Great New Zogby Poll
The Powell Doctrine

The Freshman Year

So, I went off to Oklahoma Baptist University in August of 1992 as an eighteen year old conservative Southern Baptist preacher boy. I thought I knew quite a bit.

Rick Byargeon was my Intro to Old Testament prof. He always wore suits, except for on test days. He always lectured, but was the best lecturer I ever had. He was a very tough teacher, but very good. His sections always closed first. His tests were very difficult. When asked, "How do we prepare for the test?" He'd say, "Memorize the lecture outlines." And when one of the test questions was something like, "Reproduce the outline for the lecture entitled . . .," you knew he was serious. His final was comprehensive and, therefore, could ask ANYTHING about the Old Testament. One question I remember missing was "Name the sons of Eli." But you left his class knowing a great deal about the Old Testament, and his students loved him.

I have described my freshman year this way. I entered with my worldview built upon a solid foundation and Rick Byargeon, Joe Hall, Don Wester, and others took sledgehammers to it and destroyed it. I then spent a couple of years trying to piece something back together, until I finally realized that I could only build a raft to stay afloat with and that the pieces of that would be constantly changing as well.

I thought I knew the Bible. But that first week of class Dr. Byargeon said that there were two Creation accounts. Yeah, that seems obvious now, but it wasn't then. And Isaiah was probably written by two people? And . . .

In Joe Hall's Honors English class we discussed lots of things about the nature of language, media influence, etc. But, most importantly, we read Don DeLillo's White Noise. Thing changed me.

And stuff kept happening, in class and out of class, to challenge the worldview I entered school with. By spring I had come to accept women in ministry. By spring I had quit compartmentalizing my science and religion and accepted the theory of evolution. I still remember the day when I was driving back to Miami after a philosophy class and argued myself out of a literal Adam & Eve. That scared me at the time!

And life at OBU continued that way. Our sophomore year the administration threatened to kick Sean out of school because he was gay. I remember spending the afternoon mulling it over while pacing my dorm room. Would I help to defend Sean and stand up against the un-Christian actions of the administration or not? I decided then that I could not live with myself if I backed down from defending what I knew to be right. Though I still held very conservative views of homosexuality, I knew that what the school was doing to Sean was not fair and was definitely not the loving grace of Jesus Christ. So, I became an open and public opponent of the administration on this policy, which stance I continued to argue in the years ahead in my roles of student leadership and later as an alum.

Sometime in my sophomore year I remember being in my dorm room listening to Billy Joel's River of Dreams album. I loved the second side best (yes, it was a cassette). It said so many important spiritual things, yet in a postmodern way, I thought. I finally felt at peace with the direction my worldview had taken in the two previous years. I no longer had any anxiety over the loss of my foundation. The raft would be okay.

And, so, I became the resident "liberal" of the religion department, further to the left of any other student (though, oddly, still very much a conservative and MUCH moreso than I am now). But mine was a respected voice even among my peers. A couple of weeks ago at the BGCT two OBU alums that I only vaguely recognized came up to me to thank me for being their philosophy tutor many years ago. The guy is a pastor in a small church in Texas. Wow, I thought. I hadn't even remembered that I tutored philosophy.

So, I hate to hear about the changes currently going on at OBU, because it helped to make me who I am. It made me a "liberal," which is SO funny.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I have a hard time understanding why anybody with both a spine and a brain can manage to come out of OBU without turning liberal.
It's coal becoming diamonds, to me.


I remember my sophomore year at OBU when administration closed the student art exhibit in the library because Aaron Jones did some nudes. I think it forever changed my view of the role of art. Doing The Crucible on campus in those days gave us a feeling of activism, I realized I could be important in ways I never knew.

Marty is right, and I love the changes OBU made in me, whether or not the University intended the change or not.

Do you all think such change still happens in the light of the current climate at OBU? I would be curious at your answers as I have stayed away for the last decade.


And here I am more conservative than when I entered OBU. Still left of you though Jonesy.


I had no idea you were liberal when I was at OBU, Scott. I really admired you and everyone else who did standing up for Sean.

It's interesting how for many of us, the college was a character builder. Though maybe not the character they intended to build.

In my naivete, I had no idea Christians could be so divided when I entered OBU. I was in for a shock.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)