Bob Jones University: The Good, The Bad, and the Very Ugly – Pt. 4

This is the last of four posts about Bob Jones University. This post is easily the most difficult topic and i have held off posting it for quite some time.

I attended Bob Jones University from 1973 through 1977 and graduated with a B.S. in Broadcast Engineering and a minor in Mathematics.

The first post focussed on a few of the good aspects of the school. The second post focused on two of the bad aspects of the school. The third post and this one move into the area of the ugly things about Bob Jones University. Links to all the previous posts i’ve made about Bob Jones University are at the bottom of this post.

Background

Bob Jones University has been accused of protecting those who have perpetrated sexual abuse and when counseling the victims of sexual abuse, protecting the offenders while also shifting the guilt for the abuse on to the victims. Bob Jones University eventually hired a third party organization to objectively investigate these claims. Part way through the investigation, BJU fired the organization, and then months later re-hired the organization. In December of 2014 the GRACE organization released its report on these allegations. More than a year has gone by since the report was issued and the response to the report by the administration of Bob Jones University has been considered to be unsatisfactory by those who were victims of the sexual abuse. To get the full details and background of the allegations, the full GRACE report and what has occurred since the report was released, I recommend the web site: BJUGrace.com

The response by BJU one year later

I have obtained permission from the BJUGrace website to repost in its entirety their blog post on this issue. Here is a link to the original post and the entire text of the post itself.

A Year After The GRACE Report

A year after the GRACE report

On December 10th of 2014, the GRACE report on Bob Jones University was released. BJU’s response to the report was less than satisfactory, but we continued to hope. After 90 days they responded again, and our hope diminished, but several brave souls still went to speak with Steve Pettit at his invitation, to try to help him understand.

As time passed, we began to see that though some changes were being made, huge issues were still failing to be addressed. The primary issues identified in the GRACE report were being disregarded, and some false information disseminated. In September we heard an interview in which Bob Jones III dismissed the GRACE report as insignificant, stating that it made the school look good.

About a week before that interview, one of the people who had been victimized spoke on the phone with the current vice president. At that time she became convinced that though he asked to meet with her, he had no intentions of acknowledging the truth or making any changes to the counseling belief system. She then wrote a letter to him and the vice president.

In the last few days, she learned that BJU had invited and welcomed back on campus the mission board, named in the GRACE report, that is still shielding the man who had confessed to sexually assaulting her as a student. She then asked us to post the letter that she wrote in September. Here it is.

Dear Marshall Franklin and Steve Pettit,

This letter is in response to the recent conversation I had with Marshall Franklin and the request to meet with Steve Pettit. I have been thinking and praying about whether it would be beneficial or not to do so. At this point in time, I don’t see meeting as being beneficial for the school or for me. From my perspective, there is nothing I can say to help Mr. Pettit or any one else at the school gain understanding, especially since the GRACE report itself was so clear, but wasn’t accepted. For myself, I see it as something that would very likely leave me feeling additional hurt, and I’m not in a position to absorb more hurt right now.

Prior to BJU’s response to the GRACE report, I made numerous attempts to talk with Mr. Pettit. I wanted to do so for his benefit and for the benefit of the school. He chose not to permit me to have any access to talk with him. That was his choice and he had a right to make that choice, however, he DID have the opportunity to talk with me. I would have gladly spoken with him over the phone or even met with him had he permitted it at that time.

When the school finally publicly responded to the GRACE report, the response was deeply wounding to so many of us. Please understand that when I am referring to his response, I am referring to his initial, public response, the second response that was made solely to the current student body and also the response that was made privately in faculty meetings. In addition to his words, the school has responded by not protecting current students from the teachings of Mr. and Mrs. Berg, Mr. Mazak, Mr. Minnick and many others who have taught horrific views of sexual abuse. Berg’s books are still in the campus bookstore.

The school has also indicated that records were destroyed that could have potentially been used to convict offenders. While this may have been within the school’s legal rights, I do not believe that that decision was honoring to God or ethically and morally right in any way. It is inexcusable.

I don’t think the school has even the smallest grasp of understanding the enormity of damage that has been caused. I understand that your primary focus is on protecting the school and maintaining the support of your constituents, but it would seem that there is a way to do that, while at the same time, speaking truth and repenting of wrongdoing. I look around at some of those who endured the unbiblical counsel after their sexual abuse and I see a field of carnage of broken people who were deeply humiliated, and cast out from any hope of God’s love. I look at them and wonder what is preventing you from being able to see. These are men and women who trusted the school enough to ask for help. Most of them have not been able to shake off the horrible and unbiblical things they were taught. They still suffer. We still suffer.

