Bob Jones University (BJU) in Greenville, South Carolina, with it 5,000 students and 120 undergraduate and 65 graduate programs, is probably the largest conservative Christian institution of the “fundamentalist” variety. The university “stands without apology for the old-time religion and the absolute authority of the Bible.”
The president of BJU, Bob Jones III, recently issued a “Congratulatory letter to President George W. Bush,” which is posted on the BJU website. Although he did not speak at the university before this election, Bush spoke at BJU on February 2, 2000. But after his speech in which he said: “I look forward to publicly defending our conservative philosophy,” Bush was criticized by Catholics because of the school’s position on Catholicism, and by Blacks because of the school’s ban on interracial dating (now rescinded, as announced by Bob Jones III on Larry King Live a month after Bush’s appearance at BJU). Bush then claimed that he “deeply regretted” appearing at the university, and sent a letter of apology to Cardinal John O’Connor, the Archbishop of New York, in which he also stated: “I should have been more clear in disassociating myself from anti-Catholic sentiments and racial prejudice.”
Why then, is the president of BJU issuing a “congratulatory letter” to President Bush? Because I don’t know why he issued the letter, I will not comment on his motives, but I will say that Bob Jones III neither speaks for nor represents all conservative Christians. As a conservative Christian of the “fundamentalist” persuasion, I don’t need Jones to speak for me or any like-minded individuals in my small circle of influence.
Jones begins by congratulating Bush on receiving “the largest number of popular votes of any president in America’s history.” This could be said after almost every presidential election since the population of the United States increases substantially every four years. It could also be said that the number of Kerry’s losing votes, 57,123,038, is higher than any previous presidential candidate.
Jones then says: “In your re-election, God has graciously granted America — though she doesn’t deserve it — a reprieve from the agenda of paganism.” Who does Bob Jones think has been in office the last four years? who does he think has controlled the Congress since 1994? I thought the election of Bush in 2000 was a reprieve from the “paganism” of the Clinton years? And as Lew Rockwell has shown, “There is no reason to believe that a Kerry victory would necessarily result in something worse than a Bush victory.”
Jones believes that Bush has been given a “mandate.” I wouldn’t call winning by 51 percent to 48 percent a mandate. Every Christian that I have spoken to who voted for Bush has admitted that he did so because he thought Bush was the lesser of two evils. They would have voted for any Republican instead of John Kerry.
Jones then claims to speak for the people of the United States: “We the people expect your voice to be like the clear and certain sound of a trumpet.” Actually, most people expect Bush’s faltering speech to continue to result in more and more Bushisms.
Jones has the audacity to say that “we who know the Lord will follow that kind of voice eagerly” because Bush supposedly seeks “the Lord daily.” As I have pointed out elsewhere, should those of us who “know the Lord” follow Bush in telling The Wall Street Journal’s Al Hunt that he was a “f—ing son of a bitch” or that a New York Times reporter was a “major-league a–hole”? How can those of us who “know the Lord” follow a voice that has lied continually about the necessity of going to war against Iraq?
Jones says to Bush: “The liberals despise you because they despise your Christ.” Then what about the conservatives and libertarians who despise Bush? Do they despise Christ too? Is anyone who opposes Bush not a Christian? This is a perversion of what Christ once said to his disciples: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
Jones says that Bush will have the “opportunity to appoint many conservative judges.” True, but if history is any indication, there will be a great gulf between opportunity and action. The judicial appointments of previous Republican administrations have been a mixed bag.
Jones also says that Bush will have the opportunity to “exercise forceful leadership with the Congress in passing legislation that is defined by biblical norm regarding the family, sexuality, sanctity of life, religious freedom, freedom of speech, and limited government.” The family? What a coincidence that Kitty Kelly’s new book about the wealth and influence of the Bush dynasty is called The Family. Sexuality? Bush invited a homosexual Republican congressman to address the Republican National Convention in 2000, and then, after he endorsed “Marriage Protection Week,” Bush sent a letter of congratulations to the notorious founding congregation of the Metropolitan Community Churches (a homosexual denomination) on the occasion of its 35th anniversary. Sanctity of life? Bush is neither anti-abortion nor pro-life. Freedom of religion and speech? Bush has made war on the Bill of Rights. Limited government? Bush has increased non-military spending at over twice the rate of Bill Clinton.
Jones informs Bush that he has “four years — a brief time only — to leave an imprint for righteousness upon this nation that brings with it the blessings of Almighty God.” What about the last four years? Where is the “imprint of righteousness upon this nation” after four years of Bush and a Republican majority in Congress? Why should anyone think that things will be any different these next four years? The day when Almighty God will bless this nation because of the righteousness of a politician is long past.
Jones wants Bush to shed himself of the “weaklings” around him who do not share his “biblical values.” Which biblical value is Bob Jones referring to? The BJU philosophy statement says: “Biblical values are integrated in every classroom and every other part of the educational process.” Is lying a biblical value? Is deception a biblical value? Is the death of innocents a biblical value? Is sending soldiers unnecessarily to their deaths a biblical value? Is using profanity a biblical value? Is violating your country’s constitution that you have sworn to uphold a biblical value?
In a postscript, Jones says he “read this letter to the students in Chapel. They applauded loudly their approval.” Of course they did. As anyone who is familiar with BJU knows, no dissent from the student body is tolerated. It is unfortunate that conservatives have been conditioned to believe that the Republican Party is “their” party. As has been shown by time and time and time again, the Republican Party has always been the party of big government, plunder, and sellouts.
Jones almost ends his postscript on a negative note, acknowledging that occasionally “Christians have not agreed” with things Bush said during his first term. But not only does Jones not mention anything specific, he finishes with: “Nonetheless, we could not be more thankful that God has given you four more years to serve Him in the White House.” There are a lot of things Christians can be thankful for, but for a fundamentalist Christian to say that he “could not be more thankful” that a politician who cloaks his deceit with Christian rhetoric, violates the Constitution, and is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians and hundreds of American servicemen was elected to office is fundamentalist foolishness.