What follows is a comment I saw on a Facebook friend’s timeline from a Middle Eastern Evangelical by the name of Mohammad Yamout. Yamout, trained at uber-Fundamentalist Bob Jones University, spends his days evangelizing Lebanese Muslims and non-Christians. I thought it would be interesting for readers to see how Yamout views the world and LGBTQ people — especially those who don’t worship his version of the Christian deity.
My Facebook friend is a former heterosexual Evangelical who is now a gay atheist. Yamout said:
Yamout’s screed accomplishes what, exactly? As a former Evangelical, my friend already knows what the Bible says about homosexuality. He already knows what the Bible says about the human condition and our “supposed” need of redemption. Yamout comes off as an insufferable troll who loves to hear himself talk. He can’t seriously believe that his words will have any meaningful effect on my friend other than to remind him of how glad he is to have left Evangelicalism in the rearview mirror. No, I suspect the real reason that Yamout — a Trump supporter — goes after my friend is that he needs to assert his “rightness” or he wants to let his fellow homophobes know that he is on the same team as they are. Either that, or he is a deeply closeted homosexual who rages against LGBTQ people in an attempt to hide who he really is. If the past decade has taught me anything, when Evangelical preachers scream, holler, and preach against a particular sin, you will find buried deep in their closets the very “sin” they preach against. Is this true of Yamout? Who knows?
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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During fifth through twelfth grades, I attended a fundamentalist Christian school. Our school had been fairly popular in the 1970s and early 1980s, but by the year I graduated (1988) it was clear that such a strict type of Christian school was on the decline, at least in our area. Other less-strict Christian schools had cropped up and were thriving. Our school was started in 1969 by a Bob Jones University graduate and his wife. Many of the teachers had graduated from Bob Jones, Pensacola Christian College, or some other fundamentalist Christian college. A handful of the other teachers had graduated from secular universities (our high school math teacher, Mrs. C, had graduated from Northwestern University in Chicago). While a large number of teachers had taught there for many years, we experienced an influx of younger teachers who would stay a few months or even just a few years. The pay was very low (most teachers had to work a summer job or occasionally a part-time job to make ends meet), yet each middle school or high school teacher had to teach a minimum of four different classes. Grades kindergarten through five were taught by a single teacher in a classroom (with music classes conducted by the music teacher) as usual. All students were required to take Bible class. Middle school and high school students took Bible class which met three days a week with chapel services on the other two days. Chapel services were like a regular church service, and only male teachers or guests were allowed to preach the sermons.
Students and teachers alike were held to strict rules surrounding gender-based dress codes and conduct codes. While there were no official restrictions on students attending movies, teachers were not allowed to attend movies in a movie theater as it may “damage their witness.” Most of the teachers rented movies at the video store and would freely discuss movies with the students. This hypocrisy was not lost on me. Students could be expelled for being caught smoking, doing drugs, drinking, or having sex, even if any of these activities took place off campus. During my sophomore year, two of my classmates and a senior were expelled because another student overheard them talking about a party they had attended on the weekend that had drinking. Two girls after I graduated were expelled for pregnancy. Students could be suspended for disrespect to teachers. My own brother was expelled in third grade for mouthing off to his teacher and not showing proper remorse during his punishment.
The Tennessee Association of Christian Schools (TACS) was formed to provide an organization whereby Christian schools in Tennessee could obtain Christian guidance and educational services which would enhance the academic and spiritual credibility of member schools. A further purpose was to provide an opportunity for Christian schools, who subscribe to TACS’s Statement of Faith, to maintain high standards of spiritual and academic excellence.
Since the primary purpose of a Christian school is academic excellence and conforming young lives to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, TACS was organized accordingly and is committed to complementing the educational and spiritual goals ordained by each school through professional services.
* To establish educational integrity and excellence. * To establish guidelines and services which are truly Biblical and creationist in philosophy and methodology. * To maintain and improve the quality of Christian schools through professional services and programs. * To provide counsel and onsite assistance in establishing and developing Christian schools. * To promote the development of guidelines for all courses, curriculum, and other educational programs from a Biblical framework and perspective. * To promote high standards of behavior consistent with the moral and spiritual standards of Biblical Christianity as set forth in the Scripture. * To provide quality curriculum materials. * To provide staff development and school improvement opportunities. * To promote and assist schools in maintaining financial integrity. * To preserve the freedom of Christian schools to exist as an alternative to public and private schools. * To monitor state legislation. * To establish and maintain a nonintrusive relationship with the State Department of Education.
