Former Cedarville University professor and chair of the English department, Melissa Faulkner, says she’ll never forget the “public shaming” she endured at the full faculty meeting that kicked off the 2017 school year.
“I can tell you every second of it because I’ve never forgotten it,” she told me as she choked back emotion.
Another Cedarville professor, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of losing his job, said he’ll never forget Faulkner’s “shaming” either. “The shocking things stick with you forever,” he said.
This “shaming” occurred in the same faculty meeting in which Cedarville President Thomas White announced that he had hired Anthony Moore, an admitted sex abuser.
Yet Faulkner and the professor said they barely remember the announcement about Moore because no one knew at the time what “sin” Moore had committed. According to White’s own account, he merely divulged that Moore had made a “mistake,” which resulted in Moore “stepping down from ministry.”
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What was memorable, Faulkner said, was that during the meeting, White projected a first-person account of a child’s sexual encounter excerpted from a book Faulkner had assigned the previous semester.
The book, When I Was Puerto Rican, is an autobiography written by Esmeralda Santiago, recounting her experience growing up as an immigrant in America. The excerpt tells, in the language of a child, about a time when an older boy exposed himself to Santiago and tried to assault her. The account is crass and graphic, but an important part of Santiago’s story. (Santiago’s mother beat her mercilessly after discovering what had happened.)
White labeled the passage “pornography,” Faulkner said. And he instructed faculty to “look down at the floor after they had read it, to look away from it, because it was . . . ‘dirty,’ ‘disgusting,’” Faulkner said.
“I sat there with my heart racing, feeling horrible . . . And I wanted to stand up and scream what these pages were really saying. But I couldn’t.”
White labeled the passage “pornography”. . . And he instructed faculty to “look down at the floor after they had read it, to look away from it, because it was . . . ‘dirty,’ ‘disgusting.'”
The anonymous Cedarville professor said White used the passage as an example of what was not acceptable under the Biblically Consistent Curriculum policy, which the university had adopted the previous semester. The controversial policy, initially called the Philippians 4:8 Policy, barred most R-rated movies, plays with swear words, and teaching any materials “that may be considered ‘adult’ in nature” or that “represent immorality.”
Though White never mentioned Faulkner by name, the professor said the content was such that everyone at the meeting knew that the assignment had come from the English department. And whether they knew Faulkner had assigned it or not, he said that as the chairperson, Faulkner would have been seen as the person responsible.
“It was incredibly demeaning and hurtful . . . gratuitous,” the professor said. “If (White) wanted to reprimand somebody, it should have been done only at the department level. . . . That was to make us all afraid.”
Faulkner said she spent the next two-and-a-half years feeling guilty for ever assigning the book. “It was kind of spiritual abuse,” she said, “like if you were a good Christian, you wouldn’t teach this.”
Yet on another level, Faulkner said she believed she had done nothing wrong and was simply preparing students to deal with the harsh realities of life. “If we can’t have an honest conversation about sexual abuse, then what are we for?” she said.
Faulkner, who’s a sex abuse victim, said listening to White disparage Santiago’s account also “revictimized” herself and others.
“Others who were present in that room were victims, have been victims, maybe currently were victims,” she said. “And they were told their stories are pornographic. We should look away from them. The Christian community should look away from them.”
Then, considering Anthony Moore’s hiring at the same meeting, Faulkner added: “So we hire the perpetrator, and we look away from the victim.”
“(T)hey were told their stories are pornographic. We should look away from them. . . . So we hire the perpetrator, and we look away from the victim.”
I reached out to Dr. White last week to hear his perspective of what happened, but he did not respond. I reached out again this week and received an email saying that Dr. White is on a leave of absence and not planning to read or respond to emails. (White was placed on leave by Cedarville’s trustee board on Saturday, due to the controversy surrounding Moore’s hiring.)
Faulkner said she was demoted from her position as chairman of the English Department in December 2018. A year later, she resigned and took a position as an English professor at Miami University of Ohio.
“I never wanted to leave Cedarville.” Faulkner said, explaining that she loved the students and enjoyed excellent relationships with other faculty. But Faulkner added, “I also realized that if I wanted to be a healthy person and wanted to continue my spiritual growth, I had to leave.”
A “Toxic” Culture?
Faulkner and other former and current professors at Cedarville claim that what happened to Faulkner is representative of a “toxic” culture that’s developed at Cedarville under the White administration.
Cedarville hired Dr. White in 2013 in what Religion News Service termed a “conservative shakeup” and takeover by Southern Baptists. At the time, nearly half of Cedarville’s Bible Department left, replaced in large part by professors from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, White’s former employer. Some female faculty left as well, objecting to restrictions White placed on women from teaching biblical/theological concepts to men.
Though some lamented the conservative shakeup at Cedarville, others saw it as a necessary correction.
In 2007, two Cedarville faculty members sued the school, claiming they were dismissed because they were too theologically conservative. And in 2008, Cedarville extended a speaking invitation to Shane Claiborne (which it later rescinded). Claiborne is an activist and author, known for his progressive views on gun control, the military, and the poor.
Yet with the White administration, some conservatives say the pendulum has swung too far.
Former and current professors with whom I spoke described the environment at Cedarville as “hyper-masculine,” where guns are glorified, women are marginalized, and dissent is quashed with a heavy hand.
Former and current professors with whom I spoke described the environment at Cedarville as “hyper-masculine,” where guns are glorified, women are marginalized, and dissent is quashed with a heavy hand.
They added that the school has become fundamentalist. And administrators censor anything objectionable, rather than engaging thoughtfully and honestly with complex issues.
Ruth Lowrie Markham, a psychology professor at Cedarville from 2011—2017, said White regularly threatened to fire faculty if they didn’t conform to his beliefs. She said White would tell faculty that if they didn’t agree with him, they should come talk to him and he’d help them “find somewhere else to go.”
Similarly, a professor who wished to remain anonymous, said that the administration has instructed faculty to tell students how they should think about movies or novels. He said faculty are supposed to say what they “reject” about each work, what they “affirm,” and what they think can be “redeemed.”
“This is not best practices for education,” the professor said. “It’s more like indoctrination.”
