Dances With Compromise:
The Bob Jones University Twist
by An Anonymous BJU Graduate
In the film Dances With Wolves, a Plains Indian comments to another Indian, as he observes a white man dancing around with some wolves, (he) "dances with wolves." And that sentence became the name of the lone white man: Dances With Wolves. Recent days has put another observer in a position of giving a name to a certain kind of activity. Hi, I am a Bob Jones University graduate, and I am happily, interracially married. I have observed the historic move by Dr. Bob Jones III, President of Bob Jones University, Greenville, SC to drop their no-interracial dating policy, and I turned to my wife and said: "(He) Dances With Compromise."
Let me make one thing clear! At Bob Jones University, they don't allow dancing, and they don't compromise. Why? Because they are Fundamentalists, and that is just the rules they have. They have other rules: No drinking, no drugs, no sex, no hand holding, no kissing, etc. They operate a little differently; they are like a military academy. Dr. Bob III said in the Larry King Live interview that they are a Christian "boot camp." And if you don't like it, go somewhere else! Or as some say, "Get your own school!" The bottom line here is that they have a constitutional right to do so.
Sometimes rules are dropped because they are no longer needed. BJU dropped their no-interracial dating policy and said that it was no longer needed and that it was really nothing. They also said that it could not be substantiated by Scripture. Wow! That was mouth full for those of us who went to school there at an earlier date. I was stunned yet overjoyed by the decision that Dr. Bob III made. I said to some other BJU grads that I have maintained contact with over the years, "Do I see compromise from a non-compromising Fundamentalist!?" I also said, "When does Bob Jones University cave to adversity and suddenly drop convictions that they fought dearly for all the way to the US Supreme Court and lost their tax exempt status and say that it is just nothing!?"
Something's wrong here! Hello! Anyone home!? Okay, let me start from the beginning. Bob Jones University is a conservative, baptistic, liberal arts, Christian college that takes pride in calling themselves Fundamentalists. They have top academics; they are evangelistic, and they operate like a top notch military academy, only without the uniforms and the salutes. It is a clean, safe place and probably the envy of all Christian schools
Bob Jones University has a product that they produce. They train Christian men and women in character values, high academics, and Christian service for whatever walk of life they go into. Only until recent years did they allow our black brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ to attend. Yeah. That's right. Blacks were not allowed for many years. Then comes the IRS and the courts and ordered them to allow blacks to attend.
Bob Jones University claims that they did not allow blacks to attend, not because they did not like them, but because they wanted to make sure no one interracially dated them and married them. BJU stated that this was taught in the Bible and that it was a conviction of theirs. Whoops. Did I say something wrong? Let me remember: Dr. Bob III said on Larry King Live that that doctrine was never taught in Chapel or the classroom.
Hmmm? I do remember it being espoused in Chapel. I even had a BJU Bible professor teach it. Dr. Bob Jr, the former Chancellor even had a tract booklet on it in the Campus Bookstore. Let's go a step further. On Larry King Live, Dr. Bob III said that there was no basis for it in the Bible; it couldn't be supported. But in the February 1979 Voice of the Alumni, Dr. Bob III says in his article titled A Taste of Victory, "This the University was willing to suffer in order to protect its Biblically — based convictions against interracial dating and marriage. In 1975, court rulings in Virginia took from private schools the option of racially discriminatory admission policies, and the University complied with the law, since it had no Biblical conviction for doing otherwise. It did, however, retain its Biblical convictions against interracial dating and marriage by refusing to allow such within the student body."
In 1979, Dr. Bob III says in one breathe that it is Biblically-based. Now on Larry King Live, he says that it can not be supported in the Bible and that it was really nothing. Is this compromise, plain and simple? Or worse yet! Is this pathological lying similar to the way President William Jefferson Clinton parlayed and danced with the media and the American people?
When you are caught with your pants down, you can admit your error and change your ways. Or you can lie your way out and try to look good with nice sounding words, as though the past has no meaning. When as a student at BJU, I can remember an old dean coming to the Chapel podium to announce mid-term and final exams. He would quote, I think, a West Point saying: "I will not lie, I will not cheat, I will not steal, and I will not tolerate those who do!" If you were caught cheating on a final exam, it would have been expulsion. It was that tough. Yes the character training carried rigors.
Dr. Bob III, a man highly respected by BJU grads as well as those who might be his enemies, appears to have contradicted everything he stood for by compromising principles and truth in order to tell the truth. Suddenly he and BJU are at the front of a national political row. Bob Jones University is a name that is on the tongues of most Americans. You hear it being discussed in the workplace, at church, among ordinary folks and probably in bars as well.
At Bob Jones University in Chapel, the President's dad, tough guy and fundamentalist grappler, Dr. Bob Jr. would often use the words such as backbone, taking a stand, character, no compromise, and yes, no blacks at one time. Apparently the heir to the Joneses dynasty threw that all out the window as he was running scared and went for the safest public medium, Larry King Live.
Using kidgloves, Larry King hammered out who and what BJU is and Dr. Bob III's offer — the dropping of Bob Jones University's no-interracial dating policy. Dr. Bob's reason for dropping the policy seems to be because public exposure created an embarrassing light for the embattled fundamentalist university.
Let us look at another document that shows that Dr. Bob III tells a different story than he did on Larry King Live. On the Internet, United States Case Law: Supreme Court, the document titled US Supreme Court, Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983), decided May 24, 1983, says, "The sponsors of the University genuinely believe that the Bible forbids interracial dating and marriage…" The document also says, "The District Court found, on the basis of a full evidentiary record, that the challenged practices of petitioner Bob Jones University were based on a genuine belief that the Bible forbids interracial dating and marriage."