You may not want to see the level of devastation that was done, but I believe you both have daughters. Would you hear them if they had gone through these experiences? Would you send them to a counselor who would shame them, ask them about the pleasure they had received while being raped, ask them what sin they must have had in their life for this to happen? Would you leave her with the guilt and shame that belongs to the rapist, and NOT to his victim? Would you permit “biblical” counselors to tell her how she no longer has worth? While there may have been some surface changes, such as Berg not teaching his previous load of counseling classes, those are just token changes when the others are still teaching the same content.

I have no ability to bring conviction or repentance. I am not God. I did what I could to speak directly to the school when the school was in the process of making these decisions. Now, however, those decisions have been made and it isn’t something I can change. I am deeply saddened by the response – for the victims, for the offenders and their future potential victims and for the school itself. However, it is not within my ability to influence the school to change. I don’t believe that the school leadership is ready to face the truth. At the very least, the school deeply shamed victims while protecting perpetrators. I struggle to understand this, to understand why and to understand what that means. The student who raped me has been repeatedly referred to as a “godly” man.

Sometimes, I wonder if those making the decisions and/or those counseling are actually believers. While that is a bit confusing for me to consider, it matches biblically the warnings in the New Testament about false prophets who claim to do good in God’s name, but in secret, they destroy the people of God. The response by BJU over the past nine months, since the report became public, does not display in any way that those in leadership at the school are followers of God. All I’ve seen is self-preservation. You could easily have helped victims in prosecuting offenders. Instead, the records were “purged” based on your attorneys’ recommendations. What purpose did that serve? Perhaps it protected the school, but to what end?

For the most part, I am choosing to leave this in God’s hands and pray that he will convict the hearts of those whose teaching is unbiblical and harmful. I pray that he will bring them each to a place of repentance where they will openly acknowledge the harm they have done and ask for forgiveness. If the school wants to know the opinions of those who were so deeply traumatized, the GRACE report tells our stories. It also gives suggestions as to how to start addressing these things. I believe that the steps they outlined are just beginning steps and they should have been taken within weeks of receiving the report. Now, nine months or so have passed and nothing significant has changed.

I don’t know if you can possibly comprehend the deep grief of those who feel again used and cast aside. We don’t understand why you asked us to participate in the investigation, when it doesn’t seem you ever intended to truly hear our stories or do anything significant to change the experiences of those who come behind us.

My offender was actually identified in the report, and I have not seen BJU take a single step towards righting that specific wrong that was done so many years ago. Do you feel no responsibility for the many women and children who he could be potentially sexually abusing on the mission field? Whatever he is doing, he is doing with the degree BJU gave him. Do you not feel any weight of concern regarding the possibility that he has continued to rape others? Do you not feel any remorse for giving him a degree that gives him access to a high degree of trust when he has already shown that he uses his power to rape someone who is unprotected?

I don’t write any of this with anger or bitterness. I write it with sadness and sorrow. I had hoped for so much. I truly believed that God could have used BJU to send a shockwave of change throughout the Christian community. A shockwave of genuine love, genuine humility, genuine repentance that would lead the way for many, MANY to follow. I believed that people would come to know Jesus through your response. Instead, they are being driven further away. We are being driven away.

The Bible so often talks about love being the greatest commandment. In one passage, it lists all the good works that a person can claim. It then ends by saying that without love, those things count for nothing. When I look at BJU and the response to the GRACE report, my heart breaks.As a school, you have accomplished much. In the area of truly loving others, I don’t see anything that looks like genuine love towards others.

There has been one passage of Scripture that has brought me comfort during all of this. It is Ezekiel 34. I hope that you will both read it with open hearts.

As I am able, I will continue to pray for each of you and for the school. I truly want God to do something amazing.

My Summary

Bob Jones University has protected faculty who counseled victims of sexual abuse by placing the blame for the abuse on the victims. It continues to sell books by those counselors. It has made no moves to in any way compensate or help these victims or to punish or ostracize the actual abusers or to change to system which allowed all this to occur. Of the four posts i’ve made about Bob Jones University, this was the most difficult for me to make and the one which makes me most ashamed of my alma mater.

Links to prior posts

http://www.unapologeticallyjohn.com/bob-jones-university-the-good-the-bad-and-the-very-ugly-pt-1/

http://www.unapologeticallyjohn.com/bob-jones-university-the-good-the-bad-and-the-very-ugly-pt-2/

http://www.unapologeticallyjohn.com/bob-jones-university-good-bad-ugly-pt-3/

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Bob Jones University: The Good, The Bad, and the Very Ugly – Pt. 3

This is the third out of four posts about Bob Jones University. I have decided to make this post exclusively about segregation and racism at BJU and the next post will be about the counseling of victims of sexual abuse and the protection of the perpetrators of that abuse. There is a link at the bottom of this post to the two previous posts.

