Here are two stories:
In 1993, a co-worker at BJU Press needed blood. Because I am O negative (universal donor), I naturally hopped over to the blood bank to donate. A few days later, they called me up, asked me to come in, and shattered my world: “Your blood was positive for HIV.” A re-test showed the same result. Brian was tested and found to be negative. We went to see Dr. Bob III.
I love Dr. Bob III. This was one of the Most Difficult Moments of my life, and he was there. He did not ask how this could have happened, nor did he judge me when I told him. He (figuratively) held my hand through ten days of nightmare until the health department called me back and said, “Sorry. It seems you react to the protein in the test. We apologize.”
Dr. Bob III was kind and fatherly in my fear, rejoiced with me in my happiness, and I have been grateful in all the years since.
Very recently, I had a problem in my marriage. I approached my husband on a very serious level and explained a few things to him. He heard me and said, “What else?” and “Is there anything else I can work on?” and “How can I love you better?” and “Please don’t hesitate to tell me when things like this come up, because I often don’t see what you’re feeling.”
The point from the first story is that I love Dr. Bob III, and the point from the second story is that it is important that a person who is being corrected be open to the correction and keep apologizing as long and as often as necessary to make things right.
BJU is often nit-picked about things that are little nothings, that don’t matter. When that happens, nothing needs to be done, and a comment such as, “Thanks for your input,” is sufficient. But when there is a real wrong to be corrected, it needs to be. Apologies are often appropriate, and sometimes the person needs to say—as my husband said to me—“Is there anything else?”
A few years ago, Dr. Stephen Jones apologized for BJU’s formerly racist stance vis-à-vis African-Americans. There is no use saying that “racist” is too harsh a word. It is an accurate word. The apology was appropriate and well stated, and although particular steps that I might take were I in charge of making a more culturally diverse community at BJU have not been taken, at least the words were spoken. It is the South after all, and there are still separate proms there.
(Funny story: When I was teaching at a public middle school in Hawaii, I asked one of my classes what they thought about racially-segregated proms. They all voted for separate proms, and I was horrified until one student raised his hand and said, “But Miss, if there aren’t separate proms, none of the white kids will get to dance.” Different place, different perspective.)
Now we have a different issue. Now there is an answer to the question, “And is there anything else I can change?” The answer is yes, and the people bringing the question have organized under BJUnity.
BJUnity is a group of former (and perhaps current) students and faculty who are homosexual. They are asking for three things:
1. Dr. Bob III to apologize for previous harsh statements against homosexuals, particularly statements indicating that homosexuality could be eradicated were all homosexuals to be stoned to death.
2. BJU to tone down the fire-and-brimstone rhetoric relating to sexuality.
3. Concerned and needy individuals to seek professional help and counseling, or, if suicide is contemplated, to contact 911 or the Trevor Project immediately.
As to the first point, Dr. Bob III does need to apologize for statements indicating that the “problem would be solved” if homosexuals were stoned “poste haste.” I don’t know what problem he was referring to, but even if he were speaking in general terms of The Sin Of Homosexuality, I am certain that no sin would ever be eradicated by the execution of all those currently engaged in it. (I can myself imagine gossiping wildly about all the gossipers who were just summarily executed.)
(Thank God we are dealing with Dr. Bob III here and not his father, may he rest in peace. Dr. Junior was a case, and I mean that, though I have fond memories of him. The fondest: We’re at Artist Series, up in the Rodeheaver balcony, and Dr. Junior pulls out a bag of candies and offers them to a couple of college boys, and the boys look at him all wide-eyed and say, “We can’t eat in here. It’s the rules,” and Junior looks back like, “I am the rules, have a candy.” Oh, and who can forget when he jumped out of the birthday cake?!)
(More parentheses: having fond memories about someone does not make him virtuous in every situation. I have a few fond memories of a man who beat me regularly and used this pet name: “You fucking whore.” Not to compare Dr. Junior to that former friend of mine, I’m just saying, sometimes you have to look past your fondness to see an important issue.)
An apology does not have to be like this: “I have changed my mind about what the Bible says, and I no longer believe homosexuality to be a sin, and I am sorry that I ever said that.” That would not be an apology. That would be a lie, and plus, he would lose his beautiful home, because the Trustees would have a corporate aneurysm, and they are very nice old people and we don’t want anything bad to happen to any of them.
An apology can be like this: “I am sorry I said that. I was wrong. Please forgive me,” and the people forgiving should just up and forgive and not nit-pick thus: “What exactly are you sorry about?” They should be gracious—and I think they are. Their web site is well spoken and organized. Their comments clear and not belligerant (unlike some of the less [at least to me] effective work of DoRightBJU).
On the second point—the chapel platform rhetoric—I think BJUnity is asking for a toning down of the fire-and-brimstone shouting that pinpoints and targets this particular behavior above and beyond any other particular behavior.
Seriously, there are so many things that Leviticus pronounces upon that we are not ever going to hear from the pulpit. For example, you will never hear a sermon on Leviticus 18:19, “Men, you must never ever have sexual intercourse with your wife when she is having her period. It is forbidden in Leviticus!” followed by an altar call.
I mean, come on, people, we are talking about people who do not even keep the Sabbath, but take their church bulletin to Shoney’s after church for 10% off the all-you-can-gluttonously-eat bar.
We pick, we choose: we determined somewhere in the march of church history that this particular sin was worse than all others, more deviant, more repulsive, more creepy, more degenerate, and that we would never ever budge in our stance against it and against those who practice it.
And when we pick and choose, we leave out those sins that we do, because those are not as bad—because we do them and we are very nice people—but Jesus doesn’t let us off.
