Ears For The Mind

When I was first applying to attend PCC, I asked a friend and current student about the rules concerning music. They basically limit you to a very conservative selection of Christian and classical music, he told me. I believed that they wanted to “err on the side of caution” and thought they simply set the standard so tight to avoid any controversy. My friend explained that they truly believed that music outside of their standards was, in fact, ungodly. I thought this was quite odd, and as I was soon to learn, they only created controversy by picking and choosing measure by measure through songs to decide whether they “passed.”

We’ve received a few comments from readers noting that the school draws a vague distinction between which of their rules are actual sins and which are simply their “way” at PCC. From the vehement chapel messages I would gather they feel quite strongly that their music standards should be the universal standard within Christendom. It is here which I have a bit of difficulty. Their broad denuciation of “Contemporary Christian Music” (CCM: a regrettable label, but adequate for this discussion) as well as modern Twentieth Century styles, such as blues and jazz, is simply too much to biblicaly justify. Would they have us believe that absolutely everyone involved in CCM is out of God’s will? I know of no single case of a musician, singer or producer leaving modern Christian music because God had laid that on their heart or because they felt guilt (which the Holy Spirit promises to bring to convict us of wrong). It seems quite improbable that the witnesses of thousands of honest believers is invalid (which the PCC standard would require). In fact, the only guilt I know of from listening to CCM is that which is heaped on you by people with the mind-set of PCC.

To that I say there is great danger in forcing your personal convictions on others. It is also ludicrous to go through a song measure by measure and suggest that when the drum-beat kicks in the artist has evidently become a servant of Satan, which is effectively the argument of PCC. There is the perception that because the music style is new, that is to say, less than 100 years old, it is almost by default bad. This has absolutely nothing to do with the Bible and more to do with the tastes of the people making the rules. I would venture to say that among the administration, every music style they enjoy passes and every style they dislike does not pass. The music performed at PCC seems at times to be strictly for the personal enjoyment of the older generations, but more on that later.

A great contention of PCC is that music is not neutral. Granted, but I think the mistake is made by then presuming it is therefore good or evil. Not so. You could no more draw that distinction with a gun. The object has power, but it is how it is used and the user which determine morality. Music of all styles induces EMOTION, but that should not to be confused with morality. Before I go on, let me first clarify that I am not discussing lyrics. Obviously, lyrics can be godly, ungodly or neutral (e.g.”Take me out to the ballgame”). I make no argument that Christians must be aware of what they put into their minds, but that certainly wouldn’t exclude CCM or instrumental jazz.

To return to the point, a song written in a minor key may suggest sadness or even pain, but that is simply using the music to communicate. Negative emotions don’t instantly invalidate a song. A song may depress you or get you “up,” but that is no different than an illustration used by Pastor Shettler every time he speaks. Music is communicating and trying to stir a reaction. Of course, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be manipulated by it any more than we should blindly follow a speaker. Now, what about “upbeat” music, the type which PCC quickly disqualifies from our lives? I am no music scholar, but I believe a contention of “conservatives” is that older “passable” styles are melody driven while newer styles have a more prominent rhythm. This may mean it is poorer music (although not necessarily), but it hardly makes it sinful. God created rhythm just as surely as melody, and since He proscribed no songwriting rules, we are simply using the different things He gave us. A driving beat or repetitive rhythm is no more or less ordained than an organ solo. I will say this, though – our ASSOCIATIONS with a style of music may be ungodly, based upon what we’ve experienced or seen. It may very well be that because of your past you need to avoid certain styles of music, regardless of lyrics, to keep your mind clean; but the mistake is made when you force your own weakness on a brother. Let me also add that the volume and the rate of music is completely subjective and certainly is not a sin issue.

I am reminded of the story, which most of you have probably heard, concerning the missionary kids who were playing Christian rock in the jungle, and the redeemed native commented to the father about how it was the same style they used to call up demons. Well, this may or may not be true (it IS doubtful), but it only illustrates the principle of the weaker brother. The kids were hardly in danger of accidentally conjuring up some demon. As with any tool, it must be used wisely and appropriately.

