Every community needs rules, codes of conduct, expectations, ways to keep order and navigate one another to keep from stepping on each other as much as possible.

At Pensacola Christian College, we were often told that rules were to keep order. Many alumni will tell me today that, back then, the school didn’t expect you to keep the rules at home.  They were just for college life.

I can agree with that on some level. We show respect by being to class on time, by keeping litter off the lawn, by having noise ordinances after certain hours.

But many rules at PCC existed, not to keep order, but because they were the spiritual thing to do… they were the things God was pleased with.  As one friend recently said, legalists add sin and shame where there is no sin.  

For example, dressing was one. We were told repeatedly to dress in a way that is pleasing to God (add to that the modesty debate for women and I need to say no more). Women were inspected daily outside their dorms for violations in their dress, wearing hosery everyday unless they had a doctor’s note.  Once they made a rule men’s loose belt ends. If the end dangled, we were told it imitated phallic symbols of gang members. Going to bed on time was another rule pleasing to God. We were told about the sloth behaves in Proverbs. Many rules were created to keep a “good testimony” and by “good testimony” that mean that others could identity you not just as a Christian but as a certain kind of Christian. In Pensacola you were identified, not as a Christian, but as someone who went to that college that always seem to be in lockdown.  Having a “good testimony” was a catch-all for controlling everyone’s behavior. Another way to put it like this: If I don’t approve, you must cater to me. Otherwise, you have a “bad testimony” in my eyes.

I share one example in this video because my hope is that it’s an obvious one. Rules for music was more than for order but to prompt a certain sociology, psychology, and theology. The message that the authority knows best for me and speaks for God was subtle and relentless. Making decisions on your own for your own spiritual health was for other places. Sadly, in my early years, I let myself believe that.

All the music confiscated that day from my car was “Christian” music. I even had the view at that time that “secular music” was “bad.” Music existed to talk about God… it was like a drug and if God wasn’t inserted into it, then something else would. Those who are recovering from Bill Gothard’s movement know this argument well. We had chapel messages, confusing aesthetic value with moral value, on how one note isn’t bad but a certain string of notes was “sinful.”

I do mention on the video that the only music approved was instrumental and children’s music.  That’s the way it often seemed.  Adult music was also approved.  And by “adult,” I mean music marketed to adults in the fundamentalist groups.  Slow, melodic, and oversimplified.  Hymns were also permitted, as long as they sounded like it was recorded before the Jazz era.