Category Archives: Alma Maters

THE WORST PARTS OF MR. PETTIT’S “BE A MAN” SERMON

On January 28, 2019, Mr. Steve Pettit, President of Bob Jones University, preached a sermon called “Be a Man,” in which he exhorted his listeners vaguely and with nearly no guidance as to particulars, to be kind of like the Marlboro man, but not really. Tough, but not so much. You know, Christlike, but without content. Here are the worst parts.

In India, men hold hands walking down the street. In Russia, men kiss each other on the lips. Here we don’t do that—even with Dr. Horn–because it’s gay. Don’t walk, talk, act, or dress like a woman. Don’t let anyone confuse you with a woman. Cut your hair, son.

He could have stopped with those tidbits. But he preached a whole sermon. I have the transcript, and I wrote a full treatment of it, but it’s too long, so I’m editing it down to The Ten Worst Things He Said. (Edit: Thirteen worst. There were thirteen worst things.)

1. Manhood is comprised of what man is and what he should do
.

This is not true. Manhood is a state of being. “What he should do” is not encompassed in what he is. Manhood, according to Mr. Pettit, lies in whether he has a “male part” or a “female part.” (College students are too young to hear the word “wee-wee.”)

2. Spirituality is the highest aspect of manhood. Nothing else about creation can commune with God like man can.

This is false. Women also commune with God, as do little boys and little girls. It is no use his saying, “of course I’m speaking of humans generically,” because he isn’t. He’s speaking specifically about men in this sermon, so we understand that in the absence of qualifying the word as generic, he means the word man to indicate male humans.

3. Sin affected our spirituality and marred the image of biblical manhood as God intended it to be.

This is no one’s interpretation of Genesis 1. Rather, it is the Image of God—that is in view, and this Imago Dei applies equally to men and women.

4. Jesus came so we can be transformed into the Image of Perfect Manhood.

This is false. Jesus came to atone for the sins of humanity (or “his people” if you’re a Calvinist) and to preach the Kingdom of Heaven. I have been alive for 58 years, in church for long decades (mostly fundy churches) and “the image of perfect manhood” is a thing I have never heard.

5. Men and Women are differentiated at birth by whether they have a male part or a female part.

Leaving aside the silliness of his terminology, this is not always the case. Though a small minority, there are people for whom this is not true, wholly beloved children of God, their ambiguous genitalia notwithstanding. My husband, who has been a NICU nurse for over twenty years, has been in the delivery room a number of times when neither “It’s a boy!” nor “It’s a girl!” could be said. Where parents were told, “We can’t tell yet. We’ll have to do more testing.” In some cases, it has happened that even testing proved inconclusive as to biological gender. Mr. Pettit is either cruel or thoughtless in being dismissive of those few people among his listeners who are among the intersex community.

6. Men and women should maintain proper gender distinctions so that there is no confusion of the sexes.

Excuse me? In my 58 years (did I mention I’m 58?), there have been only a very few times when I have encountered someone whose presented gender was so ambiguous (to me) that I could not conclude whether they were presenting male or female, if either. Not everyone chooses to present gendered. I use the terms I use to make sure you are aware that the person you are encountering is the boss of how they present themselves in a particular context. Their genitalia is of no concern to you unless you are considering a more intimate relationship. That is, gender confusion is an individual concern. Whether you are confused about someone else’s gender is your problem. Step back, sir.

7. Man is the lord of the Creation.

The Dominion Mandate of Genesis 1 was given to both Adam and Eve. It is not gendered.

8. (Delivered in a raised voice) All men are to be leaders. If you don’t feel like it, you don’t understand what it is to be a leader or you need to be a man. To reject leadership is to reject manhood. Men are charged to be in charge.

This is false. Jesus calls his followers to follow. To be servants. Nor does Mr. Pettit explain what all this leading is about. He mentions no specifics. He gives no guidance. “Cultivating relationship” is a non-gendered activity. “Producing results” is a non-gendered goal. There is nothing he mentions that is specific to men, let alone godly Christian men.

Furthermore: Not all men are leaders. It’s okay, gentlemen, if you are a quiet non-leader. Jesus doesn’t care. If you never give a sermon. If you never give your testimony. If you decide, along with your housemates or partner or wife to split up the income earning responsibilities or child-rearing or homeschooling or budgeting, it doesn’t matter. You do you. Jesus doesn’t care. Jesus does not put these burdens on us: How manly is manly enough? He doesn’t address it. He doesn’t care.

9. Biblical masculinity is not for the immature children, but only for grown men.

Haha, no. If there is a thing called biblical masculinity, it would be for all male people, not just the adult ones. Otherwise, you would not tell your son, “Don’t run like a girl. Cut your hair.” If you do not believe this, put your infant son in a flowered, pink onesie next time you take him to church nursery.

10. Christ is the goal of all true masculinity. Jesus is the perfect man, and in him and through him we can have the grace to be like him.

