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Another Ebenezer: Camille Lewis, Independent Scholar

If you caught my Ebenezer series (which ended with this final post), you’d be interested to know that the final chapter, removed from my book under threat of termination, is now published in this month’s Kenneth Burke Journal under the title, “Publish and Perish?: My Fundamentalist Education from the Inside Out.” It includes an explanation of those events leading up to that chapter’s expunging.

20 thoughts on “Another Ebenezer: Camille Lewis, Independent Scholar

  1. Congratulations. I am curious (and excited) to see what reactions this provokes.

  2. Camille, your writing is outstanding, you’re obviously well read and very bright.

    But as a former BJU student perhaps 20 years preceding you, not an alumnus, I’m having a bit of a difficult time trying to understand how you, after all those years at BJU, can not understand why your remarks in the chapter above would not be perceived as threatening to BJU? Jim Berg has achieved icon status at BJU, and his books are bestsellers, resulting in significant revenue to the university. While I understand that your remarks in the chapter were a critique of the rhetoric Berg used in his book, the perception was, and perception is reality as far as a very suspicius BJU is concerned, that you were being critical of Berg’s theology and BJU was totally overlooking your argument. No one can criticize an icon in that atmosphere without repercussions. Weier was right that “No one will see the difference.”
    While they didn’t fire you directly, they deliberately made the environment so difficult you had no choice but to resign.

  3. Hey, Paul! Nice to meet you.

    I understand what you’re saying and that’s been said many times. It all comes down to the fact that I thought I perceived an attitudinal shift in BJU’s culture. I mean, BJU had pursued accreditation. We were regularly and strongly encouraged from the administration to publish. My expertise is religious separatist rhetoric — specifically BJU! On some level, it’s a no brainer that I WOULD publish!

    Besides that, the faculty, staff, and student body had all felt that we were entering a kinder and gentler time at BJU. You still hear students and staff expressing this hope. We all thought things were different under the new administration. My experience proves, as you say, that nothing was really new at all.

    If fundamentalism is going to grow and mature and serve the Church, it has to figure out how to accommodate academic and internal critique. It must become self-reflexive. My situation proves that it’s not ready yet for that. This isn’t a problem of my naivete as much as its a lesson for all fundamentalists rising toward our middle-age.

  4. Hi Dr. Lewis,
    I’m not sure if you remember me however it hasn’t been that long since I graduated so I’m thinking you might:)
    I haven’t really kept up on the happenings at Bob Jones since graduating~so I actually heard for the first time this past week that you and your husband had resigned. And since you were hands down my favorite teacher at school I knew I had to read your blog:)
    I just wanted to say thank you for writing about your experience. It was such an encouragement. I was especially curious to read “the chaper” And sincerely your critique of “When Trouble Comes” put into words so much of what I struggled with as a student. In particular the line “if the flesh is the greatest danger” then being human will always be a problem~ actually made me laugh out loud~ because it’s so true!
    This post is probably long enough, so I’ll stop, but I just wanted to say thanks for sharing!

  5. Camille,

    I don’t know what I could say that hasn’t already been said, but I do want to thank you for sharing your story so candidly. I always knew there were problems at BJU. I really wish they would end the hubris that they pass off as spirituality. I certainly understand your passion on the Facebook discussion groups. I hope God uses your story to help others realize that the best of people are people at best!

  6. I just found your blog and have read through your Ebenzer entries. I am so sorry. I am going through a similar situation (of course)and was greatly encouraged by your entries and the courage, kindess, and logic you showed throughout your circumstances. And I was encouraged that you saw the horrible things you went through prior to the leaving of BJ as a preparation to the events. God is very gracious with us 🙂

    My church is going through the Jim Berg “Quieting a Noisy Soul” and there is something just not quite right about it. I think part of it (for me) was the focus on how you feel about things instead of focusing on what was right to do. Do you have any wisdom on this or additional resources for figuring this out?

    Thanks so much

  7. I was a student nearly 30 years ago at BJU. I stumbled on your blogs just this week, and it appears most comments are nothing new from others I’ve seen over the years. A person has dealt with a perceived wrong, and makes it their mission in life to do all they can thru their comments and writing to let everyone else know how rotten of a place BJU is and how rotten the people are at BJU. The greatest satisfaction these types get in life is getting other disgruntled people on board to prove themselves right in their positions. While no place is perfect, if a person has a quarrel with an institution, why can’t they just go on their way….find a place they do agree with in principle and do what they can to support that place? A person will be eaten alive from inside to out, that makes it their mission in life to make others hurt they way they’ve been hurt. In these cases usually the individual would love nothing more than to see themselves proven right and if BJU ceased to exist from the planet (and they had a hand in seeing that done) it would be even greater. Move on and find what the Lord wants for you from this point on, and leave those who hurt you for their own day of judgment.