Each year the TACS would put on competitions among member schools at the regional and state levels for academics, music, art, and specific Bible categories such as preaching, verse memorization, and quizzes. Competing age groups were Grades K-6, Grades 7-9, and Grades 10-12. Typically, students competing in academics were at the highest level of the age category, but for other categories ages varied based on interest and ability. Each school was allowed to send two submissions for each category if they wished (for example, a school could send 2 students for Grades 10-12 math, two students for Grades 7-9 classical piano, etc.). Our teachers typically selected the students who would compete. As my grade’s top student through middle school and high school, I would compete in almost every academic category when I was in grades 9 through 12. And as a musical student, I would typically compete in choir, sometimes small group vocals, and in piano. The first day of competition was for test-taking, so I would end up taking a test in each academic area – I was there all day long! The second day of competition was for music and preaching competitions, so I may have competed in choir, maybe a smaller singing group, and piano if I was one of the students selected. The best pianist at our high school was in my grade, my friend Tom* — we had the same piano teacher. So in junior year he competed in classical piano and I competed in sacred piano. But in grade 12, our mutual piano teacher suggested that I switch to classical as well to give Tom some much-needed competition as he was becoming insufferably arrogant about his piano skills. The competitor in me was happy to fulfill my teacher’s request.
In the TACS competition, the top two winners in each category in the regional competition would go to the state competition to compete. For Grades 10-12, the winner of the TACS state competition was eligible to compete at the AACS national competition held at Bob Jones University. When I was a junior in high school, I competed at AACS National competition in sacred keyboard, and as a senior in high school I competed in classical keyboard and in history at BJU. I have no idea how, but the judges gave me higher scores than Tom and I won the state classical piano title. Tom actually came in third place.
As a teenager, I didn’t know much about BJU except that it was a conservative Christian unaccredited university in South Carolina. Many of my teachers had attended, and they made a big deal about Harvard supposedly being unaccredited as well (so BJU must be great academically like Harvard, am I right?). Hearing their stories, it didn’t sound like any type of school I would ever want to attend, with all its rules concerning nearly every aspect of life. Besides, I was determined to attend Vanderbilt University one day. I lived with my grandparents, and my grandfather was obsessed with Vanderbilt (he never was able to attend), and I guess his influence rubbed off on me. As a teenager, I worked at the university during the summer and fell in love with the campus. Despite the fact that my grandfather was a deacon at a fundamentalist Baptist church, he drilled into my head that my education came first, that I needed to have a career, and that I should NEVER be dependent on a man for my support. He lived to see me graduate from his beloved Vanderbilt University, but he never knew that I grew up to become the primary salary earner in my family. I believe he would have been pleased. (And my daughter will be attending Vanderbilt next fall.)
I had the opportunity to visit BJU twice during high school for the AACS competitions (1987 and 1988). I believe that the competitions were legitimate competitions, but they were also recruitment tools for BJU. After we checked into our assigned dorms (all competitors were required to stay in the dorms with current students), we went to a chapel service and then were divided into groups for tours. My first year I stayed in a dorm with Sarah* (a student to whom I was assigned) and another girl whose name I do not remember. Sarah was a senior majoring in elementary education, and she was engaged to Ben* who was preparing to be a pastor. They would be getting married in June as soon as they both graduated. Sarah was looking forward to getting married, teaching in Christian school, and becoming a pastor’s wife. My second year there I stayed in the dorm with Jane* who was the older sister of the aforementioned Tom. Jane was 2 years older and had spent her freshman year in college at Belmont University – she transferred to BJU because Belmont was “too liberal” and she didn’t like it. Also attending BJU were Josh* and Christy* who had graduated from my high school and were both freshmen. It was interesting to meet with Jane, Josh, and Christy to find out more about their college life at BJU.
There were a lot of rules at BJU, and I don’t think I even scratched the surface of the breadth and depth of rules that a student must know. First of course was the dress code. Girls had to wear dresses or skirts of appropriate length at all times. Their neckline must be no more than 4 finger widths from the collarbone. Girls also had a dress code for gym classes, but I believe girls weren’t allowed to wear pants while traveling from dorm to gym (though I could be mistaken). Boys were supposed to wear pants with shirts tucked in and a belt, and I believe their hair had to be cut to a certain length. I don’t recall seeing any boys with facial hair. Jane said that girls had to wear dress hats to attend Sunday church services on BJU campus, but hats were not required for weekday chapel services.