Another common perception is that “rock” or “blues” styles are worldy, and thus unclean for any Christian. Unfortunately, this is a mind set that has caused the Christians of today to be artistically mediocre and culturally irrelevant. Simply because a style of music was not originated by Christians does not eliminate it from being a tool we can use. We can’t shrink back from the creativity of the world. We should be the ones leading in the arts for we are children of the Creator Of All. We think that because the world does
something they have “claimed” it. Not so. What if homosexuals became known for painting nature scenes? Could Christians then not? Or if Atheists all wore yellow? Throw out that color! That’s ludicrous!
All music needs to be captured for Christ’s use and we are negligent to ignore any of it.

From a solely educational standpoint, for PCC to offer any sort of general music degree, it would be negligent to not insist on teaching about the blues and jazz styles. They have made of profound impact on music and they explore areas untouched by classical music. That a student should be restricted from learning about and listening to these forms in ANY liberal arts degree suggests a deficiency in our overall education.

“And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3

I would also like to comment on the oft abused “new song” phrase used throughout the Psalms. Supposedly this suggest that as a Christian we should have separate music from the world, thus the hymns and ensemble music (of which the world certainly wants no part!). I propose that this complete butchery of these verses is a poignant example of wanting so bad to find a scripture to fit your beliefs that you are willing to ignore anything you know about common sense and hermeneutics. What I would assume to be a clear
meaning of the “new song” phrase is the condition of our heart. God gives us a “new song” spiritually, or a renewal, and as suggested by David, it happens more than once, and in this case well after he was “saved.” It should be an evidence to unbelievers that we are a different person. It has nothing to do with what style of music to listen to. Even to take this idea literally would suggest that the Lord would be constantly giving us new music to sing to worship Him, which would contradict the fact that PCC revels in music that was written before any of us were born. The Lord should be inspiring creativity and “new songs” as we explore music and our desire to worship Him.

Other references to “new song” in Psalms: 33:3, 96:1, 98:1, 144:9, 149:1.

I would also like to mention what can only be considered my personal opinion – the music at PCC is completely lame. The idea that because something is old or a hymn we should sing it is ridiculous. As with any style of music, there are far more bad hymns than good ones, and unfortunately when that’s all you sing, it’s inevitable that you get your fair share of dogs. Don’t get me wrong; hymns are fine – but not all the time. Second, the ensemble music is at best trite and immature. The little tic-toc or “animals
on the ark” songs seem designed for the under 10 crowd. And while I am no song writing expert, it seems like poor writing when a listener can continually guess the next line because it is assuredly another Christian cliche which rhymes with the last. The tunes are in no way original and seem to be the first thing the writer plunked out on the old country piano. Good “specials” are usually just contemporary Christian songs instrumentally watered down. Is this the “new song”?

And that opera voice the women sing with? Come on. It may be classical or “proper” but it is intelligible and at times painful. A women’s NATURAL voice sounds so nice – why not use it. Unfortunately, PCC has backed themselves into such a corner by their misguided standards that they have effectively eliminated so much good Christian music (and secular music, as well). Their students (and themselves) miss out on so much of what God is doing today.

In closing, I would like to be clear on one thing. While attending PCC, you have given your word to obey their rules, and I am in no way suggesting that it is okay for you to disobey their music standards. I think very strongly that their music standards are WRONG, but, as it is not sin to obey, you must. This essay was written to hopefully show the wrong thinking in the PCC policy and to assist in positive change. It may also (by God’s grace) free many of you from the irrational burden placed on you by the PCC
“morality standard” when you are free to choose what you listen to, although let me reiterate that the “weaker brother” principle is not an insult, and all of us should be wary of what we put into our minds.

UnderTheMercy,

lupos

Have You Heard The One About…Demerit Records?

This is a story that was sent to us by a current student. – eds.

A little more that halfway into my sophomore year I went over 75 demerits for the first time in my college career. And in DC, for this “special event” (being campused for the first time), the person (no longer here) who read my offenses to me, showed me where to sign and then asked me, “What’s your major?”

I just stared at him, trying to see what relevance his question had to my being campused.

“I said, what’s your major?”

Still trying to understand, I answered him with a quizzical tone of voice, “Commercial Writing?”

To which he replied, “I wouldn’t hire you.”

I was even more confused.

“Sir?”

“If I were a newspaper editor and you came to me for a job, and I saw how many demerits you had in college, I wouldn’t hire you.”

