Monday, March 4, 2013

"Thy Daughters True": Feminism at OBU - Part 2

Feminism at OBU Series
"Thy Daughters True": Feminism at OBU - Part 1
"Thy Daughters True": Feminism at OBU - Part 2
"Thy Daughters True": Feminism at OBU - Part 4

Last Thursday, I shared the story of the founding of a women's issues group at OBU in 2001. Today, I will share the story of a major event in the group's brief history.

It happened on Friday, February 22, 2002, at the end of Focus Week. That week's chapel speaker, a psychologist named Dr. Bill Gillham, was speaking again at a special Friday chapel service, so I had opted to attend that service and use my Wednesday chapel time slot for catching up on some immediate class work. It was a fairly ordinary chapel service. Dr. Gillham's message had several "sermon illustrations" and miscellaneous lessons, but two in particular were offensive and had no place at OBU.

At some point in his message, Dr. Gillham began to share a lesson about how God measures one's success by whether one trusts God to work through him or her. To illustrate this point, he told a story about a housewife who cooked eggs every morning for her husband. She always struggled to make perfect eggs with unbroken yolks, and prayed for God to help her do her best as she cooked. It seems like an innocuous (although backward) illustration, right? Dr. Gillham added a very disturbing twist: the woman's husband had a violent temper. If she broke the yolks, he would fly into a rage, overturn a chair at the table, and storm out of the kitchen. Contrary to Dr. Gillham's claims, the woman wasn't praying for God's help because she wanted to be an amazing housewife. She was praying for God's help out of fear, and she was living with psychological and spiritual distress. To make things worse, Dr. Gillham, a psychologist and counselor, treated this situation as a joke. He laughed about how "fun" it was to live with that husband and he noted that the husband wasn't "saved." The wife was the one responsible for preventing her husband's violent tantrums.

I sat through the illustration with a queasy feeling in my stomach.  I couldn't believe that I was sitting in chapel hearing a supposedly compassionate speaker place the blame on victims and dismiss the behavior of a controlling spouse. Hearing casual sexist jokes and statements from my fellow students on campus was one thing. Hearing sexist jokes and statements about domestic abuse from the pulpit in chapel was another. Furthermore, there were better ways to make that point without being insensitive toward others. Why not illustrate it by talking about an athletic team hoping to win a championship or a college student trying to make good grades to keep a much-needed scholarship?

I wish it had stopped there so I could have just fumed a bit before letting it go. After all, Dr. Gillham wasn't speaking for OBU, and he wasn't the first fundamentalist speaker to say something off-key about women.

But it didn't stop there.

Dr. Gillham moved on to another lesson. This time, he turned to 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says that God will provide a way out from temptation (sometimes translated as "difficult situations," "trials," or "tests") so that we can escape. To illustrate this point, he told a story about a lovely innocent Christian girl named Lois. Lois is a sophomore in high school, and she has a crush on a handsome senior named Joe, who is unfortunately not a Christian. Joe asks Lois to a movie one night, and she happily agrees. He picks her up and drives toward the movie theater but then keeps driving past it and turns down a side street. When Lois asks why they aren't stopping at the theater, Joe says he wants to go somewhere else first. Lois trusts him. He drives her out of town and parks the car at a make-out spot. How cliché! Joe has less than honorable intentions, of course, and before a confused Lois realizes what is going to happen, Joe rapes her. Dr. Gillham did not use the word "rape," however; instead, he trailed off in mid-sentence, leaving the audience to fill in the rest in light of Lois's confusion and panic. He pointed out that Lois had several opportunities to escape the situation: a 5-second window as they passed the theater, a 3-second window as they turned onto the side street, and a 1-second window as they turned onto the road. These 9 seconds were opportunities for escape provided by God.

It gets worse. As Joe is assaulting her, Lois prays and cries out to God for help, but according to Dr. Gillham, God turns His back on her. She had 9 seconds to escape and disobeyed God, so He let her suffer the consequences. What happened was her fault.

I was disgusted. Just like the egg example, there were so many better ways to illustrate the point about God providing an escape without resorting to an illustration that damages women and dismisses a man's abhorrent and inhuman behavior. Wouldn't it be better to use an example of a college student being tempted to cheat on an exam or plagiarize an essay? Blaming an innocent victim for what someone else did to them is no way to prove this point, especially when one also portrays God as uncaring toward those who suffer and cry out for help. Hearing sexist statements and jokes from the pulpit in chapel is awful enough. Hearing someone stating from the pulpit in chapel that God abandons rape victims is even worse. What about loving others? What about showing mercy and kindness to the brokenhearted and the downtrodden?

Another member of FAIR was in the audience, and she was also disgusted and upset. She tried to speak to Dr. Gillham after chapel, and he dismissed her concerns and turned her away. We had never been so openly degraded and insulted as women at OBU, and we worried about the negative impact the message could have on our fellow students.

We were not going to sit in silence and submission.

On Wednesday in part 3 of this series, I will share the story of our protest and the administration's response.


  1. Wow. This is unbelievable. But maybe, really, all too unfortunately believable.

  2. An unbeliever with "abhorrent and inhuman" behavior"? Imagine that? You'd almost think that a guy has to be Godly before he "obeys the word". Apparently feminist standards are "higher" than God's standards.

    Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
    (1Pe 3:1-2)


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