Boys and girls, of course, were not allowed in each other’s residence halls. Every evening, there was “mail delivery” – boys could send hand-written notes to girls which were delivered in the evenings. (I wonder if they send emails these days – but then again, their emails are probably closely monitored). My second year there, Josh wrote a note to Jane and me inviting us to meet Josh and Christy at the grill for lunch, an on-campus casual restaurant. Underclass boys and girls were not allowed to date at BJU, but a mixed group of four of us meeting for burgers was somehow okay.
My first year there I made a faux pas at the dining hall. We were told to go to the dining hall at set times for our meals, so I went through the cafeteria line, got my tray of food, and sat down at a table to eat. I was promptly informed that protocol dictated that everyone was to remain standing behind their chair until the last person had gone through the line and found a spot at the table. At that point someone was to say a prayer of thanks for the food. After the prayer, everyone was allowed to sit down to eat. By the time I was able to commence with eating my food, it was cold.
Another thing that I found odd was that there was a curfew for the time students must be inside their dorms and also a literal lights-out time. A hall monitor would come by to check each room to make sure all lights were off and no one was up past bedtime reading. I thought, what is this, summer camp? It really felt like 1950s. My mom attended a secular college in 1961-1963, and even then, things were more open than what was happening at BJU.
As far as I could tell, the entire campus was fenced. Students were only allowed to leave campus for certain reasons, such as to attend an approved off-campus church. Any time a student needed to leave campus, he or she must receive permission, and my friends told me that they were not allowed to leave campus alone.
Bear in mind that the vast majority of the students were age 18 or older. Age 18 is considered a legal adult in the USA. However, these students were NOT treated like legal adults. Practically every action was monitored, from the times they were allowed to eat in the dining hall to what they should wear to when they should go to bed to whether they could come and go from the campus. There was a cumulative demerit system tallied for infractions. I suppose if one received too many demerits, one would be disciplined, possibly expelled.
I couldn’t believe that students who were legal adults would willingly follow these rules. As a student who was counting the days until the end of my restrictive education, there is no way that I would have chosen to attend BJU. You could not have paid me to go there. Contrast that environment to Vanderbilt University where I worked each summer. Students were free to come and go as they pleased. Some lived in co-ed dormitories. Students dressed as they pleased. There was no curfew, either for dormitories themselves or for bedtime. Students were treated as adults – for they were adults, able to make their own decisions (even dumb decisions).
When my grandparents picked me up at the end of my first visit, I told them everything I had learned about the school. Honestly, I think they wouldn’t have minded if I had attended there as I would have been completely sheltered and “safe,” but since my grandfather was obsessed with Vanderbilt, they didn’t suggest that.
I wondered how it was possible for BJU students who were so completely sheltered to be able to function in the real world. Truthfully, many BJU graduates go on to become pastors and Christian school teachers. Many stay in the fundamentalist Christian world where everything is about maintaining one’s testimony and evangelizing for Jesus. Josh transferred to Clemson University and went on to become headmaster of the school we had attended until it closed (his parents had both been teachers there when I was a student); I am not sure what he is doing now. Apparently our school’s rules were relaxed a lot under his tutelage, but for some reason – probably too much competition – the school did not survive. I haven’t kept in contact with Christy – on social media I see that she is a divorced mom but most of her posts are about Jesus. Jane graduated from BJU and is an art teacher at a Christian school. Jane’s younger brother Tom graduated from BJU, went to medical school, and now markets himself as a Christian pediatrician (not sure how that differs from a regular pediatrician). Many of my former teachers have retired, some still teach in public or private schools, and many moved on to other careers including nursing, human resources, and medical insurance. Many former students and teachers are still entrenched in the fundamentalist world. Many others switched over to a more progressive form of Christianity. A handful of us are “apostates.” A few male students came out as gay after graduation. I suppose if one is really dedicated to staying within the fundamentalist “bubble” without exposure to “the flesh” or “the world,” then BJU is the place to be.
More women are sexual predators than men. Women are chasing young boys up and down the road, but we don’t hear about that because it’s not PC.
These people aren’t the good neighbor next door, they’re out to target young children. They must recruit their heritage. As many of them will die from AIDS, the only way they can keep their numbers is to recruit. Pedophiles and men dressing like ladies, their objective is recruitment of children.
The pedophiles will be here tomorrow. The men who dress like women will be here. The world wants to educate our children to be tolerant of homosexuals. The homosexuals can’t grow in number unless they recruit. How do they recruit? They sodomize. That’s the only way.
