Time to Bury the Fundamentalist Hatchet?

Maybe there’s hope for us all. In the world of evangelical higher education, the relationship between fundamentalist Bob Jones University and evangelical Wheaton College has always been a rocky one. According to a story in the Wheaton Record [sorry, not available online], last week BJU president Steve Pettit visited Wheaton’s campus, the first time a Jones leader has done so in a long time. There were smiles all around. Does this mean that the times they are a-changin?

Smiles, everyone, smiles...

Smiles, everyone, smiles…

For those who don’t know their history, last week’s visit may have seemed like no big deal. The leader of one evangelical college visited another evangelical college. What’s the big whoop? As I’m discovering in the research for my new book about the history of conservative evangelical higher education, this détente may signal an important shift in the worlds of fundamentalism and evangelicalism.

Since the beginning in the 1920s, leaders of the two schools fought viciously. BJU founder Bob Jones Sr. accused sitting Wheaton president J. Oliver Buswell of jealousy. Jones wrote,

Dr. Buswell and his field staff working under him were putting out propaganda everywhere that Bob Jones’ credits had no value and that we were misrepresenting facts when we told students that our graduates were admitted to leading graduate schools. . . . [Buswell is a] conceited, frustrated, ambitious, disappointed man.

Ouch. For his part, Buswell retorted that he had never said such things, had never been anything but friendly and helpful to Jones’s new school. What he had done, Buswell admitted, was protest against the sin-friendly policies at Bob Jones College. For those who don’t know their Wheaton history, it may come as a shock to find out that in the early days, Wheaton accused Bob Jones of not being fundamentalist enough. Wheaton’s President Buswell had critiqued Bob Jones’s new school in a review of a book of Jones’s sermons. The sermons themselves were first-rate, Buswell wrote.

But Dr. Jones, let me ask you a question or two. Your own educational program is reeking with theatricals and grand opera, which lead young people, as I know, and as you ought to know, into a worldly life of sin.

Double ouch.

Things never got much better from that point on. Bob Jones Jr., son of the founder and second president of Bob Jones University, told a story of his father’s traveling days. One time, Jones Sr. was on a train with some Wheaton students. One of the students, “trying to be very smart,” asked Jones how Bob Jones College could allow dramatic productions and still call itself fundamentalist. As Bob Jones Jr. explained,

Wheaton used to turn up their self-righteous noses at our drama, but they played inter-collegiate football, which we had had to give up at Bob Jones University because we found the people were betting on our games, littering our campus with whiskey bottles when they came out to see us play; and we found that inter-collegiate athletics were a definite blight to our spiritual lives.

By the 1970s, the relationship turned from one of frigid civility to outright hostility. In 1974, Bob Jones III officially changed the status of Wheaton in BJU’s internal coding system from “Friendly” to “Unfriendly.” Jones’s secretary explained the shift in an internal memo:

The above school or organization has been coded “F”; however, Dr. Bob III, has changed the code now to “U” to make our coding system more consistent. It has been a problem for some people because an organization or school would be coded “F” but we would treat them like “U” people.

From that point on, BJU officials would not even maintain their polite façade of cooperation with Wheaton officials. In 1977, an administrator from Wheaton wrote to Bob Jones III to ask for guidance in establishing a student drama program. He asked if Jones would offer some tips from its long experience with such programs. Through a secretary, Jones informed the Wheaton official, “because of the Neo-Orthodox position of Wheaton College, we are unable to give you the assistance you request.”

Pettit visits wheaton 2

No self-righteous noses here…

Given that protracted and ugly history, President Pettit’s visit to Wheaton’s campus seems revolutionary indeed.

Have things turned a corner? Does President Pettit’s visit really signal a thaw in this long evangelical cold war? Several signs point to yes.

First of all, Pettit is no Jones. For the first time in the history of BJU, the school is not led by a direct descendant of the founder. Maybe that gives Pettit a little more wiggle room to ignore family feuds.

