After being hired, fired, re-hired, and then delayed, GRACE has finally released its final report on sexual abuse at Bob Jones University(PDF).
I haven’t yet read all 301 pages so please feel free to share your findings and observations in the comments.
393 thoughts on “GRACE Releases the BJU Report”
If anyone tweets about this, I will suggest the hashtags #GRACEreport and #fireBergnow
If BJU thinks that this report is unfair and feels like the world is so evil for attacking them and victimizing them, then maybe they should look for their root sin of bitterness against the world and ask God for forgiveness. Maybe they should look back on their actions and see what they might have done, no matter how small, to bring on this “trial” and learn the lesson that God has for them.
But I’m not holding out a lot of hope for that. They only preach that message to the undergrads who don’t quite fit the mold and/or people who are suffering things that they can’t fit into their little tiny box of Fundamentalism.
God have mercy on them. I know and love some of them.
I hereby propose that whenever a BJU person complains about the publicity and criticism over this issue, we respond, “Oh, you’re just bitter.”
Post of the day! No, Post of the year!
Darn it, why isn’t there a like button!
Spot on, Eric.
I wonder if this kid had a chance? Did Jim Berg counsel him? Life is tough enough without the religious shackles clamped on those who grew up in this mess. As a damn yankee, a former New Englander now in the South, I happened upon a Patch the Pirate broadcast this morning and wondered if there is a correlation. Sick, sad and needless waste of life all to perpetuate power and prestige for these religious zealots.
My wife and I laughed as we sang the songs (we still remember the words) but it is not funny.
This is devastating.
I must be missing something. What’s the connection to BJU and/or the GRACE report?
The only connection I am aware of is that the Hamiltons are closely affiliated with BJU. Much of their music is used on campus.
Was this young man related to Ron Hamilton of BJU?
Yes. The young man was Ron Hamilton’s son, IIRC.
I’m not noticing any obvious connection to the G.R.A.C.E. report or investigation. Hamilton died in May of 2013. The articles state that there is reason to believe it was a suicide, with plans to review the garage surveillance tapes to see if he jumped or was pushed, but I could find no further information.
No obvious connection to the GRACE report — but obvious questions as to interaction with University personnel, including the principals in the report.
It is highly doubtful his family did not seek help, and since the association with the University is so close, that is where the help would be sought.
So the questions. What “help” did the young man get? From whom? And while I am completely aware of privacy concerns, we may well become informed in time.
The GRACE report is the tip of the iceberg. Now that it is out we will have others coming out with their stories, and people will be paying attention.
Actually, the dead don’t have a right to privacy– legally speaking, anyway.
Yes, that was Ron Hamilton’s (Path the Pirate’s) son. He did commit suicide, according to the family. Very sad, but there was no link to the GRACE report.
I know the famous line from many ministries–especially fundies–is they want to take care of things in house so they do not mar the reputation of christ (I am more and more convinced that the christ they are speaking of when they say this is not Jesus Christ but themselves)
I wonder what they think about the damage done because they tried to cover it up? Will they learn from this?
Will they work to change the atmosphere on campus, the attitude of men towards women? Or will the dress code and the rules on being alone with the opposite sex be enforced stronger?
So often, a cover-up has worse repercussions than the original offense.
that is very true, Big Gary. But the church doesn’t seem to learn that lesson. The Catholic Church went through and is still going through a painful lesson on covering up the sex abuse issues. It may have been smart as the Catholic Church has dealt with this for the past 50 year, that the IFB and other denominations decide covering things up is not helpful. But then again, the IFB doesn’t believe they can learn anything from any other denomination since the IFB alone holds all truth.
You are right on, Leanne, and the report covers your very point:
“Institutions that value a showcase environment as an ideal may also harm the community, because for some, disclosing abuse is considered “a bad witness” for Christ. Consequently, perpetrators again are protected. Institutions that fear disclosures of sexual abuse because it “hurt[s] the name of Christ” actually aid sexual offenders in the perpetuation of their crimes.” -p 214
I suspect they were more worried about hurting the reputation (such as it was) of Bob Jones University.
It would really suck to be a senior at BJU majoring in Counseling. All the stuff you have studied (and paid handsomely to do so!) has just been prove false and harmful. Your teacher has been proven to be an unqualified, uneducated fraud.