What follows is an excerpt from a radio sermon preached Easter Sunday, 1960 by Bob Jones, Sr. — the founder of Bob Jones University (BJU). This sermon was reproduced in printed form and sold in the BJU bookstore. No blacks were permitted to attend the college until 1971 — three years after the death of Bob Jones, Sr. Even then, only married black students were permitted to enroll. Five years later, BJU allowed single blacks to enroll, but strengthened its rules against interracial dating and marriage, leading to the IRS revoking BJU’s tax exempt status. Wikipedia states:
In 1976, the Internal Revenue Service revoked the university’s tax exemption retroactively to December 1, 1970 on grounds that it was practicing racial discrimination. The case eventually was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1982. After BJU lost the decision in Bob Jones University v. United States (461 U.S. 574), the university chose to maintain its interracial dating policy and pay a million dollars in back taxes.
It would be twenty-four more years before BJU would finally allow blacks and whites to date and marry.
Bob Jones University regained its tax-exempt status in 2017.
Is Segregation Scriptural?
My friends, I am going to bring you today one of the most important and most remotely messages I have ever brought. I hope you will sit close to the radio. Do not let anything disturb you. I want you to hear this message through.
Now, we folks at Bob Jones University believe that whatever the Bible says is so, and we believe it says certain fundamental things that all Bible-believing Christians accept; but when the Bible speaks clearly about any subject, that settles it. Men do not always agree, because some people are dumb; some people are spiritually dumb; but when the Bible is clear, there is not any reason why everybody should not accept it.
All orthodox, Bible-believing Christians agree on one thing; and that is, that whatever the Bible says is so. When they had old religious debates, they used to get together and say, “Well, we will discuss this subject.” One man would say, “The Bible says this” and another man would say, “You are mistaken. It says this.” They argued about what the Bible said. They agreed that whatever it said was so, but they argued about what it said.
In recent years there has been a subtle, Satanic effort to undermined people’s faith in the Bible; and the devil has helped the race along until men have put their own opinion above the Word of God. You will find that practically all the troubles we are having today have come out of the fact that men in many instances have ceased to believe in an authoritative Bible.
For instance, we are living in the midst of race turmoil all over the world today. Look at what they are facing in Africa, and look at what we are facing in this country. It is all contrary to Scripture — it is all contrary to the Word of God. I am going to show you that the Bible is perfectly clear on races — just as clear as it can be. ….
God Almighty did not make of the human race one race in the sense that He did not fix the bounds of their habitation. That is perfectly clear. It is no accident that most Chinese are in China. There has been an overflow in the world, but most Chinese live in China. There are millions and millions of them there, and there are no greater people in the world. I have never known lovelier and more wonderful people than the Chinese.
We were over in Formosa a few years ago and conferred an honorary degree on Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, and I never met a greater man. I never met a man of more intelligence or a more wonderful Christian; and Madame Chiang Kai-shek is a wonderful woman. There they are. Now, what happened? They married each other. She was a Christian Chinese woman educated in America. When she finished her education, she went back to her home in China. How God has used Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-shek — not only as Christian witnesses but also in other ways. I was never with a man who pulled me to him with stronger ties than Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek when I was over there and conferred an honorary degree on him. All right, he is a Chinese. He married a Chinese woman. That is the way God meant it to be.
Paul said that God . . . hath made of one blood all nations of men . . . . But He also fixed the bounds of their habitation. When nations break out of their boundaries and begin to do things contrary to the purpose of God and the directive will of God, they have trouble. The world is in turmoil today because men and nations go contrary to the clear teaching of the Word of God. Let’s understand that. The Chinese people are wonderful people. They have internal troubles, of course, because Communism has gone into China and disturbed a great deal of the population. But the Chinese people are wonderful people. The Japanese people are ingenious — they are wonderful people. The Koreans are wonderful people. The Africans are wonderful people. In many ways, there are no people in the world finer than the colored people who were brought over here in slavery in days gone by.
What happened? Well, away back yonder our forefathers went over to Africa and brought the colored people back and sold them into slavery. That was wrong. But God overruled. When they came over here, many of them did not know the Bible and did not know about Jesus Christ; but they got converted. Some of the greatest preachers the world has ever known were colored preachers who were converted in slavery days.
God Almighty allowed these colored people to be turned here into the South and overruled what happened, and then He turned the colored people in the South into wonderful Christian people. For many years we have lived together. Occasionally there will be a flare-up. But the white people have helped the colored people build their churches, and we have gotten along together harmoniously and peacefully; and everything has come along fine. Sometimes we have a little trouble, but then we adjust everything sensibly and get back to the established order.
