foster such a climate are summarily dismissed. The goal is purity of belief and practice. The only way to achieve this goal is to stifle teaching and discussion that challenges or contradicts the approved narrative.

Midwestern did give me one thing: Polly. Whatever my current opinion of Midwestern might be, I am indeed grateful that the college was the vehicle that brought Polly and me together. I may not have gotten a good education, but I sure got a wonderful wife, lover, and friend. I’ll take that any day!

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

How to Start a Non-Chartered Christian School in Ohio

ace pace

From an ACE Pace

Here is what you need to do to start a Christian school in Ohio.

  • Start a church
  • Start a Christian school as a ministry, an extension of the church

That’s it.

I kid you not, that’s it.

No rules, no regulations. No curriculum requirements. No teacher requirements. No notification requirements.

The Ohio homeschooling rules are more extensive than the rules for a non-chartered religious school.

Does this mean all non-chartered Christian schools are educationally deficient? Of course not, BUT many are.

Many Ohio non-chartered Christian schools are owned and operated by Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches. The schools are viewed as an oasis away from the world, from the evil influences of humanists, secularists, atheists, socialists, Catholics, Southern Baptists, and communists.

By the way, about the first step: start a church? Starting a church is as easy as saying “we are a church” and you are the pastor. According to state and federal law, a church is tax exempt because it is a church. Many people wrongly assume a church must file for 501(c)(3) status to be tax exempt. 501(c)3) status is NOT required for tax exemption. It does confer a few extra benefits, like being allowed to send mail as a non-profit, but it is not needed for a church to be tax-exempt.

040816