Colonnade of the John Wesley Raley Chapel at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Oklahoma

Colonnade of the John Wesley Raley Chapel at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Oklahoma

Save OBU

In 2011, I created a blog to raise awareness about and protest against fundamentalist encroachment at my alma mater. Among evangelical Christian colleges, Oklahoma Baptist University had a relatively moderate character for decades. From 2009 to 2011, OBU experienced a tumultuous period. New administrative leaders flexed their muscles, enraging faculty and alienating many students and alumni. Though I never coordinated with OBU faculty or Oklahoma Baptist clergy who value OBU's reputation for academic rigor and integrity, I do believe their efforts (and mine) helped prevent OBU from experiencing a fundamentalist takeover on the magnitude of what recently happened at Shorter University (GA) and Cedarville University (OH).

Foray into Blogging

Though I enjoy my academic research, I wanted to do more popular writing on religion and politics while in graduate school. That became impossible, however, once I began the Save OBU blog. Between researching and writing more than 200 blog posts, managing Facebook and Twitter communities, and communicating with stakeholders, Save OBU consumed much of my free time for an entire year. The significant uptick in unrest subsided by the end of 2012, and I spent less time on the project in 2013 before finally abandoning it.

Perspectives on Conservative Evangelicalism

Having been happily outside the evangelical world for a decade, my work with Save OBU gave me occasion to learn and think again about evangelical theology, institutions, elites, and politics. I collaborated and consulted with alumni of other Baptist colleges. I carefully studied the history of the Conservative Resurgence and especially its effects on Baptist higher education. I also learned a great deal about post-Resurgence Southern Baptist journalism, seminaries, and agencies. It was instructive (and often surprising) to follow dozens of Southern Baptist leaders on Twitter. Through my Save OBU efforts, I gained perspectives on many tensions within evangelicalism. Because I focused on academic freedom, ethical administration, and OBU's liberal arts heritage, it was seldom relevant for me to write about evangelical theology or politics. Even so, the experienced sharpened my voice and perspective on conservative Protestant political engagement, a frequent subject of my writing now.