No. Jesus is the role model for all his followers, girls and boys, women and men. There are zero examples of Jesus doing anything specific to his maleness that women and girls cannot emulate in being like him. There is no differentiation by gender when looking at Jesus.

11. Manhood is a calling from God to be like Jesus.

No—and more stridently—no. Because you have a penis, God wants you to be like Jesus? Come on, now. The calling from God to be like Jesus is for all of us without respect to “parts.”

12. Manhood is a calling where he has opened up the way for us to follow in his steps.

No. Following in the steps of Jesus is not gendered. It is not gender-specific. It is not distinctly male. Your manliness is distinct from your faith. You are not more manly or more correctly-male if you are particularly devout. The flip-side is also true. If you are more traditionally masculine than other men, you are not somehow more a man of faith than others by virtue of that gender presentation. These two aspects of your life are distinct.

13. Manhood does not come naturally, and it does not come easily.

Oh, come now. Do you have a male part or don’t you?

There is so much here. So much to unpack. So much conflict. So much burden of not being able to perform in public what one has been taught is the correct amount of manliness. Manhood is a state of being. It is not a performance. Or is it?

Mr. Pettit missed an opportunity to exhort the men in his audience to respect a woman’s sexual and emotional boundaries, to stand in solidarity with the abused and oppressed, to speak truth, to give to the poor. To reject racism, rape-culture, misogyny, child abuse, and domestic violence within the church and the wider community. He missed an opportunity to exhort single men to study hard and get ready for their vocation. He missed an opportunity to tell fathers to play ball with their children and teach them about Jesus and love their mother and visit their grandma and invite in the unloved, the marginalized, the different. He missed an opportunity to talk about missions and Gospel and living for the good of others—giving money and time to good causes that help people. He focused on vague ideas of Christlikeness that apply to both men and women and then yelled at men who don’t see themselves in leadership roles. Let’s face it, a lot of men in leadership roles shouldn’t be there. He could have prayed more than “help us be more loving, gracious, good, strong, brave, and courageous”—traits that apply to both men and women.

But he didn’t say any of that, most of which would apply to any man regardless of faith. Just don’t walk like a girl. Don’t talk like a girl. Don’t act like a girl. Cut your hair. I wonder what he’s thinking exactly. And I wonder why they are always thinking about that.

No, of course I don’t have to do this sort of thing, but Brian said, “Write it up,” and what could I do? I’m all submissive to my lord and master.

OPEN LETTER TO Bob Jones University’s LGBTQ+ STUDENTS ON THE OCCASION OF THE CONFERENCE ON GENDER AND SEXUALITY

You are not alone.

Yes, I’m talking to you. Hiding in your dorm. Lurking over at Starbucks. I see you in all your beautiful gayness, queerness, transness, or whateverness that makes you the wonderful person you are. I know you’re wondering if you can be gay and still love Jesus. You can. A great cloud of believing gay witnesses cheers you on, especially next week as you walk around the Bob Jones University campus during the “Sex, Gender and the Church” conference, wondering whether your L or G or B or T or Q or I is obvious to everyone and whether you’ll fall apart at the seams if you have to go through much more of this.

You are not alone this week when the arrows of Scripture and Culture have been sharpened and aimed at you. You’re right. You’re standing there, and they are aiming, but you are not alone. We are here. We stand with you.

We want you to know that when you were formed in your mother’s womb, you were gay. You have always been gay or bi or trans or a- or whatever you are that makes you you, try as you might to change your orientation to straight or your gender identity to your assigned birth gender. You may have tried over and over to fix yourself. You couldn’t. Not because you’re weak or sinful, but because you aren’t broken. There’s nothing to fix.

As a Fundamentalist, you might not be aware that there are helpful books by LGBT Christians that will help you in your growth toward wholeness and authenticity. When you are safe and have time, read this book and this book and this book by Christians about gayness. Read and realize that you’re not the first person to walk this path. Others have come before you. You are not alone.

The truth is there are a lot of gay people in the BJU world. Students, faculty, staff, alumni. It’s no secret, for example, that a number of BJU administrators have gay children. Tweak the settings on your gaydar and look around. You’re not stupid. You’re not blind. And you’re not alone.

But wait, you say, those people my gaydar has homed in on aren’t Actually Gay. They are “struggling” with same-sex attraction. That’s called being gay. If you’re a girl and you are same-sex attracted to other girls, you’re gay. If you’re a boy and you get the hots for your roomie, you’re gay. If you’re also interested in “Opposite Marriage” (otherwise known as “Traditional,” though it’s far from traditional if you get right down to it, historically speaking), you may be bisexual. Bisexuality is a thing, lots of people go there, and you might be one of them.

