An Evaluation of the BJU GRACE Report

“Have you ever told your father that you love him?”

When the gray-haired, glasses-wearing lady sitting across the table from me in the Bob Jones University (BJU) Dining Common spoke these words to me after I had asked her to pray for my dad’s salvation, I felt like jumping across the table and choking her! How dare she expect me to speak such words to the man who had neglected me and treated my mother with such contempt!

At that moment, God convicted me. I still harbored negative feelings toward my father. I thought, “How can I ask people to pray that God would save a man that I don’t care for myself?”

As a seminary student at BJU, I received assurance of my salvation. God’s Spirit showed me that a right standing with God does not come through my own merits and actions, but it is founded solely upon the sacrifice and the righteousness of Christ. As I began to understand the unmerited love and forgiveness that God offers me in Christ, I knew that I needed to love and forgive my father in the same way.

Thankfully, by God’s grace and the help of BJU, I was able to forgive my father and cast off my negative feelings towards him. I know that forgiving my dad back then has enabled me to serve God and enjoy a healthy life today.

Of all the comments that I have read concerning the Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) Report, fellow BJU graduate Michael Edwards best summarizes what is at stake. As an outspoken critic of his alma mater, he notes on the “Truth Seeking Graduates of Bob Jones” Facebook page: “For BJU, the actions are rooted in their theology…. They simply didn’t have wrong actions, they have bad theology in which their actions are rooted and affirmed.”

Edwards understands that the GRACE Report attacks the very culture that has defined BJU since its founding. It also seeks to discredit truths taught at BJU that have set many (including myself) free from the hatred and bitterness that hindered our walk with God.

Did BJU President Stephen Jones do the right thing by hiring GRACE? This question, which many alumni are asking, is pointless. A sovereign God allowed the GRACE Report to be published. Therefore, the best thing we can do is to read it and learn from it. (Go to: http://netgrace.org/wp-content/uploads/Final-Report.pdf)

The Report Contents

Sections

The Report’s Criticisms

Survey Participants

The Report’s Recommendations

A Brief Evaluation

So, what’s in the Report?

Dress Standards

The Report chooses BJU’s dress standard as its first target for criticism. One GRACE Survey participant asserts, “The dress code and the stated philosophy behind it puts the onus of unwanted sexual attraction on the victim—the woman” (48).

Another reported hearing “comments made from chapel platform or other such forums alluding to sexual advances being made because of dress or actions of the victim” (49).

A female participant claimed Freshman Orientation at BJU taught that “if we don’t dress the right way or if we didn’t have the right amount of meekness we would be sinful. It was an aggressive environment and a graphic speech given by men to women” (49).

Another female said, “I just remember coming away from that [orientation] meeting feeling very ashamed for being female. I think there was a lot of blame put on us and a lot of responsibility put on us to keep people around us pure, and if we didn’t change who we were we were sinful” (50).

The GRACE Report concludes,

From the time of the university’s founding, focus upon a woman’s dress has been a point of significant concern. In addition, the university dress code’s stated objective is to ‘teach students to consider the impact of their choices on others, thus living out Jesus’ instruction about loving others as ourselves.’ These reported messages have communicated to some individuals—particularly to female victims of sexual abuse—an underlying sense of responsibility for the man’s lust, which may evoke shame and blame for the occurrence of sexual offenses. (50)

The Report continues,

Communicating that women are the source of lust also contributes to an environment where women are objectified. Because such thinking impacts how women are treated, abuse may occur easily in this environment. (55)

If a dress code encourages men to see women for their bodies—whether they dress modestly or not—then women become objects, and often, mere objects of lust. In effect, the messages about women that are expressed around BJU’s dress code place much of the responsibility of a man’s lust and a victim’s abuse upon the woman and what she was wearing. Any institutional messages that communicate that a victim has some responsibility for sexual abuse not only exonerate perpetrators for their actions, but these messages also fail to demonstrate love and compassion. (56)

GRACE alleges that the BJU Dress Code, which was put in place to protect the virtue of women, actually does the opposite.