“This is not best practices for education. It’s more like indoctrination.”
Some former and current professors also lamented the board’s decision to install Lt. Gen. Loren Reno as interim president in Dr. White’s absence.
The Justice Collective—a group of Cedarville alumni, and current and former staff and faculty opposed to White—called Reno the “architect of the CU censorship policy” and White’s “hatchet man.”
In a report published at the Wartburg Watch, the group alleged that as the academic vice president, Reno enacted the Biblically Consistent Curriculum policy, despite strong objections from faculty. They also claim that Reno went “way beyond the scope” of the Biblically Consistent Curriculum policy, censoring student creative writing and political views that the administration deemed “unbiblical.”
I reached out to Reno for an interview or comment, but he did not respond.
Reno’s Heavy Hand
Both Markham and Faulkner said they’ve experienced Reno’s heavy-handed leadership under Dr. White.
Markham said she was denied tenure in 2017 after interviews with Reno, despite unanimous approval from both her department and the tenure committee. Markham said the administration never gave her a reason for her rejection, but her chairman relayed that it was because she “liked psychology too much.”
Markham said White is a proponent of nouthetic counseling, which rejects any attempts to synthesize Christianity with secular psychological thought. Though Markham said she doesn’t agree with the main premises of many secular psychologists, she believes Christians can still glean insights from them.
Markham said she expressed this view in interviews with Reno and could tell Reno wasn’t pleased with her answers. She added that at one point, she was explaining children’s developmental stages and mentioned masturbation and Reno audibly gasped.
Recalling the interaction, Markham said, “It’s like we are not adults in here, talking about big ideas. You’re going to gasp like a 13-year-old first hearing the word?”
In contrast, Faulkner said Reno initially listened to her explanation of why she had assigned the controversial passage from When I Was Puerto Rican. This was in the spring of 2017, several months before the full faculty meeting in which Dr. White labeled the passage pornography.
Faulkner said that Reno “stormed” into her office, after learning about the objectionable passage from Dr. White, who had heard about it from a student. However, Faulkner said that after she explained why she thought it was important to expose students to difficult realities and then to discuss those realities, Reno softened. Faulkner said that as Reno left the room, he remarked that she had “handled herself well.”
Yet days after that interaction, Faulkner said she was blind-sided when Reno read the controversial passage in a department meeting. Faulkner said at that point, she spoke up and admitted that she was the one who had assigned the passage and defended it. But Faulkner said Reno responded by labeling it pornography.
“I was in a room with a bunch of leadership, mostly males, and it was a vulnerable moment for me to say, ‘I’m going to put my face to this,’” Faulkner said. “And when Reno looked at me and said it was pornography, that was a way of ending the conversation because what do you do after that?”
However, Faulkner said that she believes what happened to her is nothing compared to what’s happening to Cedarville students.
“We’re not preparing the students,” she said, “well, not ‘we’ because I’m not there anymore. But there’s a gap in education if we don’t have real conversations.”
43 thoughts on “Professors Describe “Public Shaming” & “Toxic” Culture at Cedarville U”
Thank you, Melissa and Ruth, for speaking out about your situations under White’s and Reno’s abusive leadership. We remember well how unjustly Reno treated you, Ruth, and grieve deeply over what White and Reno did to you (and all survivors of sexual abuse at CU), Melissa.
Keep shining the light on the truth, Julie Roys!
We’d just offer one correction, an important one. While a couple of Bible professors did leave after White arrived, most Bible professors were forced out much like Ruth was. They were denied tenure, so they then had no choice but to leave. Those who remained had tenure already and were demoted to teaching mostly general education classes, while the new SBCers took over the major classes. The situation left the department permanently divided as well; new SBCers congregate amongst themselves, while the veterans are treated like outcasts.
Toxic culture, indeed.
Hello! We greatly appreciate your work, especially with the petition. We are seeking to shed light on issues at Cedarville from within. Would you be willing to contact us to exchange resources and information? We are a group of current students who are seeking major changes to the Cedarville administration.
Melissa and Ruth, thank you for sharing your experiences at Cedarville University.
I’m acquainted with Ruth, having met her in the Christian school community some years before she went to Cedarville. We met for breakfast once, in part because I wanted her input on some parenting issues, to be very general. She was an encouragement to me at the time.
Ruth has been through a lot more in life than what she related above. She has not only a vast amount of knowledge, but a great deal of knowledge and learning put to the test. Through it all she has kept a Christ-centered focus and I have a lot of respect for her. She has a lot to offer people in her chosen field.
I don’t fully comprehend curriculum and academic philosophy disputes, yet the way Melissa and Ruth describe their treatment on a human level reminds me of the abusive treatment Dr. Sheri Klouda received under one of Paige Patterson’s presidencies: https://www.wadeburleson.org/2018/05/deep-down-i-was-scared-dr-sheri-klouda.html It’s very quick read of part one of Dr. Klouda’s story of being abused in an academic setting.
The mention of hyper masculinity and guns remind me of this article, where an employee and student of another university Patterson presided over allegedly raped a woman and was found to be in possession of multiple firearms on campus. Surprise, surprise, because he was a student, there was no background check on him, even though he had multiple keys to all over the place on campus: https://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/fort-worth/article212356699.html
The accounts above sound so similar to what I linked to in many respects. I’m sorry for what you both, and others endured, and will be praying for Cedarville University to become a place that truly glorifies God, loves people and pursues academic excellence.
In order to read Dr. Klouda’s account, you have to eliminate the slash mark at the end, otherwise it’ll say the page doesn’t exist. Sorry. Julie, would you be able to fix it?
Julie, I am just amazed at your work. It sets such a high standard. Keep it up. I wish there were a 100 more like you and I hope that you are an inspiration to the next generation. The quality of most evangelical or religious journalism lacks your level-headed devotion to truth and dispassionate realism. Thank you.
I graduated from Cedarville not long before the takeover happened in 2013.
Those of us who were there and who remember could write books about the abusive intimidation that our Bible professors underwent at the beginning of the takeover. The AVP and the acting president, some of the central perpetrators, were acting as proxies for the trustees who wanted to oust them.
