Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cedarville's Only Female Religion Prof Resigns

As the new administration of the Reverend Dr. Thomas White flexes its muscles at Cedarville University, the school's only female religion professor is the latest casualty of the Ohio college's fundamentalist takeover.

News of the separation appeared in the November 21 edition of the Cedars newspaper:
Bible professor Joy Fagan is resigning from Cedarville after two decades of service to the university. Her last day is Dec. 20. 
“The why is tricky,” she said. “Every administration has the right to take the university in a particular direction, and every faculty and staff member has the responsibility to determine if they are a good fit for that direction.” 
Fagan said she believes she is no longer a good fit for the university, particularly because of her role as a woman teaching in the Bible department 
“I also believe that when God closes doors, he opens doors,” she said.
Evidently, Prof. Fagan graciously resigned rather than forcing the godly administrators to get their hands dirty and actually go through the lengthy formal, contractual, and/or legal procedures involved in firing a tenured professor.

Two observations:

First, Fagan is not a theologian or a Bible scholar.  Her expertise is in the area of Christian education, which I have noticed is one way fundamentalist Bible academies sometimes justify the presence of a female teacher to people who complain that a college classroom is no place for a woman.  Not that it would be okay, but it might be easier to understand why the White administration would want to get rid of a woman who was teaching theology or biblical studies.  But apparently even a woman teaching Christian is unacceptably liberal and unbiblical at today's Cedarville.

Second, I am continually impressed by the Cedarville college newspaper's reporting.  The OBU student newspaper has almost completely ignored the controversial actions of the David Whitlock administration at OBU.  The Bison never spilled one drop of ink about the forced dismissals of religion faculty in 2010 and 2011.  By contrast, the Cedars newspaper has done a much better job covering the controversy at Cedarville.  I have long suspected that The Bison is censored.  And I'm certain that President White and his deputies at Cedarville will silence, or at least cripple, the Cedars very soon.

OBU administrators wisely and strategically did their firings in the late summer, when people were least likely to be paying attention.  But can you imagine what a difference it may have made if the student newspaper had done actual reporting and editorializing about the firings once school resumed in August or September?  Student awareness of the controversial takeover OBU's new administrators plotted was kept at a minimum because of The Bison's almost complete silence.  That is a fact we all have to live with.  I think the administration silenced the paper.  The White Administration will silence Cedarville's paper.  It's what these people do.

Very soon, the only woman left on the Cedarville Biblical and Theological Studies web page will the the secretary.  Which, they believe, is how it should be.  Maybe one day soon they'll fire the secretary so she can spend more time cooking, cleaning, ironing her husband's shirts, and running the carpool -- as God clearly intends.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Four Faculty Inducted into Hall of Fame at Homecoming Chapel

Last weekend, hundreds of alumni descended on Shawnee to celebrate Homecoming on Bison Hill. Among the throngs were many of my friends from OBU. I went to Homecoming last year, capping a year of sustained activism, listening, learning and blogging about my alma mater's deliberate and decisive rejection of the relatively more moderate faculty and administrators who throughout the 20th century turned OBU into a first-rate Christian liberal arts university.

This year, with my work and child care responsibilities, it was simply not possible for me to travel from Washington to attend.

I was glad to see the list of four professors emeritus/a (living and deceased) who were inducted into the Faculty Hall of Fame during the Homecoming Chapel service on Saturday morning.

I'm grateful to the administrators who assisted in making the presentations, especially those for whom it must have been particularly painful and difficult to smile and say nice things about professors they would do everything in their power to avoid hiring at OBU today.

Professor Opal Frazier Craig taught speech at OBU during the Raley, Scales, and Cothen years.  A former student noted that Craig's influence "still permeates pulpits around the globe."  Professor Craig taught students to "converse from the stage or the pulpit in a manner that would persuade rather than preach."  Imagine how disappointed certain people must be to learn that a woman taught hundreds of men (and a few women) a thing or two about preaching!