So, are you going to transfer somewhere in the middle of your senior year and retake all your counseling classes or double down and get your degree from BJU – and have your degree rejected in the real world?
My non-attorney advice:
Presenting Jim Berg as an expert counselor and college professor was a fraud. Demand a refund. File a lawsuit if they refuse to give you one (include the additional costs involved in transferring schools). Transfer whatever credits will transfer to a real college and rebuild your graduation requirements.
A whole lot of people need to file lawsuits against the school, and against individual officials who apparently defrauded them of an education; failed to report the sexual abuse; sent felony offenders home without reporting them to the police or DSS.
Of course they will all be talking about Matt 18 and other passages. This is a time for litigation.
I completed the GRACE report, and it’s a stunning and searing indictment of BJU’s failure to follow mandatory abuse reporting (since the 1970s); and coverups of felony sexual assaults.
Since Gunter Salter is dead, can a suit be brought against his estate? (toungue-in-cheek).
Sie sind eine Unreife und junge Studentin, die nicht die Zeichen durchs Leben zu bringen. Man muss mein Leben und meine Zeit in der Hitlerjugend zu verstehen, wie toll ich bin.
Was Gunter Salter ever alive?
Ihre Zeit in der Hitlerjugend baute sicherlich ein starkes Fundament für Ihre Reife und Verständnis für das Leben!
Das ist wirklich wahr!
A female student admitted in a counseling session that she had taken up smoking after she had been victimized. This is from the report, page 124:
So, the same people who don’t want the police involved, who don’t see it important for the criminal to be held accountable will tell a victim that she must be accountable on an infinitesimally smaller infraction.
So she was supposed to confide in a “counselor” who was also punishing her for whatever she confessed to?
That is so wrong it’s hard to even believe it.
It’s so wrong it has me splitting infinitives.
Remember, from a perspective of “law,” anything you say can and will be used against you.
BJU has shown itself unable to comprehend or to communicate Grace to others. Now GRACE is being shown it.
In law, one at least has the right to say nothing. It doesn’t appear that BJU students have that right.
Deacons Son: I hope that you have time, in your busy schedule, to read the complete report and give your opinion on the liability that the school (and key individuals) could possibly face.
Has anyone commented on the introduction to the report yet? Whoever wrote that introduction knows what she’s about. First, laying out biblical instances of failures of empathy, then contrasting instances of counsel and empathy within Christ’s ministry, all while using the ESV for scripture references. Exposure of Berg’s folly by contrast.
Yes, that was well done, wasn’t it?
Greenville News Editorial…
Bob Jones University will be challenged over the next few months to prove it truly understands the devastating nature of the findings from a two-year investigation into how the school for decades handled reports of sexual abuse on and off the campus. The school’s response will demonstrate whether it is committed to helping vulnerable people failed by school leaders who handled sexual abuse disclosures in a manner that for many victims deepened their pain and stalled or made impossible their efforts to recover from traumatic experiences.
GRACE began its long-awaited, 301-page report that was released Thursday with a compliment to BJU for taking a “bold step forward” to examine “how it may have caused deep hurt in the lives of students who had suffered from the ravages of sexual assault.” GRACE is a self-identified Christian organization based in Lynchburg, Virginia, and its full name is Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment. BJU under former President Stephen Jones does deserve credit for undertaking the independent GRACE investigation and agreeing to make public its findings.
Others deserve even more praise, however, and that includes the former students who have forced the university to acknowledge and address its failures when it comes to how allegations of sexual abuse were handled. Former students and even some current ones recognized the injustice that has taken place and have refused to back down even in the face of criticism and some hostility. The courage displayed by alumni and former students who insisted on the GRACE investigation is even surpassed by that required of the sexual abuse victims who participated in this study. They are the heroes here for agreeing to share their stories of the original abuse and then the revictimization that followed as they were struggling to deal with what had happened to them.
The two-year investigation produced an unflinching report into how BJU failed to provide a safe environment where students could seek help and begin the healing process after they arrived on campus dealing with childhood sexual abuse or were assaulted during their student years. Part of the investigation included a confidential survey, and in it more than 60 percent of the self-identified abuse victims who responded said the college’s attitude toward victims was one “of blame and disparagement.”
