Just the facts, Ma’am.

In 2009, I presented my rhetorical analysis of the Bob Jones University’s response to Please Reconcile, an alumni effort urging BJU to apologize for its past racist policies. I theorized that BJU’s “Statement on Race” parallels a Lost Cause apologia — a romance caught at a potentially tragic crisis point. For BJU, like all patricians in the Old South, the rules of chivalry drive their action or rather their reaction. They imagine themselves a Lost Cause hero, a southern Cavalier, who moves more than he acts. Acting, you see, is reserved for their peers. And this Patrician, as a man of leisure and good birth, simply is, until a moment of deadly crisis. When he is challenged — imagine a duel — his duty is to “serve the eternal verities” of the established order. He must, at all costs, maintain “good form.”

Thus, guiding him is an unspoken code duelloIf he ever acts, he will only act in response to his peers, his fellows, his equals. He will never, ever respond to those beneath him because responding at all (acting, in the Burkean nomenclature) elevates the lowly to his stature.

Thus, within the enduring rhetorical romance of sectarian religion, the code duello informs and contains conflict. In 2008, for instance, Bob Jones University could not sully themselves by appearing to respond to its alumni. Instead they issue a “Statement on Race” while insisting to their employees that Please Reconcile had nothing whatsoever to do with their statement. They had been thinking of this for a long time. They were going to do it anyway. It’s nothing new. It’s what they always thought. There’s nothing to see here.

Nobody bought it, of course.

Third said the same thing on Larry King during Campaign 2000 — that the Board was going to lift the interracial dating prohibition anyway the previous May. Senior said the same thing about admitting blacks back in the day — that they were planning on building a school for African-Americans but we mouthy Northerners all went and ruined it for them. They pulled the same “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” tricks with Billy Graham, too.

All that to say this: they haven’t changed one whit. And they won’t. But again, they haven’t. There’s no new arrow in their quiver, no new management by a new administration, no matter how many earnest hopes we project onto him. We out here point out problems, and they note them (secretly) and change them (but not really) but never, ever let on that we were the catalyst for their mere “motion.” Remember that.

One thing first, Kenneth Burke talks about the difference between motion and action. Motion is a habit. It is unthinking. It is not meaningful. It is unintentional. It just is. Acting, on the other hand, is fully sentient. When we act, we human beings are most human, according to Burke. A dog can move, but he can’t act. Only humans can act. It’s the difference between breathing and sighing. You breathe all the time without meaning to per se; but when you sigh, you are communicating something and you intend to. You are acting.

In the contraints of the code duello, the Patrician Hero can only move. He cannot be seen to act because that would imply the eternal verities for which he stands have been compromised. If he acts, his world crumbles, and his Cause is Lost.

And we’re seeing it all happen again. Right now. They are trying to ignore those who care enough to speak up because addressing us would be acting and would elevate us, in their minds, to equal status.

Let’s look at the facts.

  • In September, 2011 several of us discovered that BJU’s employee handbook’s statement on reporting sexual abuse did not comply with South Carolina law. It put “first contact” and investigation in the hands of the BJU employees instead of in the hands of the legal system. The statement was:

Bob Jones University does not permit or allow sexual abuse or molestation to occur in the workplace. In order to make this “zero-tolerance” policy clear to all employees, we have adopted mandatory procedures that employees, volunteers, family members, board members, individuals and victims are to follow when they learn of or witness sexual abuse or molestation.

Sexual abuse takes the form of inappropriate sexual contact or interaction for the gratification of the actor who is functioning as a caregiver and is responsible for the patient’s or child’s care. Sexual abuse includes sexual assault, exploitation, molestation or injury.

All employees who learn of sexual abuse being committed are to report it immediately to their supervisor, department head or the director of Human Resources. If the victim is an adult, the abuse will be reported by this designee to the local or state Adult Protective Services (APS) Agency. If a child is the victim, the designee will report it to the local or state Child Abuse Agency. Appropriate family members of the victim are to be notified immediately of suspected child abuse.

