Bob Jones University spreads theology of fear


It never ceases to amaze me how religious institutions reach far and deep into their arsenal of hate to vilify and condemn groups they consider inimical to their theology. After reading Bob Jones University's resolution supporting Greenville County Council's de facto anti-gay lifestyle stance, apparently some do not have to reach too far. The poison pen of Bob Jones University speaks for itself.

Claiming to care about our community's having respect for biblical values, the BJU resolution smacks of a false sense of piety. It is a document that weaves a theology of fear by demonizing gays and lesbians, viciously associating them with the likes of "murderers, rapists, pedophiles, pornographers, or drug dealers."

It also dares to speculate how County Council would "govern" in the city of Sodom, thereby implying that the law of God would be strictly enforced there. If so, would they have governed according to the Holiness Code in Leviticus where it condemns to death undesirables such as homosexuals, adulterers, and other so-called "unworthy" individuals?

Would they have also proposed a "pro-family" resolution against single parent families to protect the "purity" of the traditional family structure? Would it have been necessary for God to exercise his right to judgment? As for the latter question, the BJU resolution suggests that God would not have had the occasion to pour out his wrath, for it most probably would have been wrought by County

Council in human blood according to the law. Could we as a community live with such "punitive laws" most people would consider unacceptable and morally unjust today? I think not.

As ludicrous as these allegations and biblical hypothesizes might appear on paper, the BJU resolution nonetheless conveys a hard-line message of intolerance for which it makes no apologies. Its proclamations are specifically designed to incite contempt for the human dignity of a gay and lesbian minority, to polarize the body politic, and on theological grounds, to conveniently divide the pure from the impure, the holy from the unholy, or (to put it more bluntly) the "chosen" from the damned.

Thus, the vile rhetoric BJU employs cannot be considered benign but incendiary, threatening not only the persecuted but the common good of the greater community. We need not look further than the collective experiences of Jews, Catholics, Native Americans, and African Americans to understand the divisiveness and horror generated by this type of religious bigotry.

Bob Jones University's brand of Christianity certainly does not speak for me as a Christian nor does its resolution; its fundamentalist ideology belies the themes of inclusiveness, forgiveness, compassion, and reconciliation that resound throughout the New Testament.

These themes proclaim an alternative wisdom in opposition to the conventional wisdom of "purity" or "holiness" traditionally prescribed in the legal codes of ancient Judaism, where in matters of sexual purity, violators could be either socially ostracized or even worse, executed.

The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's Gospel provides an excellent framework from which this alternative wisdom operates. Therein, Jesus radically reinterprets the Torah in contravention of the legal Pharisaic tradition. The persecuted, the scorned, the merciful, and the pure in heart among others are now blessed and comprise the Kingdom of God, as opposed to those who pride themselves on their righteousness (or external purity).

Jesus even invites murderers and adulterers to participate in the community of life, a gesture of mercy that transcends the written law. Why then, in the name of so-called Christian resolutions, should gays and lesbians, who claim their sexual orientation is biologically determined, be symbolically cut off from the rest of society as outcasts and denied the liberating benefits alternative wisdom has to offer? And if this is-so, who are the real hypocrites?

One may want to entertain this final thought: What would a theocracy in Greenville County resemble, with Bob Jones University, the Christian Coalition and the County Council acting as the official arbiters of the Word of God?

If their "pure" intentions were to abide strictly to the literal dictates of Mosaic law and to legislate accordingly, one can only imagine.

Mark E. Cuddihee, who holds a masters degree in theological studies, lives in Greenville.

© Copyright by POINT, 1996
Last modified 7/11/96