The Supreme Court document further lists the BJU disciplinary rule, which reads, ' "There is to be no interracial dating. "1. Students who are partners in an interracial marriage will be expelled. "2. Students who are members of or affiliated with any group or organization which holds as one of its goals or advocates interracial marriage will be expelled. "3. Students who date outside of their own race will be expelled. "4. Students who espouse, promote, or encourage others to violate the University's dating rules and regulations will be expelled." '
While most people hail Bob Jones University's decision to drop the no-interracial dating policy, who is telling the truth here? Bob Jones University stated before federal court officials that the Bible supports it. On the other hand Dr. Bob III now tells Larry King that it can't be supported by the Bible. There's either a missing link, or a Big Lie, or one of the biggest frauds to support, cover, and conceal racism in a religious institution.
Dr. Bob III wove quite a tangled web on Larry King Live. When asked by King why "black kids can't date white kids," Dr. Bob III states that it is because of Bible principles and combating a one-world government led by the anti-Christ. But he doesn't explain why racism is a tool here nor why he believes it is misunderstood. This does not appear to be the reason brought before the US Supreme Court.
Dr. Bob III in the King interview says, "We can't point to a verse in the Bible that says you shouldn't date or marry inter-racial." King says, "You can't back it up?" Dr. Bob III says, "No, we can't back it up with a verse from the Bible. We never have tried to, we have never tried to do that."
It is also interesting that Dr. Bob III says, "During the era — you know — the era of segregation, segregationists said, well, we are not racist, we just think the races should be apart, they should be treated equally, but not together, and that was regarded as a kind of cop-out." I find that comment interesting because I clearly remember Dr. Bob Jr, the former chancellor, saying in Chapel that they once tried to start a Bob Jones for blacks, but that idea for some reason didn't work. So was Dr. Bob Jr. trying his hand at "copping-out" in the racist game to avoid federal confrontation?
Dr. Bob III also says in the King interview that it was "…a rule that we never talk about and that is meaningless to us." I went to and graduated from Bob Jones University. I find that highly unbelievable. Meaningless!? Who is Dr. Bob III trying to kid! It was not meaningless when they went all the way to the US Supreme Court; they were angry as a nest of hornets and fought with every dollar they had. I wonder what Dr. Bob Sr. and Dr. Bob Jr. would say if they were still living? Meaningless? I think you would have had a fight on your hands or you would have been expelled as in rule # 4 of their no-interracial dating rules listed in the US Supreme Court document.
It is also interesting that when Larry King makes reference to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as being a favorite of Dr. Bob III, Dr. Bob III never answers his question about whether Bob Jones University would allow Judge Thomas to date his white wife on campus. This pattern of dodging answers and telling a twisted story travels throughout the Larry King interview. You have seen the quotes from various documents. You be the judge.
You are probably wondering where I was in the midst of this when I was a student. I came to the University not sure of what those beliefs meant. I obeyed their no-interracial rules. I even had a BJU Bible teacher teach that "race is determined by descendance from one of Noah's three sons – Ham, Shem, and Japheth" and that "mixing of the races is regarded as a violation of God's command." No students challenged it. I also remember quite well the BJU tract on the subject that could be purchased in the BJU Bookstore.
When I graduated from Bob Jones University and had the opportunity to travel to many places, I was constantly challenged by many pastors, Christians, non-Christians and theology grad students on where BJU stood on the issue of race; they were ready for a "fight." I had one doctoral theology student hand his Bible out to me and asked me to show him where it was. I told him that I couldn't find it but that BJU did teach that it was Biblically based. I was then asked what I believed. I told them that I had to conclude from my own readings of the Bible that it was not taught and that BJU deluded us and left us hanging. It was an embarrassment.
From many confrontations over the subject by well-intending people who wanted to know, I found it was easier to not say that I had graduated from Bob Jones University. The thing that hit me was that they taught that they stood for the "old-time religion and the absolute authority of the Bible." And here they were hanging onto something that could not be supported from the Scriptures. They spoke against and vilified anyone they perceived as twisting the Scriptures or compromising. But yet they propagated extra-Biblical teaching. It was truly an embarrassment.
Hurrah, for doing the right thing Dr. Bob! It was about time that the unBiblical, ugly policy was removed. Remember one thing! "It is never right to do wrong in order to do right." The lies, the compromising, the double-talk, the shadiness — they all function as a tool for presenting a nicer image. You know, sort of like reinventing the fundamentalist wheel. It just spins a little smoother, but it is still unbalanced. Even Slick Willy understand that maneuvering.
If Dr. Bob III used all of the principals that he and his dad and his granddad, the founder taught, he would have come out a real hero. Had he not caved to public opinion and really came out and said that through prayer and fasting that the Lord had showed him real character and boldness and gave the Lord, not BJU, the glory, surely he would have been respected in a fuller sense. Had he even said that he had been slain in the spirit multiple times before hitting the ground, I would have at least considered that tongue-in-cheek over his more direct approach to situation ethics.
It is as though I stand on a far away hill in "Ziklag of the Philistines" and take in all of these happenings and remark: Dances with Compromise has finally shed the false glitter of the Crystal Place. May a true rainbow of many colors exist to state that this will never happen again.
The author, who wishes to remain anonymous, is an interracially married graduate of Bob Jones University.
Copyright © 2000 The Multiracial Activist. All rights reserved.