One of the most damaging findings was that key college leaders were slow, by decades, to understand their legal requirement to report alleged sexual abuse in many cases. Laws were developed more than four decades ago, and refined and sharpened over the years, to require adults in positions of authority to protect innocent children who are being abused. It is absolutely appropriate for Solicitor Walt Wilkins to begin his own investigation, which was announced Friday, into the way BJU handled the sexual abuse reports.
Wilkins has an opportunity to put an exclamation point on the brutal report by holding BJU officials accountable if his investigation finds violations of legal requirements to report sexual abuse. “If they were convincing individuals not to report crimes that could be considered obstruction of justice,” Wilkins told Greenville News reporter Lyn Riddle. “We need to see if it rises to that level.”
One key finding of the GRACE report stated, “The survey findings support a possible conclusion that BJU representatives may have sometimes discouraged the reporting of sexual crimes to the proper authorities.” Although school officials have reported a different interpretation of some comments or counseling advice, some victims said they were told the abusers should be forgiven and not reported to law enforcement authorities, and that they would be selfish if they shared their experience with others and in doing so hurt the school.
Victims also reported how they were made to feel ashamed for what had happened to them, and they came away from sermons or counseling sessions thinking they had contributed to the abuse. “Women and girls were taught they must ‘confess’ the part of sexual abuse they enjoyed, that they probably enticed the abuser,” was among the viewpoints expressed.
One victim reported she was abused by her grandfather from the ages of 6-14, according to the GRACE report. When she went for counseling, she later reported being asked, “Did you repent for your part of the abuse? Did your body respond favorably?”
Two school leaders were held out for especially strong criticism in the GRACE report: Bob Jones III, who led the school for many of the years covered by the investigation, and Dr. Jim Berg, dean of students during much of the period covered by the investigation and the man, who with an educational background in theology, helped develop the counseling program for students.
The GRACE study led to a number of recommendations, some already implemented, that include timely reporting of suspected abuse, a recognition that victims should never be blamed for abuse or assault, and an agreement to separate counseling services from the disciplinary process.
BJU President Steve Pettit and others who hold the university dear to their hearts now carry the burden of implementing GRACE report recommendations, trying to salvage the school’s reputation, and reaching out to vulnerable people hurt first by their abuser and again by how their confidence was betrayed and their case mismanaged. There’s more the school should do, too.
The extraordinarily damaging views about abuse that were uncovered in the GRACE report have hurt more than the victims who participated in this investigation. Those views were shared over the years with young men going into the ministry, with students preparing to be teachers or counselors, and with boys and girls who now have their own children who are venturing into a world that can be unsafe and downright cruel. A step toward redemption should include BJU’s heartfelt and comprehensive effort to make its closest allies understand how much horribly wrong information was spread for many years and how critically important it is to change a fundamentally flawed view of sexual abuse.
After glow, thanks for posting this.
It’s a good commentary, and rather bold, considering that it comes from Bob Jones’ hometown paper.
Yes, After Glow, Thank You!
“The extraordinarily damaging views about abuse that were uncovered in the GRACE report have hurt more than the victims who participated in this investigation. Those views were shared over the years with young men going into the ministry, with students preparing to be teachers or counselors, and with boys and girls who now have their own children who are venturing into a world that can be unsafe and downright cruel. A step toward redemption should include BJU’s heartfelt and comprehensive effort to make its closest allies understand how much horribly wrong information was spread for many years and how critically important it is to change a fundamentally flawed view of sexual abuse.”
I didn’t even make it to BJU. I was psychologically and emotionally destroyed by one of it’s feeder churches/K-12 schools, along with my BJU-alumni parents, long before I reached college age. Since then I have muddled around in the “cold, cruel world” and been further damaged, abused and taken advantage of.
What is interesting is that I also found decent, compassionate and kindhearted human beings “out in the world” and in other denominations, some were even (Gasp!) Catholic, who took me seriously and did their best to help me pick up the pieces and move on.
Article about the silence of the Christian Right on this issue:
Has anyone seen any responses from leadership of other Christian churches/organizations, or are they all just worried this storm will eventually blow in their direction?
