In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.
Gavin’s been having a rough time lately. I think he’s teething all this incisors and molars at once. He’s crabby. He wakes up at 5:00 am every morning. He whines a LOT. His nose runs. He’s kinda klutzy. He eats two breakfasts every morning.
And well, he reminds me of me. This is a hard time for him. He feels lousy and he’s learning and growing so much. It’s exhausting. And sometimes Daddy has to just take over (because he’s stronger) and hold him tight and say, “Gavin. Stop. Rest.”
God did that with us over the last year. He held us through our developmental disequilibrium. We might have bellowed, “NO!!!” but He just picked us up and firmly carried us through. No power of hell, no scheme of man — not even my own short-sightedness, foolishness, and total inability — can ever pluck me from His hand.
And now that it’s all over, we can assure you that there is life after fundamentalism. That sphere of influence is really very, very small, and we continue to chuckle that Christ is way bigger than a single city block!
At each step, God was there. Each monument reminds me that “the Lord has helped us thus far.” Our daughter’s death stripped away cultural clichés and showed me my Christian colleagues at their very best and God at His most loving. Praying for my oldest proved that God listens and answers prayer. His birth and babymoon taught me how much God loves me. Finding our parenting “sea legs” (despite what I had foolishly concluded as a grad student) further reminded me to listen close to the Holy Spirit and to see through my sons my own total inability and dependence on Christ. Our reading showed us a more robust and more biblical Christianity than we knew in our microculture. Publishing my dissertation was also a thrilling and unexpected (though scary) answer to prayer. Gavin’s birth reminded us that God is faithful so that we can be happy and bold in His love as we approach His throne saying “Abba Father!”
Then there are the monuments built with sharp, heavy stones. The outings, little and big. The meetings. The chapter. The document. The ultimatum. And the resignation. Each incident revealed brokenness of corporate policy, an occluded climate of communication, and a culture steeped in graceless punishment that seems as likely to continue as it ever has. As frightening as these boulder-like Ebenezers were, each was a firm hug that pulled us closer to God and pushed us further along in His plan.
But it’s not really about Grant and me or even a small segment of fundamentalism. It’s about the Church at large and a brewing Awakening, I believe. I’ve heard from so many fellow alumni and friends whom God has gently but dramatically led out of the movement. Jerry Bridges‘ recent theological transformation mirrors ours. And Michael Horton, too, urges a move from the Christless religion of distracting rules to a Christ-centered discipleship that lives out the Gospel. It’s happening.
Writing these Ebenezers have been a therapeutic Lenten exercise for me. I feel unburdened and relieved. The message that has been stuck in my gullet for years is out. It’s done. No need to save it to a CD-ROM either. 😉 I’m not moving it.
If I were to describe this argument within the theory I built in my book — the notion of a romantic separatist rhetoric — I’d probably say that I was the friend that dared to talk about the debutante’s beauty treatments. The henna rinses, the tummy tucks, the tattooed eyeliner — things that were not natural but were desperate attempts to prop up a fading beauty.
Take the cover art, for instance. It’s Edwin Long‘s Vashti. I know that after Campaign 2000, Bob Jones University felt very much like Vashti did when the King wanted her to traipse before his drunken guests. While her ladies-in-waiting are pleading with her to just buck up and go out there and do her duty, she pulls her shawl tight to her chest and trembles. But she won’t budge.
Vashti was stuck. It was either strip or hide, she thought, and she chose hide. We know that neither was the best option. The best option came from a plucky but God-fearing gate guard and his cousin, an unlikely Jewess princess who saw God in every interaction. With boldness, Esther defied convention and propriety and spoke plainly. She stood up to injustice. When the courtly customs threatened her life if she didn’t hush, she dared to speak.
Although I was stopped at every turn, what I wanted to say to fundamentalists in my book is that their beauty isn’t in them at all or in their products or productions. Their spiritual success isn’t stuck between their own purity and the world’s debauchery. As believers, our beauty is wholly in Christ. And that’s not just a cliché; I’m trying to describe it in the most unclichéd way I know how. It seems to me that everything the Lord has brought my family through — from our time at Indiana University to the birth of our children to our forced resignations from Bob Jones University — has pushed us to saying that very thing. Our whole story proves that God (not us!) can take the ugliest and saddest things and make them beautiful and joyful.
