Monday, June 18, 2012

My Life Story in Pieces: Welcome to Bible College

I went back to college, met with a surgeon, and had a lumpectomy. Being an invincible 18 year old, I wasn't scared, at all. Even when Dr. Rosa, the surgeon in Phoenixville that I still resent, viciously told me that "That thing will keep growing and growing until you look like a cyclops, if I don't go in there and cut it out of you!", I was still not scared.

I remember going into the surgery holding room on the bed. I was shaking because I was so cold in there. I couldn't get warm. I remember waiting for an hour for them to find the anesthesiologist. I sat there shaking, freezing in a bed with only a sheet as an old man snored, post-op, next to me. I remember finally being wheeled in to the operating room and being shocked that it really IS like on TV - instruments everywhere, no smell in the air whatsoever except that of cold steel, nurses and doctors high-strung on adrenaline yet somehow calm...I remember them telling me the medications they were injecting would make my arm burn only a little. I remember counting backwards from ten. Then I remember remember waking up in my dorm, and thinking that it was a day or two after my surgery, taking a percocet for the pain and falling back to sleep. Turns out I missed almost a month of classes, and had to drop two classes and come back the next semester still as a freshman. Note to self: Do NOT take narcotics ever again.

Looking back, it genuinely hurts to remember college. I was a small-town girl from a church of maybe 50 people. A lot of that time is still blurry and I don't want to pry to far for fear of what I'll remember - what I'll remember of my actions, and those of others. I know I had a handful of amazing friends who put up with my moodiness, who still made me laugh even when I was clearly depressed. I also remember 90% of the students on that campus eventually hating me with a fire that Christians usually reserved for The Gays and their sympathizer, Tony Campolo. As anyone knows, I'm extremely opinionated and very vocal. I tend to form an opinion, spout it off, and wait for interesting people to refute my points, at which point I may re-shape or change my opinion. It's very Middle School-Girl of me, but at least I'm aware that I'm doing it.

I chose to go to a Christian college because my best friend/older sister was there, it was familiar, and I thought it would be nice to go to a place that wouldn't be a party school. VFCC had no drinking/drugs/sex on campus so I figured it would be an amazing, life-changing experience; the perfect place to obtain my degree from which I would springboard and go off and change the world.

I remember walking onto that campus the first day of Freshman year for what they called Start Teams, a "team-building activity" for entering freshman that took place a week or two before classes started. The campus was beautiful - old buildings, green lawns and clean-cut Christians everywhere. I met some amazing, bubbly people who were on fire for God and ready to learn and serve the God they lived for. I myself was pretty on fire. I couldn't wait to be surrounded by like-minded people who wouldn't make fun of others the way I'd been mercilessly teased in high school. I couldn't wait to be around mature people like myself who were ready to buckle down and learn, who were responsible and forward-thinking. And, big SHOCKER here, it didn't all turn out that way.

It turns out that there were more cliques at that college than in any high school I'd ever heard of. First, there were the cliques of kids who already knew each other from church events - namely, Fine Arts, an Assembly of God worship/performance thing that all churches in the area participate in. (My small church had never had enough youth to participate, so I'd never been to the Youth Conventions that everyone else knew each other from.) I felt like the kid at sleep-away camp coming for her first year at age 17 when everyone else had gone to camp together since preschool.

You know how, in the real world, celebrities and athletes are the 'cool kids' that everyone wishes they could be? Well, at Christian College, ministry majors (namely pastors) are the guys everyone worships (how's that for irony, worshiping the guy who's supposed to direct you to you worship God? Hmmm...). I was an education major. Many times, I overheard fellow students openly mocking "non-ministry majors" for our blatant uselessness towards The Kingdom of God. (Really? I can't serve God by being there 365 days a year for a child? I can't serve God by teaching a child to read, by hugging him when he falls, by telling him God loves him every day? Hmm...I had issues with THAT mentality!) There were a ton of other cliques too, as you would expect on campus - upper-classmen, dorm cliques, and the usual hot people/dorky people/weird people cliques.

Turns out, Christian College was no different than any other college. We were all still kids, we were all still naive and headstrong, and we were all still learning who we were and what we believed. Except - and here's our great exception to differentiate us from the Secular College Students - WE had all happily signed a pledge saying that basically, we wouldn't even THINK IMPURE THOUGHTS. (Good luck enforcing that one, thought police.) I quote from their current admissions manual code of conduct:

Certain practices are forbidden in Scripture and will not be tolerated in the lives of college community members. Those practices include sexual relationships outside of marriage (promiscuity in any form) and homosexuality. The college also prohibits the use of alcoholic beverages, tobacco, non-medical drugs, gambling in any form and social dancing. Also prohibited are any form of theft, dishonesty (including cheating and plagiarism), and civil disobedience (except in those rare cases where civil disobedience is warranted by honestly held religious principles and informed conscience, if such action is taken after consultation with Church leaders). Sinful practices such as jealousy, pride, gossip, slander, profanity, vulgarity and greed are inconsistent with the goals of a Christian life style and are likewise to be avoided by all members of the college community.