Helpful Advice

The Report moves on to give helpful advice for those in ministry about how we should deal with sexual immorality in light of the fact that “one in four females and one in six males will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18” (57).

It says, “If there is no distinction between sexual sin committed by a person and sexual sin perpetrated against a person, then victims will reasonably process their experience as sin for which they are culpable” (57).

We are reminded in the report,

A group of almost any size will have victims of sexual abuse. When sexual sin is addressed, victims desperately need to hear someone make these distinctions with compassion. All BJU employees must clearly articulate with one voice the important distinction between the sinner and the sinned against…. Without this message, an emphasis on sexual purity can be a message of condemnation to abuse victims. (57)

A sexual abuse victim who attended BJU in the 2000s testified, “Virginity was the ultimate ideal. It was praised. It was talked about. And if you had lost it, then you would never be good enough. It was encouraged to the guys that you only marry a girl that is a virgin.” She lamented, “They had something that I would never have. The confusion about sex was so frustrating. I was so angry. Here I was being judged/blamed/torn to shreds for my horrible ‘sin.’ And I had never even had consensual sex” (52).

“The lack of distinction between sexual abuse and consensual sexual sin,” the GRACE Report concludes, “has caused some victims of sexual offenses to feel impure and shamed even though they did not choose the sexual act perpetrated upon them” (52).

How Victims Should Respond

The Report then begins to contrast its views of how victims should deal with sexual abuse with those taught at BJU.

BJU professor Gregory Mazak said in regards to dealing with sexual abuse,

When bad things happen to us, what do we do? We look at them God’s way. We become like Job, we get spiritually transformed. We realize that God has a purpose for things, and He has a way for us to deal with even the bad times. Spiritual transformation. That’s the biblical way of doing things. Realizing we are created in the image of God, realizing that God allows bad things to happen to us because it perfects the image of Christ in us. OK? Count it all joy when you encounter diverse trials. Count it all joy knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience, and more verses we can cite than that. OK? That’s the biblical way of dealing with things. (63)

Berg agreed,

The pressures around us (the unfavorable circumstances, the temptations, and the commands of God to love Him and our neighbor) merely draw out of our heart what is already in it. We cannot blame the hot water for the taste in the cup…. Similarly (like the tea bag in hot water), we cannot shift the blame for any bitterness, anger, despair, deception, cruelty, and so forth that we display when we are under pressure. The pressures merely expose how unlike Christ we really are. (65)

Another leading counselor at BJU, Executive Vice President Emeritus Bob Wood, concurred,

I think that people internally are angry at God for allowing this to happen. So you have to get beyond that and it is a very difficult thing to get beyond because I can’t tell you why something like this happened. I can tell you it did happen but I can’t tell you why it happened or why the Lord allowed it to happen. I assume that there is some reason that this has happened and that you have to work it out within your own mind about why, and it is interesting that in many cases that it really is the root problem. (68)

Counseling Philosophy

The GRACE Report analyzes BJU’s counseling philosophy:

“The heart of the problem is a problem of the heart.” This adage aptly captures a central tenet of discipleship among BJU counselors: Many struggles in people’s everyday Christian walk are rooted in sinful attitudes of the heart that can be remedied by repentance and adjustments in thinking. The application of this discipleship tenet to sexual abuse counseling is fraught with risk for the abuse victim. Misapplication can result in victims being grossly ill-served. Abuse victims will be underserved to the degree the impact of sexual abuse is misconstrued to be an issue of sinful heart attitudes that requires detection and repentance, rather than recognized as evidence of possible psychological trauma requiring skilled assessment. In such a case, the counseling needs of the abuse victim will likely be underestimated. Biblical knowledge rather than trauma expertise will be the primary criteria for counselor selection. Abuse victims will be ill-served to the degree that the misapplication of the “heart problem” tenet adds to their guilt, shame, and self-blame. This is likely if common psychological responses to sexual victimization such as sorrow, grief, and fear are mislabeled as deliberate sinful choices, rather than as pre-wired symptoms of soul injury. (76, 77)

Despite the recognition that medical problems can affect behavior and emotions,” the Report notes, “there seems to be little appreciation among BJU counselors of the substantial scientific evidence that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other trauma-related anxiety and affect conditions are likely to have neurobiological causes. As a result, BJU counselors may not be referring abuse victims for appropriate medical evaluation. (77)

A Survey participant observed, “Everything [at BJU] is a spiritual problem. If you are depressed it is a spiritual problem” (83). A second claimed that BJU teaches that “people did not need outside help except knowing the truth of God” (83).