You talk to anyone who has left fundamentalism — and many of you have written me and called me to share your similar experiences — and the transition is very much the same. It’s tough. You lose most of your friends from your previous life. You know that people are concluding the worst about you (and a few are brazen enough to tell you how thoroughly terrible you are). People pass unproven supposition around as fact. You hear about how everything you touched is treated like evidence in a “crime scene.” You get paranoid. You get official letters describing the ongoing punishment that your once-friends are now documenting in their files. And your precious family gets the brunt of the stress those letters cause. You feel the icy chill from those you used to laugh with and cry with and pray with.
And then, after all that, you’re told to keep your mouth shut about it. If you do talk, all sorts of spiritual calamity will fall upon you, they say. You can only bring problems up privately, you’re told, even though you did — to no effect. No examples exist in Scripture of speaking out against injustice, you’re told. . . . what Bible are they reading?
I realize now that those demands for us to “shut up!” are really no different than those who say “Aren’t you over that by now?” to moms of babies in Heaven. There’s a fear of big, sad feelings. There’s a fatigue in hearing the same old thing. And there’s the dread of being jinxed if you hear it too much. But those of us in the middle of hardship need to work through these big feelings. It’s a mourning process, and shutting up guarantees you’d get stuck in crippling denial or embittering anger. No, I needed this expression of sadness to move me to the Acceptance stage.
And I believe the Body needs it too. These sort of injustices hurt the Body of Christ both extrinsically and intrinsically. We enable the abusers by refusing to name their sin for what it is. And refusing to plainly unmask our pain before the Body, we victimize those around us who are hurting too. Is the problem that we shouldn’t talk about it or that we don’t know how?
I’ve since learned that the sort of ultimatum we were given is par for the course at BJU. A seminary faculty member received a similar ultimatum just before ours for speaking positively about the English Standard Version in class. I sat near some other former colleagues in church and remembered that in recent years they, too, had been told to shut up or get out. I wanted to cry. That’s a horrible way to run any business, especially with Christian brothers and sisters. And it’s pure tragedy — desperate attempts to purge unruly elements and reach perfection.
I think about my friends who did these tragic things to me personally, and I must repeat to myself that they are stuck like I was and sometimes still am. They don’t know anything but tragedy, and even their reading of Scripture reifies that Gospel-less view. The reason they insisted I hush is because, whether consciously or not, they believe their veneer is a righteousness that must be preserved at all cost. I know that no matter how they much they insist, strive, lash out, primp, clam up, white-wash, and tantrum, that’s not where their Hope lies. I know who they are because I know Whose they are. The system is bad, but in Christ God’s people are good. I tried in this telling to peel off that veneer in a way that still leaves them and me safe and together in Christ alone.
Although it may look very different than it does in tragedy, comedy still allows for critique. Grant always stops me here and says, “Speak that plain.” In tragedy, we kill off our evil enemies or ourselves in order to purge our own sins and reach an ordered perfection. We silence, punish, expunge — all variations on “killing” — so that we can feel secure in our propped-up purity. Of course that fails (both Kenneth Burke and Romans tell us it will!), and we start it all over again. Comedy is different. It’s not a postmodern, warm-and-fuzzy, “can’t-we-all-just-get-along,” mindless tolerance. Neither is it a “smile-at-all-costs” feigned ignorance. No, in comedy, our enemies are not evil, but mistaken. They need to be taught rather than punished. Their faults reveal our own shortcomings.
I wrote that book trying to expand and document Kenneth Burke’s notion of comedy. I always sensed that only Christ could bring a lost and dying world to a comic mindset, but I didn’t know how to say it all. That’s the chief argument in the unpublished chapter. Every one of these Ebenezers accentuated that point. Every one has tested, expanded, and nuanced that expression of comedy. When Elise died, I heard other parents of stillborns talk about how their children were “too good for this world, so God took them.” And I knew that was wrong. That was Burkean tragedy. Unwittingly, of course, those parents were describing their children’s deaths as a vicarious and purgative sacrifice for our messed-up selves and our miserable world. I kept wrestling in prayer: “God, how do I make this into a comedy. . . . giving birth to a child I’ll never see smile in this lifetime?”
