The announcement made by Dr. Joe Wiley, University President, last week in a “Town Hall” meeting on the campus of Freed-Hardeman University merits kudos in this blog conversation and anywhere Christian women are concerned about the available choices of higher Christian education for our college-bound high school graduates among churches of Christ.
I contacted Dr. Wiley to verify the accuracy of his statement to the students and he said the following: “Yes, two weeks ago I directed our athletic director to increase the scholarship level for our cheerleaders and inform the cheerleader coach that they would wear cheer pants next year.”
May I just say that this kind of concern for modesty is unheard-of in recent years in any of our universities? May I add that I am extremely proud of Dr. Wiley and FHU for making plans to insure that the cheerleaders, who, along with the ball teams, are the “face” of FHU as they host athletic events on campus and travel to other campuses, are distinctively modest in dress?
You may not view this decision as such a “big deal.” Aren’t cheer uniforms a relatively small thing, considering the many departments, decisions and directions of a University? Let me tell you why I think this is a “big deal.”
I’m a proud alumnus of Freed-Hardeman. I am thoroughly convinced that its academic programs are among the best of our Christian universities. I am most proud of the spiritual environment at FHU, much of which I credit to the influence of a Bible faculty that is second to none among our colleges. I encourage students regularly to attend Freed Hardeman and work with the FHU Associates as well as with a private foundation to secure scholarship funds for students to attend FHU.
For years, though, it has been difficult for me to be consistent as I teach on women’s spiritual issues such as discretion (Titus 2:3-5) and modesty (I Timothy 2:9,10), while encouraging moms to send their students to Freed-Hardeman. Moms have sometimes suggested that I am sending a contradictory message when I teach their girls to make good decisions about modest clothing, while promoting FHU, even as these moms were seeing immodest cheerleading uniforms in photos on the website and on facebook. I am very happy to say that this “cheerleader” controversy will no longer be a problem of inconsistency for me.
But it’s bigger than that. I’m very thankful for this decision because its enforcement shouts a good message from that campus in Henderson, Tennessee. It says, “Even if the whole world is doing something that violates a Biblical principle, we still don’t have to do it.” It says that Biblical principles still mean something at FHU. It makes me believe that Dr. Wiley and others who may be responsible for this change are more concerned about adhering to standards that promote purity than adhering to standards of the cultural norm.
I’m very thankful for this decision because it is unusual. Have you ever noticed that institutional standards– in companies, schools and even in homes–have a way of easily sliding from the stricter end of the spectrum to the “looser” or less conservative end, but rarely ever does it happen in the reverse? Generally speaking, once a moral standard has been loosened, the regulation is never regained. It’s just difficult to reinstate a stricter policy, no matter how good it is, after it has been changed in the direction of leniency. To see FHU go in a difficult, but godly direction is a very refreshing thing.
Next fall, there will be a noticeable difference in the clothing worn on the sidelines of the ballgames at Freed-Hardeman. It will be noticeably different from recent years at the university. But it will also very likely be noticeably different from that worn at Faulkner, Harding, Lipscomb, Abilene or Oklahoma Christian. It will be distinctive in a very good way. I believe there are a lot of distinctive families remaining in the body of Christ who will take note and be positively impressed. I believe there are some families who will be influenced to send their children to FHU when they notice this seemingly small, but yet very public difference.
I believe that there are many of you who are parents of students, grandparents of students, potential friends of and donors to Freed-Hardeman University who would love to thank Dr. Wiley for this new policy. I have already done this. If you would like to do so, you may contact him at one of the following addresses. Let’s make these letters encouraging. Though there may be some other policy that you would like to see changed at the university, let’s not make these letters reflect our dissatisfaction. Let’s make these letters be notes of appreciation for a policy of which we can be proud. When it is time to say something good, let’s do it!
Once, while our daughter Hannah was a student at FHU, she invited a non-Christian friend to watch the homecoming game with her. This young man looked over at the cheering squad and commented to Hannah, “But I thought you told me this was a Christian school….So why are they dressed like that?” Our son and several other male students have commented to me that they were hesitant to attend the basketball games because of the scanty cheer uniforms. I am very thankful this day has passed. May God bless Freed-Hardeman University. May we all realize that, while we enjoy and benefit from athletic programs, principles of modesty, morality, and spirituality are far more important than the games.
Now here are the addresses. I hope you will take the time to send your kudos! It would also be a great time to send your contribution, large or small. (But even if you can’t contribute, let him hear from you!) Go Lions!
Dr. Joe Wiley, President
158 East Main Street
Henderson, Tennessee 38340