Jesus says, “Whoso looketh.” Not whoso fantasizes or whoso grabs or whoso meets “by accident” in Asheville on the weekend. And in that “looketh” He nails the millions of Christian men who would have to be lined up and executed because they can’t keep their eyes off their computer screens. That’s not called abomination—that’s called Every Man’s Battle, dontcha know, while women weep and families are destroyed and men explain that they’re just weak and God made them that way and they can’t help it, and it isn’t a choice, and you should understand this is a hunger I can’t control, and I was born this way.
It is time for us to say sorry. It is time for us to say we don’t understand homosexuality, and we don’t get that particular urge, and we think your behavior is creepy, and we hope and beg and plead with you not to lure or entice or recruit our young people (in your evil, rampaging “agenda” that you only made up with the specific view of Destroying America), but we are sorry for calling you fags, and we are sorry we made your sin look more heinous than ours.
I am not homosexual. But I have my own sins. And really, my own sins are more awful, because it is more awful for a mother to cut her child down with harsh words than it is for a consenting adult couple to do whatever-they-do in the privacy of their own bedroom. It is more awful for a wife to look down her uppity-intellectual nose at her works-with-his-hands husband who doesn’t have an interest in theological minutiae that turn on Greek plurals.
The third point is that LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning) students and faculty (men and women who married to be “normal” when in actual fact . . . ) ought to get professional counseling, and if in crisis or contemplating suicide should contact the Trevor Project.
The point, I think (and I’m just guessing; I haven’t talked with anyone at BJUnity), is that it is important not to get your counseling from someone who wants to beat or pray the gay out of you. Maybe—maybe—God will at some point toggle the switch for you, but right now, in your present, when you think everyone hates you and everyone knows, or if they don’t know, you are afraid that if they find out they will despise you and shun you and mock you—right now, you need someone to say, “It’s okay. I’m here for you. You’re going to be okay.”
You’re going to be okay. Do. Not. Hurt. Yourself.
In sum, the stated goals of BJUnity are calm, reasoned goals, and each of them could save lives.
You know, don’t you, that Christian girls abort your grandchildren because they are afraid of you—that you will freak out, disown them, humiliate them in public, castigate, gossip, hate, bring it up til kingdom come instead of offering love, acceptance, forgiveness, peace, diapers and booties.
And you know, don’t you, that Christian young people kill themselves because they reach a place of hopelessness, lostness, despair because—for whatever reasons, and those reasons may be complex and they may not all be inborn—they feel sexual attraction to someone of their own gender and you can’t–you just can’t–give that other person a hug and say, “Welcome. Come, eat with us. What do you do for a living?”
No more of this. No more fear. Swallow your hate and your own fear (of being humiliated, of “losing” your children, of having people look at you across the congregation and then whisper to their pew-mate, “Look, that’s the one whose son went gay”) and be loving.
To the people who say, “But what about Romans 1? What about Leviticus 18? What about—?” I say, you cannot even see clearly to take this mote out of your fellow-believer’s sexuality because you are walking around with a log in your eye. To his own master he stands or falls. What about, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” The what abouts are endless. Just be kind.
I’m ashamed of myself that I didn’t sign the petition for the apology on race relations, and thanks are due to Dr. Stephen Jones (and please God may he recover his strength) for attempting to right the wrong perpetrated by the University against African-Americans for so long and blamed on Southern Culture.
But now here we have another opportunity to do the right thing—to be kind, to be nice, to say to students and faculty: “We love you. Jesus loves you,” etc.
I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I’ve been forced to think about this for a long time. Too many people in my history, my life, my world are homosexual for me to avoid thinking about it.
No one is saying that BJU or Dr. Bob III or Dr. Stephen Jones or anyone needs to change their view on what the Bible teaches. No one is saying that the First Amendment right of Free Speech should be denied to any of these. But, what is being said is this: Please, we beg you, to refrain from speech of such harshness and immovability that people are killing themselves over your interpretation of what the Bible means.
Don’t worry—there will always be sins to rant about from the Chapel Platform. There are plenty of 250 pound faculty to rant at about gluttony, plenty of gossips in the offices, plenty of men lording it over their wives in ungodly domineering fashion, plenty of rude b*%&# women undermining their husbands in front of their children, plenty of students flaunting their rule-breaking on Facebook (“COLDPLAY FOREVER!”), plenty of girls marrying foolishly, and plenty of people profiting from the lottery . . . oh wait, that only used to be a sin. (No, no, says the person who takes this money, it’s only a sin to play the lottery. It’s not at all a sin to accept as a gift from the STATE [and you call yourself a Republican!] part of the money that was wasted on the lottery by someone who beggared his wife and children.)
One final comment: recently, during the DoRight episode, which I did not support–and which I thought was ill-conceived, though I understand the basis of the concern, it was brought to my attention that What BJU does is Nobody’s Business. This, of course, is not true. It is my business what my school does, even if I no longer attend and no longer work there. It is my business what is done in the name of my Savior. It is my business to make statements that might in some small way make it easier for children to walk through their lives, and it is my business if the children of my friends and fellow-alumni are reaching such depths of despair that they want to die. And so I write this.
Sharon Hambrick lives in California with her family. She holds a B.S. in History/Social Science from San Diego Christian College and a M.A. in Church History from Bob Jones University. She is the author of 11 children’s books published by Journeyforth, a division of BJU Press. She is currently in her third year of law studies at Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy, and yes, she is afraid of being tossed out of all these places for this post, but sometimes you have to say what you have to say, and really, you should not be afraid to say, “Be Nice.”