Undercover at an Evangelical University

Joe Veix

Journalist Kevin Roose goes undercover as a student at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, and his findings are humorous and upsetting.

There’s a great excerpt in Esquire from Kevin Roose’s book The Unlikely Disciple, where the author goes undercover at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University to find out what goes on there. Liberty University is the evangelical bapist university that advertises its goals as "training champions for Christ," which I believe translates to "spreading misinformation in favor of blind idelogy."

Students there appear to live under a bastardized, Christian version of Orwell’s 1984. What does this mean, exactly? Rules against drinking, smoking, cursing, dancing, and R-rated films. It’s a real party in Lynchburg, VA. The school advertises "exciting extra-curricular activities," though "Every Man’s Battle," the support group for chronic masturbation, doesn’t seem especially exciting. To each his own.

It’s sort of easy to predict what the classes consist of, as they champion the traditional arguments evangelicals often scream about (Evangelism 101 argues against evolution, sex before marriage, etc.). It’s not clear what the educational value of any of the classes is; it’s brainwashing, plain and simple. One of Roose’s anecdotes, concerning feminism, is particularly outrageous and infuriating:

In today’s GNED II class, Dr. Parks announces that we will be talking about gender roles in the evangelical world. Dr. Parks spends the first ten minutes of class laying out the two main positions evangelical Christians take on gender issues. The first position, egalitarianism, means exactly what you’d expect it to mean — men and women are equal, both in the church and in the home. Women can be pastors of a church, they can teach Sunday school, and husbands and wives share equal authority in marriage. The second position, called complementarianism, means, in Dr. Parks’s words, that "God created man and woman with different roles that complement each other." Complementarians believe that only men can be pastors, that only men can teach Sunday school or other Christian education classes (unless it’s an all-female class). Complementarians also maintain that the husband should be the head of the household. They quote Ephesians 5:24, "As the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything (NIV)."

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Remember, also, the frightening fact that Liberty has one of the best debate teams in the country.

But with the great, heartwarming news today about gay marriage being legalized in Iowa, one can’t help but smirk at their dire attempts to win a culture war they’ve all but lost.  

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