Mazak defended BJU’s position, “All problems are spiritual. I think it all goes back to presuppositions. If we are all struggling with problems, [then] all problems are spiritual…. There is no problem that does not have a spiritual aspect” (85).

Mazak explained the sin nature,

Maybe what you are asking is: “Are my mental problems the result of my individual sin?” I don’t believe they are. Yet, sin is a part of who I am, and I am struggling with it 24/7—all day. I am a firm believer in total depravity …theologically, everything I do is tainted by sin. (85)

Mazak rebuffed the Report’s criticisms:

Here’s an example that you use, rape. Now when I say it’s a spiritual problem, I don’t mean the girl had a problem in her life and thus she was the victim of rape. That’s ridiculous, that’s not what I’m saying. But dealing with it is a spiritual issue. It is. And every aspect is answered, is dealt with by God in the scripture. (85)

GRACE asked Mazak “how he responds to victims who raise the complaint that he identifies problems associated with abuse as sin” (86). He replied, “I honestly believe that Jesus Christ is great enough to allow me to respond to anything I face; and, ultimately, the answer is getting to know the Lord Jesus Christ more” (86).

Here is how Wood responds to sexual abuse victims,

Now, the least important part of you has been offended in this sexual act and what have you allowed Satan to do with the offense of your body? What did he do to your imagination? What did he do to your reason? What did he do to your memory? What did he do to your conscience? Ah. It’s only the throw away part that’s offended, but all the important parts of your soul have been destroyed by Satan…. Are you willing to go on the rest of your life with your life destroyed by something that happened to your throw away part, the least important? Are you willing to allow Satan to use your body to destroy your soul? That’s what these people [abuse victims] are doing. (87, 88)

Berg agrees. He explained,

No matter what has happened in your past, working on becoming the most godly person you can be …is like this Styrofoam cup. You go out to the athletic field and you buy some hot apple cider on a winter night here, and you drink the cider and you throw away the cup …because that is not the most important part—the most important part is what is on the inside. I say, “God is going to resurrect our bodies and our bodies are important; they are a part of our personhood. But the condition of our body, whether I lose a leg in an accident or whether you lose your virginity because of your choices or because of somebody else’s choices, the state of your body is not the determining part of your freedom, and your fruitfulness, your joy, your peace. What is going on in the inside is the important part of your soul. God is going to resurrect your body and make it all new at some point” (88)

Disgusted by BJU’s counseling advice on dealing with the effects of sexual abuse, the GRACE Report charges,

The epitome of victim blaming is to tell rape victims that their severe symptoms of PTSD are their own fault. Their debilitating fear, their wildly unpredictable flashbacks, their frequent dissociative blackouts, and their terrifying nightmares would all disappear if only they would: Stop dwelling on the past, forgive and forget, memorize more scripture, and be a better Christian. (89)

GRACE concludes,

The approach taken by Dr. Mazak and Dr. Berg can be heard by an abuse victim as saying that suffering from PTSD is sinful. The stronger the symptoms and the longer they linger, the more evidence that the abuse victim is failing their ‘trial’ or not making enough spiritual effort to know Jesus…. For abuse victims, being blamed for the psychological after-effects of their abuse is the final insult…. Heaping more blame and shame on the abuse survivor because he or she is suffering is both hurtful and counterproductive…. The counselor and the psychology professor both have roles to play in emphasizing God’s tender mercies for the abuse victim rather than suggesting God is displeased with the abuse victim for their response to their trial. (90)

Do sexual abuse victims bear any of the blame for their struggles? Wood observed,