We take allegations of sexual abuse seriously. Once the allegation is reported, we will promptly, thoroughly and impartially initiate an investigation to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to believe that sexual abuse has been committed. Our investigation may be undertaken by an internal team, or we may hire an independent third party. We will cooperate fully with any investigation conducted by law enforcement or regulatory agencies, and we refer the complaint and the result of our investigation to those agencies. We reserve the right to place the subject of the investigation on an involuntary leave of absence or to reassign that person to responsibilities that do not involve personal contact with individuals or students. To the fullest extent possible, but consistent with our legal obligation to report suspected abuse to appropriate authorities, we will endeavor to keep the identities of the alleged victims and investigation subject confidential.

If the investigation substantiates the allegation, our policy provides for disciplinary penalties, including but not limited to termination of the actor’s relationship with BJU.

>>> Communications (Carol Keirstead) 9/28/2011
>>>Faculty and Staff,
Attached is BJU’s revised Sexual Abuse Policy and Procedures. The original policy, including the section on the policy in the 2011-2012 Faculty/Staff Handbook, was written in consultation with legal counsel and met state reporting requirements. Within the last two weeks, some of our constituents pointed out weaknesses in the wording. When we receive input such as this, we evaluate to see what we can learn and/or how we can make something better. We now have clarified this policy so that it not only meets legal requirements but also is a best practices policy. It is important that we verify that each employee has received and read the policy. Please print the two forms at the end of the policy—-Statement of Life Practices and Child Abuse Policy and Procedures Acknowledgment—-complete the forms and send them to the Human Resources office by October 7, 2011.
We suggest you retain a copy of the signed forms as well as a copy of the policy for your records.

Marshall Franklin, Executive Vice President for Operations
Gary Weier, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

The Penn State University sex abuse scandal prompted Bob Jones University to rewrite its sexual abuse policy and hire an independent ombudsman to review the university’s handling of reports of abuse not connected to the school.

No. I have proven that above. That was not it. It was those of us out here who care about BJU, about the Church, about the Law, and about the safety of the students who pointed out the problems and prompted BJU to rewrite their reporting policy in the last week of September 2011. Carol herself admitted then that “some of our constituents pointed out weaknesses in the wording.” It was not the 150-year+ school with its $1.708 billion endowment and nearly 100K student body that motivated BJU’s response. It was BJU’s real peers — its alumni and former employees and fellow believers — not its imagined peers over 600 miles away.

There are more inaccuracies from Carol. In this latest statement, Keirstead claims that “there have been no reports of sexual abuse on campus.” That directly contradicts Carol’s own words from September 28th of this year where she describes the 2011 “forcible sex offenses.” Which is it? And how did the Journal miss this?

For those who prefer a more linear layout, I compare all Keirstead’s statements here.

But there you have it. BJU’s ignoring of the very people who care enough to speak up. They have to ignore us. They have to insist that we don’t matter. They have to maintain the myth that they never act, only move. Otherwise, the Cause is Lost.

As I said at NCA in 2009, the root of the problem within Southern romantic apologia is a juggling of the usual mystical purpose with the pragmatic agency. They get mixed up. They make God, the purpose for which they claim to be living, merely a tool. That is, by relegating God to the means of propping up their societal hierarchy, participants in the rhetorical drama are distracted from the essentially preservationist purpose in their micro-culture. When they make God the scaffolding for their mythology, the loyalists lose their psychological and logical footing and stumble into the goose-stepping line.

What do we do to help? We lay out the facts. Just the facts.

Comments & Responses

10 Responses so far.

  1. Jeff Crippen says:

    Do you know why, I assume it was GRACE, advised BJU not to put on the sexual abuse seminar? I find that very interesting. I was at the seminar and wrote 3 reviews of it, posted at cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com

    Thank you VERY much for this article!