When we studied how to parent our sons, I was struck again with how many of these conservative Evangelical gurus were actually arguing that spanking purges sin from our children! Pearl says it, Ezzo says it, and even Tedd Tripp (who really should know better) says it. I knew that couldn’t be. That was enacting tragedy in the home. That was a Gospel-less, works-based, man-centered focus. Christ was the ultimate sacrifice and the end of sacrifices. Christ is the Hero, the Ultimate Comedian! And while Burke imagines the shadows of the idea, his agnosticism prevents him from really running with it.
And you’ve seen many blog posts about that very thing. My daughter didn’t die to cleanse me of my guilt. Christ’s grace transforms tragedy into victory. Just like God took dirt and made it a living soul. . . . just like He takes a sinner dead in trespasses and sins and makes her a joint-heir with Christ. . . . just like Christ conquered death and sin in the resurrection, God took Elise’s death and transformed it into something beautiful. That’s what I prayed for way back when. That’s what this whole story is — the beautiful thing that God made in the midst of some very difficult times.
Throughout this last year, however, I would actually laugh out loud at these Ebenezers and pray, “Okay, God. You’re really making me run with this, aren’t you? Okay. . . . how do you act like a comedian when you’re the counter-agent (a.k.a. scapegoat or villain) in someone else’s tragedy?” In other words, when you’re being abused, where’s the Gospel then? It’s most certainly not in rolling over and sacrificing yourself because that’s another kind of tragedy! I’ve talked about it a little bit, and there’ll be more to come. More that couldn’t have been said without saying all this first.
That is why I had to say it all. Because I know that the living out the Gospel changes every interaction — even when someone is scapegoating you.
These posts are not passive or cynical. I’m working very hard to be a comic critic in these Ebenezers. I’ve discussed only those interactions that reveal official policy and formal organizational communication. The interpersonal, private stuff is not here. I’ve tried to be true to the Holy Spirit, to myself, and to those fellow Christians who, even though they hurt me, are deeply wounded too. They don’t see it. I didn’t either when I was where they are. And I know what the reaction will be from those in my previous life. I’ve already been called “petty,” “silly,” and clearly “unsaved.” Interestingly enough, the comments to my “The Ezz and I” post reflect the response on a small scale: misreading the texts involved, misunderstanding my point, denial, blaming, and top-down put-downs. Neither group can see themselves as separate from the system, and that’s tragic.
These posts, too, should put to rest those accusations that we didn’t go to the people involved. We did. At every turn. Often. And it didn’t change a thing. The message from the system was still the same — “Shut up!” Where do you go to confront a bad system? So many people are hurt and even driven from God by the abuse that passes for spirituality. And those who stay are driven to silence. No more. It’s not that we should stop talking about the problem; it’s that we should talk in order to stop the problem. And we must talk in a way that foregrounds the Gospel — in truth, in love, and with a clear understanding that we are dependent on Christ’s completed redemptive work.
I’m still wrestling with how to describe the Gospel as Comedy within a rhetorical idiom. I’m not saying that I always did it right, and I am sorry for the tragedy I participated in. I was wrong . . . often. But by telling this story completely and publicly, by reflecting the feelings that tragedy induces, by remembering that even the agent of tragedy is himself mired and mistaken, by seeing myself in other’s tragic actions, by critiquing with hope for change, I believe that imagining a rhetorical theory of the Gospel is possible.
So Purim — that celebration that remembers God’s working through Esther to save her people caught in a corrupt, abusive system — has just begun here on March 20, 2008 at 7:41 pm. Esther is a favorite among rhetoricians (believing and otherwise), and our best reminder that God acts in often unobtrusive ways — but He does always act! We’ll be making Hamantaschen to celebrate today and maybe you’ll join us. And while we’re folding those pastries to look like Haman’s hat, I’ll be telling my sons (and myself) about Esther’s brave and outspoken confidence in God. What would happen if we all acted like Esther — resisting tragedy and living out the Gospel? How would God use our words that were true, full-of-grace, bold, and comic? I’m eager to see how God can transform our aching, forced, stuck, trembling, Spirit-ignoring silences into something that robustly and truthfully praises Him. Stay tuned. . . .