That hurt.

“I wouldn’t hire someone who got as many demerits as you have right now.”

Then he dismissed me, and for the remainder of my sophomore year, what he said to me that day nearly gave me ulcers. And during the entire time, I never told anyone what he had said to me, and several times I almost decided to drop out of school because of it. The only thing I could think of was, “Why should I even bother going to college when I’ll never be able to get a
job after I graduate because of my demerit record?”

Several months later, during the summer, I set out to find out if there was any truth to what I was told in DC that day.

I was able to speak to 3 people in the publishing industry — one of which was the chief editor of a local newspaper. I asked each of them what they took into consideration when hiring new employees. I learned a great deal as a result of those interviews, but the best response I got from them was when I asked them what they thought about a “demerit record.” All 3 of them laughed out-loud, one nearly spewing his coffee. They said that demerit records, to them, were a “joke” and that it was no business of theirs to probe into a student’s personal life unless it was a
criminal offense (considered so by a court of law) they committed in college. They went on to say that they didn’t think that college institutions had any right to use demerits as a legitimate form of disciplinary action. Suspension or paying a fee, they agreed, was legitimate punishment — if the offense was truly worthy of such action. But they all felt that a demerit system, for college students, was ludicrously unnecessary.

The best response by far was from the newspaper editor who told me that if he saw a lot of demerits on my record, he would take that to mean that I was a “risk-taker,” and in the newspaper business, he said, “risk-takers are the best d**n employees I can ever hope to hire.” So was this particular staff member “just” in placing an entirely unnecessary burden of guilt on my shoulders for me to bear alone for over 6 months? I think not. And it certainly wasn’t something Christ would’ve done either. My grades even suffered drastically as a result. And I neglected to mention that he added “insult to injury” by asking me for my car keys. WHAT RIGHT DID THEY HAVE TO TAKE AWAY THE KEYS TO MY CAR? In most states, even ALCOHOLICS aren’t forced to give up their right to
drive until the 2nd or 3rd offense!

So I called the only TRUE parental authority in my life at that time — my dad — and informed him of the situation. Like most parents, he, of course, became angry because he owned the car and the college had no rights over his private property. So he called the Deans’ Offices to complain, and like most parents, he was put on hold or advised to call back later when the Deans would be “more readily available.” And in the midst of all the hoopla, I guess they forgot to ask me again to turn in my keys, so I carried them ’round with me proudly until the day my
“sentence” had ended.

Still, there are employers I have later come across who do consider your demerit record, even for “piddly things,” to be reason enough not to hire you. But I do agree with your position on the matter — an adult should not have to explain to a prospective employer why they got demerits for wearing “the wrong shoes,” or for the vile offense of leaving a hat hanging on a bedpost, of all things. But I don’t want anyone else to have to go through the personal agony I experienced as a result of how I was belittled in DC that day. Should it happen to you, “shake the dust off your feet” and go on living in the state of Grace. You’re God’s Child, and He won’t allow you to suffer later in life just because you may have had a lot of demerits in college.

“He will not see the righteous suffer, nor His seed begging bread.”

Some Words From A Deacon

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“Conditions on some campuses call to mind the tombstone in a rural English churchyard, which contains the simple six-word epitaph: ‘I told you I was sick.’ ”
– George F. Will

“Only the suppressed word is dangerous.”
– Ludwig Borne

“Many occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”
– Winston Churchill

“Don’t be a dropout in the school of wisdom.”
– Charles Stanley

I have not even finished reading your material yet and I am so enthused that you are doing what needed to be done for a long, long time. I have an interesting PCC story to share:

