This open letter is taking the place of the article I really ought to finish today, but speaking out after years of silence is rather addictive and so here we are, again. I don’t know what I can say that I haven’t said before. I’ve demanded justice repeatedly for my friends and yes, for myself. It has not come but the fact that I am even bothering to write this is evidence that I have not given hope on it just yet.
I’m writing, but I don’t know which words to use. I don’t know how to describe to you what it was like for me as a Cedarville student. I don’t know how to describe the despair and loneliness I endured. I don’t know how to make you understand what it’s like to have hate waiting for you every time you open your email, to be unable to walk around campus without being stopped and accosted about whatever someone’s heard about your beliefs. I went to Cedarville because I wanted to discuss my faith in an intellectual environment. I had no idea that my political views would be considered so radical; in my naivety, I assumed that a passion for economic justice, immigration reform, and tolerance was really kind of a given for Christians.
We all know how that turned out, not only for me but for the members of faculty and staff who just received their marching orders in the most ignominious fashion. Is it worth it? Is it really worth it, to violate professional ethics in the name of ideology? But I suppose it must be, because you’ve done it.
And the abuse. Oh, the abuse. There are no words for this either because really it’s a thing that you ought to feel, not read about in the abstract. Nevertheless I’ll do my best to help you live it: imagine that the majority of your classmates have made it clear that they despise you and everything you believe in, and in your depression the number of individuals you feel can trust dwindles by the day. Now you fall in love, and that person, the person you think you can trust the most, holds you down against your will and tries to rape you in his father’s house, conveniently provided by the university.
Try to move on. It will be difficult because this person will begin to threaten and harass you and a month into this ordeal, a friend commits suicide. You leave town. You finish your degree. You receive a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and try, somehow, to build a life free of fear. And you achieve some success with this.
Then your abuser attacks another student.
Nothing happens to him.
Try to move on again. Finish another degree and make plans for your future. You encounter more trials and tribulations but you survive them and in the midst of it all you learn, finally, to find peace even when everything around you threatens to collapse into ruin and decay. You learn to be enough for yourself, and for once, you actually believe that you deserve justice.
And then individuals who made life bearable for you during the darkest moments of your life are labelled heretics and fired from their positions at a university that desperately needs their influence. Not only this: there are other members of faculty who repeatedly abused vulnerable students and this has been covered up for years, and instead of being fired, they were either kept in their positions or retired amidst official adulation.
If you can empathize with any of that, then you understand my position. You’ll understand why I’ve written to you repeatedly in defence of Carl Ruby and the philosophy major. For me, and for so many others, Carl Ruby’s kindness was the truest salvation we experienced. That kindness literally saved me from myself. I’d mention others here, too, but they have quite sensibly already moved on from Cedarville and I trust they know who they are.
I’d scream if I could. I wish that I could.
But Carl Ruby and the others you’ve driven out are my role models so I’m writing you this open letter, requesting your respect and your listening ears, instead of raining my fists against the nearest wall.
Hear me. Hear us. Examine what you’ve done, look at this legacy of silence and the damage it has caused and ask yourselves if this is really what you want to leave behind you. If God exists, if he is the all-powerful being that my Bible minor told me he is, then he doesn’t need you to lead a crusade on his behalf because he is more than capable of looking after his own gospel. And I cannot believe that Christ would find your recent actions acceptable. Perhaps you would have fired him, too? He did associate with adulterers and the demon possessed and I suppose that’s the equivalent of being nice to gays and liberals. Would you have fired Paul? He debated pagans in the Aereopagus. I’m not sure what you mean when you demand that we be separatists, but at the moment that seems to preclude debate and the exercise of reason if it seems to be uncomfortable, so no Paul, either.
So this isn’t Biblical. It isn’t Christlike. It’s an abuse of power. And if you think that I’m too angry, maybe you should ask yourselves why I seem that way. Maybe you should step outside yourselves for a moment and grant someone else’s experiences the respect they deserve instead of labelling them a mere transient or even an enemy of Cedarville.
Because after all, literalists, what does the Lord require of you? To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.
We’re all waiting.
Sarah Jones, ’10