Glory to God, whose sovereign grace
Hath animated senseless stones;
Called us to stand before His face,
And raised us into Abraham’s sons!
The people that in darkness lay,
In sin and error’s deadly shade,
Have seen a glorious gospel day,
In Jesus’ lovely face displayed.
Thou only, Lord, the work hast done,
And bared Thine arm in all our sight;
Hast made the reprobates Thine own,
And claimed the outcasts as Thy right.
Thy single arm, almighty Lord,
To us the great salvation brought,
Thy Word, Thy all-creating Word,
That spake at first the world from naught.
For this the saints lift up their voice,
And ceaseless praise to Thee is giv’n;
For this the hosts above rejoice,
We raise the happiness of Heav’n.
For this, no longer sons of night,
To Thee our thankful hearts we give;
To Thee, who called us into light,
To Thee we die, to Thee we live.
Suffice that for the season past
Hell’s horrid language filled our tongues,
We all Thy words behind us cast,
And lewdly sang the drunkard’s songs.
But, O the power of grace divine!
In hymns we now our voices raise,
Loudly in strange hosannas join,
And blasphemies are turned to praise!
22 thoughts on “Ebenezer — The Dénouement”
Camille, you possess a great gift. I’m glad to have read it.
Couldn’t we say that this is bearing one another’s burdens? Not stress in one another’s soap opera, but strategize and comfort one another in the Lord.
We just tonight were going over Romans 8:18-26! The picture in 22 of the whole creation travailing as in childbirth. The hope,expectation of our body’s redemption! This “that I would do I do not…”thing our redeemed new man is temporarily residing in. We are commanded to believe on the Lord and we can’t, He does it for us. We are commanded to pray and we can’t in this body, in our attempts, He does it for us not through us!Perfection put on us!
Teething strategy – I’ve not had to resort to whisky on the gums or in me yet,ha,ha,ha! I have usually had success soothing my toddlers with a cold washcloth – I get it wet with cold water, wring it out and give it to them to chew and suck on, renewing it when needed. Tylanol has also helped them. I don’t know if this will help Gavin, but maybe?
I need to run now – we’re going to watch “John Adams” on a freebie showing on the HBO channel.
The intellectual/academic dishonesty at BJU is certainly wrong and bad, but I think you’ve barely touched on the grosser sins of Fundamentalism, which remain unacknowledged and unrebuked by its leaders. There are even darker things that go on, that have been ignored or even covered over. And the allegedly “hot” pulpit at BJU, though it will address those sins when the Democrats or Catholics commit them, remains stone silent when men like Bob Gray of Trinity Baptist commits them.
There has been a “gentleman’s agreement” of silence in Fundamentalism since the 1950’s. And under the cover of rigid dress and music and behavioral rules, there is a dark underside of unspeakable sin. But when religion is a matter of “decisions” and not repentance, then correcting sin becomes a matter of deciding to reform, not confessing sin and being rebuked and discipled to be restored.
It is sad, Camille, that any administration in a Christian school or church would willingly sacrifice its own rather than patiently wait and see what the Lord is doing among those who are acting in good conscience. But Fundamentalism does sacrifice its own, especially its children and its women.
But now that you’re through it, I hope you are able to get distance, perspective, peace, understanding, and a good church.
May God bless you.
Camille, the subject of spiritual abuse is the ugly cousin within the church today…everyone knows it is ugly but as long as you don’t have to see it very often, it is easy to ignore. Well, it is easy to ignore if it has never touched your own life or if you are more interested in preserving the institution (whether it be the church, a university, a paradigm) than you are in individual people with real needs. I have come to the conclusion that spiritual abuse is the worst kind of abuse you can experience, far worse than physical or sexual, because it affects your relationship with God and causes you to question your very salvation, which we know is its intent. Then, as Jeri alluded to, when it is combined with other forms of abuse, it is pure evil.