In the Fall of 19** my wife (then Fiance) and I were preparing to get married over interterm. We needed “permission” from the Dean of Student Affairs, Dr. Goddard to remain students after getting married. The rule at the time (since changed I believe) was that you must have completed your junior year and be over 21. I fit the requirements but my wife did not (she was a few credits short of becoming a junior). Dr. Goddard proceeded to tell us that we were out of God’s will because God had led Dr. Horton to put that rule in the rule book. He further pronounced that if we went ahead my wife (fiance) would get pregnant and NEVER finish college. I let him go on and did not argue with him, since apparently we were at his mercy with LOTS of time and money invested in credits that would not transfer anywhere else. I asked if my wife could take classes at PJC and transfer them in thus becoming a junior and fulfilling the requirements to finish. He said he would check with (I believe) academic council and let me know. I did not recieve the note I was expecting, instead I recieved a call slip to his office. He proceeded to give me yet another lecture on the fact that we were proceeding out of God’s will because God had led Dr. Horton to put the rule in the rulebook, yada, yada, yada. I had finally had enough and explained to him that since my wife and I had both prayed about it and felt led of God to get married, and both sets of parents felt the same way, the preponderance of the evidence would lead me to believe that it was in fact Dr. Horton that was out of God’s will if there was a conflict. He then (with hands visibly shaking and trembling voice) asked me to leave his office. We both finished college at PCC as married town students, I got an MBA. My wife worked as an Elementary Teacher for several years and did not get pregnant as Dr. Goddard threatened. (He also seemed to imply that his daughter, whose name escapes me, was not planned so maybe HE was out of God’s will at the time (his logic not mine)).

Our continuing problem with PCC is that they will not cooperate with returning a form my wife needs to get state certified to teach where we currently live. They (PCC) merely state that they never intended for a graduate to become a public school teacher (even though I explained it was to facilitate home schooling in the future, not public school employment). We are not thwarted however, she will teach one more year here and get the form filled out by her current employer. I would not recommend anyone attend PCC if they may need an accredited degree or certification in whatever field in the future. That is why I got an MBA before we moved from Pensacola (which they would not run in the alumni news section of the UPDATE, apparently only PCC staff members can have external degrees publicized).

Thank you for providing the forum for this free and open discussion to take place. To refute your critics that your readers are just disgruntled backsliders, let me point out that my wife and I both graduated from PCC and I am currently a deacon in a local New Testament Baptist church, sing in the choir, my wife teaches Sunday School, etc. ad nauseum.

Well, we try to make it clear that many of our supporters are not “disgruntled backsliders,” but are in fact good Christians who simply want to see the Cause of Christ be more than a nice campus with strict rules, but unfortunately, this seems to be a difficult position to convince many people of.

Without getting into too much detail right now, consider what we have said about authority [Issue 1, No. 1], and think about whether a college has the authority to tell someone when they can and can’t get married, or perhaps more accurately, that a person is unfit to attend college because they have decided to get married. – eds.

Some Comments, and a Potential Solution

By far and away, The Student Voice receives more complaints regarding the critical nature of our newsletter than about anything else. This has not been particularly surprising to the editors of The Voice; in fact, this is something that was anticipated from the earliest stages of planning. We are not going to rehash the excellent article by the Christian Research Institute, but we would like to make a few comments about why we think this is the most sensitive, and perhaps to the administration the most frustrating aspect of The Voice; and then we would like to offer a potential solution to the problem of having a human institution insulate itself from criticism. At the very outset we should reiterate what we have said numerous times before – NO HUMAN INSTITUTION IS ABOVE CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM. There is somewhat of an exception for churches, we think, but (a) a church is not a totally human institution, and (b) PCC is no church. Therefore, if we accept this as the major premise – that no human institution is above constructive criticism – and if we accept the fact that PCC is a human institution, then it would logically follow that PCC should not completely repress any and all criticism.

Now, we have received comments stating that criticism is, in fact, permitted on campus; after all, all you have to do is go to an administrative figure and express your problem, and they will listen and be fully cooperative. Really? If this is true, we have never seen it, nor do we know of anyone else who has. It is our firm belief that the administration will never change any policy simply because students complain, especially if this complaint is in the form of criticism. Let me give you a little personal story to illustrate what I am saying.

I think it was my senior year, although I am not positive. . . . At the time we were REQUIRED to attend dinner – undoubtedly one of the most ridiculous rules I have ever encountered anywhere in my entire life, and one which I am glad to hear they’ve done away with. Certain students were required to be “hosts” and “hostesses” at each ASSIGNED table, and part of the responsibility of a host and hostess was to stimulate conversation at the table.

For some reason, they made my best friend a host. He had no desire to be a host, and although he DISAGREED with the policy he SUBMITTED to the authority and did the best job he could, actually enjoying it on occasion. One fine evening in which he found himself at an unusually boring table, he tried to strike up a conversation by saying something like this: “Don’t you guys think it’s a bit ironic that this school is always praising this country and acting patriotic, yet many of the basic core values upon which this country and our constitution were founded are applied completely opposite here on campus?”