  8. Well, Eugene. . . . Your comment is kinda funny, to be honest. You obviously haven’t read much on my blog at all. You haven’t seen all the real good that God has done through this difficult series of events! No, all you see is me and my failings. And yes, they are there. Especially if you’re looking for them.

    God has truly blessed me and my family and so many of His children surrounding these sorts of events. I pray that you, too, can see God’s gentle love in your life too.


  9. Nice, Eugene. I, too, was there about 30+ yrs ago and it was a terrible ride. What abuse and what scorn they heaped on us lowly students. They have not changed; altogether, my family represents 85+ years of experience with them. Tell me something I might not know about BJones; tell me I should just be silent, cover the abuse, not warn others.

  10. Camille,

    I attended BJU grad school from 1981-1986 earning both a M.A. and Ph.D. in Theology. One of the big problems at BJU is that the faculty is not allowed to critique the theology of the administration. The administration rules and the faculty acquiesces. Allow me to give two examples:`

    1) A book entitled: “Decision-Making and the Will of God” by Gary Friesen came out in the early 80’s. The book disputed the idea that there is a “perfect will” of God for individuals. Friesen disputed the idea that God has a particular school that he wants you to attend or a particular person that he wants you to marry. He argued that the Scriptures teach that man should use godly wisdom when making these decisions but need not pray and seek “the perfect will of God.”

    In grad society meeting one day, Bob Wood came in and preached a fiery sermon against this book. He was totally against it. Someone had the courage to ask him if he had read the book and he admitted he had not.

    Later that semester I asked Stewart Custer in a class if he had read Friesen’s book. He said: “No, but I am going to read it and write a refutation of it Faith for the Family.”

    At that moment, I realized that Custer was not going to approach the book with an open mind but was going to “refute” it because the administration had taken a stand against it.

    2) In 1988, I wrote an article on the Blood of Christ which was published in the Calvary Baptist Seminary Journal. Bob Jones, Jr. had called John MacArthur a heretic because of his statements that it was not the bleeding but the dying of Jesus that atones for sin. I wrote the article to show that MacArthur was basically right. I did not even mention Jones in the article. I discussed the article with Robert Bell, Marshall Neal and Stewart Custer and they were all in agreement with it. As I understand it, BJIII also agreed but Bob Jr was adamant. When Jr. was out preaching somewhere, someone asked him about the issue. After he finished his raving, the person said, do you know that virtually your entire Bible faculty disagrees with you? Well you can imagine what that did to him. When he got back on campus, he called the faculty together and told them that this subject was not to be discussed in class or in any written documents. It was basically to be ignored.

    I could give more examples but that is enough for now.

    Ken Pulliam

  11. I have no idea whether Ms. Lewis will ever read my comments here, but I feel compelled to record them nonetheless.

    As a former classmate and friend of Camille’s, I am very disappointed by the broad-brush approach she employs to describe her alma mater. As a true BJU “lifer” (I was born on campus and spent 2/3 of my life there) I am privy to more potentially damaging “inside information” than Camille could possibly hope to know. Unlike her, however, I have made the choice to follow David’s example regarding Saul and “not raise my hand against the Lord’s anointed”. Regardless of how she or anyone else– alumnus or casual observer– may personally feel about the school and the Jones family specifically, it does the cause of Christ no credit to air these things publicly.

    Camille, you and Grant got miffed and left BJU… stop the rhetoric and rear your children in a truly God-fearing and loving home, not one characterized by hate-filled speech and bitterness.

  12. Read the book. Read the chapter. This isn’t about “dirt.” And there’s no hate present. Dirt and hate don’t get published in a peer-reviewed journal. Scholarship does.

    I am continually amazed at how thoroughly the “Greenville Syndrome” has captivated those who were raised on campus.

    You may most certainly follow that particular example you’ve extracted from Scripture. That’s really fine! There are other examples and other gifts: Jesus in the temple, Paul with the Judaizers and Peter, every prophet in the entire Canon. I’m responsible for the message God has given me. I’m trying, as Luther urged, to make my own good shoe and sell it at a fair price.

    God bless, Todd. Do take care!!

  13. Camille has spent the last few years exposing the wrong and misguided theology that BJU admin shove down students throats and use as means of measuring spirituality. The BJU admin fail to realize that they are on the same spiritual plane as every other christian. We all are sinners, all are broken and CAN’T EVER do anything to become more acceptable to God. Until BJU revises it’s theology to reflect the Bibles teaching they will continue to destroy christian lives with their Pharisaical rituals.

  14. Camille: I’ll happily read the book, and I promise to do so with an open mind. To be clear, I’ve run across the anti-BJU speech in several places on the internet, so I’m not even referring to the book.

