Recently, Dr. Camille Lewis, a former faculty member of Bob Jones University who recently resigned, posted a comment to the BJU Weblog: "I wish you were wrong. I really, really wish. But you're not. You're exactly correct. And my very recent story confirms that all this is still alive and well. God help us all."
Camille has a blog, "A Time to Laugh", in which she shares the story of how she and her husband, Dr. Grant Lewis, also a former faculty member at BJU, came to resign from BJU. She is a published author, a 'thinker' who has a mind of her own, a painstaking researcher, a brilliant wordsmith, and one who has gone through some very deep waters, both in her profession as a faculty member of BJU and in her private life.
Much has changed at BJU during the last 28 years since I graduated. But, has BJU really "changed" in areas that desperately need(ed) change?
Though his legacy remains, Bob Jones, Jr. passed away and is no longer embarrassing the BJU-family with his inordinate speech and inflammatory rhetoric.
Bob Jones III is now chancellor. As president of BJU, Bob Jones III muddled his way through the public portion of the interracial dating nonsense from 1970 to 2000. He fought for his interracial dating rule against the IRS, the Reagan Administration, and the Supreme Court. Following in the steps of his father and grandfather, he embarrassed the University family with his interracial dating bigotry and the grand deception that BJU's interracial dating ban was "Bible policy".
Like Bob Jones Jr., Bob Jones III proved that he is no stranger to inordinate speech. Those who trusted that Bob Jones III would run BJU decently and with a modicum of Christian decorum were embarrassed and disappointed throughout the whole ordeal. Stephen Jones has been a welcomed change in that area.
The University's involvement in politics is one of its most notable, obvious changes. After the 2000 presidential election, politicians have avoided Bob Jones III and BJU like the plague. Yes, Bob Jones III did his "personal" Mitt Romney endorsement in which he took pains to say that he was not speaking for Bob Jones University!? And, obviously, the endorsement embarrassed Romney. (What was he to do? Refuse the endorsement and invite a John McCain-styled firestorm before the SC Primary?) But Bob Jones III's endorsement of Mormon Romney only garnered media coverage because of the apparent inconsistency of endorsing one in a religion he had called "a cult". Clearly, one change that has occurred at BJU is that the Joneses/BJU have been forced to take a lower public profile. They have also become more media-savvy.
The "Bob Jones-only" label has been erased and Stephen Jones is now president. Many of the old-guard faculty and administrators have retired. New people have taken their places, many whose names I do not recognize.
But, has BJU changed in the ways that they treat people, students, faculty, staff, graduates? Have they changed the way they decide doctrine and "Bible policy"? Have their ethics changed? Is there still an atmosphere of spiritual coercion and Phariseeism? Is BJU still a place that produces men and women bound, not to their consciences and Christ, but bound by personal loyalty to the Joneses and institutional idolatry to BJU? Is BJU still guided by pragmatic expediency? Or, are important decisions involving matters of faith and practice made based upon what will sustain BJU?
I hear the claim that BJU has changed. But these claims never cite specific, substantive areas of reform. Can anyone cite one substantive change Stephen Jones has made? Or, like in the days when Bob Jones Jr. was chancellor and Bob Jones III was named president, is Stephen just a day-to-day operational figurehead who has to ask daddy?
28 years ago, BJU was a spiritually abusive, spiritually oppressive institution. This was well-known - and accepted - by most of those who had attended or had worked at BJU for any length of time. Bob Jones University was a "sick sub-culture," something that M. Scott Peck discussed in his book People of the Lie. (Peck did not name BJU specifically. However, he did describe how such organizations operate and his book is instructive as to how to identify evil people and evil organizations.)
Dr. Camille Lewis graduated from BJU, earned her doctorate at Indiana University, and came back to BJU with her husband, Dr. Grant Lewis, to be faculty "lifers" at BJU. Obviously, the Lewis's were loyal, dedicated members of the BJU-family. And, apparently, they are now lived through what I call "The Whole BJU Experience," that which includes the starry-eyed freshman's entrance to BJU-dom all the way to the sickening realization of the atmosphere of deception and the painful exit.
I would encourage anyone interested in seeing how BJU operates today to visit Camille's blog and her "Ebenezer" series on how she and her husband came to resign from the faculty of BJU. Following are two short clips from her last post.
"Like many, I was hopefully optimistic that a change for the better was taking place under BJU’s new administration. And as reluctant as I was to admit it before, during, and immediately after the meeting, I now see that really very little has changed in the last 81 years in the way that organization handles intellectual differences, faculty development, interpersonal disagreement, and administrative egos. Stories from the disenfranchised are legion, and if you compare our story to ones from 30 years ago, it’s plain to see that nothing’s changed. The direction that the meeting was about to take that unlucky July afternoon made that abundantly clear."
"...This is what Grant and I were objecting to from the start really. The gracelessness of a system that justified all sorts of secrecy, lying, and cruelty simply because of who was doing it. A system that claimed to be parental but was simply punitive. We had heard about it from our students. We had read about it in those books. And now we were getting it first-hand, in living color, right before our eyes, right from our friends. . . . I pray I never forget how that feels so that I’m never tempted to do it to another human being..."
Over the years since my time at BJU and my experience with Bob Jones III and the BJU grads at Northside Baptist, I have found it reassuring, and uncanny, that different people, in different circumstances, come to the same conclusions about the Joneses and Bob Jones University. Beware the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.