Well, needless to say, the initial reaction he got was seven hollow stares that seemed to beg for a more interesting conversational topic – say, collegian meetings, or the nice job the grounds crew had done that morning with the petunias out in front of the Commons. . . you know, important topics. Once the comments sunk in they all looked down at their plates, and all he could hear was the clinking of silverware against porcelain plates and the endless drone of conversation everywhere else in the cafeteria but at his table. After that, I don’t recall how the rest of the conversation went.

Anyhow, a day or two later my friend opened his mailbox to see a green call slip requesting his presence at a meeting with one of the deans. He arrived at the dean’s office at his appointed time and waited, at least what was for us, the customary 30+ minutes after the scheduled time to see the dean.

He called my friend in, and to his credit got right to the point. The dean asked him to explain the comments made at the dinner table. He did. Then without ever addressing the substance of these statements, even after my friend specifically asked him if he thought it was ironic, HE THREATENED HIM WITH EXPULSION!!! Yes, expulsion. Not a few demerits, not a two-week term of being “socialed,” but expulsion. To this day we have never figured out exactly which portion of the Student Handbook he had violated, and apparently this wasn’t necessarily important.

I think this dean was probably calling his bluff, but when you dangle the threat of expulsion over a student’s head, particularly a senior, the student takes this threat very seriously, and rightfully so. Was this an isolated incident? Even if it was, you cannot claim that a dean is an aberration of the system. Whether the administration likes it or not, deans speak for the college; and when deans speak, students listen. But is wasn’t isolated. During the four years I was at PCC, I spoke to virtually every single dorm supervisor and administrative figure about my concerns and grievances, and not once did I get a straight answer – not once. Now, in all fairness, no one else threatened me with expulsion, but each time the answer was the same – I needed to change my attitude. . . you know, the “when-I-have-no-decent-answer-from-Scripture-or-reason” charge.

Well, I am going to say it now directly to all of the administration who is reading this, from all of the students who HAVE had a good attitude and have still been refused an answer – YOU NEED TO CHECK YOUR ATTITUDE, ADMINISTRATION. PERIOD. What are you so afraid of? If you are right and we are wrong, everyone will know it. But if you are wrong, then you need to be mature enough to accept criticism. Not only that, but we think it is highly inconsistent for you to be constantly “criticizing” students for their behavior while at the same time crying “foul” any time someone speaks a word against you. We would be hard pressed to explain why this is not a classic definition of hypocrisy. In other words, you say, we will criticize you, but DON’T criticize us; after all, we are PCC.

Again, in all fairness to PCC, if there is now some system in place to provide students with an EFFECTIVE means of expressing dissatisfaction, then we would like to know what it is, and we will modify our comments accordingly.

There are at least two reasons, we think, why PCC is reluctant to allow criticism by the students:

1.) Overemphasis on Image. The process of discovering what is right and what is best is often an ugly process. It is not always pretty to see two opposing sets of ideas clashing head on and seeing two groups of people fight out issues of policy. This, however, provides us with one of the interesting paradoxes of human social interaction – out of an unpleasant clash of ideas emerges the beauty of a refined doctrine, and a doctrine that has been refined by the fire of debate is always better than that which has been guarded against the checks and balances of true inquiry.

Consider this within the context of the United States. Do you think our society would be better or worse off if our government adopted the same approach to criticism as PCC has? But PCC is not a government, someone might say. Oh, yes it is. It is a government because it is the structure that has been put in place to control a “community,” as the administration is so fond
of referring itself. This all gets back to IMAGE [see “Exploitation Theology” in Issue 2, No. 2]. An effective means of criticism is a threat to the image that PCC has created for itself, an image that says to everyone outside, “We have no problems. Look at us, we are all part of a perfectly harmonious family who all agree in a very strict set of rules and regulations to govern our lives.
We can be recognized by our long skirts, khakis and funky ties.” Well, PCC is not a perfectly harmonious family, nor will it ever be as long as it strives to achieve what an institution of higher learning is supposed to achieve – higher thought. PCC’s notions of a harmonious family are ok in a perfect world, but I have news for you – this ain’t no perfect world. Students who have questions and disagreements with policies should not be precluded from discussing these disagreements, EVEN AT THE EXPENSE OF TARNISHING THE PCC IMAGE. Which is more important? The image or the
individual?

