Controversial Public Statements Undercut BJU’s Attempt at Re-branding

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?

Randy Leedy, BJU chapel 2/14/13

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. 

 

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4 thoughts on “Controversial Public Statements Undercut BJU’s Attempt at Re-branding

  1. Mark Fitzhenry

    I agree, Haparker. The systemic leaven of hypocrisy and tyrannical ways of those at BJU is disturbing. I have a deep and abiding faith that until the leadership at BJU starts honestly dealing with their sin-problem and making things right with those whose trust they have betrayed, the University will continue to spiral into the pit.

    I graduated in 1980, oblivious to the leaven of hypocrisy that had infected the BJU-crowd – and myself as well! I was completely confident that BJU was a godly institution….that is, until I was on the ‘receiving end’ to Bob Jones III’s hypocrisy and double-dealing.

    In ’83, Charles Underwood, the first Director of Church Planting at BJU, penned an open letter to Bob Jones III. Yes, that was many years ago but Underwood had Bob III’s “number”. Little has changed since then. But, he wrote Bob III: “The talk and teaching coming from BJU are so contradictory that even your most loyal supporters are questioning the possibility of your survival as the “Fortress of Faith.” A longtime supporter of BJU recently said, “We don’t need BJU anymore.” I wanted to weep when I heard that statement. Something strange is happening at BJU, and it is turning off people so fast that you must either change your attitude or hire a Madison Avenue advertising agency. It is my studied observation that you are losing favor with God and good men.
    After I left the university in 1976, I made it a matter of personal investigation. Then, I became convinced of your double dealing with the truth with good men and of your compromise with Masonry….I once heard a great man say, “Be careful how you treat men as you climb the ladder of success; you may have to meet them on the way down!” Recently, a man who has loved and supported BJU for years said, “Bob Jones, Jr., will destroy the University and Bob, III, will get the blame.” As I write in this vein about my alma mater, and let it be clearly understood that I am not talking about the university as an institution, nor am I talking about the thousand or more faculty and staff members who, out of love and loyalty for Chris, have given their lives, as I have, to what they thought was service for Christ. I am speaking about the chancellor, and the president who have betrayed so many alumni, former students, and supporters, that it makes me heartsick…”
    The Joneses and those loyal to them, have betrayed many people. Beware and avoid them; the leaven of the Pharisees, hypocrisy, is infectious.

  2. haparker321

    “I agree, Haparker. The systemic leaven of hypocrisy and tyrannical ways of those at BJU is disturbing.”

    I would say it is unless you consider the nature of its institution; it’s in the south you know and like most southerners and the Civil War, they’ll deny that Slavery has anything to do with it (that dirty seven letter word).

    “I have a deep and abiding faith that until the leadership at BJU starts honestly dealing with their sin-problem and making things right with those whose trust they have betrayed, the University will continue to spiral into the pit.”

    And Fundamentalism in general.

    “Something strange is happening at BJU, and it is turning off people so fast that you must either change your attitude or hire a Madison Avenue advertising agency.”

    Not unless you downplay the facts and keep people confused; that is the stereotypical fundamentalist rhetoric which has been used and re-used seven times over.

    Parker

    BTW, I invite you to my blog: http://www.pastorsinknead.wordpress.com

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