College Week: Chapel

If you have a Pavlovian response of standing to your feet every time you hear the opening notes of the Doxology, chances are you went to Fundy U.

Since mandatory attendance to regular weekly church services don’t provide nearly enough time for indoctr…er…edification, Fundy U also provides its students with the opportunity to hear daily sermons from whatever preachers the president happens to be friends with this week. Many students also know this daily occurance by another name: “naptime.”

Since chapel services are not usually broadcast to the public like other services and have few visitors in attendance, it’s a perfect opportunity for the fundy preacher du jour to unleash a holy torrent of full bore crazy upon his listeners. Horrific tales of death and dismemberment? Check. Stories about the masturbation habits of the speaker’s teenage son? Yes. (Oh, how I wish that one weren’t true!) Insinuations that most of his listeners are probably Satan-worshiping whores who only came to a fundamentalist college to corrupt his offspring who are the only three good children left on the planet? Yea, Verily.

But amongst the endless alliterated instructions on Finding God’s Mysteriously Lost Will For Your Life (without which you’re totally screwed) and warnings about Amnon’s friend Jonadab lies a much subtler purpose in chapel services — they are the most direct conduit for the administration to use a kind of spiritual coercion on the behavior of their students. A single uncontested voice speaking with conviction is the perfect medium for authoritarian re-education.

When a pastor delivers a message from behind the sacred desk at least some percentage of the student body will take him seriously and go carry out his bidding. All that remains for the administration to determine is what action they want from the student body today. Whether it’s a carefully constructed message on why God would never, ever want you to leave Fundy U, a drive for votes in a local election, or a plea for students to turn in their roommates to the deans office for real or imagined wrongs, by a skillful use of the chapel speaker the leadership can be sure that they will get a decent return on their time investment each week.

Those who manage to sleep in Jesus instead of listening are the lucky ones.

95 thoughts on “College Week: Chapel”

  1. I only remember 2 chapel services in particular. I wasn’t a sleeper; the services just weren’t memorable in general. The first memorable service was when Dr. Bob III played “Let the Walls Come Down” and then began to rail on the song and artist. Had he have actually listened to the song, there was absolutely nothing unbiblical about it. The only thing I took away from that service was “Wow. They’ve actually got an amazing sound system in there. Too bad the won’t actually use it.”
    The second was this preacher (don’t remember his name, not important) who came in with his entire sermon written out on yellow legal pad paper. I think he even had his hand gestures written in. So he gets up to the giant-size pulpit, takes out his giant-size stack of notes, and perches his jumbo-size KJV on the angled ledge of the pulpit (it was angled downward toward the audience). Every time he paused to pound the pulpit, that Bible would inch downward. This went on for about 45 minutes, every eye in the auditorium on that Bible. It was the only thing interesting going on, as his message delivery was every “don’t” in the speech book. Dr. Bob Jr. even nodded off a couple times. The following day, Dr. Bob Jr. got up and apologized for having the previous day’s speaker. Said sometimes speakers just don’t deliver very well.

  2. The most memorable chapels to me were the ones where a bird made it into the FMA. One was swooping around over our heads, then proudly paraded back and forth on the edge of the platform (which I could see quite well because my seat was near the front that semester), and eventually sat in the yellow flowers in one of the huge vases at the front and proceeded to chirp happily. We were DYING with laughter, and although the speaker briefly acknowledged it, we were then supposed to forget it and focus on his message. Knowing we were supposed to be serious made laughter all the more infectious.

  3. While the college I currently attend can’t be classified as Fundie (thank goodness), we’re still “conservative” enough to have chapel five days a week. However, the past two years I’ve attended less than two weeks of chapel due to less than honest means. I would feel guilty, but I’ve grown more in my spiritual life the two years I was doing the “wrong” thing then I have the entire 19 years I tried being the best little boy I could be.

    This next year I managed to get a job during the chapel hour so my streak will continue. Got to pay for all those med school (where at 22 years of age, I’ll finally be treated like a person who is capable of making intelligent, responsible decisions without any help from fundie teachers/militant RAs/brothers and sisters “concerned” about my walk) applications somehow.