When I was there, Cedarville was moving in a broadly evangelical, intellectually serious direction, much like Wheaton College. Now all the promotional materials I get in the mail talk about how your kid will *really* stay Christian in college if they come to Cedarville, since they fight all the ideas (and there’s a lot of them) that contradict their point of view. It’s important to define Christian education as explicitly Christian, and I’d argue that when I was there, there were some professors who were not really evangelical and probably didn’t fit there. But it didn’t require the un-Christian behavior of the administration against the serious scholars I trained with who were forced out, most of whom are evangelical to the core.
As a CU alum and former employee who worked under White and Reno, I continue to follow this story as its unfolds. I can attest to the veracity of Melissa’s and Ruth’s stories. I also just want to express my outrage that this kind of emotionally and spiritually abusive culture exists in higher education, at a so-called Christian college, no less. There is nothing Christian about what White and Reno did and said. Their behavior is appalling. My children are now grown, but if they were college age now, I would NEVER send them to CU at this point. While I’m sure there are still good professors there, the fact that they teach under such incredibly horrendous conditions–and under the constant threat of “do what I say or you’ll be fired”–means the trustees and administration neither understand what a university education should consist of nor support the teaching of truth. Why would I want to subject my own children to such a costly environment?
CU ALUM, You seem to be conveniently ignoring all the faculty who resigned under protest of the SIGNIFICANT cultural and especially theological shifts which were occurring under the previous Brown administration, and the chaotic environment those shifts had created on campus (and with Alumni, parents and students) and forced the Trustees to respond to. That is the environment in which the White administration entered. I’m not going to say that White as a new president did everything perfectly at the beginning but CONTEXT is important.
Further, the “former employees” and “former faculty” who are now writing/submitting comments and calling for parents to not send their students to CU . . . those same “former employees” are also now employed at institutions COMPETING with CU. That fact is raising questions to many regarding their motivations in this matter. Something else for someone reading to consider.
I am quite aware of those shifts, and the angst the came with those changes. But these concerns are not just with how White started. He has continued to lead the school with a very heavy hand, and disregard for women in particular who disagree with him. Wherever they lie on the spectrum of fundamentalism/evangelicalism, conservative organizations and leaders ought to also act with integrity, honesty, and respect for ALL their employees. And conservative universities ought to allow honest discourse among their faculty.
I am not employed by a college or university now, and am not in competition in any way with CU. Be careful what motivation you attribute to these individuals who have been hurt by White, Reno, and the board of trustees.
FORMER CU PROF, since this story broke there have been countless commenting who have been eager to speculate on the motivations of White and others without any first-hand experience of the facts. I would suggest you be careful to assume there could never be any ulterior motive or motivating bitterness from which these comments flow on the part of those who chose to leave or were let go.
And I would further suggest you not ignore those who are currently at Cedarville, and who have done and are continuing to do great work, and who are RIGHT NOW being hurt by unloving, wildly irresponsible comments like Cedarville is a “so-called Christian college” which has an “emotionally and spiritually abusive culture.” For those who actually know what’s going on, that is just grossly ignorant at best.
Speak truth, but if truth is not being spoken in love then it’s wrong. Unbiblical. Sinful. Period. And what that means is that while the questions or information you are sharing might be difficult and even pointed, the person on the other side shouldn’t be in doubt of the loving concern that the difficult comment flows from. And frankly, I’m disgusted at the unloving behavior I’ve seen on these blogs being demonstrated by those who identify as Christian toward others. That doesn’t mean never speak out. It does mean that when you do speak that you remember that you also are JUST AS ACCOUNTABLE before God for what you say and how you say it.
ANOTHER CU ALUM–I was there, and I do speak from “first-hand experiences” and knowledge. As I said in my initial post, I’m not only a CU alum but also a former CU employee, a former professor, in fact, who only recently was able to get out and get to a safe work place.
I have seen it all. I was there under Brown, and I am here to say the rumors of” liberalism” were as false then as they are now. Fostering open discussions and educating students to think critically from a biblical worldview is not liberalism. It’s called Christian Higher Education. It’s called preparing young people for the real world. Shutting down conversations and indoctrinating students, as White’s administration has been doing the last 7 years, however, is the hallmark of anti-intellectual fundamentalism. It has no place at any university.
I was there when Ruth Markham was unjustly denied tenure, though she was beloved by her students and colleagues alike and had stellar reviews. I served with Melissa Faulkner, who earned high praise from her colleagues and students as well. They–and so many others at CU who have been wounded by White and Reno because of the ways they absolutely do abuse their power–have valid viewpoints.
You have yet to comment on Roys’ actual article here, in fact. Nothing you’ve said demonstrates “loving concern” toward these faculty. Instead, you cast aspersions about people’s motives and accuse some of us of being “ignorant.” But again I say it: I was there. We were there. We know. And we speak out precisely because we are supporting those who can’t speak out, the very CU employees who’ll be fired if they say something.
And I will repeat again . . . speak truth . . . but if you are not speaking in love for all involved (INCLUDING White and Reno) then what you are doing is wrong and can easily be dismissed and ignored. That is my message of “loving concern” for those who are speaking out and for those who are listening in.
Another CU Alum
I tried to tell my story void of commentary. I hope that came across. It happened, and I believe it was abusive on many levels. And I am speaking in loving concern against that. I am very willing to admit I had many healthy moments with White, Reno, and Mach. I’m saddened my hurtful interactions overrode the healthy ones, but they did. I have no desire to stir a pot or create animosity, but I also can’t turn a blind eye to abuse of any kind. I suggest no one should. May this be a learning moment for all involved.
My husband begged the board to not let Dr Brown go, and not go in the direction they did. He served on the CU board for many years, close to 20 and served as the Board Chair for at least half of that time. Everything has happened as he predicted it would…and at such cost to so many wonderful faculty and administrators. Hopefully this will be a painful wake up call to Cedarville. All four of our children graduated from there and this all gives us great sadness. We graduated from a school 50+ years ago that displayed these very rigid and unGodly attitudes and actions…it ruined many students view of Jesus Christ and what following Him means. I am praying the Board will not listen to the wrong voices …..this time.
