Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bob Jones University and the Catholic Church

I have always had a problem with people who are so rigid in their thinking, who are so "I know what's best and right, so don't argue with me" or that have the "my way or the highway" mentality. I have mentioned before in previous blogs about my time at an "Independent" Christian college here on the West Coast and how the flow of ideas sometimes got stymied by "fundamentalist" thought. I even had a couple of guys tell me flat out that if I didn't go to their church and "dress" like them (coat and tie) and believe what they believed, I was damned and going to Hell. My response to that was something along the lines of, "well, here I am in a Christian college as a Missions major, wanting to serve God on the foreign mission fields and you're telling me this?

We sometimes had a joke about how our college should be called Bob Jones University West, because we felt we were under major rules that restricted our "freedoms". (BJU, of course being the ultimate "Fundamentalist" University in the nation).The student handbook even had a section in it that declared the college was "in loco parentis" or in place of the parents. My parents had faith in me to make the right decisions. Sure when I was living with them as a minor, they had a curfew for me, they had house rules I had to follow, but they were not burdensome to me.

Something in the back of my mind kept whispering to me that something was wrong. Something was wrong because of the intimidation and shame the Administration would use to keep the students in line. Something was wrong when the school would apply "Christian Discipline" to a situation, without regard to the concept of restoration to the Body of Christ, for example: there was a couple who started dating and became "too close, too soon", as we liked to say, and a pregnancy ensued. Since it was a small number of students, we all knew what happened. The Administration's actions to the situation was to have the couple confess their sin in front of the whole student body (which was according to Christian Tradition), ask for forgiveness (again, according to Christian Tradition),then the Administration promptly expelled both of them with no hope of returning to the school family (NOT according to Christian Tradition). The purpose of confession and penance is Restoration to the Body, not amputation from the Body (that would only come from someone being UNrepentant).

Which brings me to a troubling situation taking place at the aforementioned Bob Jones University. You can read the story here. Apparently, there has been a pattern of abuse going on behind the scenes at BJU for years. BJU had hired a company to come in an do an investigation of the allegations and apparently when the fire got too hot, BJU pulled the plug and stopped the investigation. What is BJU afraid of? Are they afraid of being found out that they too, are human? That they have made mistakes in their thinking and their theology? Whenever someone has power over people, like BJU has over their students, they will do anything to hold on to that power.

By now you are probably wondering why I entitled the post as Bob Jones University and the Catholic Church. It is no secret to anyone on this planet, that the Catholic Church has been going through it's own scandals for the past couple of decades with the problem of abusive priests. It's also apparent that I am a Catholic Deacon, a member of the ordained clergy of that same Catholic Church, so one might think that my opinions are colored to a certain degree. When it comes to investigations into allegations of abuse (in ANY institution, school, workplace or home) what's good for the goose is good for the gander. The Roman Catholic Church has opened up to its' sins of the past, has sought forgiveness, and has instituted reforms and programs to deal with both the abuser and the victim. (just a side note, not to excuse the abuse,because that is inexcusable, but the percentage of priests ACCUSED of child abuse is below the average percentage of teachers ACCUSED of the same thing. And statistics show that MOST child abuse happens in the home, but news always gets made when it is clergy).

Reconciliation is a wonderful thing, it brings back the grace that was lost from the sin committed.
I would hope that BJU follows the lead of the Catholic Church and reopens the investigation into the allegations of abuse, let the chips fall where they may. Bring G.R.A.C.E. back to BJU and let them finish what they started. Let the healing begin.

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