An Open Letter to Dr. Horton

Dr. Arlin Horton
Pensacola Christian College
P.O. Box 18000
Pensacola, Florida 32503

Dr. Horton,

Let me start off by saying that I am not writing this letter in a spirit of animosity; rather, I am writing this in an attempt to rectify what are now strongly opposed and publicly discussed ideas. As a president of a college, ideas should be something of importance to you, although your recent actions regarding The Student Voice and your common practice of repressing discussion of any ideas which you deem unacceptable have indicated otherwise.

Your refusal to address any substantive issues that have, not simply been raised by The Voice, but have been expressed for others (including your own students, faculty and staff) through the common voice of my newsletter (except for authority, in which case you clearly mischaracterized my views) has demonstrated the school’s timidity in defending its own policies. If I am wrong, then you have all the means and minds at your disposal to demonstrate this to our ever-expanding audience. But if I am right, then you ought to be willing to acknowledge this and consider change.

This is not about who should run the college. You have proven yourself quite capable of doing this; I have not. However, this does not preclude all who have never run a college from being capable of pointing out double standards, inconsistencies and just plain nonsense, just as you and I are equally capable of legitimately criticizing our government, even though neither of us have any experience running it.

So, I have an idea. Why don’t we set up a debate between me and anyone you choose, on YOUR terms? It would be academically worthwhile and intellectually stimulating; besides, when was the last time PCC sponsored a good debate? These are your policies, and you should be willing to defend and substantiate them, especially since you hold the college out to be a direct “idea that came from God.” (page 1, “General Info” on PCC’s official web site.) My only requests are these:

1.) The debate be about your policies, nothing else.
2.) It take place in a freely-accessible public forum, at a mutually convenient time, during the school year.
3.) Whatever rules apply to you also apply to me.

This is not a publicity stunt on my behalf, for I never wanted the publicity in the first place. I am very serious, though, and for you to back down to this debate, if you so choose, will be duly noted to the hundreds and hundreds of people who read my newsletter and who browse our web page.

Please remember that you have already publicly acknowledged The Student Voice, and so to choose to ignore it at this point and to pretend that it does not warrant your acknowledgment only indicates that you were unsuccessful in your first attempt to publicly denounce me and my newsletter.

It is time to stop hiding behind walls and formalities and to stand up in defense of your own policies. Whether or not you choose to admit it, they are looked at with scorn by numerous people, independent of their knowledge, or lack thereof, of The Voice. Many people are requesting to hear your side of this “debate,” and here is the perfect opportunity for you to back up your
own policy of forbidding any student to read The Voice. The reason for this policy is because you believe that what I say is wrong. I am, therefore, now proposing an opportunity for you to explain PCC’s policies and to answer The Voice. I sincerely hope you will accept this offer.

/s/ Paul S. Perdue
Paul S. Perdue
The Student Voice
[address and phone number redacted in this archival copy]

The Second Wave

Without getting into a debate over evolution and the theory of natural selection and social growth, it can be said that to a significant degree of certainty, many aspects of human life are subject to some sort of metamorphosis. We change, and we do so both willingly and unwillingly. Our environments change, and so we adjust accordingly. Our minds grow, and therefore we act differently.

Throughout the history of civilization, we can observe numerous instances where people, things and ideas are subject to some form of metamorphosis or another. Sometimes it will be huge, other times it will be small. For instance, the last 200 years have seen a tremendous metamorphosis in technology. From the horse and buggy to the space shuttle, we have seen a world-wide change in the way we deal with and use nature for our benefit. On a smaller scale, many of us can look back at the last 20 years or so of our family history and testify to witnessing a change in “family thinking.” Those who are the oldest child with several younger siblings can often look back at the way they were brought up, and when comparing that with the way the youngest child was brought up, we can see that there is a marked difference. Both of these instances are examples of how we as humans are all subject to metamorphosize, whether we want to or not.

Many people are outwardly opposed to change, yet they allow themselves to change with the times without ever realizing it. Many people will overtly express their dissatisfaction with changes in policy, ideas or institutional action, yet they will allow themselves to change when clothing styles change, when technology changes for the better, and when science discovers something new and better, they will applaud this “new” discovery with hearty approval.

Change is not bad, but change often has serious ramifications. Sometimes, though, the ramifications of change are merely interesting rather than important. We will leave this distinction alone and focus on a metamorphosis that is relevant to what is discussed in The Student Voice.