White folks and colored folks, you listen to me. You cannot run over God’s plan and God’s established order without having trouble. God never meant to have one race. It was not His purpose at all. God has a purpose for each race. God Almighty may have overruled and permitted the slaves to come over to America so that the colored people could be the great missionaries to the Africans. They could have been. The white people in America would have helped pay their way over there. By the hundred and hundred they could have gone back to Africa and got the Africans converted after the slavery days were over.
If we would just listen to the Word of God and not try to overthrow God’s established order, we would not have any trouble. God never meant for America to be a melting pot to rub out the line between the nations. That was not God’s purpose for this nation. When someone goes to overthrowing His established order and goes around preaching pious sermons about it, that makes me sick — for a man to stand up and preach pious sermons in this country and talk about rubbing out the line between the races — I say it makes me sick. I have had the sweetest fellowship with colored Christians, with yellow Christians, with red Christians, with all sorts of Christians — the sweetest fellowship anybody has ever had, we have had. Christians have always had it. We have never had any trouble about that.
The trouble today is a Satanic agitation striking back at God’s established order. That is what is making trouble for us. Of course, it is easy to look back over the years and see the situation from another standpoint; but when the folks up North went to Africa and brought the slaves over to this country and sold them to the Southern people, the Southern people should have been Christian enough to have said, “We will not have any slaves. We are not going ahead.” But, you know, they went ahead.
Only a small percentage of the Southern people held slaves. Only a small percentage of them were slave owners. A great many people in the South in the old days did not believe in slavery — they stood against slavery. But they went ahead, and the commercial element was dominant; and people bought slaves and sold them. This slavery was not right. It should not have been. What we should have done was to have sent missionaries to Africa. Yes, that is what we should have done. That would have been in line with Scripture.
God put the Africans over there. They are fine people. They are intelligent people. Do not think they are inferior in every way. It is not so. But we should have sent missionaries over there, and Africa should have been a great nation of colored Christians. If we had done what God had told us to do and sent the Gospel to them and made a Christian nation out of them instead of bringing them over here and selling them into slavery, Africa could have been a great nation of colored Christians. What we did was wrong. It was not right. It cannot be justified. We should not try to justify it. But people went along. Some good people fell for it and went ahead with it; and God overruled it.
But racially we have separation in the Bible. Let’s get that clear. Any race has a right to come to America. We do not mean that when we came over here we wiped out the line between races. We did not do that. We should have let the Africans stay in Africa instead of bringing them here for slaves, but did you colored people ever stop to think where you might have been if that had not happened? Now, you colored people listen to me. If you had not been brought over here and if your grandparents in slavery days had not heard that great preaching you might not even be a Christian. You might be over there in the jungles of Africa today, unsaved. But you are here in America where you have your own schools and your own churches and your own liberties and your own rights, with certain restrictions that God Almighty put about you — restrictions that are in line with the Word of God. The Jews have lived a separated race. they have been separated from the other races of the world. They have been miraculously preserved. Now they have a homeland. They are back there today, and what a wonderful thing is happening.
The time has come when we good folks down here in the South — the good colored people and the good white people — need to use our heads. We should not let this outside agitation disturb us down here. Now, listen just a minute. You colored people are entitled to good schools. You ought to have them. I would like for you to remember something. Just remember that the South went through reconstruction and had a hard time. It was not easy. Then remember something else, too. When your ancestors were slaves in the homes of these Southern people, they got a breath of culture that they could not have gotten even in the schoolrooms of America. They heard the old-time preachers. I have said many times that the greatest preachers who have lived since the Apostolic days were the preachers of the South — the preachers who preached to the colored people. And back there the slaves had the Gospel. They were it and were converted. They were saved.
Now, I am appealing to you colored people and to you white people. Let’s use our heads. Let’s be intelligent. Let’s not try to kick the Bible off the center table. Keep your Bible where it belongs. When they tell you that God Almighty is not the author of the boundaries of nations, you tell them that is wrong. You tell them it is perfectly clear in the Bible that God made of one blood all nations but that He also fixed the bounds of their habitation. There is nothing unscriptural about that.
Listen just a minute. We are trying to bring a few people from other lands here to Bob Jones University so we can educate them and help them. We have two Chinese gentlemen teaching here in this school. They are Christian men. They are intelligent men, and they understand what we are doing. They know where we are going. We honor and respect them.