You know what happens to people who are abused or who have serious spiritual or emotional problems? Their every view is inward: ‘Me, me, me, me, me, me. This happened to me. I can’t get over this. I’m mad about me. I’m mad that they did this to me. I’ve been hurt. I’ve been offended.’ …Me is not important. Joy is just like you learned in the primaries: Jesus first, others second, yourself last. You have to get your perspective right. (96)

“You want to stay very mechanical and shallow and robotic in your walk with God?” a chapel speaker at BJU asked. ”Then do this: Keep a bitter spirit against someone who hurt you.” He told of a conversation he had with a girl whose stepfather had sexually abused her:

I said, “Young lady, you have lived a very difficult life, a very hard life. But let’s look at your sin in this situation.” When I said that, she lost it. She said, “My sin? It wasn’t me! My mom, my dad, my step-dad!” I said, “Yea, you allowed the sin of these folks to create such anger and hatred and bitterness in your heart.” I took her to Hebrews 12. You gotta look diligently, and some of you need to do that. You better search your heart to wonder why you just can’t get over this plateau thing and walk with God. (94)

A Survey participant who was present for the aforementioned sermon analyzed it:

I realize that as Christians we are called to forgive from the heart, but I think that comes later. It comes way later after you have walked through a lot of other steps before then. Seriously, if [the speaker] is at camp and a little girl camper is there for one week and she comes to him for help and he says “you need to have forgiveness,” is that seriously all that happens? I really hope to God not. (94)

However, Berg concurs with Wood and the chapel speaker,

The thing that will stop the growth and the process and the change more than anything else is this (holds up clenched fist). “Where was God? He can’t do that. I won’t trust Him. You can’t expect …nobody can expect.” This clenched fist is what stops the growth and stops the change and stops the progress because this clinched fist says, “I will survive my way. I will do it my way. I will live life the way I see it.” We are going to see that coming up again and again and again. Now, the first time I sit down with an abuse victim and she is going through her story, I don’t first of all go, “Well, I know what your problem is. It’s this (puts up clenched fist) right here. Fix it!” But we are going to have to get to that. At some point, we are going to have to get to that because it is at the root of the problems that keeps people from changing. We have got to get back to that at some point. “I will not trust Him, He hurt me. I am going to listen to Satan because he said there is another way to do this, and I don’t have to do it God’s way.” That is a clinched fist. Augustine was the first one to really articulate that. “The problems of men are this clenched fist,” he said. It is never a question of “I cannot.” It is always a question of “I will not.” (104, 105)

The Report disagrees with Wood, Berg, and the chapel speaker,

Jesus understands and shows compassion to the afflicted. He knows the terror of abuse and the agony that forgiveness costs. In the garden of Gethsemane, before He faced the cross’ torture, Jesus asked the Father if there were another way. There was nothing easy about Jesus’ decision to obey His Father’s will and go to the cross so that sinners might be forgiven. Insisting that forgiveness can and must be extended harms victims and cheapens forgiveness….

A message of “move on” shows a lack of understanding and compassion. Without acknowledging the hard process of forgiveness, the righteous anger of victims is invalidated. Several investigative participants mentioned a 2009 sermon where the speaker confronts a sexual abuse victim about her own ‘sin’ because she was ‘allowing the sin of these folks to create such anger and hatred and bitterness in your heart.’ Based on the information provided by the speaker, he did not lament over the crime of the abuser, but instead focused on the sin of the abuse victim. The speaker stated that the girl at the camp had been abused by her step-father, and in light of her suffering, she told the preacher, in effect, “[God], why have you forgotten me?” According to the speaker’s own statements, rather than express outrage at the crime committed against her, sorrow for her personal losses, or compassion for her circumstances, he instead told the victim, “let’s look at your sin in the situation,” and then cautioned the audience against a similar attitude of bitterness. (103)

The Report concludes,

God knows that when faced with abuse and oppression, people need to stop and take the time to acknowledge the depth of the perpetrator’s sin. (104)