@Another CU Alum,
Do you realize that you’ve done little but complain bitterly about other people being bitter. 😉
You also imply that anyone critical of White and Reno must have bad ulterior motives.
Do you think it is reasonable for others to speculate that you have an ulterior motive or two for defending the less than perfect behavior of these two guys?
Perhaps you’re a family member of one of them, for example, and that’s clouding your judgment.
In general, do you really not see the incredible irony, hypocrisy, and sense of entitlement reflected in your comments?
Also, you ask people to speak truth, so I have the following question for you:
On what FACTUAL basis are you maintaining that former Cedarville faculty members are employed at institutions competing with Cedarville?
This article only references two faculty members using their real names, to my knowledge. One is teaching at a well-known secular university that is not competing with Cedarville by any stretch of the imagination. The other is not presently teaching or working at any university.
Perhaps you could work on your truth telling skills, Another CU Alum. 😉
Lastly, you appear willing to hold White and Reno in your arms with love, but have expressed little interest or concern for all the people they’ve harmed.
In my opinion, White and Reno are acting like cowards by hiding in their offices instead of defending themselves from their critics personally.
I guess that’s all. Have a nice evening.
That’s not quite it. Rather than getting all huffy about people calling Cedarville a “so-called” Christian University, could you instead consider why such folks are expressing a low opinion of Cedarville right now? I know you’re big on alleging that people have ulterior motives. However, what ulterior motive do Cedarville alumni have for criticizing their own alma mater harshly, as many are?
Thomas White hired a confessed sexual predator and then went out of his way to let this person stare at naked students in a locker room.
Does that seem like a Christian thing to do? It doesn’t to me and many others. However, you only imply that White’s sick and dangerous behavior is imperfect.
Facts can’t be easily dismissed. By contrast, the red herrings and ad hominem attacks that you rely on to make your “arguments” can.
I’m fully aware that I will be held accountable by God. There’s no need to leave me a memo about that.
Once again, have a nice evening!
The disputes over administrations are interesting, but none of the current abuses and shaming of former faculty would be an issue now had not Dr. White hired, and allowed proximity to students, a sexual offender a few short months after Matt Chandler said this abuser wasn’t fit for ministry of any kind.
The disparity with how Moore was treated and how Melissa and Ruth were treated could not be greater. Please read the links about Dr. Klouda and Ft. Worth article I linked to above. Dr. White has a lot in common with his mentor, Paige Patterson, and it’s disturbing.
Julie, I see that you are censoring the comments. I am used to it, since I come from a communist country. As i see, you are not interested that people would have a dialogue here, but only that they express praises for your articles. Sad. You call it journalism? Christian journalism? I used to listen to your debates on the radio, and admired your ability to conduct a discussion around difficult but contemporary subjects. When you support fake news that condemn Paige Patterson it’s over… Daniel Chiu
I do moderate comments, but I don’t delete them based on whether they criticize me or not, as is evidenced by this comment thread and most every thread on my blog. If someone engages in thoughtful critique, I will allow the comment. But if he/she engages in name-calling or just spews, I don’t. Your latest comment, for example, compares my site to a “communist country” and labels my reporting “fake news.” That’s essentially name-calling or ad hominem arguing. It’s the lowest form of argumentation and really not worthy of consideration. If you object to an assertion made about Paige Patterson, name it and then give evidence why you think it’s false. I’m more than willing to entertain that kind of thoughtful engagement. In fact, I invite it.
What a revolting situation. I’m confident the villains in this story imagined themselves to be Disciples of the Master but in fact behaved much more like Pharisees than followers. I think the lesson, the capitol spiritual lesson, from this sad chapter is that ends never justify means. In seeking to return the institution an “Evangelical” footing the Board tolerated a tyranny. You cannot achieve a righteous end by evil, hurtful ends. Ever. If ends DID justify means God Himself would have to relinquish control of creation. An Holy God cannot abide behaviors and attitudes that belittle and diminish people, much less reward them. This should be plain from scripture.
It always strikes me as ironic when “Conservatives” adopt the philosophy of the “Left” and believe that they can “correct” a situation by by behaving in the same manner as their opponents. It is the counter point to “Liberals” pronouncing that “consequences” follow the actions of the “Right” but never admit to consequences of their own (i.e., for them “the shoe” is never “on the other foot.”)
I have followed the Cedarville Moore story since you broke it. I was appalled. Then I was skeptical. Then I was eye-rolling. The folks commenting are not adding validity to this, they are weakening its historical reality. I don’t believe in victim shaming. I also don’t think everyone who has a story is a victim. And truth be told, if we are in Christ, none of us are victims. And I say this as a woman who was beaten and sexually abused as a child and as an adult, has overcome cancer, and a myriad of other life-challenges. I am not a victim. And choosing to call oneself a victim is just that: a choice.
I don’t believe Dr. Moore should have been hired at Cedarville. He should have been fired. I don’t even mind that the story has been told. What I do mind is that this is no longer about this story of Dr. Moore and his victim. Now, it’s about every Tom, Dick, Harry and Melissa who has a victim story, too. I’ll speak for a minute to Melissa’s victim story — woman to woman – and make a few points:
1. It is being said that Cedarville is a place where “toxic manhood” and “demeaning women” abound. I mean for crying out loud, they talk about guns! If this is true, then every woman faculty, staff and student has a CHOICE: find somewhere else to go. LOTS of colleges out there.Plenty that aren’t toxic and abusive to women. Ms. Faulkner didn’t have to sit there and take that in that meeting, she could have stood up, walked out, and found a place to work where she wasn’t treated like that. Instead she CHOSE to stay. Which is convenient, because she now has a victim story to tell. Staying was her CHOICE.
2. In such a toxic manhood environment, lets consider what would have happened if a MALE professor had chosen to teach a book with the graphic details of a woman who was sexually abused as a child – claiming it was culturally significant. Imagine if HE had chosen to discuss a book with a “graphic and crass” account to a room full of female students. It would have been wholly inappropriate – and shocking – and he would have immediately been labeled every imaginable detestable name for a male-predator-perpetrator. If a MAN had taught that book, the females with past stories of abuse would have cried out that he was re-victimizing them by requiring them to re-live their abuse from the story. The out-cry from the women would have been huge. BUT….a woman teaching this and possibly making the male students uncomfortable or feel shamed for being males – that’s okay.