I wasn’t always an affirming ally. In my time, I’ve done a lot of “Gay People Are Rebelling Against God” and “You’re Not Really Gay, You’re Just Trying to Hurt Your Parents” and “Don’t Run Like a Girl,” and even, “You Can’t be Gay and Saved,” but the time came when I could no longer simply repeat what I’d been taught in Fundamentalism. I was a grown adult, a mother, a teacher, a lawyer, and I simply had to educate myself. I had to learn. I had to reach out to people who had walked this path. I found gay Christians and gay former Christians who were gracious enough to share their stories with me. I discovered BJUnity. I listened. I learned. I changed my mind. People in your life may eventually change too. Hope and pray for that while moving forward with your life.

It’s particularly hard now, because you’re a student or an employee of BJU, but the day may come when you realize that the people teaching you are, by and large, academically incestuous (BJU grads taught by BJU grads taught by BJU grads), and the people running the place are scraping the bottom of the ultraconservative barrel to find enough paying students to keep the lights on. Most Fundy colleges have closed up shop, and BJU’s enrollment has been in steady decline for many years. Conferences like the one you’re suffering through now, are efforts to market the school to whatever demographic is left that might think, “You’re right, I need to keep my kids away from gay people for four more years.” The problem this demographic faces is that today’s young people have opened their hearts to their gay friends, and because of this I’m confident you are among the very last gay people who need to hide their authentic selves. People are coming around.

Which is not to say that BJU as an entity will ever become affirming or even tolerant of gay people. Because of this, never EVER out yourself at BJU to anyone, but if you do, possibly because someone guilts you into “honesty” or “openness” or “accountability,” let it be a trusted friend, not ever a member of the Administration, who, although their own children, or their friend’s children are gay, will out you to your family, your home church, and then, in “love” and “Christian charity” expel you.

They’ll ship you, possibly days before final exams, possibly without any warning, leaving you with no credits, but all your student loan debt. On your way off campus, they’ll make sure you hear them when they call your orientation sin and abomination and corruption and perversion, but you are not broken. You are fine. You are who you are, and that is okay. Things are going to get better. You will not long be in an atmosphere that stifles your expression, others your identity and condemns your biology. You’re going to make decisions that are in your own best interest as a functioning adult in American society. BJU is a byway on your journey to adulthood and independence. It is not your destination. It is not your life’s template for godliness.

Don’t put yourself in a situation that leaves you without food- or housing-security. Living in the dorm and eating in the Dining Common are probably better than being outed to your family, shunned by your church, and crashing at a shelter. Closets are small and dark, but they can also be cozy and safe. It’s not wrong to be closeted. You don’t OWE other gay people your story or your honesty right now. Later you can go there. Later you can be loud and proud and no one will hurt you. (By the way, sit for a moment and ask yourself why you are at a college that frightens you into obedience with threats of expulsion. Just sit there. Just ask that.)

When someone at school asks you “Are you gay?” or “Do you struggle with same-sex attraction,” feel free to say, “Gurl, no way!” or “Of course not, Mr. Jones. Why do you ask?” It isn’t lying if you’re hiding Jews in the attic, and you, my friend, are fine and fabulous if you need to hide yourself in order to be safe.

Remember, these are people who will expel you from grown-up college if they think you are gay. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never even held hands with someone of the same gender. It doesn’t matter if you tell them, “Yes, I’m gay, but I’m committed to living a life of celibate abstinence for the glory of Jesus.” They will expel you for being gay. They will expel you for being gay. They will expel you for being gay. Am I clear?

Let them say otherwise. Let them say, “As long as our gay students follow the same rules our straight students follow—not to engage in pre-marital sexual contact—they are welcome here.”

They aren’t going to say that, are they? No, probably not. But be aware that the people who are making your life so difficult right now are not important people. If you’re a legacy student, you may have grown up hearing their names. You may have come to think they are Somebodies. But they aren’t. They are nobodies, just like the rest of us. They are employees at a small (and getting smaller by the year) increasingly irrelevant school you happened to stumble into for whatever reason. You can leave at any time. Get a job, get an apartment, and go to Greenville Tech. Or just go home. No one can keep you at BJU against your will. The people telling you to stay and to have sexual feelings you don’t have (but heavens! don’t act on those feelings!) are underpaid, overworked teachers and administrators who somehow acquired the entitled notion that it’s their right and duty to tell you that God can’t love you or save you if you finally—after years of praying and anguishing about it, and maybe even submitting to barbaric “treatments”—give in and say, “That’s it. I’m gay. I am so very very gay.” On the other hand (see above), don’t leave if it would put you in a position of being without food- or housing-security. Right now, that’s probably more important to you. Don’t put yourself in danger.

Until you can leave (when you graduate or sooner), know that you are not alone. BJUnity (see below for our contact info and mission statement) is here in compassion and outreach. We can help with counseling. We can put you in touch with those who have gone before you who now live authentically, joyfully as Christians (or not) in the big wide beautiful world. Your communication with us will be private, confidential. Unlike Jim Berg, who “wasn’t aware” that he should keep sexual abuse survivors’ information private, we are careful to do so. Your time at BJU is short. A few years at the longest. Be safe. Be closeted. Until you are ready. And then, my friend, BE YOU.