Also, BJU is changing. It now claims accreditation as well as athletic teams. It has apologized for its history of racism.

Wheaton is changing, too. As did BJU in the 1970s and 1980s, Wheaton has tussled with the federal government. Just as BJU did in the 1980s, Wheaton insists that its religious beliefs must give it some leeway when it comes to federal rules.

If Wheaton sees itself pushed a little more out of the mainstream, and Bob Jones University pushes itself a little more toward that mainstream, they might just meet somewhere in the middle. There will always be some jealousy between these two giants of evangelical higher education, but it seems possible that the worst of the fundamentalist feud may have passed.

Leave a comment


  1. One can always hope, I assume. Give it more time. What was discussed?

    • According to the WR, they discussed “their colleges’ missions and Bob Jones’ upcoming attempt to cover sensitive social topics in chapel.”

  2. The fundamental (ha! no pun intended) difference between the two schools still has not changed. Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism divide over their understanding of what the Gospel actually says. Fundamentalists (though they deny this if it’s spoken aloud) focus on making God love them more by doing the right things and adhering to a particular set of standards related to cultural norms in the name of “holiness” and obedience. Evangelicals have plenty of legalistic thinking lurking in their theology, but the overall trend moves toward a proper understanding of salvation by grace alone.

    I know BJU is changing in significant ways structurally – adding sports, moving administrative offices into the center of campus, shortening the rule book, throwing out some of the most ridiculous regulations, restructuring majors to be more relevant – but their overarching viewpoint on life and the Gospel hasn’t changed.

    The same wedge that made BJU professors call Wheaton “liberal” and “compromising” and “Neo-Orthodox” when I was a student there (undergrad + seminary degree in the 90s) has not been removed. Fundamentalism has many mechanisms for separating from other Christians. It has no processes for recognizing when a brother formerly cut off might actually be “worthy” of fellowship again.

    What I expect is that Pettit, who seems like a pretty sharp executive, recognizes he needs to learn more about how to run a college, now that BJU has shifted to a board-run model rather than an empire dominated by the sitting Jones president. BJU’s organizational culture wasn’t built to sustain that kind of model; the institution needs to fill in a lot of gaps in its thinking before it will look anything like the other CCCU schools internally.

    Pettit’s visit reminds me of the time Mark Minnick, pastor of one of the flagship BJU churches in Greenville, traveled to DC to meet with Mark Dever (of 9Marks and pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church). Minnick had come to appreciate much about Dever’s preaching and teaching and told us in the congregation that he was interested in talking to this man who got so many things “right” yet pastored within the orbit of “New Evangelicalism.” (I attended Minnick’s church at the time.) Minnick returned from his visit disappointed: Dever had attempted to explain why his position wasn’t one of compromise; Minnick simply could not comprehend that point of view. He told us to find value in what “Dever got right” but to beware the man’s failure to recognize sin and compromise around him. That was just before I left Fundamentalism for good; seeing our deeply educated pastor fail to recognize another man’s right to operate according to the dictates of his conscience in areas the Bible didn’t condemn was one of the breaking points for me.

    Fundamentalism as an entire mindset is broken, and it’s still the lens through which Bob Jones University sees the world. To leave Fundamentalism would be to leave the school’s entire support network behind. I just don’t see that happening.

    • @RameyLady you wrote: “Evangelicals have plenty of legalistic thinking lurking in their theology, but the overall trend moves toward a proper understanding of salvation by grace alone.”

      “Proper” as compared to what…your understanding? Because it’s not Luther’s, or Calvin’s or any pope’s. Maybe Wesley’s? In practice it seems like an affiliation identity with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” aspect that gets criticized as “cheap grace.” The other end of the spectrum is the “making you pay” type of “works righteousness” that has more to do with the Holiness tradition and its influences than “Fundamentalism” per se.