3. With respect to Ms. Faulkner’s account of a meeting with with Reno, she recounts that he gasped when she made a comment to child development and masturbation. Let’s flip that around. What if Reno had made the same comment in in her presence – a man making the comment to a woman. He would have been burned at the stake for sexual harassment and lewd language and vitimizing a woman – and on and on and on. But she is a “professional” for her commentary. And I will say, as a woman who has been abused by men, I am grateful for a man who will GASP at the mention of masturbation in the presence of a woman. It doesn’t suggest that women shouldn’t talk about such things. It doesn’t suggest that we aren’t professionals. It suggests that men should blush at the mention of it in the presence of a woman. That’s called being a gentleman.
4. Ms. Faulkner then goes on to suggest that she was in a meeting with mostly men – and vulnerable – well, I would suggest to a woman who is comfortably discussing masturbation in the presence of men that your vulnerability is consistent with your victim story: one moment you are bold in your ability to confront tough issues with men – the next moment you are vulnerable. Pick one narrative. They are inconsistent.
I am almost grateful for this last story on the Dr. Anthony Moore story at Cedarville. It reveals the real motive behind the story: the victimization of women in the presence of toxic men. And that’s fine. But at least now we know.
First, I’m not sure why so many are choosing to hide behind the mask of anonymity. I get it if you’re a current employee of CU. But if not, I think people should be willing to put their name beside their comments. I’ve allowed it for now, but I may not continue to do so.
Secondly, you have some facts wrong. It was not Dr. Faulkner who revealed that Reno gasped, but Dr. Markham, so point #4 is moot. Plus, I think it puts comment #3 in perspective. Dr. Markham is a psychology professor discussing Freud with Reno. I can completely understand how a psychology professor, who deals with these matters every day, would be put off by Reno gasping. It’s analogous to a medical doctor naming genitalia to a hospital administrator and the administrator gasping.
Lastly, you say you don’t believe in “victim shaming,” but that’s precisely what you did. And saying that if professors don’t like the “toxic masculinity,” they should go somewhere else is appalling. Professors at any school, let alone a Christian one, have a right to expect a safe work environment.
As a student during the President Dixon years, my theologically conservative professors created an excellent environment in which I learned how to think critically, ask questions without fear, patiently listen to others and value Scripture as God’s message to us for how to seek, know and love truth (and others). It was very much a fear-free experience as far as I felt and knew. There was no doubt about what the Gospel was and how it was good news. Now it sounds like so much man-centered ego activity is being whitewashed with claims to be “the Gospel.” And the campus sounds like a place where I would now be very afraid to speak my heart and mind. How does a place get to be so toxic where members of the body of Christ are afraid of other members of the body of Christ?
Also, from what I can tell, Professor Reno was the VP for academics from 2015-2017 and created the “Biblically Consistent Curriculum” policy during that time, which Christianity Today reported as very problematic for the campus culture and faculty (https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/april/cedarville-university-apply-philippians-4-8-curriculum.html). Reno then resigned – probably not coincidentally – from his position as VP for academics in June of 2017, according to Cedarville’s own press release: “Reno’s decision to step down as vice president for academics came largely from a desire to serve his family well, he explained. It will allow him to better minister to his wife, children and grandchildren and take care of personal matters. While Reno is looking forward to more time with family, he hopes to continue serving at Cedarville in other ways. Whether that’s advising Cedarville University president Dr. Thomas White, mentoring others or continuing to teach, he looks forward to contributing” (https://www.cedarville.edu/News/2017/Reno-Steps-Down-to-Serve-Family.aspx). I think this was the same summer that White approached the trustees to hire Anthony Moore, in fact.
Thank you Melissa Faulkner and Ruth Markum for speaking out, and I appreciate Gloria Rudd’s comments above too.
And the toxic shaming continues, by commenters who ignore the facts and commit logical fallacies saying that this is gossip and how dare Julie and others publicly express their concerns over toxic and down right evil leadership? My only response is biblical. This administration is behaving exactly like the Pharisees and this is what Jesus says to White, Reno and the Trustees: Matt. 23:15, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”
Jesus also said this in the same thought to White, Reno and the Trustees: Matt 23:23, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Are these not the very ones in charge of “teaching of the law” at this school? This is a scandal exactly because these men have neglected justice, mercy and faithfulness. According to Jesus Christ they are evil.
Look at what else Jesus says in Matt. 23:24, “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” Is this not the legalistic nonsense that they have been promoting? They strain out little things but swallowed the camel of trying to restore a criminal not to Christ, but to power over the minions. Like we do not have enough people committing sexual crimes in leadership already.
Jesus continues: Matt. 23:27, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” This verse is why I call men like the ones in charge of this university white-washed septic tanks. We do not understand the severity of the name calling Jesus used. A more direct translation would be to call them the most vile and disgusting things for this is how they viewed corpses. This is our Jesus. He is not always nice and non-confrontational like we can be.
But the kicker is here: Matt. 23:33, “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” If men like this create disciples who are twice the sons of hell as themselves, then what does that actually say about where defenders of evil like some of the commenters here are going? I have seen this place myself and it remains the most real place I have ever been to. This should worry people for the cell I was shown was for someone who thought he was a Christian but was actually not…
In this #metoo and #churchtoo movement we see very little faithful assessment of the women who are creating the narrative. We accept that their narrative is a truthful telling, simply because they are women. This is dangerous. Not all women are truthful. Not all men are pigs. Not all accounts are true. I don’t know what happened in these accounts. I know that there are a lot of presuppositions that are driving the narratives – namely that men are the enemy – nay, that they are TOXIC – and this undercurrent frames all the rest. Truth cannot be told or understood under such conditions.