I attended Bob Jones University from 1973 through 1977 and graduated with a B.S. in Broadcast Engineering and a minor in Mathematics.

The first post focussed on a few of the good aspects of the school. The second post focused on two of the bad aspects of the school. This post and the next will move into the area of the ugly things about Bob Jones University.

Racism

This needs some explanation. From its founding until just a few years ago, Bob Jones University was very much a product of its southern roots in Tennessee and South Carolina. I don’t know the history of its racism at the beginning of the school’s founding in 1927, but i am aware of its position in the 1970’s up through when it finally made changes to its policies just a few years ago.

The actual rules of the school when i attended it and up until recently included a specific prohibition against inter-racial dating. This was based on interpretations of two Biblical passages.

The first passage is:

Genesis 9:20–27 (NLT)
After the flood, Noah began to cultivate the ground, and he planted a vineyard. One day he drank some wine he had made, and he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw that his father was naked and went outside and told his brothers. Then Shem and Japheth took a robe, held it over their shoulders, and backed into the tent to cover their father. As they did this, they looked the other way so they would not see him naked.

When Noah woke up from his stupor, he learned what Ham, his youngest son, had done. Then he cursed Canaan, the son of Ham:

“May Canaan be cursed!
May he be the lowest of servants to his relatives.”

Then Noah said,

“May the LORD, the God of Shem, be blessed,
and may Canaan be his servant!
May God expand the territory of Japheth!
May Japheth share the prosperity of Shem,
and may Canaan be his servant.”

If you’ve read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, then you know that this passage was used widely throughout the south as the Biblical justification for slavery by identifying the Negro race as the descendants of Canaan who carried the curse relegating him (and by implication, his descendants) to be servants to his relatives. Now, there is no evidence of any kind to show that Canaan or his descendants were black or that they settled in Africa, but actual evidence is not required when you are trying to justify slavery or racism.

The second Biblical passage supposedly applies even more directly to the prohibition of inter-racial dating. Actually, it is used to prohibit inter-racial marriage, but since dating leads to marriage, the prohibition was applied to dating as well as marriage much the same way as the Pharisees at the time of Jesus took the Old Testament law and made up hundreds of additional rules that were required to be obeyed, not because the scripture said they were necessary, but because these made up rules would keep you from getting close to sinning by breaking the actual Old Testament laws.

Genesis 11:1–9 (NLT)
At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words. As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there.

They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.”

But the LORD came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”

In that way, the LORD scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the LORD confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world.

The absurdity of using this passage to prohibit inter-racial dating or marriage is extreme because this passage says nothing whatsoever about race. If someone wanted to use this passage as a reason to prohibit some aspect of dating or marriage, then it would have to prohibit dating and marriage between different language groups, not races. That would mean the French could not marry the English or that the Japanese could not marry the Chinese, etc. Since i’ve never seen or heard of those who speak different languages being prohibited from dating or marrying, then clearly applying this to racial issues would be even sillier and more absurd.

Summary

Bob Jones University, from its founding up until just a few years ago prohibited inter-racial dating and marriage, purportedly based on biblical reasons, but in reality based on prejudice and the culture of the South. The great harm is that as an institute of higher learning and as a university espousing Biblical principles, it trained its students with this hurtful and unbiblical worldview.

The next and final post about Bob Jones University will concern the shaming through counseling it did to those who were the victims of sexual abuse and the protection it provided and still provides to the abusers.

Here are links to parts one and two of this series about Bob Jones University:

http://www.unapologeticallyjohn.com/bob-jones-university-the-good-the-bad-and-the-very-ugly-pt-1/

http://www.unapologeticallyjohn.com/bob-jones-university-the-good-the-bad-and-the-very-ugly-pt-2/

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Bob Jones University: The Good, The Bad, and the Very Ugly – Pt. 2

Last week i posted the first of three posts about my perspectives as a graduate of Bob Jones University. That first post focussed on a few of the good aspects of the school.

This is the second post and it will focus on two of the bad aspects of the school. I attended Bob Jones University from 1973 through 1977 and graduated with a B.S. in Broadcast Engineering and a minor in Mathematics. The final post (Part 3) will look at the more truly harmful things about the university.

Of the two aspects I want to focus on in this post, the first is personal and the second is doctrinal, but they are related.