      For most Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, you’re saved if you say you are which implies you believe the right things. If you don’t reveal “wrong beliefs,” don’t quit going to church, and don’t do a lot of things they consider “big sins,” your heavenly destination will not be questioned. In theory you can “repent” and come back if you do those things, so it does still come down to judgments based on expressed beliefs and visible actions.

  3. Bob Jones issues textbooks that say, among other things:

    Satan wants people to believe in evolution. This is probably the main reason that evolution is so popular. Evolution relies on processes that cannot be observed, therefore it isn’t a scientific theory but depends on faith. The theory of biological evolution is not true because it contradicts the Bible. Many people believe in the evolutionary theory because they feel it eliminates God and lets them do what they want. Evolutionists are constantly finding evidence that runs counter to their claims, but discard it because of bias. The Flood is a better explanation of the fossil record than evolution. Missing links and common ancestors are absent from the fossil record because these organisms never existed. Sedimentary rock strata are the result of the Flood. Carbon-14 is formed in the upper atmosphere, but settles in the lower due to its increased density. Most dating techniques indicate that the earth is young, not millions of years old. Radiometric dating involves so much guesswork that it is unreliable. Earth Day is the Festival of a false god; but a Christian must be confident that the God who made the world is able to maintain it. [Sources: Satan … popular; Life Science for Christian Schools, 2nd ed., 1999 (LSCS) 161. Evolution … faith; LSCS 22. The … Bible; LSCS 146. Many people … want; LSCS 133. Evolutionists … bias; The Physical World etc. for Christian Schools, 2000 (PWCS) 12. The Flood … existed; LSCS 150. Sedimentary … old; Earth Science for Christian Schools, 2nd ed., 1999 (ESCS) 261, 265-6. Radiometric dating … unreliable; LSCS 159, PWCS 125, ESCS 269. Earth Day … maintain it. Science 6 for Christian Schools 236. The Professor whose name is on the flyleaf of ESCS promised on 6 December 2013 to forward my concerns to his colleagues, but they have not as yet responded.]

    Unless and until this changes, the more hatchetry the better.

  4. In its final months, one of BJU’s child schools, Northland International University, attempted identical outreaches to previously condemned evangelical ministries. And they shut down for good in May 2015.

    All of those Northland administrators have landed at BJU, and they are attempting the same kind of “bridge” with previously condemned evangelical ministries. This is an act of pure desperation, folks, and nothing more. It’s a signal of BJU’s final days.

  5. Jillian Snyder

     /  October 28, 2015

    Thanks for this fascinating look at these two institutions. I’m a scholar working on the reception of Shakespeare in conservative American religion. I recently came across BJU’s performances of Macbeth and Julius Caesar and am interested in exploring how they treat performance. What interests me in your post is Wheaton’s rejection of Bob Jones’s theatrical programs. Do you know what the sort of basis might be for such a rejection? Is it a matter of bawdiness? Furthermore, do you have any information on why theater was of interest to BJU (Bob Jones III and his wife, for the record, play the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth)?

    • IMHO, BJU was definitely an outlier in the world of conservative evangelical higher education. Not that other schools didn’t have dramatic presentations. The Literary Societies at Wheaton, for example, performed dramatic presentations since the 1920s. But they did not allow students to perform “worldly” plays, such as Shakespeare. Why not? Bawdiness was part of the problem, but the word more usually used was “worldliness.” In a 1964 memo, for example, one committee at Wheaton proposed that students be allowed to study drama, but not to perform it. One guideline would be to ban all “extensive and expensive props.” At Bob Jones College and the later Bob Jones University, the idiosyncratic decision to allow student dramatic performances was a never-ending source of fundamentalist anxiety. Bob Jones Sr. defended it as an intrinsic part of fundamentalist education. As he told one nervous mother in 1955, “On Bob Jones University campus, life is not divided into the secular and the sacred. Our Shakespearean programs open with prayer just like any other programs. We are not training people for the stage. We are training them for Christian work, and this is a part of the training. If your son stays here as a student, he is going to have to go along with the rest of the students and do the things that are officially approved. . . . If you want to take him home, you can do that; but if he stays here, he is going to have to go through the play.” Another BJC alum wrote to Bob Jones Jr. in 1953 with the warning, “[Drama] has become the big reason for a number of future students staying away from school and has tended to give them a bad impression of the school.” If you haven’t seen it yet, I suggest you check out page 130 in Dan Turner’s Standing Without Apology. Dr. Turner includes a great image of Bob Jones Jr. in a variety of Shakespearean roles, c. 1936.
      I’d love to hear more about your work as it proceeds: alaats AT binghamton DOT edu.