I also wanted to comment on another point you made in this blog entry, that of the insistence of others that you seek people out to privately discussion differences. This has been become a pet peeve of mine in the past few years as I have tried to shine line on the patriocentric movement within homeschooling circles. I am constantly having Matthew 18 thrown in my face when these are no private matters of personal offense whatsoever. Public figures and institutions MUST be dealt with in a public manner and they must be forced to stand by what they have taught and published. After being accused of slander, libel, and gossip repeatedly for holding certain people and their teachings up to the light of Scripture, I discovered Paul’s interaction with Peter in Galatians 2 as the proof that this is absolutely the correct way to address these sorts of issues.
BTW, the first time I saw that lovely painting of Vashti in the art gallery, I was so moved. What a perfect choice of cover art!
(Sorry to have written a book here…you prompted it!)
i’d love for you to go to http://www.thecedarroom.org and read he post on march 14th, ‘we become as wives.’
I just found this blog this week and read your story. Thank you for your honesty and your beautiful writing.
I saw similar things when I was at Bob Jones in the 70’s and my parents saw the same in the 50’s. This abuse is now in the 4th generation. Thank you and Jeri for calling it what it is – evil. The question I’ve never been able to answer is, why? What is the fatal flaw at the heart of that institution? Is it pride? Arrogance? I have often wondered if the Jones even believe anything at all, or if it’s just the club they use to run the family business.
Whatever the reason, the fruits are very clear – of the dozen or so friends I’m still in contact with from BJU, not one of us will be in church this coming Easter Sunday morning. Half of us drifted away and the other half are hard-core infidels. All of us are embarrassed to say we attended the University. None of use have sent children there. This is the fruit of Bob Jones University.
Camille, thanks so much for this Ebenezer series. You have put into words so much that I have seen and experienced, and with so much grace. Thanks.
Thank you so much for sharing this very challenging part of your life. As we have been following along, it has given us the opportunity to reflect on God’s grace in our lives. Hopefully one day we can travel down south to reconnect.
Beautiful. Thank you.
A blogging friend of mine sent me this link this morning. From the little I’ve read so far, I am beginning to think it may just be an added part of my healing process from all the religious abuse I have encountered, and even the stuff that currently threatens to take away my peace and newfound wholeness. When I have time, I intend to read further on your blog. But I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for being brave enough to be real, to be honest, and to share your story. Whenever I’m honest, my family always gets a little embarrassed and wishes I’d stick to writing about recipes and my life in Canada. But I can’t keep quiet, not with this hurt and confusion that I’m trying to understand. And if I do speak, they would rather I sugar coat it, which I used to do. But no longer. I want to be real and find healing that would be such an obvious difference, that even my brother who left his faith after all the religious abuse he saw at the hands of our BJU-supported elementary school would see that Jesus isn’t like the church he knew.
This Easter season I’ve been hurting big time, for all the healing I thought I’d gained from being in a church in Missouri that was a little like ICU for the “over-churched” seems to be slipping away now that I’ve moved to the shallow Bible belt of Canada. It’s hard to explain, and it’s ugly to admit what I think when surrounded by truly lovely and sincere Christ-followers who don’t see anything wrong. My husband and I aren’t even planning to attend our own church this weekend, and we have no idea what we will do. When all is said and done, I just want to see Jesus, and not all the religiosity. But how to do that while living here is the challenge.
So thanks for your writing. Maybe, just maybe, it will be a help to the healing that still needs to be done in my life. I know there’s still healing needing to be accomplished, because the only time I want to curse like a sailor or have a hard heart is when I’m thinking about my church background and the schooling background I had for most of my life. Yep, still got anger there. This is going to be a long journey.
“No examples exist in Scripture of speaking out against injustice, you’re told. . . . what Bible are they reading?”
Clearly they are not reading a Bible that contains the prophet Isaiah. “Isaiah 58:6 Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn…”
If they are serious about being a light to the lost, they need to work hard against injustice, not perpetuate it!
As for Gordo’s questions, “The question I’ve never been able to answer is, why? What is the fatal flaw at the heart of that institution?” I believe the answer is ultimately self righteousness. In the last few years, I have recognized this sin (yes, that’s what it is) in every segment of society. As long as we feel we are better than others, we don’t have to face the fact that in God’s eyes, we are on a level playing field with all people.
