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Wheaton Problems Part 1: Complaints, complaints, complaints.

January 18, 2013

Today, upon the great source of literary and philosophical dialogue that is the Wheaton College Forum wall in the student center, some fine fellow had posted a three page long list of “88 Things I Hate About Wheaton.” While not quite as scintillating as Edgar C. Whisenants’s 88 Reasons the Rapture Will Happen in 88, it joins the ranks of the great “88” lists of Christendom (Along with St. Thomas Aquinas’ “88 Really Good Barbecue Joints in Italy and France,” a work sadly not as well known as his Summa Theologiae.) After reading this post, I decided that I liked all of the things that this person hated–not because I actually liked all of them, but because I wanted to annoy whoever it was who wrote it. Meta-cynicism is always an appealing option.

I have a theory that the post was written by this guy. After all, he did sing “I Hate Everything.”

But this forum wall post called to mind an issue that I frequently encounter at Wheaton College: the issue of complaints about the college. Rarely are these complaints about the academic side of things–I would be overjoyed if I heard complaints about how the English Department was too favorable to deconstructionist readings of Charles Dickens, or that Professor X just wasn’t able to understand how deep Harold Bloom really is. Instead, they are complaints about the student environment–complaints about the dorm culture, complaints about the dating scene (or lack of), complaints about the shallow “Churchianity” of many of the students, complaints about the food, complaints about complaining and many other grumblings, gripings and ill-will. And it is both easy and understandable to complain. There are plenty of things to complain about at Wheaton, and I could easily make a list ten-times as long as the one posted, beginning with “Nobody here listens to Stevie Ray Vaughan.” But complaining can only do so much; at best, it can only draw attention to a problem without solving it, and at worst, the earth opens up and the complainers tumble in to their doom.

I usually hate memes, but I feel like this one is an exception

So what can we do about this? First, we need to identify the types of complaints and how to respond to them. Based on my observations, there are three major types of complaints that students give about Wheaton College.

1. Complaints about Wheaton College problems that aren’t actually specific to Wheaton College. “Dude, the food at this college really sucks,” said every college student ever. It becomes annoying to hear people complaining about “Wheaton Problems,” that are actually the problems of colleges, Christian Communities, or people in general. “Dude, there are so many wannabe-cool people here.” “Dude, there are all these people that think they are really pious.” “Dude, sometimes people are rude.” These sorts of comments simply show the narrow-mindedness and lack of experience of the speaker. It is best to ignore these sorts of things and mind your own business. If everyone else is being wannabe-cool, then just be real cool. If everyone is rude, then be polite. But don’t make it seem like a general problem is your own, personal cross to bear.

2. Complaints about Wheaton College problems that showcase the spiritual immaturity of the speaker. I’ve made plenty of these comments myself, so I need this reminder as much as or more than anyone. “Dude, I hate all these sheltered homeschooled kids.” Really? Jesus doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, the only people I remember him antagonizing were up-to-date religious leaders who thought that they were better than everyone else. It’s easy to offer “enlightened” “spiritual” criticism of other people’s flaws, much easier than to hold your tongue and deal with your own sin. I find that this sort of criticism comes from both sides. Many of us are familiar with the “fundamentalist” versions of this: “These people are all sinners!” But it comes perhaps more often from the “edgy” Christians: “Those people are so judgmental, just because they think its wrong to listen to Childish Gambino and watch American Pie 6 1/2 Unrated Director’s Cut.” “Dude, he doesn’t watch R-rated movies…that’s so weird.” (I’ve noticed that no one ever makes these sorts of remarks to anyone’s face.) “These people at Wheaton are so strict.” Maybe they have a reason for being strict. Part of the reason that abstaining entirely from alcohol became a big deal for some Christians was that there were people who had serious drinking problems. Its easy for Christian kids who got saved in junior high to rail against people who don’t listen to any secular music or don’t watch “bad” movies. But have they ever talked to people who lived really negative, hedonistic, God-hating lifestyles before they were saved?

“Just look at all those fundamentalists judging me for my beard. Don’t they realize it makes me look more like Jesus? Heretics.”

3. Legitimate complaints about Wheaton College. There are legitimate problems at Wheaton college. However, legitimate problems need legitimate solutions. Complaining about them does nothing to solve them. It only makes you feel better about yourself. Instead of complaining about them, there are ways to solve them. The first way is to separate yourself from the “Wheaton Culture.” This does not mean hiding yourself away in your dorm room, though there are some upsides to that. Rather, this means intentionally distancing yourself from the stereotypes, cliches, and recycled opinions that hover like a fog over Wheaton’s campus. You do not have to be defined by what everyone else does. Stop caring about the invisible eye that you feel like is staring at you. The worst people can do to you is talk about you behind your back, and that will at least give you a sense of notoriety. Don’t let your expectations be set by the masses.

The problem with this picture is that no one wants to be Spider-man. I’m pretty sure that kid is only wearing the outfit because the store ran out of Batman costumes.

In my next post, I’ll cover four steps to deal with Wheaton problems (or anywhere problems) instead of merely complaining.

Current Listenings: There Will Be a Light by Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama (A must-have gospel album).

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 18, 2013 10:51 pm

    My only complaints are 1. How far away it is. Everything would improve if it was moved south of the Mason-Dixon line. 2. The jilting of Professor Gordon Clark. But that was decades ago. 3. The cost. But I am thankful we can pay the price. 4. The fact that Dr. Ralph Stanley has never been invited to speak there. 5. The fact that I am not occupying the William Faulkner Chair of Southern Studies and Other Stuff I Like. Good article.

  2. David Leach permalink
    October 21, 2013 11:39 am

    My main complaints are that (1) I am 40 years beyond the age of typical college students. (By the way, are hippies still on campus??) (2) I doubt Wheaton gives senior discounts on tuition. (3) It is not likely special concession is granted for advanced senility. (4) I am not preparerd to be taught by professors born 15 years after the Beatles broke up. (Still remember a big discussion about that break-up in my Sophmore english class right after it happened). (5) The cost for me as well. I paid $4.00 a semester hour here in Texas in 1972. Am I correct in guessing the tuition at Wheaton is a tad higher??

    • October 22, 2013 4:36 am

      1. There are a few hippies still on campus. They have evolved since the 60s–they discovered baths.
      2. Ask and see.
      3. Ask and see.
      4. I can see how this could be a big problem.
      5. A little higher.

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