      • Why do you call it an “idiosyncratic” decision? Bob Jones has a very longstanding investment in theater and art, with a sizable medieval art collection. It’s odd, and I’ve often wondered why it happened, but it seems unlikely not to come from some core convictions or other powerful motives even if they were unusual among Fundamentalists. Could it be Calvinist influences? The denial of a secular/sacred distinction comes out of Dutch Calvinism (Abraham Kuyper) and was influentially applied to the arts by Hans Rookmaaker who was further popularized in the US by Francis Schaeffer.

        That denial of a secular/sacred distinction never really caught on deeply with Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, or even the larger Reformed world. Anglo-American Calvinism was (and still often is) aligned with the 16th century Puritans who closed the stages in Shakespaeare’s time. You can find 21st century examples of 16th century arguments today where the objection is against students/Christians enacting vices because it’s tantamount to doing them, so it corrupts the actors and tempts the audience with complicity. That’s probably just a theological justification for the uncomfortable intimacy of the theater especially with a small, repressive community where people know the actors but regard them as less than adult with the school/faculty playing an in loco parentis role. If school rules also prohibit types of speech, dress, expressed sexuality, and/or other things that might show up in a play, then you see the problem they have.

      • If you ask Ed Hollatz at Wheaton, he can give you the straight answer. He is a BJU alum and has taught in the Wheaton speech department most of his professional life. He told me at the National Comm Association convention in the early 2000s that in the 50s when he attended BJU, Wheaton was much more pious than we can imagine it being today. Wheaton had capitalized on the Keswick piety. That impression we get today when we see a certain kind of homeschooler? That was Wheaton’s image.

        And BJU *was* much more mainstream. It was Southern mainstream, however, while Wheaton was Northern. You can’t underestimate that difference. Bob Jones Sr was designing his program around a Southern idea of education that he learned in the Wiregrass of Alabama. Combine that with the Chautauqua circuit that was so important to him, and you have a much more populist and even secular idea that we would imagine.

        You can’t take the idea of “separation” that BJU preaches too literally. They actually weren’t using that term “separation” until after 1958. I have traced it that genealogy. At the time that Buswell and Jones had this conflict, Wheaton was much more separated than BJU.

        Another fact that illuminates this difference is that at Wheaton, like with DL Moody, membership in the Masons was forbidden. If you hear a person preaching against membership in secret societies, they are a Northern fundamentalist out of Chicago. The Southerners preached no such thing. Bob Jones Sr was a Mason and a member of the Knights of Pythias. The same kind of Southern middle-of-the-road ethic that would allow him to join the Masons was the same ethic that would allow his son to grow the Shakespeare program at BJU. All the while the Northern fundies were aghast.

    • And . . . tbh? Bob Sr. did the drama thing also because Jr. wanted it. The case can be made that the only reason he really started the school was to keep Jr. out of trouble.

      He was quite the hellion the streets of Montgomery.

      • A most unsatisfyingly vague answer, as opposed to your prior remarks — which were outstanding.

        Lodge membership was a big thing throughout the northern midwest including within Lutheran and Reformed churches. I believe it was the cause of a few schisms actually.