Well the usual pontificators (lookin’ at you, Al!) can’t speak up because of the skeletons in SGM’s closet, so…
The Daily Kos story quotes this passage from the New York Times report:
“The criticism of Bob Jones [University] differs from that prompted by the sexual-assault scandals that have erupted at colleges across the country, in that it is not primarily about assaults on or near campus, committed by students or staff members. Rather, the university has been criticized for penalizing victims who reported incidents or sought treatment, and were told not to go to the police, even when the university had a legal obligation to do so.”
This is technically correct, but somewhat misleading. While it’s true that the report is concerned largely with BJU’s handling of abuse that happened elsewhere, some of the sexual abuse and assault incidents did happen on campus, and/or involved BJU students or employees as perpetrators. Those were among the most grievously mishandled.
I think the point of the NYT article was not where the assaults happened – as if they were intending to communicate that BJU was safe. Rather, I think the point was that BJ is in trouble for abusing victims further, whereas other schools were not. At least that is the flavor I got (assuming we are talking about the same article).
I don’t think you will see many responses. No one wants to draw any attention to themselves that will possibly open up questions about their conduct. The history of most Fundy groups would show cover-ups of one type or another. I would think that almost any organization that has any history at all has skeletons that they wish to remain buried. For all the good people that have worked for the colleges and mission boards and other institutions, there are still those who have taken advantage of the systems they were part of. The leadership of said organizations have such a fear of loss of revenue or reputation that they are willing to sacrifice a few victims to the “common good”.
This is a problem that needs to be addressed by some courageous leader who is willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good of true Christianity. These folks need to realize that true belief involves punishment for sin, not cover-ups. How are they expecting to reach a lost world when they themselves so obviously rebuff Scripture? By punishment, I don’t mean the victim.
Folks that claim to believe the Bible need to quit being respecters of reputation and wealth.
This certainly doesn’t help me to be a proud alumnus, just a former “dumb trade student” thankful he lived off campus and was able to separate himself from the corporate identity.
I’m off my soapbox now. I’m going to play a video game, calm down, and then go repair a garage door.
Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent.
The catch-phrase during Watergate was, “Follow the money.” Is there a short phrase to properly describe the goings-on at this school of higher learning?
Also “Follow the money.”
“Follow the money” is right. Though to be honest, they don’t seem to be building vast hoards of personal wealth. They do live considerably better than those they manage, but the pay even at the top at BJU is small compared to most colleges.
Of course, that doesn’t count book royalties and other things like travel expenses and speaking fees. Even then, however, they don’t seem to be good at fortune-building.
Still, they are some of the biggest fish in the fundamentalist pond, and you know what the bigger fish do? They eat the little fish. They may be minnows on the world’s money scale, but they can push others around and they can be revered above the common people.
Power corrupts. Power even corrupts those who think they are God’s Men.
It’s not necessarily personal money. They need money for their institutions in order to hold onto and build their power.
Most importantly, they need to protect their sources of money (tuition, big donors, etc.).
These Fundies leaders are building dynasties, too. Their sons get put on staff in lofty positions and given titles and honors they did not earn. They do not have to struggle to find a job with an unaccredited degree in the real world. Where I am from the Fundy mannogawd’s young heir apparent’s first home was a custom build on an acre in the best neighborhood on that side of town…naturally.
Follow the money
Follow the power
Follow the jobs/security for their offspring
I read the report. My final analysis is that Bob3rd is still “standing without appology” and Jim Berg, who was their resident expert in all things counseling, claims ignorance but we should understand he meant no harm and was sincere in his efforts as he read books on counseling and went to one seminar.
I’m resisting the urge to get all snarky about this, because it is too serious an infraction for too many decades.
Eric, I have the exact same takeaway after reading the report.
It still makes my head spin that someone who set himself up as an expert counselor, taught classes and published books he wrote on counseling, and “counseled” countless clients now says all his malpractice should be excused because he knows practically nothing about counseling– not even the minimum legal and ethical requirements of the profession.
It’s as if I called my plumber to say, “You just replumbed my whole house, and now water is spurting everywhere,” and he replied, “That’s not my fault, because I have no idea how to do plumbing. You should have asked if I knew what I was doing before you let me work on your house.”
Except the consequences are even worse :-/
I wish fundamentalists everywhere would drop the “biblical counseling” nonsense.
They would have to stop being fundies for that to happen. They believe that everything has a “biblical” way to do it better, more godly, with no knowledge or study required to teach, but which you can make a person waste, uhhh, “invest” 4 years of their life to “learn.”