Personal

This has to do with the core aspect of the rules at Bob Jones University. I could go on endlessly about the individual rules like hair cuts, dress codes, allowable music, etc, etc. However, those are superficial things. The real problem is not the individual rules.

Even if you think some of the rules are absurd, wrong, misguided, arbitrary, or without any biblical basis, you signed up to follow those rules when you enrolled at Bob Jones University. You are completely aware of the consequences of breaking any of the rules. This is called personal responsibility, and is reasonable.

Here is where the core problem of the rules at Bob Jones University lies. Every student is not only responsible for his own conduct, but also for the conduct of every other student. The school considers that if you are aware of any other student breaking a rule and choose not to report that student, then you are equally guilty of violating that rule.

Think about the implications of this:

  • Every student becomes a spy for the school administration
  • Legalism (rule following) is made more important than relationships or friendships
  • You spend 4 years looking over your shoulder wondering who might be watching you
  • Instead of an atmosphere of love and grace you feel an atmosphere of fear and condemnation
  • Instead of a desire to build relationships and friendships you find yourself preferring isolation because the more people who know you, the greater your danger

I’m sure you’re thinking “Well, just don’t break any rules.”

If only it were that easy. You see, i haven’t told you about the catch-all, unquantifiable rule. It’s called “bad attitude”. It is unspecific, involves no particular rule violation, is nebulous and hangs over you like a cloud. There is no defense to being accused of having a bad attitude.

BTW, when i was a student at Bob Jones, each dorm room had four of five students in it. (Each room had a double bunk and a triple bunk). That means that you could not usually develop the deeper friendship you might with a single roommate who you might learn to trust. With three or four others living in the same room with you, you could never be sure one of them wouldn’t report you for some perceived infraction. I’m pretty sure having that many in each room was intentional for just this purpose.

I had nightmares about this aspect of life at Bob Jones University for about 20 years after i graduated. That’s how thoroughly the atmosphere of rules over grace permeated the entire institution.

Doctrinal

The difference between an Evangelical Christian and a Fundamentalist Christian is basically a single doctrine known as Separation.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of what Separation is:

You should only associate, endorse, or align yourself or your organization with those who agree with the “fundamentals of the faith” which are basically the things enumerated in the Bob Jones University Creed: the inspiration of the Bible, the virgin birth of Jesus, that Jesus is God, that salvation comes only by the grace obtained from the death of Jesus on the cross.

That seems pretty straight forward until you start to apply it in the real world.

The first problem you run into are degrees of separation. Let me explain:

  • First degree separation is simple. You don’t associate, endorse or align with anyone or any organization which does not hold to all these doctrines. For instance, someone who isn’t sure Jesus was actually God, or an organization that thinks the Bible is not inspired by God.
  • Second degree separation can get very messy. It says that you can’t associate, endorse or align yourself with someone who associates with, endorses or aligns themselves with anyone who doesn’t agree with the doctrines above. This becomes problematic as it means you end up having to know every person or organization that the person you want to associate with, endorse or align with in turn associates with, aligns with or endorses.

According to Bob Jones University, a true fundamentalist is only someone who practices second degree separation. Those who practice just first degree separation are labelled as pseudo-fundamentalists. Bob Jones is big on labelling things.

The second problem is even more impactful. According to this doctrine of Separation, you can not align or associate with others who have a common cause if they disagree with one of the “fundamentals of the faith”

  • You can’t join with an a political organization (from the 80’s) like the Moral Majority because it could have in it those who violate the “fundamentals”
  • You can’t protest abortion along with Catholics because they hold to a different doctrine of salvation (at least according to Bob Jones University)
  • You can’t participate in a Billy Graham crusade because he is known to have had association with those who do not believe in the inspiration of the Bible.

I realize those three examples are dated, but they are ones i am familiar with and typical of the application of Separation by fundamentalist Christians.

Please note that you may see a pattern here between the Personal and the Doctrinal issues. The essence of second degree separation is that not only are you responsible for who you associate with, but you are also responsible for who everyone else associates with. Just. Like. Students. And. Rules.

The fundamentalist system as practiced by Bob Jones University is that you are your brother’s keeper and also the keeper of your brother’s friends and their friends, etc etc. It is an institution whose foundation is all about finding fault with others.

Personal accountability is irrelevant. Or rather, it is the beginning, but not the ending. You are responsible for those over whom you have no relationship or authority. Fundamentalists are extremely isolationist as well as being vocally critical of those whom they disagree with.

I find both of these aspects contrary to the gospel and to the clear teaching of scripture about love for others. Fundamentalists will say that by being critical or isolating themselves from others that they are “speaking the truth in love”. It’s a nice phrase, but as someone who lived that life for four years, i can unequivocally say that there is actually no love in the “truth” which they express.