        A Jones declaring there’s no secular/sacred distinction is very interesting to me because that is such an old, well-worn Kuyperian slogan that later became radical and fashionable for Evangelicals. Maybe in Southern culture it meant something different.

        There is/was absolutely a public/private distinction in southern states where a dry college in a dry county would still have a “package store” that sells boxes of bottles through a discreet window before 9pm (closed on Sundays) so good Christian people (including the pastors and pious leaders of the community) can get their drink on in private. The world in this case was so publicly pious you were allowed to be human in non-public settings. But that wasn’t necessarily “worldliness.” Northern conservatives of a Puritan cast were against the very thought of cakes and ale.

      • Didn’t know I was being graded on answers. Both can be true. Each Jones expanded his educational enterprise as his offspring reached a milestone. Jr. had just graduated from Starke’s military academy in the Spring of 27 when Jones opened the Bob Jones High School in Panama City. III was approaching Junior High when his dad opened Bob Jones Junior High. And IV was entering Kindergarten when his dad got the idea for Bob Jones Elementary School. There’s a pattern here. That it is unsatisfying is not my concern.

        I am quite familiar with the bizarre Southern piety that uses teetotaling as proof of a person’s ability to keep a secret. I wrote about it here:


        Usually the Grand Historians of Fundamentalism — all Dutch Reformed sorts, btw — contend that that the “realer” fundamentalism is the Northern expression. BJU and its Southern expression is the uninvited crazy uncle who shows up at holiday events. The Southern expression isn’t less real, but it was 100% American. It was Nordic. Read the Vanderbilt Agrarians and Richard Weaver, and you know what BJU was preserving.

        It was middling. It read Shakespeare aloud to the grandmothers in the parlor.

      • Good reply! Now that I can buy — family lifecycle and personal milestones.

        I suspect Noll and Marsden only affect a Kuyperian slant because it was the only safe way to cover their relatively liberal views, especially Noll, relative to the ‘gelical mainstream.

        Who is the real fundamentalist? Can anyone really say?

        The drunken southern Fundy uncle is more fun, but I never thought to relate him to the Vanderbilt Agrarians. How do you make that connection? Weaver was a non-practicing Protestant with Catholic envy or a kind of philosophical Catholicism. The Agrarians were also in that high church southern Eliotic Anglo-Catholic reactionary mode. They never shook all the neoconfederate pining and racism out of their conclave. G. K. Chesterton sniffed that out in the first generation, and it’s never gone away.

        Weaver’s version of prior Catholic anti-modernist apologetics (“this is all the fault of luther and nominalism”) has always seemed to me like a template for the counter-counter-reformational Dutch Calvinist version (“this is all the fault of pagan and catholic dualisms”) which both get smushed together in fundagelical “worldview” polemic from Schaeffer onward. Maybe Weaver’s high church Catholic version inexplicably appealed to southern Fundamentalists because of the romantic southern cavalier, yankee roundhead mythology it supports and suggests?

  6. Back to the original post, BJU loyalists at Sharper Iron finally picked up this story and got a response from the BJU Public Relations director, Randy Page. His story doesn’t completely match up with Wheaton’s:

    The President was in Chicago for a Friendship Dinner and he was invited by a Wheaton employee who regularly attends our friendship dinners to tour a few of the museums at Wheaton. Nothing more than that! Actually, other Friendship Dinner teams have done this tour as well.

    So no hatchet-burying. No political discussion. . . .I don’t buy it, tbh.

  7. It should be noted that “Wut BJU” is written by a former BJU faculty member who was “let go” from BJU nearly a decade ago. (This same former BJU faculty member was also “let go” from her position as adjunct at North Greenville University.) This same former faculty member has a vendetta against her former employer(s) and has spent the last eight years attempting to discredit any one and/or any thing remotely connected to BJU or the Doctors Bob Jones. This former BJU faculty member’s opinions, “research” (and I use that term very loosely) and writing is loaded with prejudice, unsubstantiated stories, innuendo and out-right prevarications.