There is no problem here. But it could be a problem. It could be a problem in California. It could be a problem anywhere. Whenever you get a situation that rubs out the line that God has drawn between races, whenever that happens, you are going to have trouble. That is what is happening today in this country. All this agitation is a Communistic agitation to overthrow the established order of God in this world. The Communistic influence is at work all about us. Certain people are disturbing this situation. They talk about the fact that we are going to have one world. We will never really have one world until this world heads up in God. We are not going to have one world by man’s rubbing out the line that God has established. He is marking the lines, and you cannot rub them out and get away with it.
The established order cannot be overthrown without having trouble. That is what wrecked Paradise. God set up the order of Paradise. He told Adam and Eve how to live and what food to eat and what not to eat. He drew the lines around that Garden; and when Adam and Eve crossed over the lines of God, thorns grew on roses. The first baby that was born was a murderer and killed his own brother. So it has gone down through the ages. It is man’s rebellion (due to the fall) against a Holy God to overthrow the established order of God in this world.
When you run into conflict with God’s established order racially, you have trouble. You do not produce harmony. You produce destruction and trouble, and this nation is in the greatest danger it has ever been in in its history. We are facing dangers from abroad and dangers at home, and the reason is that we have got away from the Bible of our forefathers. The best Christians who ever put foot on this earth since the Apostolic days were the men and women in America back in the old days. Some of them owned slaves, and some of them did not; and some of them were slaves, and some of them were not. Back in those days they believed the Bible, and God called this nation into existence to be a witness to the world and to be true to the Word of God. Do not let these religious liberals blowing their bubbles of nothing over your head get you upset and disturbed. Let’s get back to the Word of God and be sensible. ….
Our heavenly Father, bless our country. We thank Thee for our ancestors. We thank Thee for the good, Christian people — white and black. We thank Thee for the ties that have bound these Christian white people and Christian colored people together through the years, and we thank Thee that white people who had a little more money helped them build their churches and stood by them and when they got sick, they helped them. No nation has ever prospered or been blessed like the colored people in the South. Help these colored Christian not to get swept away by all the propaganda that is being put out now. Help us to see this thing and to understand God’s established order and to be one in Christ and to understand that God has fixed the boundaries of the nations so we would not have trouble and misunderstanding. Keep us by Thy power and use us for They glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
This is the eighty-third installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of sermon preached by Bob Jones,Sr., the founder of Bob Jones University. Jones was a Methodist.
“It would not be a bad idea to bring the swift justice today that was brought in Israel’s day against murder and rape and homosexuality. I guarantee it would solve the problem post-haste if homosexuals were stoned, if murderers were immediately killed as the Bible commands.”
According to WXLT, Jones III made this statement while “attending a meeting at the White House with other fundamentalist leaders to deliver a petition to protest extending the protections of the Civil Rights Act to homosexuals.”
While Jones III indeed apologizes for what he said (link no longer active), have his beliefs about homosexuality and same-sex marriage changed? Of course not. While this is certainty a small, hard-fought victory for BJUnity, the apology is meant to a be band-aid covering up the bigotry that is prevalent on the Bob Jones University campus. I am quite certain that, belief wise, the Jones’s and the administration of the University believe just like they always have. I am certain that they do not support equal protection under the law for gays. They remain steadfastly opposed to homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
“This means a lot to us because it represents the beginning of a change in the rhetoric and conversation.”
I really wish this was true, but alas it is not. Bob Jones III, like his father and grandfather, remains a hateful bigot. He will certainly pay closer attention to what he says and where he says it, but any thought of the Jones’s or the University moving away from their beliefs about homosexuality is naïve. They remain unabashedly fundamentalist. They remain committed to inerrancy and literalism. In their mind, the Bible is THE standard for morality, and the Bible is clear: homosexuality is an abomination and the mark of a reprobate mind.
Under attack over their handling of sexual abuse and rape complaints, fundamentalist Christian university, Bob Jones University, hired GRACE (Godly Response for Abuse in the Christian Environment), to do an investigation. Towards the end of the investigation, Bob Jones ended its contractual arrangement with GRACE and refused to allow any report to be issued. The outrage over this was such that Bob Jones was forced to re-contract with GRACE and the report has now been released.
For those of us raised in Christian fundamentalism, this report tells us what we already know. I saw nothing shocking or surprising in the report, and anyone who is shocked or surprised has not been paying attention for the past 30 years.
