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COLUMN

Bob Jones’s True Colors

Veena Thomas

George W. Bush was heavily criticized for appearing at Bob Jones University, a non-accredited college known for being racist and anti-Catholic. He made no attempt to distance himself from any of the philosophies of the university, perhaps leading some people to think he supported the college’s beliefs. Though Bush denied the allegations, and subsequently apologized, the image remained in the public’s eye.

Not sure how a university could be both racist and anti-Catholic, and get away with it, I decided to do some research. I located the college’s website <http://www.bju.edu> and began to browse. Not surprisingly, the site had an entire section devoted to recent press coverage and in defense of the institution. Bob Jones III, president of Bob Jones University, wrote a formal press release in support of his college. It reads like a used car salesman’s pitch -- Bob Jones manages to alienate half of the people in his speech whom he so desperately needs to convince to support his college. While championing religious freedom in the US, he mocks Islam, Judaism, and Roman Catholicism, as he wonders why some of their fundamental beliefs have not been attacked sooner.

Wait... isn’t he supposed to be trying to convince us that he and his university are not anti-Catholic?

Religious freedom and allowing others to believe and practice what they want is one of the ideas upon which this country was founded. Yet if Bob Jones kept insisting that he was not anti-Catholic, what would cause others to think so? There must be a complication here.

Sure enough, upon reading a transcript of Larry King interviewing Bob Jones, I found a clue. Stated Larry King, “But if you call the pope the anti-Christ you will offend Catholics...” Instead of refuting this statement, or denying he had ever done such a thing, he instead supported himself. “Yes, but you know, ... Article VI of the Westminster Confession calls the pope an anti-Christ,” retorted Jones. Not anti-Catholic? His repeated denials of anti-Catholic beliefs were fast wearing thin, especially when he could hardly make it through a denial without bashing Catholics. Undoubtedly his case wasn’t helped when Larry King asked, “Did you call George W. Bush’s father a devil?” and Jones replied, “You know I did.”

Bob Jones seemed very confused by Larry King and managed to trip up often and look like an idiot. As Jones later ranted and raved about all of the liberals at Harvard and Yale, King had to remind him that George W. Bush graduated from Yale. Jones had nothing to counter with except “Well, it's possible for a man to come through the system and not buy into it.”

What about the allegations of racism? In the course of defending himself from such allegations, Jones managed to insinuate that blacks and other races come from broken homes and abusive families. Is he clueless at how to support himself, or does he just have opinions too strong to hide for very long? What exactly were the allegations?

Apparently Bob Jones University has had an official ban on interracial dating for many years. Its justification: “We stand against the one-world government, against the coming world of anti-Christ, which is a one world system of blending of all differences, of blending of national differences, economic differences, church differences, into a big one ecumenical world.”

BJU says it would prefer to keep the races separate. As a student put it, “My own personal belief is that God has made races perfect. God has made whites perfect and blacks and Orientals, and he hasn’t given us any reason to intermix those races.

“But he has made them perfect. It's not a policy that discriminates against the whites or the blacks or the Orientals, but it’s a policy that is equal to all three of the races.” Excuse me -- all three of the races? Don’t they teach students at BJU that not everyone falls so neatly into one of those three categories?

After the media spotlight hit BJU, suddenly the ban on interracial dating was dropped. Their sudden decision to eliminate the ban troubled me almost as much as their having it. Said Jones, “We have a broader testimony. And if all anybody can see is this rule, which we never talk about or preach, which most of our students couldn’t even tell you what it is. ... Why should we have this here as an obstacle?”

If Jones claims the rule is so insignificant, then why was it implemented for so many years, and why do students have such strong views favoring the ban? On the reverse side, if the rule was so important to the university, as is seemingly implied by its existence, why did they instantly eliminate it when attacked? What about standing up for your beliefs? What are Bob Jones University's true beliefs? What does Bob Jones III really stand for? Does he have the strength to stand for anything?

What bothers me most is that someone like Bob Jones can preach what he likes, including prejudice and animosity towards other religions, and can shape the minds of impressionable college students, all under the guise of freedom of religion. Where do we draw the line?

Sadly, Bob Jones can stand on his soapbox and preach what he likes, and no one can stop him.