The final thought I have is with regards to the author’s reply to the comment about Dr. Faulkner’s conversation with with Dr. Reno and the additional information that the discussion was regarding Freud (this was not in the original account.) As a former psychology professor (also) and as a Christian, the fact that Dr. Faulkner would even consider the work of Freud appropriate for the teaching of psychology is sad. I don’t know the context of the conversation, but it would make sense that if she was using Freud’s theories, a discussion on child development would include masturbation. Aside from the fact that Freud’s theories are wholly steeped in humanism (he is the only theorist who accepted that humans are capable of wickedness from birth – albeit only due to their evolutionary animalistic instincts), they are replete with a preoccupation with human sexuality and how that drives all other human behavior. For a student studying psychology, a study of Freud’s theories would be expected (although not embraced). However, in the context of this conversation that is recorded, it wouldn’t appear that a study of Freud is NOT what is happening. More like Dr. Faulkner expounding on the merit of Freud’s assessment and Freud’s theories. And frankly, as a Christian psychology professor, that would have caused me to gasp. Not at the mention of masturbation, but at the failure of the Dr. Faulkner to recognize the failure of Freud.
Several things are incorrect in your response. First, (and I mentioned this in the comment you’re referencing), Dr. Faulkner was not the one who had the conversation with Reno (not “Dr. Reno”; he has no doctorate) which included a mention of masturbation. That was Dr. Markham.
Secondly, your comments assume that Markham is promoting Freud, which I never said. All I said was that she had a conversation with Reno and Freud came up. Are you saying that Christian psychologists can’t have discussions about Freud with administrators? This is the kind of knee-jerk reaction that is so unhelpful in these conversations. Please read carefully. In the article, I wrote: “Though Markham said she doesn’t agree with the main premises of many secular psychologists, she believes Christians can still glean insights from them.”
I didn’t have an involved discussion with Dr. Markham about Freud. But from what she said, it was clear to me that she disagreed with Freud’s fundamental premise that sexuality determines much of human behavior. Yet, she doesn’t respond in such an unthinking way to Freud that she can’t acknowledge that he might have said some things that are true. To me, it’s much like acknowledging that Darwin was right about micro-evolution (change within species) but wrong about macro-evolution (change to other species). Your assessment of Dr. Markham and her view is unfair.
Thank you for your corrections Julie. My apologies for confusing Drs. Faulkner and Drs. Markham. Their narratives beings so similar (with respect to the toxic abuse that they endured) they are easily confused. Also, I stand corrected on bestowing on Reno the honor of doctorate. I will refer to him as Leut. General, as that is surely an honor worth noting, though I realize in the context of this discussion, that is to be disdained as more evidence of toxic manhood.
Not having any of the context of the conversation between Leut. General Reno and Dr. Markham that you have (I was simply working on the information that you provided and are now clarifying), I will attempt to answer what you have stated above.
In your account you stated, “Markham said White is a proponent of nouthetic counseling, which rejects any attempts to synthesize Christianity with secular psychological thought. Though Markham said she doesn’t agree with the main premises of many secular psychologists, she believes Christians can still glean insights from them.”
The second part of that statement is directly framed by the first part. White’s promotion of nouthetic counseling is juxtaposed to work of secular psychological thought. As in, one is in conflict with the other. (They are indeed in conflict). This is a backhanded way of suggesting that White is opposed to psychology and instead prefers a counseling path that is purely spiritual without the use of secular psychological theory. I realize that this was intended to cast White in a poor light – as unenlightened and unwilling to consider secular psychology – but for people who know and understand that gross contrast between nouthetic counseling and the “gleanings” of psycho-analytic theory like Freud’s, this is actually a compliment. We SHOULD, as Christians reject any “gleanings” from Freud’s theories, and I would hope that that a Professor teaching at a Christian school would teach Freud and then systematically unpack why his humanistic, social-Darwinist approach to psychology should be rejected. As the Imago Dei of God, his “gleanings” have no place in the estimation of our psyche. So, with respect to Dr. Markham – as you have represented her – I professionally and personally disagree that we can and should “glean” from Freud.
To your example that this is the same as Darwin’s micro vs macro evolution, again I would disagree. Darwin only used micro evolution as a springboard for his other theories. And many, many other scientists before Darwin had expounded on micro-evolution without the leap of macro. We can and should read and study Darwin. I highly recommend thoroughly reading his works. And like with Freud, unpacking each part in the light of Scripture and revealed, observable science. But NEVER to suggest that there is something redeeming about the way that he pursued or processed his understanding of the natural world. His rejection of a Creator disqualifies him from a starting point that leads to a proper conclusion. The same is true for Freud: one will NEVER end at the right conclusion when the starting point is desperately in error.
To your reply: “All I said was that she had a conversation with Reno and Freud came up. Are you saying that Christian psychologists can’t have discussions about Freud with administrators? This is the kind of knee-jerk reaction that is so unhelpful in these conversations.”
I am not at all saying that faculty cannot discuss issues with administrators. I would be very curious about the context of such a conversation that requires a female professor to discuss masturbation with a male administrator. Freud’s treatment of child-development as it relates to sexuality — and thereto masturbation – is a challenging and involved topic. This is not (or should not be) a casual conversation. Again, I do not know the context of the conversation, but suggesting that a man “gasping” at the mention of masturbation by a woman in a private conversation at a Christian University is inappropriate and toxic is an unfair conclusion. Dr. Markham already states that she was denied tenured because the Leut. Gen. stated that “she liked psychology too much. ” Again, I do not know the full context of any of this, but based on what we are being told in your account, it would seem that Dr. Faulkner’s stance that one could “glean” from the works of Freud should have cast doubt as to her ability to handle the secular teachings of psychology with the clear spiritual teachings. Perhaps Dr. Markham could respond here. Her further context of the conversation about masturbation with Leut. Gen. Reno may prove helpful to further understanding. She may also offer what her “gleanings” from Freud are so that there isn’t room for assumption. But without that information, her credibility, at least for me, is in question.
Thank you for your time.
CORRECTION: I (once again) confused Dr. Faulkner with Dr. Markham in the last paragraph. My apologies.
My point is that you don’t have enough information to draw the conclusions you have drawn. For example, Dr. Markham mentioned in our interview that Freud was the first to suggest psychologist bill their patients. Shall we reject billing patients simply because the idea comes from Freud? And shall we assume that all psychologists who bill their patients are somehow Freudian?