Rather than cautions about bitterness and a push to forgive and forget, the most urgent and ongoing need of a victim is to have the community surround the victim with love and cry out to God. (106)

There is a righteous expression to anger. The perfected martyrs in heaven cry out for God to take vengeance upon their murderers and execute justice. God gives his people the words to express these sentiments, ‘How long, O Lord?’ and ‘Why, O LORD, do you stand afar?’ Is this bitterness? Is this an unforgiving spirit? No, this is a godly posture toward great evil. God gave these words to His people in the Psalms so they would have the right words to say in the face of terrible evil like sexual abuse. (107)

Since someone has been sinned against in a sexual abuse case, does the victim have any responsibility, according to Matthew 18:15-17, to confront his or her perpetrator? Mazak said, “I think that as a brother in Christ, you owe it to that person. I think on multiple levels it is the right thing to do. God may use that appeal or rebuke in a number of different ways to bring about change in that person’s life. It may be [that] the Holy Spirit uses that” (111).

Wood agreed: “I am very confrontational. I believe that you need to confront the people as near as possible to the crime and deal with it head on” (111). Berg concurred in principle but qualified his support for confrontation by claiming that “Matthew 18 would not apply to a child or to university students” (116).

GRACE responds,

There are at least two other important factors about sexual abuse that Matthew 18 does not address, but which other biblical passages do address. First, abuse is a particularly horrific degree of sin that involves a power differential between the perpetrator and the victim. Second, abuse is a crime, not just a personal offense…. The sin of sexual abuse is on a scale that simply cannot be adequately addressed by these steps, and Jesus never intended His statement to be misused and misapplied to sexual abuses. (115)

Misapplying the steps of Matthew 18 to cases of abuse is just what an abuser would want. Following Matthew 18 in cases of abuse ignores the power differential and the Bible’s call to intervene on behalf of the vulnerable. Abusers are master manipulators. Having a victim confront the abuser plays right into the perpetrator’s hands. Applying Matthew 18 to sexual abuse allows abuse’s reality to stay hidden and unexposed. Perpetrators can then remain in a position to abuse and avoid any consequences for their offenses. God never intended for Matthew 18 to undermine the clear moral imperative to protect the vulnerable. (116, 117)

Discipline

The GRACE Report then goes after another trademark of BJU: Its disciplinary system.

Discipline has been a hallmark of BJU’s existence from its establishment, and BJU officials highlight discipline as one of the school’s greatest assets. The university’s current Student Life structure, however, invites role conflicts between discipline and counseling because it oversees both functions. (119)

BJU Chancellor Bob Jones, III disagrees with GRACE’s assessment:

I don’t see it as a conflict at all. This is the way we have always operated as the Dean of Students…. Disciplining students is not fun. It is not what we delight in, but at the same time, not disciplining when discipline is needed is not in their best interest either. You can’t grow character by turning your head the other way and pretending something wrong did not happen. So, there is no problem with the Dean of Students also being a disciplinarian when he needs to be; it is just like a parent. What parent who is a decent parent wouldn’t discipline their children when it is needed? The Bible is full of admonitions for parents to discipline their child when they need discipline, but also plenty of admonition to love your children. A parent is both a counselor and disciplinarian. Why shouldn’t the Dean of Students? (121)

Jones, III then explained to GRACE how BJU operates:

We are all there in loco parentis like most schools used to be, like most colleges used to be and now very few are. We are there in loco parentis. So if the Dean of Students acts in loco parentis, he would be a disciplinarian when he needed to be and a counselor when he needed to be just like a parent. (121)

Berg agreed with Jones, III, “In a Biblical model, I don’t see comfort and chastening as conflicting roles. Prophets did both. Isaiah, half of it is comfort and half of it is pretty strong. From a theological standpoint I don’t see conflict in that” (121). “The investigation,” in contrast, “found that this conflict can and does have some negative consequences for the counselee” (122).

