Although the Greenville, South Carolina, haven of fundamentalism is still holding classes, the New World Order’s steamroller has flattened the life out of Bob Jones University. I’m referring, of course, to the recent abandonment of BJU’s ban on interracial dating and marriage on campus. The school’s president, Dr. Bob Jones, III, granted the dispensation on Larry King Live, after intense scrutiny in the national media following the squabble among Republican presidential candidates George W. Bush, John McCain, and Alan Keyes.
“I want to prove to the world that we are not racists,” said Dr. Jones. As to the accompanying charge of being “anti-Catholic,” he added, “We don’t hate Catholics at all—we love them and want to see them come to Christ.”
The fact that some Bible-thumping cracker still believes, as a Protestant, that the Roman Catholic Church has rejected the pure Gospel has sent the media into convulsions. The candidates, of course, fell into line, condemning “racism” and “anti-Catholicism.” Conservative pundits responded with stories about BJU’s loss of its tax-exempt status and President Reagan’s failed (but valiant) effort to restore it. Liberals, in turn, demanded that Congress censure Bob Jones University.
The real story, however, is that BJU caved. Wooed by the national media and fatigued by their own commitments, they abandoned the “rule [they] never discuss” in exchange for a table crumb, tossed by George W. Bush.
Strict, self-proclaimed “fighting” fundamentalists, unlike evangelicals like Jerry Falwell, typically carry their premillennial pessimism to its logical conclusion: The Church is a life raft amidst the stormy waters of a dying culture; therefore, we should get as many on board as possible, and let the storm rage on. Separation from “the world” has been the identifying mark of fundamentalism since the 1940’s and 50’s.
Earlier in the 20th century, when William Jennings Bryan won his court case but lost in the media, American evangelicals separated themselves into their own colleges and publishing houses. During the late 50’s, evangelical leaders like Harold Ockenga, Billy Graham, and Charles Fuller decided to broaden their appeal by reaching out to liberals and Roman Catholics, emphasizing their points of agreement. Firebrands like Bob Jones, Sr., rejected this “neo-evangelicalism” and founded their own schools, which were designed to maintain the moral standards of evangelicalism and to preserve militant adherence to a belief in the inerrancy of the Bible. Indeed, “separation” was not enough—fundamentalists insisted on “second-degree separation.” This meant that not only must they refrain from fellowship with those who denied the “fundamentals,” but they must also separate from those who personally upheld the fundamentals but shared a stage with those who rejected or questioned them.
At the height of the conservative movement in the 1980’s, fundamentalists did not join the Moral Majority or the Christian Coalition. They remained separate. Bob Jones University furthered its independence by creating its own power plant and getting its meat, dairy, and vegetables from a farm down the street. BJU also stood out by defying the central government’s pressure to end its “segregationist” policy. The ban on interracial dating was established in response to the concerns raised by the parents of an Asian boy who wanted to marry a white girl. (Both were BJU students.) The parents—eager to preserve their Asian heritage —threatened to sue the school for allowing them to date at all. (Of course, “dating” at BJU is not the same as elsewhere in today’s “no limits” culture. Bob Jones students are not allowed to be alone with the opposite sex; girls cannot wear slacks or shorts; boys must have short, tapered hair; no student can enter a movie theater; rock ‘n’ roll is forbidden.)
By officially banning interracial dating. Bob Jones University was simply upholding a common cultural commitment (shared by most blacks, Asians, and whites) of America’s not-too-distant past (as well as protecting itself from future lawsuits). They added an ad hoc justification to the policy, one that they, no doubt, believed to be true until recently: The Tower of Babel was a divine act, not to be reversed. The American melting pot, therefore, is an end-times Antichrist plot, reducing all nations to their least common denominator and blending away their deeply held beliefs and distinctions.
“We no longer believe that to be true,” said Dr. Jones on CNN. The question is, why not? As the NATO war machine rolls through Eastern Europe, as our Washington taskmasters crack their whips across our backs, what makes Dr. Jones think that the Antichrist plot is no longer afoot? Are we living — once again —in Cotton Mather’s “great Christian America”?
Perhaps fundamentalism is playing catch-up to American evangelicalism. Before long, fundamentalists might also attempt to lure in young people with Christian rock ‘n’ rollers such as the recently divorced Amy Grant, or by playing beach-blanket bingo with Campus Crusade for Christ. Maybe they are ready to hold hands with Coach McCartney and his Promise Keepers, and let all the walls come down.
For serious Christians of all denominations, the Bob Jones University of Bob Jones, Sr., and Bob Jones, II, represented the kind of self-determination that originally made America great—and free. Those—like Bob Jones, III—who cave in to the pressures of the New World Culture usually don’t stop until they strip themselves of everything that makes them distinct. Once you start chasing after the media’s and the government’s approval, you have yielded up the ghost.
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