(And here’s a note to those of you who are reading this who aren’t gay, and who are struggling with whether you should affirm your gay kid: Affirm them. Love them. Reach out to BJUnity–read the testimonies there. Consider. Think. Jesus is not going to send you to hell for reading. The ground will not open up under you for taking a long, considered look at the books mentioned above. Take a breath. Open your heart.)

If you need us, we’re here.

Web site: BJUnity.org
Email: unity@bjunity.org
Phone: (864) 735-7598
Mailing Address: 4768 Broadway, No. 911 · New York, NY · 10034

BJUnity provides a safe harbor—a network of people and resources—for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and straight affirming people affected by fundamentalist Christianity.

BJUnity affirms and empowers lgbt+ people from Bob Jones University and other Independent Fundamental Baptist organizations.

BJUnity confronts homophobia and transphobia in compassion, dignity and love, with the objective to promote dialogue and change.

Fundamentalist and Affirming: Your Guide to Loving LGBT People

Of course you can.

Of course you can be a Christian Fundamentalist and still affirm the LGBT people in your life–your friends, your relatives, your neighbors, your co-workers and yes, your fellow worshipers.

By “affirm,” I don’t mean “tolerate.” I don’t mean standing at a distance and attempting a sad sort of alternative wave that could be mistaken for your flicking a stray lock of hair out of your face. I mean walking up, shaking hands, and saying loudly enough for others to hear, “Hey, Mike, how’re you doing? And how’s Roger?” I mean not being embarrassed. I mean putting yourself out there as someone who loves the underdog, the minority, the “other” in the way Jesus told us to: as you love yourself.

The reason you don’t currently do this is simple. The voices telling you to be unaffirming are louder than the voices begging you to affirm. Pretty much the loudest anti-affirming voice is that of your pastor who has likely been rather insistent that your affirmation of your neighbor’s existence, relationship, marriage, and adoptions is somehow to participate in these activities, and that such participation will land you in hell.

Do you get how silly that is? Let’s say my neighbor is Sikh. Am I participating in his Sikhism by not railing against it every time I see him, not asking pointed, invasive questions about his turban, not stealth-witnessing (with candy!) to his little Sikhlings when I catch them minding their own business playing at the neighborhood park? Am I participating in my other neighbor’s paganism by buying essential oils from her? I’m just saying. Being nice to people is not participating in their lifestyle. You do not become gay by being nice to gay people. Rest easy, none of this is your fault, if fault there is, which there isn’t, but just to let you breathe a little easier.

Another reason you don’t currently affirm your niece’s marriage to her wife is that you are simply embarrassed by it. You don’t want to be called a gay-lover. Sit with that and ask yourself, “Why not?” Why would you not want to be known as someone who loves and affirms people who are in the minority? See two paragraphs above for the answer: you don’t want to hear from your pastor that you are going to hell, because somehow, a Christian pastor is going to tell a Christian believer (perhaps even a tither!) that affirming her son’s marriage to her son-in-law–an affirmation that will bring her close to her son and allow her more interaction with the grandchildren who may enter this home–that she is going to hell for her kindness.

It is time, my friend, that you exercise a little strength with your pastor and perhaps others at your Fundy church. Not by leaving, if you enjoy the church and are happy there, but by simple verbal clarity. “This is my son Mike. This is his husband Roger. Roger is a forensic odontologist.” When confronted later, as you surely will be, it is enough to hold up your hand to stop the speaker and say, “I have determined to love my son with kindness,” followed by, “And how is Calliope’s eating disorder?” You know by now how to converse with your friends in such a manner that you come out on top socially.

What’s needed is out loud affirmation. Not outing someone. That’s different. It is never your business to out someone who is closeted. But when the person opens the door and steps out into the light of day, having decided no longer to deny who she is and whom she loves, then you do the out loud affirmation: “This is my daughter Jayne and her partner Bea. They are graduate students. We’re very proud of them. Bea, tell the Morrisons about your dissertation topic.” The Morrisons can and will talk about this later, possibly with smelling salts. Whatever. You don’t care. You care about Jayne and Bea.

WON’T THEY THINK I NO LONGER THINK HOMOSEXUALITY IS THE WORST SIN IMAGINABLE?

I know. I know. There, there. It’s okay. I’m patting your back now, if you can’t tell. It’s true that some people, when you affirm your nephew’s husband and their three adorable children as a real family who can sit with you in church or sit by you at the family picnic, will gasp in horror and believe down to their marrow that you have “sold out” and have climbed the steps of the slippery slope ladder and are ready to don a boa yourself. You are going to have to take this. You can calm yourself by realizing that there are a lot of bad things in the world–African famine, ISIS, the opioid epidemic, and North Korean nukes–and that Joe and Johnny and the three little J’s (Jaye, Johnzy, and Jax) are just a normal American family.

WHAT ABOUT THE CLOBBER PASSAGES?