I’m no psychologist, so I’m not going to try and argue these points further. But calling Dr. Markham’s credibility into question simply because you heard the name Freud smacks of the very fundamentalism this article addresses.So maybe this is precisely the culture you want to nurture at Cedarville. It makes me sad, though, to see the Christian community degenerate into a kind of intellectual Gestapo. And for the record, I am extremely conservative and not at all a fan of Freud.
Your reply is unfortunate. And I recognize that you are treading on challenging ground. You must defend Dr. Markham because if she is not credible, then your story has flaws. I have acknowledged a few times that I DO NOT know the context of the conversation – so you are right – I do not have all of the information. I only have what you have chosen to publish. Suggesting that billing patients and psychological theory are even remotely comparable is grasping for straws and an to attempt to discredit me. Clearly if Dr. Markham was discussing masturbation the conversation was not about billing patients.
Suggesting that I ascribe to “fundamentalism” (name calling me a fundamentalist – fallacy) simply because I disagree with you & Dr. Markham demonstrates a failing argument. Also, suggesting that anyone who opposes what you write, or what Dr. Markham has said, is an attempt to “nurture a culture of fundamentalism at CU” and see the “Christian community degenerate into an intellectual Gestapo” is a straw man argument (fallacy no.2). Come to think of it, that is also a red-herring, because you are not addressing my points. (fallacy no.3). Three fallacies in your reply should alone be enough to discredit it, but honestly, I doubt that your readers care if there are fallacies. Suffice it to say, I know that my comments here will accomplish nothing to alter the course of your investigations or reporting, but perhaps someone reading will consider what they read and test it against a more profound litmus test than simply “because she said so.”
I have personally seen something related to what is claimed at Cedarville here a lot; we “fundagelicals” tend to see “objectionable things” as an element where we would not read or view anything at all–I have even heard a mother refuse to allow her sons to read C.S. Lewis because there’s a witch in his books!–and this story does make very clear that there is a very real harm to this. Specifically, we cannot listen to the stories of Dinah, Tamar, or Bathsheba (rape victims all) without hearing some of those “objectionable” elements, and thus if we push these elements out–or translate them badly like the KJV of Galatians 5:12–our chances of ministering to people like rape victims are negligible.
So when I put together a child protection policy for my church, I put in a quick layman’s definition of sexual assault and a link to the legal definition for that very reason–we need to be able to talk about these things. Noteworthy as well was when I got the deacons’ revision, all of those “objectionable” parts were removed as if we would instinctively understand these things–really as if the investigations of BJU, ABWE, New Tribes, and the SWBTS/SEBTS issues with Paige Patterson had never occurred.
Praise God, I was able to stand my ground, but the hard thing here is that my interactions with my fellow fundamentalists suggest that what is described in our hostess’ account is NOT just at Cedarville. It’s part of our culture, and something we need to modify or fix, IMO. It’s about ministry, and quite frankly, it’s about understanding the world and even the Bible as it is.
Lighthearted picture of what being “too pure” can do to us; in an online discussion about music and what is permissible, I was once amused to see a fellow fundamentalist praise “Roll out the Barrel” as a fun, innocent song–he’d not clued in to the fact that the barrel in the song is filled with beer. We can try to be “Holier than the Pope” and become totally clueless in the process.
(I have nothing against beer, but many fundamentalists do, so that amused me quite a bit)
@Janet Sanchez: Regarding Dr. Markham’s credibility — it comes down to whom you believe. We parents received an email from Dr. White that said Moore followed the restoration plan for 40 months. Well over 3 years following Moore’s hiring he was billed as compliant, humble and obedient to whatever was asked of him. So, over 3 years later Dr. Moore “had” to be fired. The reasons given were so bogus you could discern them a mile away. 5 videos over 5 months doesn’t move the needle from 2 videos over “a short period of time” (whatever that means), especially when followed by assurances of complete obedience to a accountability program for THREE PLUS YEARS. That email from Dr. White I found to be misleading at best. Meanwhile, I’ve always found Ruth Markham to be up front and honest. So . . . I believe Ruth Markham. And to be honest, after all that’s come out since, I find your argumentation to be just so much sophistry.
@Lynn: First of all, kudos for the use of sophistry. Fantastic word choice — for this entire thread of argument, not just mine. I confess that I did not receive the same letter that you did. I have no relations, nor attachments, to Cedarvile. I am very sorry for all of you who are enduring this trying time. Honestly, my issue with the Cedarville story did not begin until it became about “victimized women.” As one commenter said, Moore shouldn’t have been there and should have been fired. That’s been done. But this continued assault on the college – now bringing in an entirely different thread of unrelated (to Moore) grievances. What does the author want? Clearly, there are those calling for the termination of the president. Will the parties involved be satisfied with that? From what I am reading here, I think not. I think that (from what I am reading) there are a group of alumni and professors who are angry at the direction that the leadership have taken the college, and they are bitter because in that change, they no longer have a place there. It appears that direction leans more conservative – as opposed to a more progressive approach. So, will they only be satisfied when the college is returned to what they think it should be? As a woman I am especially concerned with the unquestionable truth that is assumed for any woman who has a grievance against a man. No one questions her story – and if one does – well, you can see by the way in which I have been responded how that goes for such a person. I am questioning the stories of these two professors. I am questioning them because we should question them.And women who are going to make accusations should be prepared to be questioned. So should men, by the way. I realize that the author attempted to get statements form these men, but honestly, in light of the current situation, why would they engage with her? It’s turned into a witch hunt. If I were these men, I would refuse to comment as well, because, honestly it’s going to be a “his word against her word” situation, and we all know that “she” is going to be believed over “he.” I am a woman with sons. I am terrified of this culture that assumes the guilt of a man because he is a man; that manliness is labeled toxic. That women are unquestionable in their accusations and victimhood.
This is my last post. I know that there is nothing I can say that is going to make any difference here. Everyone here has made up their minds and is riding this train. And that’s okay. We all have the right to choose. But, what we believe to be true affects future outcomes.
