August 23, 2011

Introduction

I suppose the only way to get you to read this story entirely is to tell you how it ends.  I was expelled from university only 16 days from graduation.  The real tragedy: I was only 18 years old.  That's right, I began university at 15 years of age.  I hated home life, and determined to start university early to get away from my parents, I finished high school in two years (plus, I was always the youngest in my class).  Turns out I jumped out of that frying pan and straight into hell.

So there I was, sitting in the parking lot of Outback fucking Steakhouse.  I was supposed to spend the evening with my brother and mother celebrating my imminent graduation from university.  Instead, I had only my crushed dreams.  My mom pulled up and got out of the car.  She couldn't even look at me she was so heartbroken.  At that point in my day, only one thought kept passing through my shell-shocked brain: fuck you, world.  I had just been dealt the shittiest hand a person in my position could have picked up.

Ok, so how did I get to this point?  What force caused my untimely demise?  That's the boring part.  I was raised in a conservative, independent, fundamental Christian environment.  Twice a Sunday and every Wednesday I was in church.  Sometimes there were church activities that had me surrounded by the same people that sat next to me in the pews (pews are benches with a purpose: to make you as uncomfortable as possible in order to keep you awake during a preacher's rantings).  Parts of this is probably familiar to some of you.  The rest of you can use your imagination.  You know how you act around your family?  You wouldn't act that way around other people.  Well, the members in an independent fundamental Christian church were your family.  Everyone acted as they would as if they were all living in the same household.  Shitty jokes were told and forced laughter followed.  Instead of one father, you now had 30+.  Dating was strictly chaperoned, if allowed at all.  Touching was not permitted between members of the opposite sex.  In one church I attended, girls and boys were not allowed to even talk to each other.  Every church I attended had cobbled together some mom and pop Christian "school" that was somehow allowed to teach us kids.  So now imagine that you are going to church every day of the week except Saturday.  Although, Saturday's usually had their own activities planned.  So, church...seven days a week.  Are you getting the picture?  This life was fucking hell, and I wanted out as soon as possible.  That's why I finished high school in two years.

The university I attended was little different from these churches.  Why did I choose this university?  My parents had prepaid for me to attend before I even finished the 6th grade.  When the time came to "choose" the university I wanted to go to I was forced to decide between a free ride or complete ostracization from my whole world.  I knew I was not being treated fairly at home, but still, I was being fed for free.  Some kids don't even get that from their parents.  So I chose the free ride.  I didn't care, I was going to college at 15 fucking years old!  I knew it wasn't a record, but it was still impressive.

Personally, describing Bob Jones University (BJU) is like ripping off a scab.  I have shoved those memories so far into repression that it's hard for me to easily recall all the travesties against the students.  Some of what I am about to recall may come as a shock to individuals that have been educated through public avenues.  BJU was the buckle of the Bible belt.  It was the Mecca of the independent fundamental Christians.  Truth was, though, BJU would accept anyone that bothered applying.  The reason they were not as discriminating about the acceptance of their applicants was this: it was routine for the first service of the year to be an honest-to-god come to Jesus meeting.  The university would hold a mandatory service for all students in order to proselytize as many of their new applicants (and possibly some of the returning students) as they could.

My first two years at BJU, I was still under the spell of my father's religion.  What I mean by that is I was still at that age or impression that what my father told me was absolute truth.  Due to my sheltered upbringing, I managed to keep that mentality until I was almost 17, while most boys my age lost their innocence (so to speak) much earlier.  My second semester, sophomore year changed my life forever.  And it's all their fault.  Every student was required to take a Bible-based course each semester they were enrolled, or they were not eligible for graduation.  I dutifully enrolled for my Bible class that semester just as I had every semester since arriving. This class was no different than in application than any other class. However, during a lecture, the professor let it slip that variable interpretation of the Bible was acceptable. I could not believe what I just heard. This professor had just given us license to question every rule and principle we had ever been taught in the church! Unfortunately, my father, as well as other leaders of the university did not seem to fully agree with that perspective. Their interpretation was deemed more accurate due to several reasons: higher authority, more credible research backing their interpretation, ad nauseum. Unfortunately for them, my innocence was lost, and my father's word no longer stood unchallenged. If they wanted to enforce their rules, I needed sustainable reasons!

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