In the summer of 2009, a small flare-up occurred between Bob Jones University and the fundamentalist publishing house Sword of the Lord. The disagreement was over a book written by BJU faculty member Randy Jaeggli–a book which sought to establish, in the midst of “the barrage of an evangelical culture that promotes the moderate use of alcohol”, BJU’s continuing teetotalism.
Dr. Jaeggli’s book, entitled “The Christian and Drinking”, was pulled from the BJU Store following a scathing review from Sword of the Lord (that review has seemingly disappeared from the intrawebs as well). SoL seemed to think that Jaeggli’s view on alcohol was perhaps too lenient, despite the book’s hardline stance. After the SoL review started to cause some noise, BJU’s resources for “avoiding the appearance of evil”–a.k.a “covering its collective butt” got into gear. The following is from BJU’s statement (page has since been pulled down) on the incident:
Believing every book can be improved in both clarity and cogency and wanting to avoid any confusion and all offense to fellow Christians, Bob Jones University is temporarily pulling The Christian and Drinking from distribution. Our plan is for the author to rewrite and edit those portions of the text that have been misunderstood and reissue the book.
This re-publishing never took place, though. The book is still available on Amazon, but BJU apparently abandoned plans to rescue the book from its public perception.
Instead, we get Milltown Pride. According to producer Darren Lawson, the movie is intended as a “modernizing” of the Prodigal Son parable, but Lawson and the BJU higher-ups must have forgotten to actually read that beautiful passage. Milltown Pride, like so many BJU productions, dabbles in a kind of spiritual reductionism: externalize sin into a “vice” (in this case, a peculiar clear liquid which might be vodka), and equate deliverance from that vice with conversion to “true” Christianity.
Thus, the vast majority of Milltown Pride is spent focusing on the descent of its hero, Will Wright, from obedient, genteel banker’s son to drunk, baseball-obsessed lout. Particularly troubling to Will’s respectable parents is his association with “mill folk”, who, with their grubby faces and connections with baseball and drinking, are emphatically lower-class. Don’t expect the movie to preach against that prejudice, though. Much the opposite: it takes for granted a society eternally split between Good (the wealthy, squeaky-clean Town Folk, who epitomize the Victorian morals BJU prizes) and Evil (the rough-and-tumble Mill Folk, who enjoy a good mason jar o’ the fire water with their roast beef). Anyone who’s spent any amount of time in Greenville can readily see the comparison being made.
You know how this will go. Will falls in love with a girl, but his drinking habit turns her off. He gets saved at a revival meeting, and subsequently gives up alcohol for more wholesome hobbies like playing with kids and reading his Bible. Our hero’s ladyfriend approves, and the movie lurches along to its inevitable climax on the baseball diamond. Does Will hammer the winning run in the Big Game? Does Lawson, playing the part of Will’s tyrannical father, overact the part with strenuous effort? Do all the actors behave as if in a Shakespeare Drama at The Globe, rather than in a historically irrelevant Christian fundamentalist production? Is anyone seen on camera of anything but the staunchest Caucasian descent? You already know the answers…
Milltown Pride is available via the BJU Store for the strange price of $19.96. Not rated, but contains scenes of explicit nonsense and acting which may frighten even the most mature audiences.