2.) PCC has actually begun to believe its own lie. PCC has been insulated for so long and has thus heard so little criticism that it actually appears to believe that there is nothing for which anyone can criticize. Consider The Voice. Faculty members have actually gone so far as to question our salvation. This is not necessarily inappropriate, but the
reasoning behind the assertion is. What? Speaking out against the inconsistencies of PCC to hopefully make it a better place is tantamount to heathenism? Give me a break! That’s the assumption, though, and it is this kind of reasoning that leads me to believe that many within the PCC community actually believe that PCC cannot be wrong. Heaven help us when we start actually thinking this. One of the reasons we here at The Voice desire comments from those who disagree with us is so that we may have a check on our inevitable human ways – error. We are not so misguided as to believe
that we may not occasionally be wrong. We very well may be. But that is a difference between our understanding of ourselves and the administration’s understanding of itself – we recognize our infallibility and need for a check; PCC does not, and therefore sees no need for a check.

One of the comments we received was from a professor who disagreed with some conclusions we had made in a particular essay. We wrote back, pointing out that her points were excellent. However, for various reasons, we came to a different conclusion, and we pointed these reasons out explicitly. Instead of writing back and explaining why our reasons were faulty, this professor
basically concluded that because we disagreed with her conclusion (which had nothing to do with PCC directly), we were not right with God. She said, “If at some point you realize that you have not acted in the best interest of the Lord [because we came to a different conclusion regarding a non-PCC and non-Biblical issue, eds.], I would be happy to hear from you again. . . . I
will be praying that the Lord gives you the spiritual wisdom that you need.”

Well, we certainly need Spiritual wisdom, but don’t we all? Are some of us more “spiritually wise” simply because we agree with the policies of PCC? Whether or not we are acting “in the best interest of the Lord” has nothing to do with whether or not we agree with a position that a PCC faculty member takes, particularly when the position is not even a Scriptural one. So, while we are willing to entertain notions to the contrary, it seems to us that one of the reasons PCC represses criticism is because they honestly do not believe that there is any out there to be made.

Shame on them. . . shame on them.

A SOLUTION.
We would like to offer a suggestion of how this problem could be, at least in part, solved. This program would allow the students to express their questions and disagreements in a controlled atmosphere, so that everyone’s interests would be maintained. What we propose is the establishment of “town meetings.” Town meetings would be set times when students could question the administration publicly regarding their problems. Here are the procedures we suggest:

1.) Make sure the meetings are scheduled in advance and that there is plenty of notice given so that the students may be fully prepared to ask the difficult questions. A reasonable idea, we think, would be to use the collegian meetings for this purpose (perhaps something useful could come out of this time after all. . .).

2.) Make sure there is a recorded transcript made of all of these meetings so that there will never be any conflicts – i.e., one answer given in one meeting by one person, while another answer is given in another meeting by another person. Also, this could serve the purpose of providing a basis for more questions, and therefore, more answers and a better understanding.

3.) Allow students to speak their minds freely. If a student wants to get up and make a statement that would normally result in sanctions for “bad attitude,” allow this to be a time when the students could speak their minds without reprisal.

4.) Encourage this to be a forum for ideas on how to make things better, how to change policy. Don’t be afraid to admit that maybe some of the administration’s policies are not wise, are too overbearing and really should be modified.

5.) Don’t be afraid to officially say the words, “We are sorry for being too repressive.” We guarantee you that this statement, if made in an official way with a genuine change in policy would give the college more respect than anything they have done so far.

These are just some structural ideas that we think should be implemented. If those of you on the administration would like more information and a more thorough planning approach, please let us here at The Student Voice know. Besides, if you incorporate our plan, you may very well render The Voice irrelevant and moot. How about that for an incentive? Criticism is not bad. It may not always be pretty, but neither is truth. Let us always be willing to admit our fallibility, and let us always look to the truth of Scripture. PCC has a wonderful potential to be great, but as long as there is the cancer of repression and ideological fascism, PCC will always be mediocre.