Hey, Berg doesn’t need a degree in the field to teach it, right? And those are graduate level courses he is “teaching.”
Berg was not given the counseling responsibilities based upon his expertise. It was because he was unflinchingly, blindly loyal to The Bob.
Dr. F and rtgmath, now you have me wondering how Biblical plumbing would be done.
“Biblical plumbing” is so like digging a hole in the ground,
“And you shall have a trowel with your tools, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it and turn back and cover up your excrement.nd you shall have a trowel with your tools, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it and turn back and cover up your excrement.”
Biblical plumbing would stink.
George got into the cut and paste.
And you shall have a trowel with your tools, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it and turn back and cover up your excrement.
rtgmath– it doesn’t stink if you bury the excrement deeply enough, which is no doubt the principle many Fundy institutions have been following regarding a host of problems.
Another example of a Fundy blowhard being bitten in the hiney for utilizing a fake doctorate. It gives them a mask of education and knowledge, when deep down they are clueless, and in this case possibly liable for his ignorance.
Reminds me of Jack Schaap’s failed attempt at an appeal where he was ridiculed by Gail Riplinger in her letter to the judge:
“Riplinger adds that given Schaap’s level of literacy — noting numerous books authored by him for sale on Amazon.com, as well as his (doctorate) level of education — (his) “assertion that he could not understand the words regarding the sentencing seems preposterous.”
Given Jack Schaap’s real level of literacy, I find his claim that he can’t understand big words completely plausible.
Remember his rap about his favorite books, which led to speculation about whether or not he had ever read a book (it was here a while back, but I think FBCH has thrown it down the memory hole following the recent unpleasantness with Schaap)?
But if Gail Riplinger is mocking your level of scholarship, well … words fail me.
“More ignorant than Gail Riplinger” is a concept that’s hard to get my mind around.
I agree it is hilariously ironic that Gail Riplinger was the one pointing this out.
Schaap’s claim to a doctorate level education made his protestation of misunderstanding the judge and the plea deal less believable. It bit him.
And a similar claim is biting Berg now too. Berg bragged about having a doctorate level education and even promoted himself as an expert, but now is just too ignorant to understand the subject he specialized in.
Things will not go well in court for him either, I suspect.
Big Gary, I have gotten away with more posted on BJU’S Facebook page than I would have expected (Jack Heller there). How about copying your comment here unto that page?
I don’t have a Facebook account, so I can’t post comments to Facebook, but if you want to copy one of mine, be my guest.
Which one, by the way?
Plumbing . . .
Please link to this fb page.
Dear Stuff Fundies Like Reader:
A Long Post … Part I
A year ago this time, I spoke to the Chuck Phelps audio clip from Bob Jones III [ http://tinyurl.com/mf2thuj ], where you can find background for these new comments. In addition to the recently published GRACE Report summary on the Bob Jones inquiry, the prevalence of abusive situations in so many churchly situations also makes further comments appropriate.
As committee worked and educated itself, we learned that behind abuse, and ongoing abuse in particular, lies an extremely deep-seated pathology, one that few churches or other Christian institutions are prepared or able to identify. Factors contributing to this include but are not limited to a theologically anemic view of sin, grace, the nature of Christian existence and their ministry philosophy. This is only mentioned here.
Abusive habits change perpetrator’s minds insidiously. They learn expertly to separate the cultivation of inner immorality from the presentation of public spirituality. They can switch between them seamlessly because in such minds, no boundary exists. It is obliterated by years of practice so that the ‘switch’ becomes automatic and instinctual. The issue now is not a division between good and evil; the issue is devotion to evil.
The vices of personal gratification, self-glorification, intense hubris and abuse of positional power act like narcotics; they are as addictive as anything Columbian drug-lords manufacture. These vices root in personality so deeply that they now define the person. Often, abusers truly believe that they are entitled to abuse, that it is their right to do so, and that they were wronged by the exposure that denies them access to their victims.
Perpetrators of abuse guard themselves at all costs. Their minds acclimate to a life of secrecy. Desire to evade exposure consumes them and they inoculate themselves against it. Inclination toward justice is ruined, and ability to discern good and evil, right and wrong is lost. And what must never be missed but often is: even those who admit to perpetrating abuse remain utterly loath to delve into this dark, spiritual pathology.