    • cklewis says:

      Thanks, Jeff!

      From what I understand, they advised against the conference because it was a lose-lose. If they said the right things in the conference but did the wrong things for 80+ years, then they didn’t do the things they claimed to know. If they said the wrong things . . . well, then they are ignorant and cruel. It couldn’t come out well for them at all.

      Your analysis is amazing. I’m going to want to keep that links as a highlight for my own self.

      Thanks.

      Camille

      • Camille, Jeff Crippen’s Cry For Justice web page is so amazingly connected to cutting edge reality of the bullying / spiritual abuse syndrome in church and church associated educational environments. Thanks for providing us with his web page link. I have found his reviews along the comments to them, to be so insightful . Marius P’s comment has to be one of the most accurate descriptions of BJU style ‘everything that’s wrong’, with how that ‘arrogant management’ so badly mistreats good people like Jeff, his wife, you, Grant, and other fine people, who used to work there , as such devoted and dedicated teachers, wanting to invest in the spiritual lives of young people. As I am not an expert or attendee, I I am in no position to comment on what I have read, other than to post my own opinions and response. I do agree with Marius though, that nothing will change, as long as the religious / control machinery remains in place, with such inflated egos riding around on high and mighty horses, pontificating over people seen as so inferior to them, that they are not even ‘worthy’ of christian respect and kindness. One wonders where on earth, abusive BJU management bullies, threw away all authentic christian virtues? Probably in the same place they threw away any right understanding of the Gospel , reason ,rational thinking and common sense! A most helpful web page indeed, is Jeff Crippen’s. Thanks again for giving us have access to Jeff’s site. I can’t recommend it enough. Barb

  2. Hi Camille! I just read this thoroughly for the first time. It’s mind boggling, reading about how much mental effort, people expend, to cleverly ‘spin their sequence of events and continually evolving version of facts! Reading about what people like this ‘do’, is like mentally walking through a ‘maze’ of confusion, while knowing you need to keep your focus on ‘the real version’ of the truth and reality. I don’t know how you do it girl, but patience and fortitude are sure two of your fortes. Keep up the good work. Can’t wait to read Jeff’s analysis.

  3. Chris Pleasants says:

    I find it interesting that when you take a worldly point of view and try to come up with a christian point of view, you come up with a worldly point of view. BJU is not the glory land but they do preach the true biblical way of life. We should not be ripping down christian institutions that are doing more good then any secular institution. When you have the right view of God then it will show in your life. Unlike what we see in Dr. Lewis

    • cklewis says:

      Thanks for your response, Chris.

      God bless.

    • Bill says:

      “christian [sic] institutions that are doing more good”. I assume you mean BJU? Dr. Lewis has clearly documented how the BJU’s PR office either has the worst proofreading and fact-checking abilities almost anywhere, or they outright lie. BJIII has lied on TV with claims that the schools racial policies were ‘no big deal’. When you can’t tell the truth, is BJU really doing ‘more good’? I’m not sure they are.

      It is never right to do wrong, in order to get a chance to do right.

    • LMcC says:

      Oh, OK. Allowing gross sin to fester quietly on the BJU campus and destroy lives is OK, but pointing out the cover-up and calling the leaders to honesty and repentance is a bad thing. Thanks a lot, Chris! Thanks for being such a beacon of pure spiritual holiness and calling out those who… call on BJU to Do Right? Who are you kidding? Attitudes like yours are the reason people are leaving Fundamentalism and speaking out against it. It’s a sad day indeed when the secular world has a better idea about protecting children and seeking justice than the so-called “true church”.

  4. […] feel they had many other options after the incidents that Dr. Lewis details in her post here, which included the student-led protest to remove a board member who had covered up a rape in his […]

  5. […] the review is totally false. Historian Dr. Camille Lewis, a former staff member at BJU, has written at length about the circumstances leading to the investigation. Concern for victims has […]

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