With the issues being raised about Christopher Peterman being expelled from Bob Jones University, I’ve heard a question asked that needs to be addressed. I’ve heard this question and been annoyed, frustrated and/or angry. If you are looking for more information about the situation with Christopher, his statement (in video format) is below, and another excellent blog post can fill in the information. (I have strong thoughts on this, but I feel it is important to answer this question.) So, what is the important question?
If you know what BJU is like and disagree with BJU, why would you go there for college?
This question is being asked from two different sources, and that’s why my reaction is different.
First, there are folks from the outside of BJU Christian fundamentalism that are asking this. After all, reviewing the background and story of Christopher, he seems to be a normal, reasonable, intelligent young man. He has an obvious desire to see the right thing done. Why would someone that seems so reasonable even think about attending somewhere like BJU? The question is sincere and comes about because the person asking is genuinely confused. I respect this, but the constant repetition of the question is frustrating. That is the reason for this blog post, and it is you to whom I speak.
Second, there are BJU apologists (or quasi-apologists) who are asking why someone would go to BJU if they don’t agree. This blog post is not for you. Let’s face it, you probably wrote me off when I confessed anger up above. Besides, until you come to the realization that someone can be perfectly OK before God and still disagree with you, there isn’t much else to talk about.
So, why would someone like Christopher (and me) go to someplace like BJU? Well, there are a handful of reasons for going and returning, but essentially, they boil down to two simply concepts that drive people into bad decisions all the time. Money and deceit.
Quite frankly, as unfortunate as it is, education is expensive. College costs and, for most people, our parents are a large part of our college support. Whether that support comes in actual tuition or just in providing a place to live and eat while going to school, the financial support of parents plays a large part in our ability to go to school.
So, when a parent demands that their child attend Bob Jones University, there isn’t much of a choice involved. Either the student has to figure out how to “go it their own” or they duck their head and go to Bob Jones University. Depending on the student this may last and it may not. I had friends expelled and voluntarily leave during the year and I know of many who never attended after their first semester or year. Finances are a huge factor in the decision making process, but when combined with the deceit involved, it is doubly effective.
Deceit is the key issue that drives most students to Bob Jones University. I’m not talking about deceit of the university. Although the deceptions over accreditation has worked to retain students, I don’t believe that is a primary issue for getting students. No, I’m talking about the subtle deception of a world view. The deception of the system created by Bob Jones University’s brand of Christian fundamentalism.
As a high school student I went to a church and attended camps and youth rallies that promoted this mindset. Here are a few “truths” that I “learned” about college and how to make the choice of where to go. (For what it is worth, I attended college over 20 years ago and this story hasn’t really changed.)
At a secular college:
- Professors and administrators will actively work to destroy your Christian faith.
- Professors have little to no concern over whether you actually learn anything or not.
- No one studies or cares about their grades.
- You will be exposed to all sorts of evil like beach parties and drugs.
- You will be forced to participate in drunken orgies every weekend.
- You will likely have to step over kids (multiple couples) having sex in the hallway just to get from your room to class. Every time.
- You will probably lose your religion and become an alcoholic.
Other Christian colleges:
- Liberty University (yes, Jerry Falwell) was a bastion of liberalism that was no different than secular schools.
- The only reason someone would attend Pensacola Christian College is because they wanted to weekend at the beach. (Evil sinners!!)
- There were no other Christian universities, they were just Christian in name.
- Tennessee Temple University had gone “the way of the world”.
This was the mindset and fodder that is fed to high school students and their parents by respected leaders in the churches and Christian schools. We all know it is easier to accept and believe what you are told than to actually do research on your own, so this mindset finds root and becomes truth regardless of what life is really like. As a “good Christian” kid, you really don’t want any of the above, or, at least, you don’t want anyone to know that you want it. The only “good, Christian” thing to do is to go to Bob Jones University.
Now, I won’t say that some of the above might be true in some cases, it is hardly the norm for either category. Some of the things were just untrue, others were just enough deception mixed into the truth to be enticing. And, honestly, I don’t really fault the preachers, teen evangelists, and youth ministers who told us these things. Sure, some of them may have known better and used these lies to control people, but for the most part I give them the benefit of the doubt and suggest that they were just as deceived as we were.
It is difficult to make an intelligent, appropriate decision when everything you have ever been told is lies about reality. One of the foundational principles of Bob Jones University’s brand of Christian fundamentalism is a very strict us-verses-them mentality. The “us” is very tightly limited, and even many who think they are part of “us” are kept at arms length. And the “them” is not only “verses”, but is actively out to “get” the us. Honestly it is almost clinical paranoia. From that framework and world view, a high school student choosing a college has very little in the way of real options. And making the wrong choice can result in being pushed further than that “arm’s length” away or even in being fully ostracized as an outsider.
Overall, there is way too much baggage and social drama within the “group” to allow a student to make a reasonable choice to attend somewhere other than BJU. The more a student has invested money and time at BJU, the harder (and more costly) it is to pull away before they are done. BJU is not SACS accredited and not only do credits not easily transfer, but they are worth much less than the unaccredited degree the student would earn. (Accreditation is an entirely other issue covered by other skilled bloggers.)
Yes, it is sad and confusing that someone would choose to go to Bob Jones University. Hopefully, this will help you understand why a student might go there and why that student might stay and try to finish.
PS – Here’s Christopher’s story about what really happened.