Being Right (Why You Can’t Ever Win An Argument With A Fundamentalist)

Today on the campus of Bob Jones University there has been planned a silent protest with the motto “Do Right, BJU.” It would hardly seem to be controversial in most places in the free world for students to campaign for the justice for victims of sexual abuse and justice for their abusers but the act of free expression itself is so unusual in fundamentalist circles that (whatever the eventual outcome) fundamentalists and ex-fundamentalists alike are taking a great deal of interest in the events of today. There’s no doubt that the students involved in this silent protest are doing so at great personal risk and chief among the obstacles that the protestors face today is the fact that the slogan of “Do Right” is almost always trumped by the greater commandment of “Be Right” which is the cardinal rule of every fundamentalist.

Rule #1 is after all: “I am right and you are wrong. Always.” And so shall it ever be. For the rightness of any fundamentalist institution or icon will always be assumed by the people who defend it. The reasons can be invented later.

The great stratagem is thus to continually change the terms of the debate until you prove that you are right on some solitary point. Once you have done this then claim that the point on which you are standing is the only one that matters and no other arguments can possibly count.

Has there been a moral failing? Point out that the people involved were legally correct.

Was what was done illegal? Appeal to some higher, biblical authority and decry the corruption of the legal system.

Was the action indefensibly immoral, illegal, and unbiblical? Then use your eternal trump card and claim that to focus on it would be a distraction from The Gospel and that nothing can possibly be more important than seeing souls saved.

And do all of the above while endlessly touting your own innocence and integrity and relentlessly denigrating the character and motives of your accusers. But whatever you do, don’t say you were wrong. Don’t apologize. Don’t make restitution. Don’t for a second doubt that you are right simply by being.

For no matter how many court rulings and media stories and witnesses and blogs and protestors rise up against you, you can be confident that you have never been wrong. This is your birthright. This is your heritage. This is the sacred trust passed down from father to son for generations: the gift of being always and forever right.

So Be Right, BJU. Be right, fundamentalist, wherever you are. But you can only be right until the stars fall. For in that latter day then shall the Judge of all the earth stand and deliver His final verdict on whether you truly did justly and loved mercy and walked humbly. There will be no more reasons or excuses or equivocations then. And unless you repent, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.

But there’s still today. There’s still this moment. You still have time. It’s not too late to do right.

117 thoughts on “Being Right (Why You Can’t Ever Win An Argument With A Fundamentalist)”

    1. Well, third’s close. And I actually read the article before commenting 😉

      I’m wearing red today as well. There are girls and guys on that campus who feel as though no one has heard them their whole lives. They’ve been broken down, beaten down and abused. Someone needs to show them the love that Christ showed. Someone needs to speak up for these silent victims. They’ve only ever been told to forgive and forget, to keep their mouths shut. Someone needs to tell them, it’s ok to grieve.

  1. I’ve been following this BJU thing from posts I’ve been getting from Chucklestravels . I don’t understand how these people can possibly defend their actions. But it’s true that in Fundyville, they come across as “always right” and you can’t question them. When you attempt it, you get that blank stare like “I can’t believe you’re questioning me!” 😥

  2. The more we’ve seen lately, the stranger it has become. Stephen is still nowhere to be found. Marshall Franklin is attempting to crack jokes in a faculty meeting when he should be showing leadership. And BJ3 is ranting more and more like his father and grandfather each day.

    I still envision multiple “shipments” today, but I also believe they will see that they cannot continue to ignore things forever. They will shrink into the oblivion of a Bible college only format and whatever relevance they once had will be long gone.

  3. Um, I’m still fairly new here…could someone point to some back-story on this post? Are the protesters in solidarity with victims of sexual abuse within the church in general, or has something hit on BJU itself specifically? Thanks in advance for any links to bring me up to speed…

    1. It started as an “awareness group” on BJU because Chuck Phelps (of the Tina Anderson scandal) was put on the board of BJU. These brave students wanted answers why he was on the board and also wanted him off, because of the bad testimony to the world. Since Phelps resigned, it’s become a group trying to show support and love for the abuse victims in the IFB. Today is the day to stand up and wear red on campus, despite the opposition and name-calling.

  4. The title is so very true: you cannot ever win an argument with a fundy. The only solution sadly is avoidance which I don’t like to do because it reminds me of the very isolationism of the fundies that I don’t wish to emulate. But I’ve found it futile to try to explain to a fundy why I’ve made the choices I have. They’ve already assumed I’m wrong, even without hearing my opinion. My husband actually had a fundy pastor tell him, “Don’t show me your Bible verses” after he told us we were wrong and we wanted to show him the Scriptural reasons for our decisions.