    To pay any serious attention to what this disgruntled former faculty member writes is to make a serious error.

    Kudos to BJU’s Steve Pettit. I don’t know him, but I am happy to see he is willing to step out of the fundy mold. I hope he continues to do so.

    • Nothing being discussed here is uncomplimentary to BJU (it seems rather complimentary to me) so no need to defame Wut BJU.


      • Sally

         /  November 1, 2015

        Go spend about ten minutes reading Camille Lewis’s (WUT) Facebook and Tumblr pages, which is what she’s doing here (trolling for readers), and you’ll see how “complimentary” she can be.

        She has no other goal than to bring down BJU. GEaston was exactly correct about her.

        I raise cattle. I also raise chickens. The cows make cow patties. Mixed into the cow patties are bits of undigested corn. The chickens love that. They scratch through them pecking out the edible stuff.

        Camille’s “research” is like that. There’s some corn in there, but I am not a chicken and frankly don’t find it appealing to have to wade through all the other stuff to get to the little bits of truth.

      • I’m not interested in your blogs and squabbles. It’s totally irrelevant to this discussion. Also, if you openly try to denigrate and suppress a woman’s views from behind the veil of anonymity with no practical way to silence her, all you are doing is playing the bully and advertising her blog.


      • Sally

         /  November 1, 2015

        My name is Sally Davis. I am not anonymous. I have a website and it’s not anonymous either (nor have I linked to it, you’ll notice.) Greg’s comment was made under the name “GEaston” which is his actual name. He wasn’t anonymous.

        I’m happy to advertise her blog. The more people who read her stuff, the better. All I do is point out the truth. If people like you don’t care about that, that’s okay with me.

        I’m not trying to “denigrate” Camille’s views. I’m just pointing out that much of what she presents as fact is not factual at all.

    • Brenda

       /  November 1, 2015

      Good to note. Even the first comment here is a example (followed by other uncomplimentary speculations of dishonesty and negative intent). Northland was not “one of BJU’s child schools” (they neither started nor owned Northland, “sister school” would be a more accurate representation). “In its final months”, NIU did far far more than visit another college. Not “all of those Northland administrators have landed at BJU”. It is true that Pettit declared himself a “centrist”, and BJU has begun promoting building bridges and crossing them so, yes, there will be words and behaviors to note in all of this as we watch them navigate between constituency bases. This author is spot on about watching the meeting “somewhere in the middle.” But an “act of desperation”? Northland is not the only religious school in history that has shifted from their original identity, yet many others remain open and strong. There are those that can’t seem to appreciate those changes at BJU that they claim to have advocated. It’s all a pretense as they hope truly “it’s a signal of BJU’s final days” rather than consistently acknowledging and welcoming, as you do, BJU’s emergence from the fundy mold. Agreed. Be aware and beware of this source.

  8. Dan —

    You said: “I suspect Noll and Marsden only affect a Kuyperian slant because it was the only safe way to cover their relatively liberal views, especially Noll, relative to the ‘gelical mainstream.”

    I completely agree. I have to admit I was flabbergasted when I found the Zondervans on the Sword of the Lord board until the 1950s. So there was overlap between the Dutch and the Texans. “If you ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much” fits with “don’t mess with Texas,” doesn’t it?

    You said: “Who is the real fundamentalist? Can anyone really say?”

    🙂 Good point. That’s what makes this discussion so endlessly productive. Keeps us in business.

    You said: “The drunken southern Fundy uncle is more fun, but I never thought to relate him to the Vanderbilt Agrarians. How do you make that connection? Weaver was a non-practicing Protestant with Catholic envy or a kind of philosophical Catholicism. The Agrarians were also in that high church southern Eliotic Anglo-Catholic reactionary mode. They never shook all the neoconfederate pining and racism out of their conclave. G. K. Chesterton sniffed that out in the first generation, and it’s never gone away.”

