Harding University and Her New President

It seems like everyone who blogs and is my age or younger and attended there has an opinion about the choice of Bruce McLarty as the new president of Harding University, or about the institution’s direction or mission or future.

I can’t say that I really do.

I wish the University well and Bruce McLarty well and that’s just about it.

Sorry if that violates hopes or expectations.

I am grateful for the fine education I was offered and received at Harding from 1973-1977; for the wonderful friends I met and made there; for the experiences one cherishes for a lifetime.

But I must confess I was never really comfortable there.

I think I was too young to perceive the politics or religious convictions attached to the university then, but I was not too young to perceive that a little freedom was regarded as a dangerous thing.

From the way the dorms were locked and bed-checked at night (some without fire doors back then) to the ominous restrictions on attire, decor and behavior, it was pretty obvious that deviation from a well-described norm would not be tolerated. Individualism would be frowned upon. Self-expression would be patrolled.

I’m sure that many of these restrictions have been removed, loosened, or modified to become more socially-acceptable in modern society.

But Harding and I have gone separate ways, and awkwardly since I vacated my dorm room. We have an unspoken deal: They don’t send me any alumni publications or e-mails, and I don’t send them any money, children, or home addresses.

Mostly because, at the heart of it, I think that a really excellent education requires a little bit more freedom for students and trust in their ability to think, provide, and act for themselves than I could have ever hoped to experience there at that time.

That made it, in some ways, a very long four years. Back then – as I’ve shared before – Harding’s motto was “Educating for Eternity.” And one of my roommates observed, “It’s really just four or five years. It just seems like an eternity.”

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10 thoughts on “Harding University and Her New President

  1. Well kb, your thoughts reveal much. At least in the 70’s Harding was a good place to send your kids, they indeed had “convictions” holding to biblical teachings, not so much anymore. Your desire for more “freedom” and what I would call liberal thinking now rules the day at Harding. You would fit in now and be very comfortable. You hope that many of the “restrictions” have been removed, I would say many have and you now have the institution of your liking. Let us remember those very important words from our Lord, “it is not in man to direct his own steps.”In the 70’s you recieved Godly instruction at Harding, and it would seem from your remarks that you rejected it. It’s sad to say that most of the “institutions” associated with the church of Christ have just like Harding, become “socially acceptable” in the eyes of the world. If a religious institution becomes such, one has to wonder, what in the world are they teaching? Reminds me of those who desire the praise of men, rather than the praise of God.

    • Vague and pointless accusations and recriminations, Jeff. I have found that when you say “It would seem,” you mean “This is what I want to believe.” I don’t think you know any more about what goes on at Harding than I do, so there’s really no basis for us arguing about it.

      I agree that it is not for man to direct his own steps, but if you have documentation that proves the Lord has been leading any earthly institution first-hand, without working at all through his followers, I’d like to see it. Churches and other institutions are led by men, hopefully following Jesus, but they’re all fallible and therefore the institutions they lead are flawed.

      Come back and visit sometime when you have something to say and know what you’re talking about, brother.

  2. Where did I say anythings about the Lord leading an instituion directly? I was just giving my opinion, which is just as valid as yours. I do know that in the 70’s Harding was a strong biblical place to go to school, your the one who stated above that you were never comfortable there and that you couldn’t precieve their religious convictions. That tells me alot kb.

  3. Keith- I’m sorry to hear that you and Harding had an awkward parting of ways. Perhaps you should come back for a little visit and see what Harding is like. You might be pleasantly surprised.

  4. Jeff – Harding is still a good place to send your kids. They still have convictions holding to Biblical teachings. Have you been there? Can you name one conviction that Harding has that is evidence that they do not hold to Biblical teachings? Is the loosening of the dress code or the extending of curfew the evidence you use? I have my issues with Harding, but it is certainly not with their commitment to being grounded solidly in the Bible.

    I just got off the phone yesterday with a Harding professor who had just finished a conversation with a student who, after his class, wanted to visit with him about her conviction that she may need to be baptized into Christ.

    And how can you equate the word “freedom” with “liberal thinking” so lightly? You are right to say that words have meaning, but you do get that words have multiple meanings, right? That one must have “ears to hear” if he is going to make discerning, accurate, and useful observations, not just observations? Was Paul a “liberal thinker” (Gal. 5:1)?

    And do you know Keith at all? How can you say that he rejected Godly teaching? His love and interest for God and people is all he ever talks about and invests in. A post sharing his discomfort with some of the restrictive rules that Harding imposed in the 70s means he rejected Godly teaching? Goodness, he starts his post saying the opposite, that he is grateful for the fine education he “received” there.

    And check your facts, because Harding is quite far from being socially acceptable in the eyes of the world, to their credit, and it is precisely because of the convictions that hold to Biblical teachings.

    If you really are wondering what in the world Harding is teaching, pick up their catalog, or go visit the campus during lectureship, or just sit in on a class to find out. You clearly do not know. Your reaction doesn’t make we wonder what Harding is teaching, but what in the world you are thinking.

  5. Brian, I have listened to their lecturships online, I have a sister who has personally been to the lectures and I have a niece and her husband who both teach there. I have personal knowledge of what is allowed to be taught there. They are known to be one of the brotherhoods more liberal teaching institutuions. In the 70’s it was a sound place. It was kb who said, “he found it hard to precieve their religious convictions and that he was “never” really comfortable there. So was it really the “living conditions” that bothered him?

  6. Jeff – So from your online listening, your sisters personal attendance, and your relationship with your niece, could you give me two or three examples of something that is “allowed to be taught there” that does not have the Bible as it’s foundation?

    And could you tell me who it is you are referring to when you say that Harding is “known to be one of the brotherhoods more liberal teaching institutions”? Known by whom? You are the first one I’ve heard make that claim, and my list of personal experiences and relationships there, with both students, faculty, and staff, far exceeds your meager listing.

    And concerning what Keith said, the blog you are referring to is right here above your comments. Read a little more closely. He did not say he was never really comfortable with their religious convictions, but in fact said he was too young to even perceive what those were. What made him uncomfortable was the lack of freedom allowed students socially, and he used nothing but examples of the “living conditions” to explain his perception. My point here is that you seem to want to equate his discomfort with the limited freedom he experienced there with some sort of refusal on his part of Godly teaching just so you can justify accusations about Harding’s religious convictions.

    Why are you doing that? I’m giving you the opportunity to share specifically of evidence that Harding is drifting away from Biblical teaching. There is no need to make up that Keith was commenting on Harding’s religious convictions, or judge him as rejecting Godly teaching, if that is what you are wanting to do.

    So out with it. Be specific.

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