    In the end, I have to follow Christ outside the camp of their approval and understanding. I have to be willing to bear their reproach and rejection in order to, as Darrel so aptly wrote above, do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Still though, it is tremendously maddening to see the arrogance that they refuse to see in themselves: it’s like being the child yelling, “The emperor has no clothes!” but no one listening, everyone in the city continuing to laud the naked emperor until the child grows baffled and frustrated.

    (BTW, my profile pic on facebook is red today.)

    1. “Don’t show me your Bible verses”

      Apparently, Fundamentalists believe that the Bible is the highest authority EXCEPT Fundy leaders, who are, of course, free to veto whatever parts of the Bible they choose.

  5. If the fundamentalist must admit he was wrong about one belief or action, a belief or action he once believed was 110% correct about, a belief or action he felt lead by his god to believe, then all of his other beliefs or actions can be called into question.

    1. You’re right, and this is probably how a lot of us came out of fundamentalism. We began having doubts about one thing, which led to doubts about another thing until finally the whole thing came down like dominoes. And that’s why we’re out today. 😉 At least we were willing to admit to having been wrong… these people won’t admit that! 👿

      1. You are both 100% correct. Three words you will rarely hear from a fundamentalist: “I was wrong.”

        For me, the beginning of my journey out was with one of fundamentalism’s sacred cows. I had my doubts about a specific practice and after almost two years of study without talking to anyone else about it, I found it to be unbiblical. Many more practices and teachings were called into question. Some I changed my views on, some I did not.

        1. For me it was the end times mythology that they have created. I am still in the process of going through pretty much every belief from fundamentalism and questioning it.

  6. I’m wearing red today. There’s media on campus. We’ll see what happens. People who have access to their numbers say they can’t unload some cargo of the ship.

  7. I’m an alumna of BJU. I’m wearing red in solidarity with the current students and my FB profile is the Do Right logo. I know I will be on pins and needles all day…praying often for the current students who are choosing to stand.

    My heart is heavy for the students, but mostly for the victims who have suffered in silence for far too long in the fundy system. I want to be proud of my alma mater, but that is impossible if they choose not to do right by the ones who need a voice the most.

  8. “I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption, it is the other way, against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” – Lord Acton

    Power, once aquired, is almost impossible to remove from the hands that wield it. Especially when the ones in power claim their authority is given straight from the Almighty. They will do nothing that will undermine their control. And it is all about power, control and money.

  9. Currently attending a fundy lite church. Pastor is a great guy. He is leading the church out of fundistan to a point. There are a few leftover from the good ole days. Choir dictator…I mean director. He has discouraged 2 of my children & my wife to quitting choir with neverending practices that are like drills at boot camp and the fact they only sing in front of the church 3 times a year! There is NOTHING for a young person after patch the pirate is over at 12 or 13. from 13 to 25 zero, nothing, so the choir was one of the few things they participated in theat gave them fellowship and belonging. Well choir dictator ended that. So I took my girls to a Bible church up the road that is full of youg folks and life. They have been going for a few weeks now and they really like it as compared to the dread of coming with us to our “dead” church. Music was great. Things for young folks to do. Youth group, sledding parties, we have SNOW here! Bible studies etc… Of course they use a different Bible and they are NOT BaAPTIST, but they genuinely love God and I could see that. I felt obligated to tell the pastor. He understands to a point but he is still too fundy to embrace the idea. So you know what’s next….yep it comes out in a sermon the following week that we are NEVER going to compromise to keep people and young people better be careful about decisions you make and where they will lead blah blah blah…
    My point is our church is dying…. If you have a chain of people and the link is missing for young people to fit in then your chain is broke. If 15-25 yr olds don’t have anything to do and don’t feel apart of things then they will just quit or become discouraged and “exist” in church. Fundies refuse to acknowledge they are wrong. They are too steeped in being “right” instead of ministering to people. Why am I still there? Not sure but I am slow to give up hope and I really like the pastor but my family is more important. Time will tell.

    1. In my youth group days, there were quite a few of us. Now only one person in our age group still attends my former church. The rest of us have not only left that church but are not going to any other fundamentalist church either.
      I believe my former church is dying as well, for the reason you state: there’s a whole generation link missing from the chain. Fundy churches are losing young adults because of all their ridiculous “Biblical” beliefs which are actually just tradition. My generation got tired of being yelled at. We got tired of the hypocrisy. We got tired of not ever being good enough. We got tired of being told to do more, more, more. Logically, so many things did not make sense. And so we all left. (except that one girl)

    2. Fred, a pastor who takes info from a personal conversation and then formulates a sermon from it, and delivers it in front of the person who spoke with him, is not “Fundy Lite”. That is a full on Fundy trait.