    Well, Bob was fairly high-churchly in his own right. Back and forth between singing the doxology and building a brush arbor.

    I talk about that connection and justification more here (https://www.academia.edu/2389121/Standing_Within_and_Without_Apologia). I was reared on Weaver — from high school on. And I would contend he’s in every political argument from the right. Even Doug Wilson loves him. . . . Sigh. . . .

    You said: “Weaver’s version of prior Catholic anti-modernist apologetics (“this is all the fault of luther and nominalism”) has always seemed to me like a template for the counter-counter-reformational Dutch Calvinist version (“this is all the fault of pagan and catholic dualisms”) which both get smushed together in fundagelical “worldview” polemic from Schaeffer onward. Maybe Weaver’s high church Catholic version inexplicably appealed to southern Fundamentalists because of the romantic southern cavalier, yankee roundhead mythology it supports and suggests?”

    Love it. Hahahaha! Yes. Again I was assigned to memorize Weaver’s argumentative rubric as a college sophomore in Public Speaking, and his stuff was handed to me next to Shakespeare and the KJV. So Bill, Dick, and Jim . . , oh, and Bob! The four corners of a liberal arts education at an institution that loves me but thinks I’m still going to hell.

    And this on All Saints Day.


    • I’m not familiar with the Zondervan family or publishing house and have never heard of the “Sword of the Lord.” You’re suggesting a a Dutch Reformed and Southern Fundamentalist exchange of ideas through them? I expect all kinds of Calvinists in the north and south read and listen to each other, but I don’t know what the particular channels of influence have been. I’m sure Weaver is important to Wilson and his own southern partisan fantasies.

      What schools and denominations were you part of where Weaver was important? It’s been a long time since I read him, and I am straining to see what the appeal would be to a Fundamentalist.

      Something like Weaver’s unoriginal argument about nominalism has achieved a certain clarity and consensus since then. It’s now univocity of being that is fingered as the source of the naive realism, rationalism, and crypto-materialism behind Protestant Fundamentalist, as well as conservative Reformed and Evangelical thought. Someone from that kind of background who reads Weaver should notice he is really making an anti-fundamentalist argument in favor of some recovery of pre-reformation notions of God, being, reality. That seems unlikely to be received well if it’s understood.


      • At Bob Jones University! I was a speech major in the 80s, and Weaver was a consistent textbook throughout the curriculum.

        You said: “Someone from that kind of background who reads Weaver should notice he is really making an anti-fundamentalist argument in favor of some recovery of pre-reformation notions of God, being, reality. That seems unlikely to be received well if it’s understood.”

        Yes. I agree. But they heard his conservative politics above all else. Weaver’s most famous student was William F. Buckley and since BJU faculty were aspiring to be old-fashioned paleo-cons, they tried to digest everything he put out.

        They were fan boys and nothing else. As a rhetorician, I have intersected with Weaver frequently since then.

        Back to the Sword. The _Sword of the Lord_ was originally a Texas publication from J. Frank Norris’s disciple, John R. Rice. Rice moved to Wheaton for his five daughters to attend, and then settled in Tennessee. Rice was considered a softer fundamentalist. A country gentlemen. He was on the BJU board for decades, and the Joneses served on his Sword board . . . Until 1971 when Rice aligned with a new Baptist upstart, Jerry Falwell. And then they separated mostly for good. BJU is attempting again to play nice with the Sword crowd when they have had Clarence Sexton preach at their annual conference.

        Let me go get that article regarding Buswell and Jones.