The “Clobber Passages” are those very few sections of Scripture that can be read in a way that might indicate homosexuality is sinful. But, as you very well know, you Fundamentalist you, lots of passages can be read to make all sorts of things sinful. For example, Ma’am, do you keep a menstrual chart with the days marked off so your husband knows which two weeks out of the month he may not approach you to lie with you? You do not, Mr. Gothard’s insistence notwithstanding.

The “Clobber Passages” are those about which I get books in the mail when I write an article like this. People imagine I haven’t read the Bible, or, having read it, have specifically ignored those passages. What’s being ignored, however, is that there may be unexamined context. I’m not going to exegete anything here, but I will say, as an example, that when the Apostle Paul notes that it is wrong to visit the ritual prostitutes at the pagan temple once one has professed Christ, I would agree with him. Indeed, were I to find that my own husband was frequenting ritual prostitutes at pagan temples, I would take issue with it, and you can hold me to that.

WHAT ABOUT THE PART WHERE MY PASTOR GETS TO TELL ME WHAT TO BELIEVE ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY?

What about it? Why is he even talking about it? And why so often, and why in front of minor children? Why is the Christian church so obsessed with this topic? Why are they not, for example, working to positively impact their local communities? Who even decided that a young man gets to tell you what to believe about anything? Have you not been taught about the priesthood of all believers? Do you not read the Bible? Have you not read, “Love your neighbor as yourself”? Have you not read, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples–that you love one another”? The poor man is just saying what others have said to him, but maybe someday someone should mention to him: “Yo, Pastor Jared! Do you realize you’ve preached on the fictional Gay Agenda twelve times this year and only three times on how we can impact our neighborhood for Jesus? Dude! What is even up with that?”

BUT SHOULDN’T I WITNESS TO THEM?

If you want to talk to the LGBT people in your life about spiritual things, of course, certainly do that, but don’t do it based on what you believe is their failing. And don’t try to tweak their Christianity, if any. What I mean is this: if you start your finely-honed witnessing tactics with the old, “If you died tonight, do you know for sure you would go to heaven?” and the person answers, “Why yes, I do! I’m a born-again believer in Jesus Christ who died for my sins and is my risen Savior, sitting at the right hand of God, interceding for me!” then your work here is done and you can say, “Praise Jesus,” and grab the coffee-cake. No need to push further by (for example) asking “but WHICH Jesus are you trusting, the lame one who lets sodomites like you off the hook without obedience, or the strict Old Testament Jesus in whom I trust but actually I still go 70 on the freeway because some sins are not as bad as others, especially in Texas.” Don’t press onward into that well-rutted road of Lordship Salvation and/or Easy Believism. Just don’t. Have your coffee and ask about Jaye, Johnzy, and Jax and their potty-training, science project, and first crush, respectively. Also Johnny and his CPA business, especially if it’s near tax time. In fact, if it’s March or early April, wrap up the coffee cake and send it home. Johnny’s going to need it later.

WAIT, I THINK YOU’RE MAKING FUN OF ME

Ya think? Okay, I’m busted. Because, yes, I am. Fundamentalism was about “whatever the Bible says is so.” We’ve got the word of the Chief Hoo-Ha himself, Bob Jones, Sr., on that: “Whatever the Bible says is so.” In his inimitably simple style, he lays it out and even says, “We might disagree on what the Bible means, but we agree that whatever it says is so.”

It’s so that Jesus wants us to love each other.
It’s so that Jesus wants us to be kind to one another.
It’s so that people who confess with their mouths the Lord Jesus and believe in their hearts that God has raised him from the dead can be called Christians.

It’s your job to affirm the LGBTQIA people in your world, especially as to those who are in your church and your family.

WHAT ABOUT TOUGH LOVE?

Stop it already. On this issue of sexuality, you need to stop.
Stop asking your minor child if he masturbates. What is the matter with you? Are you crazy?

Stop telling your adult child anything about sexuality and how he or she should conduct his or her sexual life. It is not your business.

ATTEND your gay child’s wedding. Bring a lovely gift. Hug everyone. You are not going to hell for this. You are going to a party.

WHAT IF I REALIZE THAT I’VE BEEN HORRIBLE AND JUDGMENTAL TO MY GAY RELATIVE?

I know (more pat on the back). You’ve been horrible. You’ve gone after her with Romans 1 and I Corinthians, all the while ignoring true problems like the increased desertification of Africa and the annexation of the Crimea by Vlad the Invader. You’ve made your son cry. You’ve made his husband cry. It’s partly not your fault. You were misled by well-meaning people who told you it was your duty in the Lord to be cruel. That somehow, when you yelled, “Get outta my house, you faggot!” It would translate in your son’s mind to, “I love you so much it hurts, oh my god, I’m going to die because of this, I love him so much, Martha, help me.”