For the first several months that The Voice was put out, the disagreements and counter-“ideas” were not substantive, but rather peripheral. They centered primarily on two things: anonymity and rebellion. That is what we were constantly bombarded with time and time again. Once we took the time to explain these concerns and discuss them openly and with all sides having a free say, the truth came out. Anonymity, while perhaps not the most desirable characteristic, was not at all “wrong” and it certainly did not change the substance of what was said. Rebellion could not be
applicable because in order for the people against whom rebellion was charged to, in fact, be rebellious, those same people would have to be subject to the authority of those against whom the alleged rebellion was directed. We were not. Therefore, after some time, most people seemed to come to understand the nature of these ideas, and although many people claimed that The Voice
was wrong simply because of one or both of these ideas, we think it has been fairly convincingly settled that those people were mistaken, although no doubt well-intentioned.

But now there are two new ideas that are the primary disagreements with The Voice. They are not substantive by any stretch of the imagination, but rather they are again peripheral notions of “theology” or perhaps “morality.” The disagreement with the things The Voice says is in a state of metamorphosis. Those same people who DO NOT wish to see change at PCC are nevertheless changing in the way they frame their disagreement with The Student Voice. We find this very interesting, for all of us will change when we feel change is important enough. We will all undergo a metamorphosis when it clears our conscience and is to our benefit. In other words, PCC should not change, but we can.

The two ideas that are the new focus of debate are simply these: (1)what happens at PCC is none of our business, and (2) Dr. Horton will answer to God for PCC, not us. Therefore, The Voice should never again open its proverbial mouth. These are really two very similarly related concepts, but we would like to deal with them separately.

1. What Happens At PCC Is None of Our Business.

This seems to be based on the general proposition that because we no longer attend PCC, what happens there should not be our concern. Apparently, only those directly involved have the responsibility to say what needs to be said. Assuming that this is all the farther this idea would go, and assuming that this general proposition is correct on its face, it is still not
accurate. As alumni, we ARE still involved. We are all part of an alumni association, albeit a weak one, and we are all therefore part of an organization that is directly involved with PCC. No, we no longer attend classes. No, we no longer pay tuition. No, we no longer subject ourselves to the myriad of rules and regulations, but we are still a part of PCC by being members of the alumni association.

Now, I must confess that I have no idea what the purpose is for this “association.” To my knowledge, I have never been asked for money. I have been asked to vote for officers several times, although I am not sure WHY I am voting for them. Obviously, though, they want us to, in some way, to be a part of PCC. Fine. Then let us be a part. Now, back to the general proposition that since we no longer attend PCC, what happens there is no longer our business because it is the business of those who attend. Well, the fallacy of this notion should be clear on its
face. Those who are there can say or do nothing that is in opposition to the generally established “spirit.” So, even assuming it IS their responsibility, they are prohibited from exercising that responsibility.

The primary reasons, we believe, that what happens at PCC IS, in fact, partly our responsibility is twofold. First, as Christians, we are called to be the salt and the light in this world (Matt. 5:13-16). Being the salt means that we are to preserve all that is right and good in this world. Obviously, this will often entail getting involved in things that we are not directly involved in, for if we are living as we should, we will not in and of ourselves be that which needs the salt. Therefore, for us to be the salt means we must supplant ourselves in “the business of others.”

Abuse of authority at student’s expense, commercialized Christianity, and repression of one’s ability to think are not things that are right or good. Neo-legalism is not merely “not good,” but it is flat out wrong. If we are to fulfill our calling as salt, we must preserve wherever preservation is needed.

Being the light in a dark world does not only mean showing forth the light ourselves. It also means ensuring that those institutions which have a greater ability to show forth the light of the gospel continue at their maximum potential. While PCC does currently show forth the gospel to some degree, the potential it has is greatly diminished by its heavy focus on trivial internal matters. How one looks is more important than how one is spreading the gospel. A student can go a whole semester without ever telling one person about the gift of salvation, and the “spirit” will be strong and healthy and no one will say a word; but if that student lets his hair grow too long, the spirit is hampered and he will have the official rules police on his case in no time. What does this tell you about PCC’s focus and whether or not they are reaching maximum potential in reaching the lost and educating young people?

The second reason why we think it is partly our responsibility to get involved is because every institution must have some system of checks and balances. PCC has none, and I challenge anyone reading this to justify how a human institution can legitimately set itself up without any accountability. This flies in the face of the very basic nature of human construction. We are sinful, and so we must be accountable. Without getting into the second idea of Dr. Horton being accountable to God for PCC, let it be noted that God uses humans to provide systems of checks and balances. Why else, then, would we need a government?