      • That’s interesting to me. I went to a nominally. Southern Baptist university as an unaffiliated Northerner — it’s nominal from the northern evangelical perspective anyway, which is not really a fair descriptor and one I prefer and value. I ran into Weaver and related material there accidentally through ISI journals someone left around — it wasn’t taught and I wasn’t aware of any pale is there. There’s a lot of good stuff in that tradition, but I didn’t realize for quite some time how it’s almost always a veneer for crypto white supremacist patriarchal agendas among the true believers to such an extent it probably is inseparable from paleocon thought and history. I didn’t read Buckley and didn’t know about that side of him and many of the southern agrarians until later. G.K. Chesterton sniffed it out in them at their beginning but I wonder if even he would not be in line with some sort of Burkean assumptions about the necessity of denying equal freedoms to all classes of people. The anti-egalitarian aspect of paleoconservatism really makes it a form of nativism where the natives are white Christian males. I guess they overcame the anti-Catholic ethos of southern and really most American Protestantism, but not the antisemitism and “color racism.” How apparent were those attitudes in your experience?


      • I have a host of primary documents regarding the Buswell v. Jones duel, some images I can share, some I have to transcribe. While Buswell did criticize Jones for the drama program in the 20s, their relationship was relatively cordial. I have the correspondence between them.

        After Buswell criticized Jones’ book on revival in 1949, Jones was furious and petulant. The stormy epistles that followed are pages and pages long. I’ll have to transcribe sections in the near future. For now, here is the 1949 John R. Rice public defense of his friend Bob Jones Sr.:

      • Thanks for sharing your paper — I think you probably need a better venue and format for more worked over versions of this material as historical and cultural analysis. The dueling material is interesting but merely reflects the discourse of all power hierarchies everywhere. The connections at the end with creationism are very relevant to Adam’s interests here. Your second to last paragraph is absolutely penetrating however — where you say “At the root of the problem within Southern romantic apologia is a juggling of the usual mystical purpose with the pragmatic agency. That is, by relegating the divine to the means of propping up a societal hierarchy, participants in the rhetorical drama are distracted from the essentially preservationist motive in their micro-culture. David Kuo’s exposé on George W. Bush’s crass exploitation of theoverly-trusting Religious Right for political purposes is just one recent example of this same deception…” It’s also a correct observation in my view that “Weaver’s agrarianism found resonance in mid-century northern conservatism, and mapping the dramatistic similarities between the Civil War and current culture wars would productively assist scholars in deconstructing politico-socio-religious tragedy…”

        I just saw a TV news spot on northwest Iowa’s racist, nativist congressman’s annual pheasant hunt, attended this year by Huckabee, Santorum, Cruz, and others with the camo, shotguns, and dogs following this Tea Party figure who has repeatedly denigrated Latino immigrants as badly as Donald Trump and whose .gov website mirrors white supremacist sites with their fear and resentment over murder and especially rape supposedly perpetrated by out of pocket non-white minorities. The old rhetoric of fear and of Christian conservative values as a bulwark against social chaos continues to thrive century after century.

  9. Thanks for reading it! I would disagree that the duel “reflects the discourse of all power hierarchies everywhere,” but that’s my burden to prove in a larger venue. 🙂 As you say. . . .

    • Kenneth Burke is interesting but you might get more mileage from a contemporary approach to power and discourse analysis, like James Scott’s Domination and the Art of Resistance. It’s connected to his other work which has to do with the way agrarian peasant societies cope with their unwinnable conflict with modern states. In your terms BJU operates like a state with respect to its dissidents and critics while resisting the federal state authorities and the social mainstream the way peasant societies do. The way you use Burke also reminds me of Bakhtin.


  10. Nick Stuart

     /  November 12, 2015

    Back when we were homeschooling (circa 1988-2008) my observation was that BJU was very interested in doing what they could to help and encourage homeschoolers. Wheaton, nothing. I remember who our friends were.

  11. Looks even more obvious now that there is absolutely zero hatchet-burying going on. And a whole heck of a lot of hatchet-sharing.

  12. This isn’t the first time that they have done a “hatchet job” on someone. They did this to Joe Corsiglia as well

  1. 26 Oct 2015 Religion, Atheism News, Commentary | Evangelically Atheist
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