  4. While we had chapel every day I actually enjoyed it for the most part since we weren’t over the top fundy on most days. Tony Campolo circa 1983 before the big time was a classic when he opened using the work Sh*T of course drawing us all in with the Pauline dung heap reference. Other speakers like Ravi Zacharias were decent as well. Sorry for those who didn’t get quality edutainment since these speakers made impact for me and mine.

  5. NOW I know why my ex-husband called me heifer!

    I can’t tell you how offensive that was.

  6. I made it 4 years without being a row monitor, I did get to sit up front several times as I was on and off of spiritual probation. I was only asked once to be a host at a dinner table and I was a APC for about 3 months before being de-APC’d. (my senior year one of our buddies “got right with god” and turned several of us in for snake music). I barely made it through Jonestown.

  7. I worked on Security and sat in back. Bob Widmark fell asleep in every single chapel. No kidding. Every stupid day. I got really mad at him. I did understand the night shift guys falling asleep, but Bob didn’t work night shift. It really bugged me. The amazing thing about working on Security at BJU (at least then) was that nobody cared if we fell asleep. But the sight of Widmark right next to me, head tipping way, way back (like it would fall back between his shoulder blades), mouth hanging open like he was a corpse, just bugged me day after day. Finally, not being allowed to jab him personally, I picked up the hymnal and jabbed him with that. He snapped too and looked at me like a wounded puppy, utterly stunned that I had taken it upon myself to wake him up. “Would you quit falling asleep!” I hissed at him. “You fall asleep every stupid day!” He tried to reform, but it didn’t work. Next day he was back in “The Widmark Zone”. I gave up.

    I do remember some great chapels. One or two were life changing for me. But overall, they were a waste. Worst one was this idiot that said that the Christian life was like picking berries. He preached the entire stupid week, and he reserved Thursday and Friday for talking about the chigger bites of Christianity. I don’t remember one point he made, but I do remember learning about chiggers that day. He was more interested in chiggers than anything else.

  8. @MBI2000, I too thought RJW was from MBI with that whole 10-cut chapel thing. I was at MBI from 1987-91. I think it is actually a great place despite a few hang-ups. The only times I got upset were when fundy-ism crept in, like when they’d invite Jack Wyrtzen to speak and he’d spend all of chapel railing on what evil people women were, especially when they went out and worked or when they stayed at home and watched their “slop operas.”

    Here was a surprise for me when I encountered real fundies–they thought MBI was a total den of iniquity. In fact, a BJU person told me, “Oh yeah, Moody is totally liberal.” Liberal? It’s like that line from the Princess Bride, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.

  9. I have several versions of nightmares about BJU, one being that I have to get to chapel and don’t know where my seat is.

  10. @ Sarah, I didn’t have that one about chapel, but I have dreamed that I have a class only I don’t know where it is! A more common nightmare is being in front of my PO box and not being able to remember the combination to open it and just knowing I was missing something important. Weird. I’ve actually dreamed that one a lot.

  11. @RJW right hand warmly accepted.

    @alice. I went to Moody a little later in life, started when I was 26. They had eased up a bit more on the rules when I got there, and were slowly easing out of the rest of the fundy hang ups. I think a good part of that was due to Dr Stowell. I enjoyed my time there too. As much as they said following the SLG wasnt a mark ones spirituality, it was just community standards, you still had your doubts sometimes. I will also be the first to admit that Moody is like disneyland to what most of you went through at your fundy colleges.

  12. I’ve had dreams (nightmares) about having to go back to Bible college for more classes. *shudder* I HATE those dreams!

  13. This is older Jess (the one who has already been through Fundy College) commenting…

    In my church, BJU, PCC, Liberty, Cedarville, Maranatha, and Moody were all considered taboo for one or more of the following reason:

    1. Not “local church” – this was defined as a college run by a church
    2. Accredited – this, of course, is the ultimate evil step for a Christian college to take
    3. Liberal – this means anything from music not like mine to dress codes not like mine to being open to other versions.