Janet, very fair post. I don’t know if you’ve ever read about Paige Patterson firing Dr. Klouda (currently a director for the Museum of the Bible) because she is an expert in Hebrew and was teaching Hebrew at the seminary level. Patterson got rid of her because she was a woman teaching an ancient Bible language to men. Did he have the right to do that? Yes, whether I agree with it or not, (I don’t), the seminary is a private religious institution and his religious conviction is women should not teach men in seminary.
To me, it was never about THAT Dr. Klouda was fired, it was HOW Patterson went about doing it. You can easily find her story online on Wade Burleson’s blog. I think the same thing is going on with Melissa and Ruth. Melissa was shamed in a huge university wide meeting over a matter that should have been handled at the department level. Ruth, on the change.org petition, said not only was Dr. White heavy handed, he was also deceptive. I have to stay out of the dispute between secular psychology vs nouthetic counseling, not understanding the dispute fully, but I can attest Ruth is not a secular humanist.
Also, I’m much closer to another instructor, assistant professor (not sure which) at CU who was fired some years ago. Not for doctrine, not for competence, not for immorality, and she’s currently employed at a nearby university and has been for several years. I’m not at liberty to tell my friend’s story but it angers me every time I think about it. Dr. White was not responsible here, but similar problems were at play.
AFAIK, the women who have chosen to speak up didn’t do so until this debacle with Dr. Moore surfaced. The women I know have been gone for years and are gainfully employed, successfully so. Ruth said elsewhere she’s speaking up for those at CU now for who are too afraid to speak up.
I’ve been aware of Ruth’s and my friend’s story for quite some time. Their stories happened in and because of a very unhealthy and unChristian worldview, the same worldview and mindset that brought Dr. Moore in very close proximity to 18-22ish young adults. This is very serious, and I don’t believe their stories should be dismissed in light of current events.
Lastly, over on the blog titled “Thou Art the Man,” there’s an open letter from a Mr. Enochs, a long time friend of Dr. White, to Dr. White, urging Dr. White to resign. I’ll link to it in a comment below. Thanks for the reply. Janet
Here is Lee Enoch’s open letter: https://thouarttheman.org/2020/05/01/why-thomas-white-should-resign-an-open-letter-to-thomas-white/
@Janet Sanchez, questioning my story is just silly because, as has been stated multiple times, it happened in front of 300 people. It can be verified over and over and over again. And, although I believe the attempt to publicly shame me violated our Community Covenant in which we promised to respect one another, I didn’t say it victimized me. That’s just people reading the narrative through their own lenses. My point in speaking up now is simply to show how a perpetrator was treated (given a job) versus how a sex abuse victim’s (not mine, but Esmeralda Santiago’s) story was treated (that’s dirty, look away). Those two things happened in the same semester. That is my point. Again, you can call my credibility into question, but you won’t find a single faculty member who was present in 2017 who will say I’m falsely accusing.
@ Janet Sanchez — as a point of clarification, while I did not say the attempt to publicly shame me “victimized” me, I did say that silencing one person who shares his or her story of abuse “revictimizes” all who have lived through abuse (as evidenced through Paige Patterson’s actions). But, as the story of Anthony Moore has shown us, that is in no way confined to just women.
Lee Enochs’s open letter emphasizes Melissa’s point that the culture of shame isn’t confined to women. The following is a quote from Lee’s letter:
“In recent days, I have spoken to many of your old friends from your tenure as Vice-President at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and many of them have expressed to me that they believe you also should resign because they believe you misled the faculty and entire community at Cedarville University in the hiring of Anthony Moore. It appears to many of us that you did in fact know the essential details of Anthony Moore’s termination at the Village Church.
Many of our mutual friends have told me that they believe you have “thrown Anthony under the bus” and set him up for public humiliation when such an unfortunate series of events was not necessary. It appears to many of us that Anthony Moore largely fulfilled the obligations of his restoration pact and that you fired him as soon as the members of the media began to investigate this issue.”
I believe Melissa referred to Moore’s victim in her comment, but Moore himself was publicly shamed for no good reason.
Professor Faulkner taught my freshman year literature class in the fall of 2013. I appreciated the conversations about faith and art that were sparked in her classroom, especially at a formative time as an aspiring designer and young Christian. Hope you’re doing well, Melissa, and thank you for your brief but meaningful influence in my life that semester.
I have been living my life quietly, working from home, in my chosen field of school psychology. I have not had the habit of reading blogs and articles regularly, and following the comments. I would have stepped in earlier to respond to Janet’s comments, but I was blissfully unaware that this conversation was happening.
Janet – I do not believe that all women are honest and all men are toxic. The majority of the men I worked with at Cedarville were godly, kind, respectful, supportive and encouraging to me. Unfortunately, when the board of trustees hired Dr White, I began to feel unsafe in my position. One of my female colleagues (a CU alum), who was so competent and highly esteemed, left shortly after stating that she could read the writing on the wall, and she would never be allowed to advance or have a leadership position at CU while White was there. In regard to the conversation about masturbation – this was not a casual conversation but was part of a three hour interview (which felt more like an inquisition) with Reno, as the culmination of my tenure review (after receiving unanimous approval from my department and the university tenure committee). What I shared was that in my 30+ years experience as a school psychologist, one of the most constant referrals I received was from parents or teachers of kindergarten children who were masturbating in the school setting, and how should we respond to this. I viewed this as an indication that at least some of the aspects of Freud’s psycho-sexual stages of development were observable and correct. I do not believe in his interpretation or importance placed on these stages, but some of what he observed in children, I also have observed in children. A discussion of child development and the use of the word masturbation (that is the word that was used in referrals, as no other word would be quite accurate or honest) should not have been so disturbing to adult professionals in a professional setting. In retrospect, I should have kept my mouth shut and only spoken as few words as possible, only quoting scripture, and not speaking about the subject I was hired to teach. From what I hear, that is the way to survive in the current situation at CU.
Also, my primary goal in teaching and advising students was to help them grow as adults who love God with their whole hearts, and serve Him with their whole lives. As they (and/or their parents) were also paying for a university level education, I also had as a goal to prepare them for a career, which often meant graduate school. How unprepared would our students have been if they had not been taught all of the major, relevant theories and theorists in the field of psychology.
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