I personally saw very soon that the place was a joke - at least, compared to what I thought it would be. I know, I know - I sound pessimistic. I should have learned early in life to have low expectations so you can't be disappointed. But I put all my eggs in one basket with VFCC. I trusted that they would be a stable, respectable, open-minded Christian institute. Naively, I thought the Christians there would act like - gasp - CHRISTIANS! Instead, the VFCC I saw contained:

-Certain students (student government, RA's, children of staff) receiving special treatment and favor

-RA's who allowed drinking, drug use, swearing and sex in the dorms they were supposed to be monitoring to prevent exactly those things. One RA is a cousin of mine who the family still thinks is a saint. Makes me laugh to this day - if they only knew.

-People rejecting others for not worshiping the way they did...I myself got made fun of in chapel for singing off key. Whoops, I didn't mean to get carried away with emotion in the middle of a worship song to a God I fully adored and wanted to praise - how dare I!?

-A female self-professed "feminist" professor who gave clear preference to female students. I don't care if you're a feminist - but it's part of your job as an educator in an institute of higher learning to show NO preferential treatment. When a friend of mine missed a week of classes due to an injury, Misandrist Professor Chick didn't let him make up a test. When I missed a month of classes due to severe bronchitis and hospitalization, she let me make up both math and homework without question. I heard scads of other stories from upper-classmen who had been a victim of her prejudice. I didn't believe it until I experienced it myself. (And blogged about it. Yeah, I called her a feminazi. And later was forced to apologize to her in a grovelling manner, required by the school's equivalent to the Dean of Students, let's call him "Marty.")

-People looking around in chapel to see if others were 'worshiping right.' Seriously. Either that, or they were checking to see if anyone was watching them raise their hands, push out a few tears, and place a passionate hand to their own chests. Who knows. All I know is, if I'm in an atmosphere where I want to be vulnerable and open such as during a worship song session, I don't want someone watching me. Back the hell off - this is between me and God, y'know? Yet it happened constantly. People were always watching. Not all people, obviously, and not every time. But frequently, and without remorse. Also, there was a worship leader there who sang above everyone and would talk and talk and talk and talk and talk during times of intense prayer. Everyone in the room would be in tears, smitten with some form of The Spirit, and he would jump in and start praying for himself in one of those Example Prayers: "Oh God, I know I'm not always perfect but you forgive me. Help me to come to you when I wrong you. Help me to worship you, openly, here in this place." Blah, blah, blah. Don't hurt yourself trying to pat yourself on the back, there, buddy - we get it, you're super holy! He certainly loved the sound of his voice...though no one else did. But, when I mocked it (in both a rude and immature fashion, admittedly) on my blog, the superb Dean once again made me apologize to the guy in order to remain at the college.

-A professor who taught that if you didn't get married, you were going against God's will for mankind

-Many professors who taught that speaking in tongues were the most important gift of the spirit

-A few professors who actually taught that if one didn't speak in tongues, one wasn't in God's favor at all

-Vicious, vicious people. I remember walking back to my dorm one time in the only clean skirt I had at the time (hey! laundry is expensive and college students are poor!) - a pencil skirt that went down past my knees. However, I was in a hurry and walking made the skirt slide up...too about two WHOLE INCHES above my knees. Granted, there were a ton of skinny girls (well, maybe a few hundred pounds of skinny girls) walking around campus wearing skirts far shorter than mine. But this guy, a fellow student who is now a proud pastor of a church and the husband to a girl he does not deserve, stopped me in front of at least 50 people and shouted, "That skirt is inappropriate and unChristian. You need to change your outfit right away. You should be ashamed of yourself!" I ran back to my dorm, humiliated and crying. A friend of mine lived in the same dorm with this guy, and had heard him talking about 'his lusts' and how many hot girls there were on campus...even though he was engaged to the girl he is now (probably still) married to. I know he was only offended by the length of my skirt because I was fat, or maybe because he didn't like me personally. This kind of thing happened regularly...the people that everyone favored and wanted to be was really just a dickbag underneath. Christians. These people were Christians. Supposedly.
Part one: My first and second boyfriends
Part two: My first and second boyfriends part 2
Part three: Welcome to Bible College
Part four: Kicked out of Bible College
Part five: Pregnant

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