Exposed perpetrators often cooperate eagerly to put the ‘ugly experience’ behind them. They eagerly throw themselves into whatever restorative process is commended to them. They may admit freely their failure, but they also revel in God’s forgiving, restoring grace. They seem to progress quickly, and people see that. By all appearances, this one seems to have been reclaimed for Christ. Some are even restored to positions of trust.
God indeed forgives and restores the fallen that confess and repent. The abuse which they perpetrated is now under Jesus’ blood. It can never be raised against them. Beside this glorious truth is another; the restoration of a right relationship with God differs fundamentally from reinstatement to positions of authority, power and trust. Forgiveness comes in an instant. Abusers are a lifetime dealing with the above described pathology.
Yet too often, theology fails to support that distinction. Forgiveness is cast into an argument for reinstating in a position of power, trust and authority someone with a malevolent, narcissistic, spiritual pathology acquired over decades. In addition to showing utter incomprehension of the nature and work of evil and relationships of power, this courts disaster for vulnerable people around perpetrators.
Abuse is not rooted in specific indiscretions, however injurious. Behind abuse is a pathology the malignancy of which is often seen fully only AFTER exposure and confession. To confront an abusive, narcissistic, personality is extremely difficult. This is spiritual warfare and it is physically, mentally and spiritually exhausting. Abuse ruins perpetrators as well as victims, and confronting this pathology is not unlike performing an exorcism.
Yet from Roman priests to fundamentalist preachers, abuse allegations are often resolved by removing perpetrators to another parish or pastorate! Equally astonishing is that even with first-hand experience, congregations have lapsed into the same, destructive patterns of abuse time and again. Are they incapable of learning? Are they that devoid of spiritual discernment? How is it that such things continue to happen?
On to Part II
A Long Post … Part II
Several already pointed to Gnosticism, a damning heresy of maddening sophistication. Undetected in many North American churches, Gnosticism is oft deemed the genuine article by evangelical/fundamental churches. Many ‘purity’ codes, much depreciation of the world, and many sermons on spirituality are preached to which many Gnostics take no offense. And many Fundies would laud the lofty ‘purity’ of Gnostic practices.
But Gnosticism can take the depreciation of the physical, the world and the body in another direction. It is the spirit that is saved, so what you do with the body really doesn’t matter. ‘Food for the stomach, the stomach for food’ [1Co 6:13]! Note: Paul was critiquing a statement heard in CHURCH. Many fine Christians are attached to Bob Jones University. So are many outstanding Gnostics. Few there could explain the difference.
Additionally, institutions come to embody the personalities that shape them; and institutions then exact conformity from those in and around them. And as North American believers are influenced very heavily by the [pagan] Romantic doctrine of ‘rugged individualism,’ they are ill equipped to evaluate corporate powers around us [ex. Rom 8:38; Eph 1:21, 6:12; Col 1:13, 16; He 2:14; 1Pe 3:22, 5:8 and mirror passages].
Gathering and correlating resources of many kinds, institutions make themselves stronger than the sum of their parts. Systems of many kinds empower the institution at the expense of people. Given the combination of institutional power, plus the disempowerment of victims, plus abusive, narcissistic personalities – all set in context of a thoroughly Gnostic mindset, the outcome could hardly be any different.
Far from being a pristine interpretation of Christian faith, Bob Jones University is riddled with compromise. It tolerates Gnostic blasphemy and Romantic heresy. Despite the graceless talk of grace, it has a strong, legalistic tradition. It has weak views of creation, the fall, and redemption. One Sunday morning, a Dean ‘preached’ Hugo Grotius’ Moral Influence theory of atonement. To my knowledge, no one recognized it for what it was.
Just as exposed perpetrators of abuse confess their wrongdoing but are loath to face the pathology underlying their behavior, so exposed institutions may confess some mistakes but are loath to address the structure of power, the system of intelligence, rewards and punishments, etc. by which the institution is sustained. When these begin to be addressed, I’ll consider reviewing Bob Jones University with some leniency.
Perhaps I’m prejudging the situation, but I expect the Bob Jones University administration to push on as usual, offering a few affirmations, doubting more, and reserving judgment on much. In short, watch for stratagems of the nature of those I described a year ago this week at [ http://tinyurl.com/mf2thuj ].