      Why hang around after such blatant abuse?

  10. This, this is so true. Be right is always, always, more important than anything else. This whole situation could have been avoided if they had just done what any other school would have done and dropped Phelps from the board. Instead they doubled down.

    There is another issue with accreditation. BJ3 is insisting that he hasn’t change positions on accreditation, but his language was clear. He was opposed regardless of any reason or logic or change. But now suddenly they want to rewrite history and pretend that they never were. For them it is about being right, and no amount of reason logic or Bible will get in their way. They will mislead, misuse or misquote anything and everything, including the Bible, to “prove” they are right. This Do Right protest proves that.

  11. If I’d known about this earlier, I would’ve worn red today. It’s my university’s color, so probably no one would have noticed, but I would’ve worn it anyway. At this point, though, all I can do is pray–for those who are participating, that their voices are heard and they are not shot down, and for those in power at BJU that God changes their hearts and convicts them of what they have allowed (or done themselves) and that they repent.

    And if they truly do repent, then I also pray that their victims can forgive them and that it can all be worked out for the glory of God, proving His might and power to save even the worst of us. But if they don’t… then I hate to say it because I want everyone to have a good relationship with God, but I do pray justice is served. If not in this life, we know that the day will come when the Lord serves justice.

    1. I hope justice is served even if they do repent. So many fundies play the repentance card (they cry, or they say they’ve begged God to help them, or they say that God has forgiven them and you should too; and by “forgiving” them that means the issue at hand is dropped). By repenting, fundies believe that the consequences part of the problem should instantly disappear.

  12. People close to me were sexually abused by a fundy preacher and he was protected while his victims were blamed and harassed out of the church. I have had a front row seat to witness the devastation that this crime causes in the life of the victim.

    My thoughts and prayers will be with the protestors today. May God open some blinded eyes today.

  13. It is a incredibly brave move by the students. Bravo! It’s sad to know there will be consequences to their bravery, not changes. Hard to sort my feelings, should I be sad that they will be probably get kicked out and loss their time and investment in that system or should I be happy that they will be free and probably move on to much better things and be able to hold their head up that they were kicked out for such a noble cause?

    1. Considering how many times in the OT God told the israelites to stand up for the poor and afflicted, I think any students who are punished for their part in the protest will leave with a clean conscience. That would be worth it.

  14. Reading all the comments so far has left me with a question:

    With all of the talk about this won’t matter because things won’t change and the fact that the “protesters” may face consequences for their actions, I just have to ask…are we talking about America or Communist China? All we need is tank to run down anyone wearing red.

    Someway, somehow I hope today makes a difference.

    1. All you can be sure of changing is yourself. The action of standing for truth is important, regardless of the consequences. Satyagraha (the “power of truth,” as Gandhi called it) is not primarily a means to an end. It is a way of life.

      Bob Jones University may or may not be capable of reform. But there is no doubt in my mind that the stands a person takes transform his or her life.

      I’ve also seen many cases, though, where principled actions had consequences that were not apparent at the time. In some cases, these were far-reaching consequences.

  15. I would say to the students in particular, go to class and quit protesting like a bunch of whiny hippies. Protesting and marching is a waste of time, in the real world stuff happens we don’t like, so we just get on with life. There is not enough time to complain about all the bad things that are going to take place. The real measure of a man is how he can move forward from a major setback in life, and that will mot happen if he just complains and dwells on it.

    1. We are talking about real people here who have been abused and sin that has been covered up. If you think protesting on behalf of sexual abuse is whining, I wonder what you think of those who have spoken out about genocide,or physical abuse, or slavery or human trafficking. All those people must be whiners too ❗

      Here’s hoping you can always “take it on the chin, suck it up, and turn the other cheek.”
      Ya know, so you don’t whine.

    2. John Smith wrote “…go to class and quit protesting like a bunch of whiny hippies. Protesting and marching is a waste of time, in the real world stuff happens we don’t like, so we just get on with life. There is not enough time to complain about all the bad things …”

      sounds like you saying to
      sweep *it* under a rug
      stuff *it*
      ignore *it*
      pretend *it* didn’t happen…maybe hope it will just all go away??? 👿

      That is just so wrong. 👿

    3. More proof that if Fundies ruled the world in the 1700’s we would still be part of England and singing “God Save the Queen”. They always seem to think protest and rebellion is a bad thing.