You might even be one of those awful people who has prayed over your child thusly: “God, whatever it takes for Mike to turn from this lifestyle . . . ” when what you mean is you’d like Roger the forensic odontologist to drill a hole through his own eye in a fit of remorse, or even that you’d like Mike himself to be hit by a car, as if God Above runs into people with vehicles to get their attention. Didn’t we learn in kindergarten Sunday school that God speaks through His Word and not necessarily via the neighborhood Mercedes Benz?

Indeed, why is it that people who pray that God will use “whatever it takes” never stumble onto the thought that the loss of a parent might be just the thing to get a child wondering about the hereafter? No one ever prays, “Lord, kill me if that’s what it would take.” No, it’s more like, “Lord, and could you rearrange Mike’s sexuality fast because Robert and I are going to renew our vows this August, and it would be so great if all the kids could be there? I’ve planned the loveliest luau, Lord. There will be roast pig if it’s Your will!”

You’ve been awful, okay. Here’s how to fix it. Say sorry. Call or go over there with a pan of brownies and say sorry. If your own spouse doesn’t want to go with you, who cares? Tell him or her, “I’m going to Mike and Roger’s to say sorry. I want them in my life. Are you coming or not?” And then just go. There’s no need to have a long conversation with anyone about this anymore than you would if you wanted to say sorry for anything else. You’ve been horrible. Go say sorry. If he gets all huffy and throws a fit over it, remind him about the upcoming luau. Does he want the roast pig or doesn’t he? Then go see the boys, share the brownies with them. And then never ever again be unaffirming.

A Week of Chapels on Same-Sex Attraction

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BJU is having a week of chapel messages focusing on same-sex attraction, because most fundamentalist kids who grow up in IFB churches can’t wait to get to BJU, because it is well-known as a hot-bed of dorm orgies and just all sorts of same-sex stuff just going on everywhere! In fact, there’s really nothing else going on there–no adultery, no porn use by male faculty, no overeating in the Kalmbach Room, no plagiarism, no hateful rhetoric toward the President of the United States, no firing of administrators for soliciting prostitutes. Shoot, I can’t think of anything more needed right now than a week of sermons on why you should only like boys if you are a girl and only girls if you are a boy.

Or maybe this week’s sermons are because there has been some new thinking on same-sex attraction in the broader church. Maybe people are understanding that not everyone is the same. Maybe people are understanding that the place you go to college for a few years shouldn’t tell you how to work out the minutiae of your sexual life. Maybe, if that school is currently being investigated for not responding correctly to sexual-abuse situations, you should not listen to what they say when they start probing into the most intimate part of your life.

Do not tell them you are gay or struggling with SSA. Do not tell anyone on campus. Tell BJUnity.org. Tell the Trevor Project. Do not get shipped, shunned, and outed–that’s what will happen if you tell them. That’s what has happened before. Keep your head down and your mouth shut. Say nothing. Nod at the appropriate times. Try to giggle a little when they make fun. Try to gasp in horror when they specify how creepy it is and how the Gay Agenda is meant to rob my children from me and bring down Life As We Know It.

Why do I, a straight lady from California and BJU alum, care? Because I know people who have been expelled for saying “I might be gay.” Because I know people who are shunned by their families for desires they cannot control. Because if I were targeted for my own social and/or sin problems–my introspection and introversion, my inability to make and keep friends, my gossiping, my eighty extra pounds, my depression (all of which no doubt have a root of bitterness and rebellion and who knows what else)–if I were lambasted from the pulpit for a week on any of those things (or indeed, many others), I would be the poor kid wondering whether it was worth it to keep going. Don’t be that person. Don’t hurt yourself. Don’t let anyone else hurt you. Please, take good care, and know that you are loved and you are okay. You are fine. Get through this week. Breathe. It will get better.

Do not write from your @bju account, but if you need to talk, my email is sharonhambrick@hotmail.com.

 

Promise Thoughts

mr clough 1948

This is from the 1948 Vintage. See Mr. Clough on the bottom row? His wife receives around $150 a month plus a discount on meals. That’s after he worked at the University for fifty years and she twenty-five. Even uber-loyal Bojos have said to me, “Mrs. Clough slipped through the cracks.” There shouldn’t be cracks like that, now, should there? 

Thank you for caring about my work. I appreciate the email and Facebook messages. Please continue to send stories, ideas, suggestions and old documents that are cluttering up your junk drawer (don’t worry; you’re not the only one) that might be helpful. My email address is sharonhambrick@hotmail.com.

Here’s an update on my progress:

I’ve been gathering information—stories, documents, IRS filings, cases (yes, I read the tax case with astonishment). (Generally speaking, if there is a case and it says your name versus THE UNITED STATES, that’s not going to be great for you.) I’ve got a working outline and a decent idea where to go with my paper on Bob Jones University’s Promise to its faculty. I’ll be sitting down over the next couple of weeks with hopes of finishing up a decent draft. Don’t worry, Brian’s taking vacation to doing Primary Parenting. My children will not starve or live in cardboard add-ons.

An old friend who teaches math at West Point is doing some math for me, so the section of the paper that answers the question, “What is the difference in dollars between what was promised and what is received?”—won’t be drafted for a few weeks at least.