William Stringfellow insisted that institutions and systems which perpetuate violence of any kind practice a form of idolatry; such institutions and systems worship Thanatos, the Power of Death, rather than of God. The power relations with the threat and use of punishments are in many instances not Biblically required. They are in many times used not with love and grace but out of malice and fear. This is a form of institutional violence.
The Jones clan is dysfunctional and constructed a religion largely to support the family in its dysfunction. God’s salvation came taking Israel out of Egypt. The burden of the prophets was that Israel kept recreating the very oppression and injustice of Egypt in Israel. The truth sets us free indeed. When social structures at Bob Jones University serve to liberate people rather than subject them to the clan, we will know the gospel is heard.
At the very least, the broader, Christian community should put Bob Jones University on spiritual probation. If BJU doesn’t make full and free confession of wrongdoing, and remedy the structuring of power and influence that facilitated abuse, the community should regard its efforts as feeble and insufficient. To President Pettit, you get as much grace as the sin you are willing to confess, Sir. Consider your ways.
I’ve copied and pasted these two posts to a Word document for a more segregated consideration. There are a couple of points you made that stood out among the wealth of dialogue:
1. “Undetected in many North American churches, Gnosticism is oft deemed the genuine article by evangelical/fundamental churches.”
2. “Institutions come to embody the personalities that shape them; and institutions then exact conformity from those in and around them.”
3. “Exposed institutions may confess some mistakes but are loath to address the structure of power, the system of intelligence, rewards and punishments, etc. by which the institution is sustained.”
4. “At the very least, the broader, Christian community should put Bob Jones University on spiritual probation.”
* Gnosticism – Expose the heresy
* The cult of personality – Expose the Diotrephes
* Institutional power structure – BJU is not a church, nor should a church be structured like an institution.
* Institutional accountability – If BJU will not hearken, then the alumni need to do what they promised each and every graduation day on the platform in the face of the President himself and shut the place down.
CS, I forgot to mention; Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts!
Glad you found something helpful. Blessings!
4. “At the very least, the broader, Christian community should put Bob Jones University on spiritual probation.”
Point #3 is key: Structural unsoundness will not be solved by ad-hoc remedies to particular symptoms of that unsoundness.
One more point: As with the famous no-interracial-dating rule, I doubt that Bob Jones leadership recognizes that the current trouble reflects a core spiritual deficiency, not just a need for adjustments here and there.
William Stringfellow was a great Christian thinker about matters of violence and injustice. A few years ago, I read a somewhat topical book he wrote in the 1960s, and was impressed with how up-to-date its concerns still are.
Dear Big Gary:
William Stringfellow’s significance for justice and peace cannot be calculated.
As Moses is remembered as the Giver of the Word to Israel, William Stringfellow is remembered as the Keeper of the Word. I did not make the connection until a few years ago.
While I never met Stringfellow [dead 30 years now], I did hear of him long ago while still in school. But my mentor in Christ of many years was an associate of Stringfellow.
Some years ago, I mentioned to my mentor that Stringfellow had been portrayed in an icon [ http://tinyurl.com/o8ls876 ]. Seeing it, my mentor reacted immediately, pointing out that the Stringfellow icon was based on an icon of Moses, the Giver of the Word. That gives one a sense of the grandeur of the role that William Stringfellow played in life.
More recently, Bill Kellerman published excerpts from Stringfellow’s writings under the title, ‘Keeper of the Word.’
Much of Stringfellow’s work is and will continue to be timeless. In my opinion, he is more Biblical and a better thinker than Walter Wink, who also writes on ‘the powers.’
Thank you for your fine the tribute to William Stringfellow.
I like that Stringfellow icon very much. I also like Walter Wink’s writing a lot, although I don’t agree with him on everything.
“William Stringfellow insisted that institutions and systems which perpetuate violence of any kind practice a form of idolatry; such institutions and systems worship Thanatos, the Power of Death, rather than of God. The power relations with the threat and use of punishments are in many instances not Biblically required. They are in many times used not with love and grace but out of malice and fear. This is a form of institutional violence.”
I said here the other day that I think the central problem at Bob Jones (and elsewhere) is idolatry. Your elaboration of this matter is very much to the point.
Big Gary wrote:
“I said here the other day that I think the central problem at Bob Jones (and elsewhere) is idolatry.”