      1. I shake my head at the double standards & hypocrisies of the fundy elite. I remember xpastor ranting about the flock being “obedient”, it was the ole “fear factor” sermon, keeping us all in line. Yet he’d talk about the USA & our founding fathers….& I’m thinking, does this moron know that the founders weren’t exactly “obedient” to the “powers that be” at that time in history?

        There is so much double speak in ifb & those of that ilk that it is crazy making for sure.

      2. I’m thinking that it’s not so much -protest- they are against…it’s protesting against THEM.

        Xpastor never had a problem with someone taking on, or not being obedient in the Catholic church…it was considered a good thing to rebel against that system. But rebelling against them & THEIR ifb system, that’s tantamount to blasphemy.
        😯 Oh the double standards.. 😕

    1. It sounds like you’re whining.

      If you believe what you wrote above, shouldn’t you apply it to yourself? “In the real world stuff happens we don’t like, so we just get on with life. There is not enough time to complain about all the bad things that are going to take place. The real measure of a man is how he can move forward from a major setback in life, and that will mot happen if he just complains and dwells on it.”

      After all, not getting your opinion posted on an internet blog becomes pretty insignificant compared to children abused and then told that it was their fault or that they had to hide what happened so as not to supposedly harm the cause of Christ. If they’re supposed to move on, surely you can too.

      All teasing aside, those who were protesting were attempting to weep with those who weep, to publically identify with the wounded and voiceless as they believe Jesus would have them do.

  16. Let us hope and pray everyone can get on with life and move forward. I know from personal experience that to keep pounding the drum over past indescretions does no good and only prolongs the negative effects on one’s quality of life. I just shook the dust from my sandels and moved on to the next phase of life and let God deal with the offending ones, for only he can doll out true justice.

    1. “.. past indescretions..”

      I’m not sure if I would classify sexual abuse and covering up sexual abuse as indescretions. I think crimes would be a better description.

    2. There is a time to obey Prov. 31:9: “Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy” or Ps. 82:3: “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.”

      Jesus announced the beginning of His earthly ministry by reading these words from the OT: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
      He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
      and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

      Yes, God will deliver justice, but Scripture clearly says that He has established government to enforce justice. Part of helping people move on is letting them know they are valued, helping them seek justice, and loving them where they are.

      1. I was thinking also of 2 Chronicles 10, where Rehoboam provokes the rebellion that led to Israel splitting from Judah by increasing the burdens upon the people when his counselors told him he should show them kindness.

    3. How conveniently things get downgraded to an indescretion when fundy leadership does something but when other people do things it’s SIN and a crime. 🙄 👿

  17. Oddly enough, I wore my red sweater today without even knowing this was happening. 😕 Had I known, I would have definitely done so. I’ve seen firsthand the results of sexual abuse. There is no spot in Hell hot enough for people like that.

    1. Personally I thought the Matthew 11 reference was cuter.

      Woe unto you Jeremy Larson, the folk on SFL repented of their fundiphobia long ago – its part of the process of leaving the decaying carcass

    2. What I find cute about your post, Jeremy, is that you are using a tactic that is widely used by gay/lesbian supporters for their cause: claiming that anyone who disagrees with you must be doing so only because they are afraid of you. Reality check, no one here is afraid of you or the fundy system. 😆 🙄

      (and to anyone else reading this, just to be safe, this is in NO WAY an attempt to start a discussion about the gay/lesbian movement, so please do not take it as such. It was merely an observation of tactics)

      1. Why, yes, that name does look familiar. So Jeremy, you think that standing up in support of abuse victims is a terrible thing, but bringing a gun on campus is good? Sick freak.

  18. I’m so proud of the people involved in this movement. But I fear that if you find yourself still at BJU after your eyes have been opened about Fundydom, you probably aren’t in a place (mentally) to really “Fight the Power”. To me, attending that place would cause a lot of self-loathing, confusion and angst, so why stay and waste money pursuing a mostly-useless degree? The biggest dent in the structure would be a wholesale student exodus. Just my opinion.

    1. Being aware of fundy abuses, I would have a moral problem with “feeding the machine”. Generating income for such a place would be repugnant to me. I understand it takes a while for some to break free. BTDT.

    2. I couldn’t agree more, especially with “mostly-useless degree” part. As sad as it would be to put so much time and money into your education then get “shipped” for standing up against wrong, I truly believe that student would be better off. It would have to beat owning a piece of paper not worth the ink it was printed with sitting idly in a drawer. Trust me. I know all too well.