I have often stated that the internet will be the undoing of places like Bob Jones University. They can no longer hide their sins. They no longer have the power to keep the stories from getting out. While my heart aches for those who have been abused, I am glad that these stories are being brought into the light of day. As people tell their stories, preachers, professors, churches, and colleges are forced to confront the horrible, sickening abuse that has taken place on their watch. Just as the Catholic church has predator priests, so the Christian fundamentalist movement has their own predator preachers. It’s time to knock the halo off Christian fundamentalism.
From the recently released Bob Jones University GRACE report:
In his book, Becoming An Effective Christian Counselor: A Practical Guide For Helping People, Dr. Fremont discusses counseling victims of incest and explains that the first objective is to ensure that blame is appropriately assigned to “the older person who took advantage of the younger innocent person.”However, Dr. Fremont states, “If the victim has deceived either parent or both parents, he needs to confess and repent of his own sin.” As an example, Dr. Fremont describes the case of a “teenage girl who takes a bath only when her mother is away from the home and leaves the bathroom door unlocked, inviting the father’s corruptness.” Dr. Wood similarly discussed the importance of a victim’s repentance if there is any wrongdoing. In his counseling training video, “Scriptural Principles for Counseling the Abused,” he teaches that, “If [abuse victims] have sinned, and some of them have not and some of them have, but you handle a guilty conscience always the same way: by confessing to God you are sorry for your failure and by not doing that same thing again and by asking forgiveness.” When asked what he thinks the spiritual impact is upon victims of sexual abuse, Dr. Wood told GRACE:
“I think that people internally are angry at God for allowing this to happen.So you have to get beyond that and it is a very difficult thing to get beyond because I can’t tell you why something like this happened. I can tell you it did happen but I can’t tell you why it happened or why the Lord allowed it to happen. I assume that there is some reason that this has happened and that you have to work it out within your own mind about why, and it is interesting that in many cases that it really is the root problem. The girl may have caused it to start and that is the root problem with her and she has to handle that somehow or another.”
GRACE asked Dr. Wood if he could offer any examples of when a girl might have caused abuse to start, and he stated, “I mean if she is aggressive with a man, then she may have caused it. It is pretty easy for things like that to get started between individuals. I think that generally a girl will feel guilty about it, she will feel that she shouldn’t have had anything to do with it, but she knows down in her heart that she did have something to do with it.” Dr. Wood further explained how the victim’s provocation is sin just as a perpetrator’s assault is sin. Both the victim and the perpetrator need cleansing from their sins, according to Dr. Wood.
The report details the story of a woman called 777:
In the mid-2000s, a disclosure of a rules violation to Student Life staff resulted in a victim’s “withdrawal at the request of the administration.” In this instance, 777 disclosed to her Assistant Prayer Captain, the Resident Counselor, and her Resident Supervisor that she “had been abused by her pastor since she was 15 years old and was expecting a child in January.” 777’s pastor, who was married with children, came to Greenville on several different occasions while she attended BJU. During these occasions, she said they went to Spartanburg and stayed in a hotel together. During one of the pastor’s visits when she was 20 years of age, she became pregnant. Upon learning that she was pregnant and believing she would be expelled, 777 began to pack up her belongings in the dorm. The residence life staff confronted her and asked why she was packing and leaving. At that point, she explained to them that the abuse began when she was 15. She also acknowledged to them that she had lied about her whereabouts when she obtained the overnight passes to leave campus.
Consequently, she was asked to withdraw at the request of the administration for lying about the overnight passes. 777 wrote a letter to her prayer group explaining the reason for her departure, a copy of which was turned over to BJU officials. The letter describes their relationship, as well as the pastor’s manipulative use of biblical passages to facilitate and justify the ongoing abuse.
Due to these dynamics, 777 told GRACE, “I had to break rules to go off campus, but I didn’t feel like I had a choice in the matter.” According to administrative officials, 777 was asked to withdraw at the request of the administration for lying on the overnight passes.Dr. Berg explained to 777 that her withdrawal was required, “because the offense was publicly known and because she did have some ethical responsibility in the matter, even though her pastor was very manipulative.”
Several months after 777 left BJU, she called Dr. Berg to ask if she could be allowed to take her final exams since she had been very near the end of the semester. This request was denied. 777 stated that in the letter to her prayer group that she “loved being loved and needed” and “[the pastor] said he wouldn’t make it if I walked away and he would walk out on his family and the church if I left. So, I stayed and kept my mouth shut.” 777 also stated that Dr. Berg said, “it was some sort of consensual relationship,”so he would not allow her to take her finals.