I’ve appreciated your story. I have seen much abuse in fundamentalist circles as I grew up. I’m looking forward to following your accounts of how the Father is teaching you and how you are growing in His grace.
Thanks, once again, for sharing your story. I think many of us have found common threads with our own stories.
I think the one big thing missing from BJU-style fundamentalism is Jesus – The Word Incarnate. As I get ready for 2 different Easter services tomorrow, I stand in awe of what happened 2 thousand or so years ago. Last night we had a fantastic worship experience – just the story from John and music. There’s nothing better than that: Scripture and poetry.
The last line of “O Sacred Head,” ends like this: “I hope I never outlive my love for Thee.” What I want to share with all of us who are in some process of recovery is remember your initial conversion experience. The amazing love we felt at that time is still there and ready for us to reclaim. It’s not found in institutions or rules or dress codes. It’s found in Christ alone, who uses grace to capture us and hold us in love forever.
As I visited the IFB church in which I was raised (yeah–the one that endorsed child abuse in the name of Jesus Christ) just recently (yes–I do this to let the grandpa show off the grandsons) I was stunned to hear this in the adult Sunday School lesson.
[studying the names of God] “The Lord is our Sanctification, and this is how we change ourselves, by doing what is in His Word.”
HOW WE CHANGE OURSELVES. No, the work of sanctification is not of God, nor about His Grace, or even the working of the Holy Spirit in us or the completed work of His Son. It is about what. we. DO. Sanctification is a system of works. It’s only the instant of being “saved” that is about grace.
For so many years I couldn’t verbalize what didn’t “feel” right about fundyism. And once I “got” it–really understood grace–it transformed everything–especially my parenting.
How sad, that there are still so many that will not experience the fullness of the Gospel because of the continued grasping for control at BJU. I can’t help but to express it. It is just a sad, pathetic situation.
At least we are stopping the cycle with our family.
These have been great to read.
Something I have seen in Fundamentalism–at BJ, church, in “friends”–is that people do not trust that God is working in believers and that they are walking in His Spirit, etc. Many fundies try to do the work on others themselves by imposing legalistic standards and rules, and then judging them if the standards aren’t met. If they see a brother listening to music they don’t agree with or attending a school that is not fundamentalist…they sadly think that brother has fallen away from grace and is not right with God. (When in reality that brother is probably enjoying a happier relationship with God than they ever could!)
I hear so many fundamentalists talking about fighting for fundamentalism, about how wonderful it is to be a fundamentalist, how fundamentalism is getting attacked, etc. WHO CARES?! What about talking about standing up for Christ, enjoying being a CHRISTIAN? Who cares if fundamentalism is getting attacked? Shouldn’t we care more about the name of Jesus being attacked?
Fundamentalists are so busy fighting for their movement against fellow Christians who are not fundies, that they are missing the whole big picture. What would Paul say? Hmmmmm….
Anyways, so great to hear of God’s grace in your lives!!!
It’s been a few years since we’ve had contact. I read some of your writings. I am sorry to hear of your pain but I am glad to see you and Grant are free from the spiritual bondage at BJU. Melody and I left that mindset several years ago only to receive the same shameful treatment and conditional love. It hurts a lot. Keep following Jesus. There’s a fountain of endless grace in Him. If you guys ever need true friends feel free to call on us.
Your Partners in Recovery,
Phil and Melody Holmes
Camille, thanks for writing this. “[K]eep your mouth shut about it” and “shut up”? That’s ironic. Bob Jones, Sr. said, “Some say, ‘Don’t say anything. You can’t wash dirty linen in public!’ But I say it’s better to wash dirty linen in public than not at all!”
Your readers’ experiences, observations, and conclusions paralleled my own. Different people, different times, different issues, different circumstances, different perspectives, yet, through it all, an undeniable sameness.
Thatmom, regarding spiritual abuse, Daniel Dafoe said it thus, “Of all the things with which mankind is cursed, religious tyranny is the worst.”
Christ vigorously rebuked the Pharisees in Matthew 15 and 23 for self-righteousness, hypocrisy, and spiritual abuse. To ignore His example and to create a class of people whose beliefs and practices are immune from earthly correction or rebuke is to take the path to cultism.