PCC must be accountable for its actions. It cannot do whatever it wishes and then not expect anyone to ever say anything negative. It cannot act with total disregard of the fact that its actions carry with it some measure of responsibility. Assuming that PCC does do something wrong – remember, even Dr. Horton admitted that it is not perfect – who has the burden of pointing these things out? Those who have a direct interest in maintaining what is wrong? This would be absurd! How about those who are directly involved by current attendance? We think this is where the accountability should lie, but it is prohibited by the administration. What about the general Christian community? To some extent, yes, but the general Christian community by itself is not well-enough informed. How about, then, the alumni? This is where the most effective system of accountability could be conducted.

(1) We know the system;

(2) we no longer have a direct interest, although we certainly do have at least an indirect interest in the fact that our name and reputation still contain the fact that we have a degree from PCC;

(3) we can be much more objective than those within the system;

(4) we have a wealth of diverse experience and knowledge that we can bring to the table.

You see, the alumni is the perfect group of people, with the help of the numbers within the Christian community, to point out the things that need to be changed at PCC and to help influence this change.

2. Dr. Horton Will Answer to God For PCC, Not Us.

As a technical matter, yes, this is true. Dr. Horton will answer for his actions just as all of us will answer for ours. Since Dr. Horton is the head of PCC, he will answer for PCC, not us. However, this ignores history, reality and theology.

Let us look at history. What if all of the great leaders had used this same line of reasoning? What if Martin Luther had not challenged the Catholic church because, after all, the Pope would answer for how he ran the church, not Martin Luther? Or what if George Washington had decided not to challenge George III because, after all, King George would answer to God for how England was run, not George Washington? Or what if Billy Graham had decided not to worry about the lost of this world because, after all, they will answer to God for their own actions, not Billy Graham.

History indicates that while people will answer for their own actions, this does not preclude us from doing our best to effect change where change needs to take place. While we are not responsible for the actions of others, we DO have a responsibility to do our best to see that others do not abuse their responsibility. Can we sit back and say nothing to those who peddle in pornography because they will answer for their own actions, not us? Can we remain silent to the horror of abortion because, after all, those who engage in it will answer to God, not us? Of course not!

While the issues we deal with regarding PCC are not in magnitude similar to those of abortion or pornography, they are still important. To try to silence someone on the basis that they are not responsible to God for another’s actions is to ignore the very clear lessons of history.

Reality also indicates that this is not good reasoning. Part of being in a civilized society is the fact that we must consider and be subject to certain societal laws. We cannot do whatever we want and then say that because we are the only one who will answer to God for our action, everyone else is precluded from saying anything and criticizing that which deserves to be criticized. When we do things that affect society, society has a reasonable expectation to be able to comment on what is done. When PCC advertises itself to the community as something, how can anyone say that that same community may not look into what PCC is advertising? If PCC claims to be a Christian organization, why is the Christian community unable to determine for themselves whether or not PCC is, in fact, a Christian organization? Yes, Dr. Horton will answer for how he runs the college, but this has nothing to do with the fact that we may examine what he does in order to determine whether or not the product he is selling is a good product.

Some would say that we should let the free market take care of it (actually, no one has said it, so let me say it first). If this is a business, as we claim it is, then let the forces of the market determine the outcome of PCC. Let the consumers decide whether or not they want the product, and if it is as “bad” as The Voice maintains, then let the consumers stop buying the product.

There is only one problem with this – most consumers do not know what the product is that they are buying. PCC is an example of marketing genius, but when the student arrives on campus, he or she quickly realizes that what was marketed is not quite what he or she is getting. Some don’t mind, others do, and most people try to take PCC’s word for the proposition that PCC is a good, wholesome, Christian college.

To say that we should not say anything because Dr. Horton is solely responsible for his actions is to ignore reality.

This proposition also ignores theology. As Christians, particularly those who are students, we have a responsibility to examine and study the Scriptures with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (Prov. 15:28; II Timothy 2:15; Acts 17:11) We here at The Voice find it amazing that there is such a negative attitude towards critical thinking and the examination of Scriptural principle at an institution which classifies itself as one of “higher learning.” Where else is one supposed to learn to think than at a college? And where else is one supposed to learn to examine the Scriptures critically than at a Christian college?

Truth is something that we should not be afraid of, yet those who oppose The Voice continually ignore the truth. At first, it was anonymity and rebellion, not the truth of what The Voice said. It is now not our business and Dr. Horton’s responsibility, not the truth of what The Voice says. Why is this? Why is it that Christians will let PCC do whatever it wants without any accountability at all? If it is not a perfect institution, then why do so many of you act like it is?

The second wave of Voice criticism is simply a sign of a continual metamorphosis, and as long as those stalwarts of PCC can change in their thinking of what The Voice says, we are confident that in time the PCC administration will do the same. Metamorphosis is not the Big Bang, it cannot happen overnight, but this change is encouraging to us, as it indicates that the unchangeable can, in fact, be changed.