  14. Chigger bites? Chigger bites. No way. No way.

    I didn’t realize how much I just turned off my brain during those sermons until just recently after 3 years hearing real church. There was a guest speaker at our ladies Bible study. I don’t for the life of me know why the lady in charge thought inviting this fundy dude in to speak to **ladies** would be a good idea. But it happened — I immediately turned **off** my brain and got this goofy grin on my face and was thinking about apple pie or some other really important nonsense. And then I caught myself, and I hyper-listened. Like some of you are saying. I listened really, really close. And I remembered that I did that at BJU too. . . . And that’s when I got in trouble — when I listened.

    Good times.

  15. @Amanda– I have that stress dream that I’m back in BJU, and I have to go to class. Only, I don’t know what class to go to, where it would be if I knew, or where my registration slip is to tell me where to go. Fortunately, I wake up before chapel.

  16. My favorite chapel message while at BJU was when Dr. Bob Jr. called Elton John a “fag” and Princess Di a “whore” from the pulpit. It was always exciting when Jr. preached; you never knew what he was going to say.

  17. I was a row monitor 6 times over the course or 8 seat assignments. Not sure why I got on the approved list, I marked people absent but nothing else. On several occasions after a new assignment nervous BJ Academy students would ask me if I marked off for sleeping. I usually told them that I never marked off for something I would do myself by the end of the semester. 😀

    One time a student dropped out right after the new seat assignments came out and his name slot was a total blank for two months. So one week I wrote up the non-student for every offense I could think of, hoping to give someone in the Dean’s office a laugh. Marked “him” off for chewing gum one day, sleeping the next, etc. Got an e-mail asking if the offenses I listed were actually for one of the surrounding people. Humor is usually lost on these people.

    I do the remember the “longhorn” speaker. After his “two points and a lot of bull in between” comment, I remember the people in the back of the platform whispering to each other. I think that, combined with the comment, caused lots of us to perk up. Protocol insisted that we listen to a man for 25 minutes who had already fallen out of favor with the admins. An altogether unusual situation.

  18. “A single uncontested voice speaking with conviction is the perfect medium for re-education”
    The really interesting thing is that we were watching “V” for Vendetta when we read this little morsel. Very appropos.

  19. About the only thing I really remember about PCC church/chapel services were the opera singers, a man and his wife (don’t remember the name, but surely someone here know who I’m talking about – he was a teacher I believe). That was worse than the boring speakers IMHO.

  20. I love Ray and Ann Gibbs. I know the operatic style isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but they were very gracious and talented people who were very kind to people near and dear to me.

  21. My husband worked at a Bible college for ten years, and this didn’t happen at chapel, but at a fund raising dinner for Friends of ____________ Bible College. The president of the college had invited Franky Schaeffer to speak to the gathering. I suppose he was thinking “like father, like son” but oh was he ever wrong. Franky brought along one of his fiction books he had written to sell and raise his own funds, and said a number of things that shocked the evangelical audience. Shortly thereafter we heard the news that he had joined the Orthodox Church. The president was totally ticked off.

  22. @Susan HA! Frank Schaefer is definitely NOT his father, and I’d love to have heard the post mortem meeting on that booking. I can only imagine the things Frank would’ve said directly to a group of fundies.

  23. Oh, John, I was in FMA when Jr called Betty Ford a slut. You could hear a pin drop.

  24. The two most memorable chapels for me from my years at PCC: The preacher that referred to “Balaam’s ass” dozens of times in 30 minutes, and Greg Mutch’s “strokin’ the snake of porneia” at a guys-only chapel.

  25. @Brent I had totally forgotten the “stroking the snake”. Seriously how does that kind of innuendo happen? He couldnt’ POSSIBLY have been unaware what he was saying, and as I recall there wasn’t a small amount of snickering.

  26. There were also the chapel speakers that went over their alloted time. Some students had classes at 12 & 1 so there was no way for them to relax for lunch. If they wanted to eat at the Dining Common they had to rush over there, devour their food in less than 20 minutes & then run to class. But some speakers would go to 11:45 leaving very little time for these students. So unfair.