The Reverend Dr. Dick Rader was the dean of religion and ministry while I was at OBU.  He died shortly after I graduated in 2002 following a difficult, yearlong battle with cancer.  I remember Rader as a traditional Baptist conservative, but not as a fundamentalist.  I met with him in an "exit interview" process to discuss my plans for graduate study.  During that meeting, he was very gracious and encouraging.  He did not seem distraught that I would be asking OBU religion professors to write letters of recommendation to a seminary that was very different from OBU.  Several recent OBU graduates have reported that their exit interview with the incumbent dean does not go as well as what I experienced.  Some of you will no doubt argue this point, but I won't claim definitively that it would be impossible for Dick Rader to be hired at OBU today.  I'll just say that, if he interviewed for the Hobbs College deanship, there would obviously be candidates who are more in step with today's SBC and BGCO elite leadership.  Dick Rader's experience and wisdom would be rejected in favor of a true believer and foot-soldier in ideological battles he had little interest in waging.  Rader was apolitical, and these days a first-tier candidate has to whole-heartedly endorse the fundamentalist agenda.

After two decades in parish ministry, the Reverend Dr. C. Mack Roark held administrative and teaching positions at OBU over a span of nearly 25 years.  During his tenure, Roark, like all of his School of Christian Service colleagues, frequently taught in Oklahoma Baptist churches and served interim pastorates around the state.  Though there is no reason why he would remember me, Dr. Roark's influence was profound.  He made me want to be a better Bible student, a better Christian, and a better man.  I personally witnessed him gently and patiently teach students who had been taught what to believe about the Bible but who had never been encouraged to study it.  Tragically, Mack Roark would be rejected as an applicant for a position at OBU in favor of a post-Takeover fundamentalist who takes the Bible literally, not seriously.  Due to the unpardonable sin of preaching and teaching in churches affiliated with the moderate Cooperating Baptist Fellowship of Oklahoma, OBU Dean BGCO Executive Director-Treasurer Anthony Jordan would personally intervene to block Roark's appointment today.  Sad but true.  As many of you know, Dr. Roark is the epitome of the Christian teacher-scholar-pastor.  I would have loved to have been there to see him receive this honor, as he is one of the best teachers I ever had at any level.

Professor Mary White Johnson taught at OBU for 44 years.  She was part of inaugural faculty for the nursing program.  Johnson received OBU's Meritorious Service Award in 1993.  Having taught from 1953 until her retirement in 1997, Professor Johnson influenced generations of OBU students in the healing arts and sciences.  Now that a long-serving moderate nursing dean has retired, several people have brought personnel concerns in the nursing department to my attention.  I don't want to say more at this time, but one wonders if the new dean, a Tea Party activist, would have much use for old-school moderates like the legendary Professor Johnson.

These professors collectively gave well over a century of service to OBU.  Honoring them was the right thing to do.  I'm sure the ceremony was dignified and without controversy.  But the fact remains that these fine people would face an uphill battle to be hired at OBU today, and that's an understatement.  Why is that the case?  No, really.  Why?  Stop and think about what is so offensive or unchristian about these honorees that would render them unacceptable today.  It's ridiculous!  Are you okay with this?  Are you content knowing that OBU administrators will praise these people out of one side of their mouths, but when no one is looking, do their best to make sure these kinds of people will never be hired again?

If this troubles you, then you understand what Save OBU stands for and why we need to remain strong.  In the end, awards are just plaques hanging on walls.  The real way to honor these professors is to insist that OBU welcome faculty like them in the future as heirs and successors to the distinguished legacies they established during their years of service.  That these honorees would be unwelcome today is a huge problem.  To this alum, it's unacceptable.

Here are a few posts I wrote last year after attending Homecoming 2012:
Saturday morning
Saturday evening
Sunday morning
Sunday evening (recap of our Save OBU meeting)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Dr. Ben Carson to Headline 2014 Green & Gold Gala

After taking the controversial step to sue the federal government over the Affordable Care Act's requirement that certain religious institutions cover contraceptives in their group health insurance plans, one might think OBU would lay low in the culture wars for a while.

Instead, administrators have upped the ante with a move that's sure to shock and offend many faculty, students, and alumni.

Today in Broken Arrow, President David Whitlock boasted in his report to the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma's annual meeting that OBU has invited Dr. Ben Carson to keynote next year's Green & Gold Gala, a fundraiser for student scholarships.

