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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