Christianity Today reports that Cedarville University is strengthening its ‘complementarian’ stance (a theological position that forbids women to “teach or have authority over” men and teaches that men stand in authority over their wives.)
In a new move, the Ohio university has also recently restricted Bible and theology classes taught by female faculty to female students only.
(This despite there being no text that I can find in the Bible equating institutions of higher learning with churches…in which case even the most literal readings would not apply...)
There are many definitions of fundamentalism (the truly curious -- and brave -- should read George Marsden) but I have found that fundamentalism reliably shows itself whenever you hear someone say something along the lines of
“I’m just gonna preach to you what the text says.”
Those, in fact, are the exact words used by Cedarville University president Thomas White in his March 10 chapel address, to which I listened in its entirety. If I may translate that into the vernacular, “I’m just gonna preach to you what the text says” means:
Don’t even bother arguing with me, because I’m just the mouthpiece of God.
White’s text was 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 -- a passage attributed to St. Paul and one that is more than a little confusing, since it says things like
“does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?”
Again, along the lines of “just what the text says,” White quickly insists that anyone taking a “feminist” or “egalitarian” approach to the Bible has no respect for the Bible and basically disregards it altogether. So, for the young impressionable student, the choices are:
#1 Believe what White is saying, lock, stock, and barrel
#2 Reject the book you have been raised to believe has all the answers to everything
(That there might be other intelligent and compelling ways of reading the text is not entertained as a possibility.)
What’s most fascinating about White’s chapel address is how he does exactly the thing he says he’s not going to do: he doesn’t ‘just’ preach what the text says, because he doesn’t say that women can’t cut their hair or that men can’t have long hair -- and he doesn't say that women ought to have head coverings on every time that they pray -- even though that is 'just' what the text says.
He says that those things are obviously culturally specific to the time and place in which they were written.
The only problem? The text itself -- St. Paul, if you like, says that “nature” -- not culture -- teaches us what is what regarding men and women and their hair.
White tipped his own hand, though, in favor of long hair on women, in a rant that even he seemed to realize verged on inappropriate...
“If you’re here and you have short hair and you’re female and you have short hair, that doesn’t mean this is a problem for you […] although I do really like long hair, I mean, I think it’s beautiful…I think, I mean, girls with long hair, God’s given you a blessing there, I…grow the hair out. […] My wife has long hair. Now you know why she has long hair. Cuz I really like her long hair…it’s pretty. I’m going to stop before I get fired.”
And he even approved of men having long hair, as long as that long hair is accompanied by sufficient signifiers of culturally coded masculinity:
“If you wanna be a guy with long hair, have a [big beard too]. Like Duck Dynasty…be a man.”
Southern Baptist blogger Denny Burk took all this as “a sign of great things happening at Cedarville” in a recent post.
The same cannot be said for numerous students, former students, and former faculty from Cedarville, who find the institution’s tone and tactics reprehensible quite apart from the serious theological questions involved.
Another sign that you might be a fundamentalist?
When people raise alarm bells at your activities, you wear it as a badge of honor -- we’re being persecuted for the faith! -- and keep right on going.
Note: Just for the record, White's chapel address also contained a weird rant in which he urged "men" to "grab their shotguns" in response to the widespread abuse and trafficking of women and girls. But that is a post for another day.