    David: I would be interested in hearing specific examples of BJU’s “wrong and misguided theology”.

  15. One additional comment… the mention of “inside information” was not intended to indicate that Camille was dishing “dirt”. I simply meant that if anyone has cause to be bitter against the administration, I would be at the top of the list.

  16. the anti-BJU speech in several places on the internet, so I’m not even referring to the book.

    I guess I’m confused then. Since you attached your criticism to this (rather old) post, I assumed you were referring to the subject of the post.

    I simply meant that if anyone has cause to be bitter against the administration, I would be at the top of the list.

    Well, I do understand that. You were there a long, long time. And you know what? 🙁 I would think every faculty/staff kid — especially an admin kid like you — would be in the same boat. And honestly, for that I’m sorry.

    I would be interested in hearing specific examples of BJU’s “wrong and misguided theology”.

    Look around this blog. 🙂 Read this “Ebenezer” series. Check out the “Things I Never Heard in Fundamentalism.” Fact is, Todd, the Gospel isn’t preached in fundamentalism or hasn’t been since the 1940s. I know that’s a hard pill to swallow. Believe you me, I know it’s hard. I’ve just recently been able to state it to myself.

    It’s okay in the sense that God’s got us. We’re safe in Him. And He really doesn’t mind hearing about all the crud we’ve endured and the untruths we’ve heard.

    I heard a podcast this week that was “correcting” Rick Warren’s “It’s not about you; it’s about God.” phrase. The speaker said, “Sure, sure. It’s about God. But it’s about you too.”

    God loves you, Todd. He loves me too. He hurts when we hurt. We didn’t hear that enough at our alma mater. But it is the Truth.

    God bless!

  17. My apologies for commenting on “this rather old post”, it’s just the first one I found. I won’t comment further.

  18. No, no. Really. It’s okay. I’m just clarifying my confusion. 🙂

    I saw from my statcounter where you found this post and the “anti-BJU speech.” His message isn’t mine, and mine’s not his. But . . . he’s got a point.

  19. Camille, I finally got through the Ebenezers again. Such a timely writing of a journey of two pilgrims, you and Grant plus the two gifts from Heaven of your sons! Amazing. I never saw one suggestion of bitterness in any of your Ebenezer entries. I only saw gut level honest painful truth, a well as deep, sincere gratitude for God’s loving presence throughout the entire ordeal. I really admire your charitable patience with those who suggested you were ‘bitter’ and writing,about, spreading about BJU dirt. Thank you for showing those of us who just read your log, and those of us who both read it and comment, that it’s possible to be misinterpreted, both falsely and unfairly, to be implied as ‘bitter’ etc., when one is ‘not’ that way at all, and yet still respond in a kind, patient and truly healthy way. One of the many reasons why your blog is so helpful to so many. Your blog makes no excuses for ‘anything.’ It simply tells the truth, something not a lot of people even like, want, or are willing listen to. Truth that some people actually hate, because it reminds them of things they just can’t deal with themselves. People have a right to take the easy route out, go into and remain in denial. That’s their freedom and right. But as they do that, they do not have a right to judge those of us as bitter, simply because we would rather tell it like it is, say that we have hurt really bad, but that we know we are learning that God’s Grace is there with us every step of the way, healing us an showing us His presence throughout it all! I have seen that message of truth throughout your Ebenezers, with consistency, and with an honesty which reminds me of Joan of Arc who would not back down in the face of opposition and misrepresentation prior to her martyrdom. These days, we who stand up for ourselves, and come to the defense of others, may not be burned at the stake, but we ‘do’ have our good characters maligned, by the things people falsely say and believe about us. People who find it safer to believe the falsehoods, because it’s easier to ‘trade their integrity for access’ than to risk being ostracized as we have been! BJU Faculty who obviously need their pay cheques, and who also have an emotional-social need to remain ‘belongers’ to the BJU family-community, because of their real fears of being pushed out,no wonder they agree with the BJU bullies and enforcers! Fear is such an effective means of control! hank God He has taken us past being easily intimidated. Being free from intimidation is a most wonderful gift of freedom I know that God’s Grace strengthens us to respond in a healthy way to criticism. I believe we are getting better at this as we heal. It can be a very hard thing to do, but then nothing is impossible with God! Thank you Camille, for setting such a fine christian example or us out on cyber space. Some of us just lurk and read.That’s what ‘I’ used to do. I think I was a bit of a coward, or just didn’t believe that anything I wrote would be worth reading. I guess God has changed me in that regard, because I do talk a lot. Some of us lurk, read, then comment. But we’re ‘all’ being edified and encouraged, by your honest and consistent stand on your journey. Keep on keeping on. Thank you for sharing your Ebenezers with us. You’re so brave. Barbara

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