It’s no secret that for the last few years Bob Jones University has been attempting to clean up its public image. There’s a certain amount of cognitive dissonance involved in this attempt, since the school categorically denies any wrongdoing past or present (take, for instance, BJU’s current hiring of G.R.A.C.E to investigate claims of sexual abuse mishandling after Bob Jones III thundered from the pulpit in 2011 that no accusations of such abuse had ever been swept under the rug at his school). But the signs of an attempted shift in attitude are everywhere, from Stephen Jones’ emphasis on “a culture of appropriate change” at the 2011 faculty/staff meeting (leaked audio here) to BJU’s new intercollegiate sports program, new website, and its seemingly endless quest to attain regional accreditation.
But a survey of chapel messages and public appearances by BJU ambassadors during this era of attempted re-branding shows that change doesn’t come easy for The World’s Most Unusual University. Below are a few recent examples of things that make it hard to believe that a kinder, gentler BJU is coming anytime soon.
“Now, there’s a simple way to respond to rules that we do not like. Instead of fixating on what we think is the poor quality of the rule, we should recognize as reflecting the poor quality of our hearts. Instead of complaining what’s wrong with the rule, I should complain about what’s wrong with my mind that keeps me from seeing the wisdom of that rule. What is wrong with my heart that makes me so disinclined to obey?”
Bob Jones III, as expected, has been responsible for a number of incidents which might make would-be reformers at BJU cringe. The 2012 election provided plenty of fodder for such incidents, including Jones’ assertion that “neither candidate for President represents in his faith anything that any of us in this room believes,” and his public questioning of The President’s salvation.
On Feb. 6th 2013, it was reported by this Facebook group that Greg Mazak, chairman of the BJU division of Psychology, had told a conference of military chaplains that PTSD “is a sin.” Several witnesses confirmed the quote, and Mazak’s Nouthetic brand of counseling does indeed brand depression and other mental illnesses as “spiritual issues.” As recently as October of last year, Mazak claimed that psychological disorders would be better termed “worship disorders.” You can listen to that sermon here.
Steve Hankins, BJU Seminary, gave a rather dismissive description of “the unsaved” in a chapel message from November 14th, 2012. According to Hankins, many unbelievers “Can’t string words together, are hygenically offensive, don’t dress the way they ought to dress, and don’t get life in a lot of ways.”
Although “dress standards” at BJU have been somewhat relaxed in recent years, Stephen Jones has made it clear on two occasions that, for women especially, the greater freedom comes with expectations. Jones told female students in chapel on October 10th 2012 that “wearing pants is a privilege, not a right.” The same quote was repeated again by Jones a few weeks later.
Several recent chapel speakers have carried on BJU’s history of in-pulpit belligerence. On October 24th, 2012, Randy Leedy offered a sneering description of “certain notorious Facebook pages” (possibly including BJUNews) which oppose the school. A few days later, on October 29th, Brian Hand of BJU’s Bible faculty accused his chapel audience of wanting him “to just shut up and get off this stage so you don’t have to listen to God’s Word anymore!”
This list is be no means exhaustive, it’s only a quick summary of things we’eve noticed in the last few years of covering BJU news.