You can look at the fundamentalists you hear about in the news and please decide for yourself whether love is something which springs to mind.

The next post will move from the bad to the very ugly.

Here is a link to Part 1.

http://www.unapologeticallyjohn.com/bob-jones-university-the-good-the-bad-and-the-very-ugly-pt-1/

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Bob Jones University: The Good, The Bad, and the Very Ugly – Pt. 1

As i began writing this blog post it soon became apparent that it was going to be waaaaay too long. I’m going to divide the post up into three separate posts emphasizing a different aspect in each post:

  1. The Good (I experienced some good things in my 4 years at BJU)
  2. The Bad – the ins and outs of what fundamentalists call separation
  3. The Very Ugly – the harmful and destructive aspects and deeds of Bob Jones University

I’m coming out of the closet. I generally don’t tell people that i graduated from Bob Jones University. The baggage is just too much to handle in a casual conversation. However, there are some things that i need to get off my chest (and my mind and my heart). I want this post to be accurate, truthful, and informative. In my four years as a student at Bob Jones University, i experienced some good and helpful things. I also experienced some bad and hurtful things, and in the years since graduating, i have learned from friends and from others who attended Bob Jones, some very wrong and in fact evil things. I want to share all of that in these posts.

Bob Jones University is a fundamentalist Christian university. Some of you may think you know what “fundamentalist Christianity” is. I suspect you may be familiar with some very mild forms such as Jerry Falwell and Liberty University. As an analogy, let me say that comparing most fundamentalist institutions to Bob Jones University is like comparing a Bell Pepper to a Jalapeño Pepper. They are both peppers, but the differences are greater than the similarities. It’s mostly a matter of the extremism in a doctrine which fundamentalists call “separation”.

The actual Biblical Doctrines of a fundamentalist school like Bob Jones University are very very similar to that of most evangelical institutions with the exception of the doctrine of separation, which will be the substance of Part 2 of these posts.

The Good

As an example, i want to discuss a few of the good things about Bob Jones University.

The Bob Jones University Creed

Here is the Bob Jones University Creed, required to be memorized by all freshman, repeated en mass by all students and faculty in the daily chapel service, and required to be agreed to in order to graduate. I did all those things, and in fact, I still believe every word of the creed without any issue or problem at all.

I believe in the inspiration of the Bible (both the Old and the New Testaments); the creation of man by the direct act of God; the incarnation and virgin birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ; His identification as the Son of God; His vicarious atonement for the sins of mankind by the shedding of His blood on the cross; the resurrection of His body from the tomb; His power to save men from sin; the new birth through the regeneration by the Holy Spirit; and the gift of eternal life by the grace of God.

The most dramatic thing about this creed is what it does not say. It contains none of the things which normally divide denominations. It doesn’t mention charismatic gifts. It doesn’t talk about the role of women in ministry. It doesn’t mention the doctrines of Calvinism nor Arminianism or dispensationalism. It has nothing to say about the form or type of church government. It stays strictly with the things which are core essentials of beliefs that unite Christians and doesn’t mention those things which divide Christians. It has never been altered or modified in its 88 years. One of the key things i learned at Bob Jones University and still believe very strongly, is that there are core things which are at the heart of Christianity and that those things traverse denominational distinctives. At Bob Jones University i encountered students and faculty from more denominations than i had ever encountered in my life before or since. Calvinists, Wesleyans, Baptists of many shades and varieties, Episcopalians, Nazarenes, Independent Bible Churches, and many many more. I learned that the differences in doctrines between these Christians did not have to be divisive.

The Education

Bob Jones University is a Liberal Arts University. This means that all students must take a core of general education courses which include 12 hours of English classes, in addition there are required courses in History, Math and Science, and Music or Art. That is in addition to courses in your major, your minor and of course the required classes in Bible every semester.

Because of this approach i received a very well-rounded education. My knowledge of literature, history, geography, math and music is something i have prized and used throughout my life. In addition, the University put on one Opera every year and one drama. Attendance at both was required. I confess that i consider both experiences to be things I would have never willingly chosen to attend, but which i now regard as having been extremely important to opening my horizons in new ways. I attended four operas and learned to appreciate opera in general. I’ve seen Shakespeare performed live and that is just not the same as reading it.

The classes and coursework were rigorous. So much so that after graduating, i enrolled in The University of South Carolina’s MBA program and found it relatively unchallenging.

My education from Bob Jones University has served me well these past 38 years (i graduated in 1977).

Part 2 about the ins and outs of separation coming soon.

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