Dr. Berg agreed that the situation was “complicated” and “heartbreaking” but nonetheless defended the university’s decision to remove her from school because of the school’s policy about automatic expulsion for lying about overnight permissions. When GRACE brought this case to the attention of Dr. Jones, III, he acknowledged, “Well there is a case that is the kind of thing we wanted to know about that needed to be brought to our attention. Anyway, that is heartbreaking.”
For decades, Bob Jones University (BJU), a self-described fundamentalist Christian college, has urged sexual abuse victims not to go to the police and counseled them to repent for the blame it said they share, according to an extensive independent investigation published Thursday.
The report, nearly two years in the making, is a catalog of grief stretching back four decades, based on hundreds of survey results, dozens of in-depth interviews and a wealth of corroborating documentation. It details a culture that shamed victims into believing they were ruined by their abuse. It also strongly criticizes the school’s brand of counseling, which rejects modern psychology and urges victims to look for the “sin” behind their rapes and view their continued trauma as a struggle with God.
More than half the alleged victims surveyed reported they felt the school’s response was hurtful or very hurtful. Some victims said they found counseling sessions worse than their abuse. But the vast majority of the 50 self-identified victims interviewed for the study said they loved Bob Jones University, that they wished it no ill and hoped sharing their experiences would bring much-needed change.
A nonprofit group, Godly Response for Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), conducted the probe at the request of Bob Jones, after revelations that one of the university’s trustees covered up sex abuse at his church. The scope of such a review would be extraordinary for any university, but BJU, a campus of about 3,000 in Greenville, South Carolina, known for its strict biblical teachings, is one of the most insular in the country.
The GRACE report not only indicts the culture and counseling philosophy at BJU but also names four individuals it considers the main architects of the school’s approach. Among its many policy recommendations, GRACE urges BJU to strip its campus bookstore of the works of these individuals, bar its onetime primary counselor from counseling and take action against Bob Jones III — the chancellor and a former president of university and a grandson of its founder, for whom it was named.
BJU has maintained an insular, conservative culture that prohibits drinking and television. Unmarried men and women may not touch. Opposite sexes may gather socially only in well-lit outdoor areas on campus until 10:20 p.m. Even Christian music is not permitted if it has a rock, pop, jazz or hip-hop beat. Much of the outside world — from “worldly friends” to websites, which are deemed un-Christian — is shunned.
On Wednesday, BJU President Steve Pettit released a statement on the report, writing on behalf of BJU, “I would like to sincerely and humbly apologize to those who felt they did not receive from us genuine love, compassion, understanding and support after suffering abuse or assault.” He promised victims “who felt we failed them” that school officials were thoroughly analyzing GRACE’s findings and recommendations.
Former BJU student Katie Landry, who spoke to ”America Tonight” as part of our exclusive investigation into Bob Jones earlier this year, recounted how when she reported her rape to then-Dean of Students Jim Berg, she was so devastated by a barrage of questions — Had she been drinking? Had she been impure? What was her root sin? — that she raced out of the administration building, dropped out of school and didn’t tell anyone else for five years.
He just confirmed my worst nightmare,” Landry said. “It was something I had done. It was something about me. It was my fault.”
In candid remarks published in the report, Berg denied that the “sin behind every sin” was a concept he used and said he couldn’t remember the details of that session. But he acknowledged that the investigatory nature of his counseling, hurried schedule and “eagerness to bring real resolutions” may have made him brusque towards sex abuse victims in a way “that is probably more threatening than helpful.”
Berg, who was dean of students and chief counselor on campus for three decades, and is a current faculty member, estimated that he’s counseled 200 to 300 sexual abuse victims at Bob Jones. The report names Berg, along with former Dean of Education Walter Fremont, longtime Executive Vice President Bob Wood and Gregory Mazak, who oversees undergraduate and graduate degrees in biblical counseling as key figures in shaping the university’s counseling philosophy, which was imparted to thousands of students, pastors, counselors, teachers and missionaries. But none of these men had any formal training in psychology, or a license to practice.
“What this report found was that the materials made available by these individuals had caused an incredible amount of damage in a large group of people,” said Boz Tchividjian, the head of GRACE. “The report didn’t find that any of it was intentional or malicious. But it did cause harm.”
Of 141 self-identified abuse victims who answered the question in the GRACE survey, more than 60 percent said Bob Jones’ culture was filled with messages that blamed and disparaged victims.
Some pointed to a fixation on women’s dress and teachings that seemed to imply that women were responsible for a man’s lust. Many interviewed by GRACE said the school’s sermonizing on sexual sin left them feeling like damaged goods, as it failed to differentiate between those who chose to have sex and those who had it forced upon them…