 

senior

First, I have to say that the more I look into BJU, the more troubled I become. I have suffered a sort of psychological whiplash. Six months ago I thought Camille was a trouble-maker, a hater, a disloyal, disgruntled she-wolf, gnash, gnash.

After all, as Dr. Senior said, “A man who isn’t loyal isn’t anything.” (Standing Without Apology, page 148) Then–whoop, snap, ouch–my brain does a one-eighty and I wonder why I didn’t see all along that Dr. Lewis was saying something, and it was important. It is important. If she happens to say it in a way you don’t like, that doesn’t invalidate the information. (That you don’t like it being brought up that Bibb Graves was a Grand Cyclops doesn’t give him two eyes or remove his hood.) 

Let’s think about loyalty, shall we? “A man who isn’t loyal isn’t anything.” Sit with that. Ponder that. Realize that what Senior meant was, “A man who isn’t loyal to me isn’t anything.” Or perhaps, “A man who isn’t loyal to my son isn’t anything.” Dan Turner’s book Standing Without Apology is chock-a-block with statements about loyalty that, when read by a non-sycophantic eye are stomach-turning.

Here are some:

“If we get a Jonah on the ship, and the ship doesn’t take him, we let the fish eat him! We throw him overboard. . . ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’ That is the reason that in this school we have no ‘griping.’ Gripers are not welcome here. If you are a dirty griper, you are not one of us.” (page 64)

stop complaining

 

“Bob Jones was the sole controlling personality in the early days of the College and made all decisions relative to the cultural, religious and academic life of the school.” (page 83)

Speaking in chapel of a town student, “He is critical of the school. Now, son, you can just pack up your wife and family and house, and go somewhere else. We are not interested in folks who are not interested in the program of this school. A fellow who is disloyal to this school, he has no place in the school.” (page 148)

“If you are a griper in this institution, the trouble is you have got a sin buried in your heart…We are going to insist upon loyalty and cooperation.” (page 149)

There are lots more of these little gems in Standing. Buy a copy and have a blast.

standing

Six months after starting to read and ask and ponder, I am appalled at how ignorant I was, how hateful of Camille (and others) and her (their) hard work, and how much more there is to learn. Scratch anywhere, there’s a mother lode of awful.

Secondly, I have gathered a number of theories under which the school might be sued on the Promise.

The old song-and-dance that this was an oral promise and therefore not enforceable is a load of cow patties. Oral contracts, even gratuitous ones–and this wasn’t that–can be enforced. The terms were clear: you work here for forty or fifty years, we’ll provide for you in your old age. These are nice and easy terms. A baby can understand them, and a court certainly will.

Another issue, the Statute of Frauds, comes up. The Statute of Frauds states that any contract that can’t be fully performed in one year must be in writing. Clearly, you can’t complete a forty- or fifty-year career in one year, so the contract has to be written down, right? Well, yes. But there’s a lovely little thing you can do to “take a contract out of the Statute,” and it’s called “having a sufficient memorandum.” Sufficient memorandum can be anything that indicates “the party to be charged” did in fact agree to the terms. Well, we’ve got it written down in Standing, for one thing (see page 237). We also have internal documents—faculty handouts describing the Promise, owning it. Here’s one: promise doc

Obviously the Promise was made. Obviously the terms are clear. Obviously you can sue on it. And, if you read my piece about the Brooklyn Bridge, you can think about the unilateral contract approach. I think that’s a powerful argument.

Thirdly, naturally there will be some resistance to actually taking the U to court. Two things: One, they have no problem taking people to court when a need arises. They took the presumably-Christian Greenville City Council to court in the sixties over a zoning plan. They took a man’s children to court in 2001 over the terms of the man’s will—for the possibility of $150,000, they sued a man’s children for his life insurance money, when the life insurance policy was not mentioned in the will. And two, there is no other way to get a decision here on the righteousness of the situation—there is no governing body other than the Trustees; there is no outside accountability.

The only way to crack open the bank even a tiny bit is to go to Court, and in fact, if I’m wrong and the retirees are getting everything they bargained for, then the court won’t crack open the bank.

Fourthly, food stamps. Retirees might be eligible for food stamps. Go here to check. Please be aware, dear older faculty member, that food stamps aren’t what they once were. You don’t pull them out and look all obvious. There’s a card exactly like your ordinary bank debit card. You swipe it, you’re done. It gets loaded automatically every month. food stamp card

You should not worry about any evil in taking government handouts. You worked for this—you built that side of Greenville with your sweat, tears, and lesson plans. You contributed. You taught students who went out and contributed. You’ve done your bit, paid your dues, run your race, earned your rest. You were promised food and instead you got a discount in the dining common, and you pay taxes on the discount. Take the food stamps if you qualify. In addition, there may be other government programs for which you qualify. I will try to find out what’s available.

In other fun news:

m and g

 This is the M&G. On their FAQs, you will see this:

What is your collection worth?