Thatmom also wrote about, “being accused of slander, libel, and gossip repeatedly for holding certain people and their teachings up to the light of Scripture…”
In the past 80 years, no one has ever been deemed high enough in standing with God, competent enough in theology, sound enough in mind, pure enough in motive, or honest enough in speech to reprove the doings of BJU. Bob Jones Sr. said, “So you want to know where a man stands with God? You have only to ask him one question: ‘what do you think of this university?’” One would have to hail back to the boasts of the builder of the Titanic (‘God Himself couldn’t sink this ship!’) to find an equally arrogant statement, a like betrayal of trust, and a greater tragedy.
Gordo said, “This abuse is now in the 4th generation. Thank you and Jeri for calling it what it is – evil. The question I’ve never been able to answer is, why? What is the fatal flaw at the heart of that institution?”
Stephanie answered Gordo’s question with “self-righteousness”. I agree. However, in my own efforts to identify “the fatal flaw at the heart of that institution,” I concluded that it is rarely one flaw that proves fatal. The institution – and its adherents – display a Pharisaical hypocrisy driven by an intense personal loyalty to the Joneses and a fierce institutional idolatry for BJU.
The following quotes seem to lend support to such a conclusion:
“This trio [the Bob’s] of remarkable, paradoxical, and charismatic men have built an institution where fundamentalist theology and personal loyalty to them were and are the prerequisites to success for all who work and study there.” Mark Dalhouse, An Island in the Lake of Fire
“Disloyalty is a characer fault that I do not believe is ever cured. I will forgive a disloyal person if he asks me to, but I will never trust him again…[W]hen [BJU] has had to draw battle lines and take a position, those who are students and faculty and do not stand with us are traitors to the cause this institution represents; and there is no reason why we should ever let them return. We will forgive them if they ask us, but we could not trust them not to betray us again if the occassion arose.” Bob Jones III
“I would never break with Bob Jones. When you break with him, you break with Bob Jones University.” Phil Shuler
Gordo’s experiences again mirror my own: “…the fruits are very clear – of the dozen or so friends I’m still in contact with from BJU, not one of us will be in church this coming Easter Sunday morning. Half of us drifted away and the other half are hard-core infidels. All of us are embarrassed to say we attended the University. None of use have sent children there. This is the fruit of Bob Jones University.”
Disillusionment is one of the dangers of the “leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy”. I sometimes wonder: How many people have been driven away from Christianity by BJU?
I just finished reading this last entry. YOU NEEDED TO WRITE ALL THIS! It gives voice and living testimony to so many hurting and damaged believers who have not found peace in a “military” Christianity. I grew up in the Greenville/Fundamental system of works/rule-based grace, and at the age of 32 am seeing so much hurt and spiritual numbness all around me. I have no doubt that everyone in Fundamental systems is hurting deeply whether they were to admit it or not. Man’s contrived “grace” just doesn’t cut the mustard. God’s is so much better-and I don’t mean to sound trite. Your heart’s Godly and sincere insights on much of Fundamentalism are like a big ol’ glass of water to the poor smuck who’s been stuck in the desert with no way of getting out. Water sure tastes good when you’re thirsty. Fundamentalism leaves it’s footsoldiers SO THIRSTY. Living water extends living grace. Grace that makes life worth living. Grace that is liveable.
Camille, my reply to “What Bible are They reading?” This is the rhetorical question of the Century! Hearers and not doers? Didn’t James have something to say about that? Do some people put ‘OPINION”lenses on, when they open their Bible? And so when they ‘read’ their Bible through an apriori opnionated already concluded ‘mis-interpretation lenses,” what do they get out of it/ Answer, absolutely NOTHING! nothing that is but more opinions to reinfrce the already pathetic sttae of intellectual ignorance that already controls their non thinking brains. If it’s rules, rules, rules, they are looking for, that is ‘all’ they will find. I think the Lord may simply ‘give’ them whatever their arrogant appetites want to feed their empty heads on, and let them ‘choke on the bones.’ Amazing Ebeneezer. Haven’t read it all through yet. So much in it. Also trying to understand the message better. But my brain doesn’t seem to be co operating.
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