For those outside the religious right political movement who may not know of him, Ben Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who catapulted to fame for delivering a speech slamming many of President Obama's policies to his face at the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this year.  After disrespecting the president in the most obnoxious and defiant way possible, Dr. Carson became a Tea Party celebrity.  The Wall Street Journal editorial page urged him to run for president.

At last month's Values Voter Summit in Washington (the premier political convention of the most far-right elements of the Republican Party -- even the SBC considers the event too extreme to endorse), Carson was the runner-up in the straw poll for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.  He tied former Senator Rick Santorum with 13% apiece.  Senator Ted Cruz won with 42% of the vote.

In his speech to the Values Voter Summit, Carson made a particularly offensive statement: the health insurance reform law is "the worst thing to happen in this country since slavery."  Translation: The Affordable Care Act is worse than poverty, natural disasters, the Great Depression, segregation, child abuse, and tens of millions of abortions.  To Dr. Carson, the Affordable Care Act is even worse than 9/11.  What an insult!

However much money OBU raises for scholarships, it will pay a hefty fee to Carson.  According to his booking agent, his speaking fee is "over $40,000."  It's probably significantly more than that.  Carson has a remarkable personal story of rising from poverty to become chief of pediatric neurosurgery at one of the world's finest hospitals.  He is a highly sought after speaker.  Even so, Carson's calendar has opened up a bit as he has had to withdraw from several engagements in the wake of offensive comments.

Earlier this year, he withdrew from giving the commencement speech at Johns Hopkins University and from another speech to a medial industry group.  Petitions against Carson circulated after he equated homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality.  Does this reflect the views and values of OBU administrators?  Compared to Dr. Carson, last April's controversial "ex gay" evangelist chapel speaker Christopher Yuan seems downright compassionate!

Last year's inaugural Green & Gold Gala speaker, Tony Dungy, also holds traditional views.  But Dungy has a much more humble and modest persona, and I saw no need to protest his selection.

This year, I hope the OBU community will have a robust discussion about whether a figure as controversial as Dr. Carson truly reflects the consensus values of the OBU community.

When I was at OBU and Bill Clinton was president, I was taught that no matter how much I disliked him or disapproved of his actions, I should respect him and his office.  If a liberal  had so openly and shockingly denounced President George W. Bush to his face, do you think OBU would invite that person to speak?

To try to speak to Tea Partiers who will be glad to hear about Carson speaking at an OBU event and who say, "What's the big deal?" I asked a few liberal friends who the liberal counterpart to Ben Carson would be.  They said, "Imagine a person with political views left of Nancy Pelosi and who is as obnoxious as Michael Moore."  Think about how you would feel if OBU administrators invited such a person to headline the Green & Gold Gala.

Last year's event, by all accounts, avoided culture war politics.  Big sponsors of the gala included businesses, churches, BGCO organizations and affiliates, and a few wealthy individuals.  Next year's gala is sure to be highly politicized.  Aside from whatever comments Dr. Carson makes, it seems likely that Oklahoma political insiders will gobble up tickets and sponsorships for a chance to meet their anti-Obama hero.

I truly don't think they could have come up with a more partisan or divisive speaker if they tried.

At a minimum, whoever selected Carson should be asked whether they agree with his implication that homosexuality is tantamount to pedophilia and bestiality and that Obamacare is worse than 9/11, though I'm a little afraid of the answer.

The event is scheduled for next spring, assuming the keynoter does not make any extremely offensive remarks in the meantime.  Although, it's hard to imagine what comments would disqualify Carson if the things he has already said are acceptable.

In the future, we probably shouldn't let the College Republicans run the university.  Or the College Democrats (if such a thing is even allowed to exist).  I declined to criticize the trustees for acquiescing to President Whitlock's desire to join in a lawsuit against the federal government, since I thought they were simply trying to protect OBU's autonomy and prerogative even though the suit is harmful and offensive to all female employees on the group health insurance plan.  But after this Ben Carson debacle, it would be nice for the trustees to reassure OBU students, employees, and alumni that there are actually some grown-ups in charge on Bison Hill.

[Ed. I am still in complete disbelief that the reports I heard today from Oklahoma Baptist pastors are true.  If any mistakes in reporting were made, I will immediately withdraw this post.]