    I never fell asleep. I was too scared that Dr. Bob III would see me. How he could see some students still amazes me!

  27. I need to try to get one of the FMA seats for my own apartment just to take naps in.

  28. i remember the guys only chapel at bju where dalton (dean of men) gave examples of what were supposed to be shocking displays of evil communication from worldly sources. he mentioned a dilbert comic where “the prince of insufficient light would darn them all to heck.” i think he thought that the audience would gasp in horror… instead, the whole auditorium, including male faculty, burst out laughing. needless to say he did not recover very well from that.

  29. Darrell, I was a PCC floorleader. Did we attend there at the same time? I remember the “Stories about the masturbation habits of the speaker’s teenage son? ” meassage.

  30. Yes, I think I vaguely remember you, Kevin. We didn’t move in the same circles, however.

  31. “strokin’ the snake of porneia”?!?
    Sweet Mother of Kitties! ROTFLMAO!
    What ever happened to good old fashioned terms, like “self-abuse”?

  32. So PCC guys– I must be missing something. Why was it so important for you to all know such personal information of the speaker’s son?
    As for Br. Bob Jr, I think he derived some sort of pleasure making those behind him on the platform wince. Like the time he said “Bull…stuff” during his message. That was word of the day at BJA for a while afterwards. It was like verbal Russian Roulette. You never knew what would come out of that mouth or when. But when it came out, you could bet on a nervous giggle around the auditorium and nervous glances all around the platform.

  33. @beth believe me, we were just as confused as you are. I have no idea what is point was other than to ensure that his son was humiliated for the rest of his life.

  34. @ Andrew – the FMA seats are only good for sleeping in the FMA, other than that, they’re just funny colored theater seats, and not the nice rocker-recliner’s a lot of movie theaters have these days and they definately don’t come with cup holders.

  35. @Camille – yeah and then he rattled off a whole list of simply delightful no-no words for us young whippersnappers to use… terribly awful ones like son of a gun, tarnation, and fudge. (yes, i do remember him specifically mentioning those words.)

    the ones i wish he had left out were terms like “choking the chicken” and “flogging the dolphin”. i had honestly never even heard those before… never once heard any of my “worldly” friends say that.

    im thinking, “no one really says that, johnny boy! but apparently it’s on your mind… probably because youre always trying to get guys to admit to it!”

    seriously why did the dean of men end like every private talking-to with, “do you have a problem with masturbation?”

  36. “seriously why did the dean of men end like every private talking-to with, “do you have a problem with masturbation?”

    Yeah, no red flags there. (rolls eyes)

  37. seriously why did the dean of men end like every private talking-to with, “do you have a problem with masturbation?”

    There is only one response to this question: “No, I’m fairly adept at it at this point in my time here at Fundy U. Why are you needing some pointers?”

    He really showed how dated his material was with the Chicken choking reference… that is my generation (over 40). 🙂

  38. During my time at BJ, they would introduce one “new” hymn every week or two, not an actual new hymn but an old gem that, in their opinion, was due for recognition and revival. The first time all of us would try to sing it together it was usually pretty awkward since, of course, none of us knew the song yet. One day the new song was “He Who Would Valiant Be”. It was written in a bizarre meter and the melody reinforced the general sense of the song kind of lurching along, not at all pleasantly. On the first verse I think maybe 20 people in the whole auditorium were actually trying to sing it. Everybody else was just listening in horror. We tried one more verse with no more success and then sat down. BJ3rd came up to give his sermon then and started off by saying, “He would valiant be should not introduce a new song in chapel!!!”

  39. grace2live, hahahahahahahahah!
    When I was there, at least there were enough people who could sight read the music and get through it, so that even unfamiliar hymns with weird meter were never quite as bad as that. I am guessing that with a smaller student body and more geeks (therefore, fewer music students), it’s not like it used to be, when even a lot of the Bible guys could sight read music.

    I do remember Dr Gus getting all P-O’d with us for sniffling and sneezing in chapel, and telling us to quit doing it before we started singing, because we were recording for the old “Show my People” TV show.

Comments are closed.