It is a priceless collection, but we do not share the dollar value with the public. The paintings were acquired during a time when they were relatively inexpensive, and since then their worth has increased as the favor of Baroque art has swelled.

However, IRS forms 990-T tell us that in 2010, the book value of the collection was $6,221,703, and in 2011, the book value of the collection was $3,632,081. Where went the $2,589,622 in book value, whatever book value may mean? Frankly, even six million dollars in value is not priceless, but now that it’s only worth three and a half, well, that’s about the value of one nice fat retirement account, isn’t it?

Broken Promise (Guest Post)

(by a guest writer)

Dear Sharon,

Please don’t use my name.

It’s more than sad that we have to be so secretive with our names about something so publicly wrong.

This “Promise” was broadcast to hundreds of churches via special visits, appearances, letters and even a video was made to be passed around churches begging for money and promising to the world that if all else failed, BJU would not “forsake their own when they [were] old.”

It was no secret. It was a promise to everyone who gave money-not just to the faculty/staff who were to receive it. It’s a broken promise to the many faithful BJU patrons who gave their hard-earned money to something they believed would be carried out.

Let’s get real: graduates of BJU (I’m one, my husband is one, my best friends are, my siblings, etc) don’t love or even like BJU for its rules, its pretty landscaping, its Bible Conferences or its deans of Men, Women or Students.

But, even if you’re outright embarrassed to tell people where you graduated from, you have a soft spot somewhere for some teacher in your field who cared about you and/or really knew his subject matter well and passed along valuable educational knowledge for you to use for the rest of your life and/or career.

It was the teachers (and not just any of them-the good ones; the ones with degrees from accredited schools elsewhere, the ones with decades of experience) that give BJU any value whatsoever.

The Promise dried up, but BJU has managed to build a stadium, a parking garage, re-do the entire front entrance, now the dining common (the list goes on) but no one felt a need to ask for help with the most important piece of the entire puzzle . . . the faculty?

I have immediate family members who are directly affected by this broken promise. I’ve done my homework. I’ve written letters/emails until my fingers were blue to board members, administrators, graduates–anyone at all I thought could help find answers.

No one is willing to do anything. None of them.

I received all sorts of replies from these “officials.” They said, “God would never want you to attack the University.” They said, “I think that the _____ family and the _____ family would say that BJ has been *more* than generous to them.” They said, “We offer a generous 401k”. But mostly, I was ignored.

What the University wants people to believe is that the “Promise” fund went belly-up (not true…I have an email from this summer from the Head of PR stating that it is still an active fund) and that faculty were offered “generous 401k packages” to help offset the broken promise.

What they fail to mention is that many of these faculty were stuck in the age group which did not allow them to retire and get the full promise (they were too young) but yet the 401k was not offered in time for them to make any significant savings (they were too old by that time.)

So a chunk of faculty (their ages today fall in the mid 60′s to upper 70′s category) were truly stuck in the middle. Too young to retire, to old to save in a 401k.

The government money that these faculty are now receiving (or are about to receive) is based on the poverty-level wages that they made their entire career at BJ. And when I use the term “poverty” I am not exaggerating. My relatives, who had advanced teaching degrees, made in the teens and lower 20′s until the year 2001 (at least). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to calculate that the low check from Social Security will not in any way be enough to live on.

BJU, its leaders, its Board Members, its Administrators are well aware that this broken promise means that many of their loyal employees of over 40 years will literally have to sell all of their earthly possessions just to eat and pay rent.

Many of the older faculty live on campus. When they are forced to retire, they then have to start paying rent to the University and utilities. Some of them have no where else to go, and BJU is now charging them rent for the house they’ve lived in for over 40 years!

In this economy, I might have a bit of compassion for the school if it weren’t for the fact that they DON’T CARE about what is happening. They are not lifting a finger to help out. They keep adding to their museums, traveling in their private jets, opening new schools in China, hiring artists for “Artist Series” at tens of thousands of dollars, sending employees to NYC to shop for fabric for their operas, flying in pastors almost weekly to speak in Chapel, etc. etc. etc.

And if this fund is indeed still an “active” fund, where is the money going? Certainly not to the faculty who were forced out this year. They have about 33% of the “Promise” left. Be aware that “having” 33% of the Promise only means these people receive a 33% discount on items purchased FROM THE SCHOOL–dining common meals, prescriptions from the pharmacy, Shepherd’s Care, the bookstore, and the cleaners. Aside from a tiny “housing allowance” no money is involved!

Are the older-older faculty in Shepherd’s Care the ones getting the money? The money that was promised to everyone is now going to just a few of the oldest? Where is the money? Who is getting it?

I know people (graduates/faculty) are finally starting to see it…they’re staring to actually see some of the lies that they have been told for so many decades.

I pray every day that more and more people will be less fearful to come out and say what has happened.

There’s no way to justify it-morally, ethically, spiritually, and in any other state of the union, legally.