Nicely put. One of few “long” responses I was actually able to finish reading.
Seems similar to the silliness at BJU: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2009/11/how_ayn_rand_became_an_american_icon.html
Actually, I typed worldliness rather than silliness, but same difference.
That is an excellent piece on Ayn Rand.
Like Johann Hari, I’m continually flabbergasted that such a flaming sociopath is held up as a prophet and her dumbed-down, crueller version of Nietzscheanism is revered as transcendent truth by so many, including Senators, Supreme Court Justices, Federal Reserve Chairpeople, and countless others.
Dear His Name Wasn’t Henry Porter:
Thank you for that. I have copied and formatted that article as a pdf file, which I will keep permanently.
A church I went to regularly while I was living in Belfast did I series of studies on the life of David (1 & 2 Samuel.) One of the striking aspects was the contract between Saul and David. Both ****ed up big time, but their heart responses very very different. Saul felt remorse – sometimes – when he did wrong, but that was all. He did not repent. David showed true heartfelt repentance. God forhave him, but david still had to live with the consequences of his sin. David was “a man after God’s own heart” Saul was a man who was rejected by God. The difference was in their hearts. I suspect that Fundamentalism in general. And BJU in particular, is full of Sauls, but few Davids.
Uh, that should be _contrast_ not _contract. Leave me alone George when I’m trying to make a serious point.
While we are at it, let’s ask another question.
What’s, exactly, is the Lord supposed to do in the life of a believer?
An impedent to repentance by BJU will be the Providence of God, where everything happens under God’s Control and His Will is worked, even through the sinfulness of man.
So all these believers getting crap packaged as godly counseling got that because it was God’s will. They were under a test, and God doesn’t give us more than we are able to bear, Hayden?
Why didn’t the Lord save them from the bad counseling? Was the Lord’s arm too short? Or had the sins of the victims separated them from God so that He would no longer hear or answer their prayers?
What does God save people from? What does he do in the life? The more I look at fundamentalism the more I perceive the absence of any evidence that God is at work.
I find it interesting when those who claim to believe in free will blame God for their decisions.
I’m going to start shouting “Hayden” instead of “Haymen” in church. Think anyone will notice?
Having read a transcript of Steve Pettit’s latest chapel talk, I think we may safely conclude that there ain’t gonna be no stinkin’ personnel action taken ‘gainst anyone.
As I will be moving to Greenville next year I need to get ready do a one man picket at the front gates. Maybe hand out rosaries at the front gates to all that come to confront 🙂
The International Business Times has started coverage:
Good article. Thanks for posting.
I know this is late in the game but here goes. Sexual abuse was the most problematic issue but they also used these tactics on a whole host of other issues. I am a fat man. In case you don’t know that a sin at Bob Jones. I was counseled. I was given a room mate who’s job was to get me to slim down. I almost killed myself. I had a plan and means. Luckily I had a rebel room mate who stopped me.
Thank you for your story. The University has hurt a lot of people.
No doubt they think the have the best of intentions, constrained as they are by the theology, lack of education And disdain of worldly laws and authorities. When I was a fundy I had no idea what hurt I might be delivering.
But it still hurts.
You are welcome here. Stick around!
It just devastates you when you think of all the unnecessary suffering the victims went through. I went to an IFB church, saw half my youth group enroll at Bob Jones and the hope is that some of the leaders of this movement who still allow themselves to think will be moved by simple humanity to realize that horrible things were done by well meaning or maybe stupidly insensitive people. At the risk of sounding like an apologist I can say my former pastor said all the right things but when faced with suffering humanity acted with compassion. I read the entire GRACE report and every leader in the IFB movement should read it too if for no other reason than to learn how to respond intelligently when people approach them for counseling. If they don’t care about their victims surely they realize that keeping the lawyers, media and critics away from their ministries is good business. My former pastor knew enough to know when he didn’t know enough and when to seek outside help. In addition to having the respect of his community and congregation he can also sleep well knowing he won’t have to dodge a summons. IFB leaders – go thou and do likewise!
Thank you, Clyde. There are some good pastors, fewer than people think, I believe. Otherwise this kind of abuse wouldn’t get the support it does or be so widespread as it is.
There are some people with compassion. They need to speak up. Too often they are silent in the big conversations, so many can’t know they are there.