  19. For those who would say, “just get over it” or “it’s time to move on” or any of the other excuses that we all know or that have been addressed by Darrell in this post; go study what true Biblical forgiveness looks like. Understand that Biblical forgiveness takes two parties, the repentant and the forgiver. Always. Forgivers cannot forgive in the true Biblical fashion if the one who has wronged against them does not repent. And the Bible is quite clear about the motivations and eternal destination of those who will not repent or those who refuse to forgive. Get the book, Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns for the best help on this topic.

    Blessings and prayers to all those who are wearing red today at BJU.

  20. Does anybody know a rough estimate of what percentage of students had red on today? BJ won’t kick kids out right away. They know the world is watching, and expelling a kid is a guaranteed way to get him/her on the news explaining their position against kids being raped, and BJU kicked him/her out for expressing that opinion.

    That being said, I guarantee a LIST was made today. A list that will be tacked on someone’s wall for the next 4 years with instructions to do everything in their power to FIND A REASON to expel anyone who wore red today. I guarantee that The Third took this personally, and believes that anyone involved has to go. Otherwise, it won’t be long before the worst case scenario…a black guy is running the place.

    1. There were maybe 10. The whole thing has been blown way out of proportion. This was not a Ghandi moment or a Rosa Parks moment. It was 10 students and maybe that many alumni.

      1. Whatever the actual numbers (whether the ones you give are correct or not) the point is not the number of people who stood up. Numbers do not make something right or wrong. The whole point is that there were students who were willing to PUBLICLY protest the abuse and cover-up, despite the fact that their will most likely be an attempt by the school to get back at them for it. Even a few people who stand up for what is right, knowing that there will be consequences, are able to make a difference.

        Even if BJU continues to be as self-righteous and stiff-necked as before, God can use these students’ stand to change individual people inside and outside the school.

  21. Its time for BJUs 40 plus years of barely recognized legitimacy to finally come to and end. I can’t believe its taken this long. This University is nothing more than a clan of white trash bigots who are a little smarter than your average hillbilly and so were able to successfully run a cult over many decades.

    I mean, at 12 in the early 80s, with no internet, I knew this place was founded with the help of KKK money and political support. What’s taken everyone else so long? I mean, I know three piece suits and white pianos are more familiar than orange togas and tamborines but after awhile the obvious becomes…well, obvious. Truly, I don’t get it but glad to see this day finally come. Sorry I sound so harsh but I can attribute a few suicides and destroyed families directly to the actions of this evil cult. Buh bye, BJU and not a minute too soon.

  22. i highly doubt many bju students are wearing red today. kids who let their parents tell them where to go to school aren’t usually the type to exit the comfort zone.

  23. Well, for what it’s worth, I wore my beatiful new red silk scarf for the first time today when I picked up my kids from fundy school. I can’t think of a better day to break it out! Especially given the recent fiasco concerning an older math teacher… My next big growth spurt will be getting them out of there. That decision will be part of my season of concentrated, deep prayer coming up. 😐

  24. This post so spot on. I had a panic attack just thinking of the times I’ve tried to have a logical conversation with a fundie about something I disagreed on. When they right, they’re right. When they’re wrong their right. Now I need to go brush my teeth – I just threw up a little in my mouth.

    1. It JUST HAPPENED to me right now, Susan! I am a recent escapee and an older woman from my fundy church just called again, we have played phone tag a few times since I left but I knew she just wanted to get the goods on why I haven’t been at church (she tends to be a bit of a gossip). Well, she caught me just now and tried to start the argument that no one just leaves a church without a reason and pressing me to tell her why so she can argue the point with me. “Well you just can’t go church hopping…” I had to flat out tell her “I am not going to discuss this with you” because I know it is futile and she is just getting fodder for more gossip. I wouldn’t play the game. 😕

      1. You handled it exactly right. After we left our church one of my facebook friends who goes to that church asked why we left and I said we had our reasons and I was not going to discuss them. That’s all you can do. Just stick to your guns especially if you know this woman is a gossip. 😀

  25. Well, this just triggered some shawful memories of my own experience at ‘The’ Fundy College of the Bible. All the paranoia, all the fear, like apple bits, coming up. You can’t fight the system, but you can escape.

  26. I’ll never forget the time my mother was talking to my then fiance (now husband)about her beliefs and she crossed her arms and said in an apologetic way,

    “I’m sorry, I know this sounds bad, but we’re right. We are.”

    Reason one million that we no longer have contact with her.

    1. You and I have been part of the same conversation surrounding a status on FB thru a mutual friend. This alumna who has been told that I don’t belong in the conversation on the issue TRULY appreciates your thoughtful consideration of the topic at hand. Stand strong and be courageous. Keep your eyes wide open and keep thinking for yourself.

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