The Report gave an example. A sexual abuse victim

revealed to the counselor that she had begun smoking cigarettes at work. According to the university records, the counselor “challenged her to repent and get right with God and her parents.” The Women’s Counselor also told the victim that she needed to report her rules infraction to the Dean of Women. The Dean of Women documented the smoking in a 2013 discipline report that was circulated to BJU administrators…. The university, thus, placed a victim of childhood sexual abuse on probation, who expressed her struggles with the counselor and disclosed this information in a confidential setting. (123)

The conflation of disciplinary and counseling roles places the counselee, the counseling relationship, and the therapeutic process in direct jeopardy. It is critical that victims are able to trust that what they reveal in counseling will not be shared outside the counseling room and will not place them at risk of adverse consequences. (137, 138)

According to the Report, the in loco parentis model that BJU operates under not only creates conflicts of interest for the counselees, but it also led to widespread breaches of confidentiality. The Report says, “Dr. Berg acknowledged that the university’s internal communications about confidential disclosures of abuse had been ‘sloppy’ due to the university’s ‘family’ structure” (128).

Concerning poor confidentiality standards, the Report asserts that “another contributing factor is that BJU includes Resident Counselors as partners in this family dynamic structure and does not view them as ‘professional counselors.’ The university appears to view information sharing as collaboration” (128). Berg understands a student “looking at the climate today and saying, ‘they are breaching confidentiality all over the place’ but from in loco parentis it doesn’t feel that way. It might feel that way to a student or to the public in today’s eyes, but it didn’t feel that way to us here. It was a collaborative effort” (129).

The Report criticizes Berg as unqualified to help sexual abuse victims:

Dr. Berg stated that he had no formal education specific to counseling victims of sexual abuse; however, he gained a fair amount of ‘on-the-job’ training. His training to address sexual abuse came from reading books, articles, and attending a conference. The complexity of sexual abuse counseling does not at all lend itself to such an informal approach to preparation. While some of the knowledge needed to counsel sexual abuses victims can be self-taught, professional judgment is typically learned through competent professional supervision with an experienced counselor. (141)

That being said, “Dr. Berg’s lack of formal training and professional supervision was evident in several judgment errors in the counseling he offered” (142).

The GRACE Report concludes,

Beneficence and non-maleficence are two widely accepted principles for guiding counseling ethics. These principles mean that the counselor should strive to benefit those whom they counsel and take care to do no harm…. The university’s counseling services transgress beneficence and non-maleficence in its conflicts of interest, breaches of confidentiality, and inadequate training. (137)

Spiritual Accountability

Next on the Report’s list of targeted BJU traditions was its process of holding people spiritually accountable. One way BJU does this is through Residence Hall Evaluations (aka, Spiritual Evaluations). The Report explains their purpose:

The university requires that students who live in the residence halls undergo Residence Hall Evaluations each academic year. Though these evaluations have changed through the years, they have generally covered various issues including spiritual life, personal consistence, response to authority, effectiveness in dealing with others, effectiveness in personal performance of duty, personal efficiency, emotional control, social life, and appearance. (144)

The selection process for student spiritual leaders within Student Life has been, in large part, determined by these Residence Hall Evaluations. (145)

GRACE warns that, “Evaluations critiquing various factors such as ‘spiritual life,’ ‘emotional control,’ and ‘appearance’ can have a negative impact upon some already fragile victims of abuse who suffer with other effects commonly associated with abuse” (157)

Berg defended BJU’s system of spiritual accountability,

It would be difficult for a teacher to note any progress and development if she never recorded grades. So our demerit system and these kinds of things were a way to track, are we seeing spiritual development in the student and what they are learning. It is sort of like we have all these academic files and the grades and tests and things that teachers are keeping and then there is a character component going on over here. So we have two huge record-keeping things going on. If we didn’t care about the students and their progress, then none of this would have happened. (146)

The Report provides instances where it thought BJU’s accountability system went too far. One former BJU employee testified that she “confessed to the campus clinic doctor that I thought I might be gay.” As a consequence, she stated that “there was an emergency meeting called and I was fired and kicked out of University housing” (148) In another incident, “The clerk at the drugstore knew [a friend] was a Bob Jones student (pretty obvious given the dress code) and called the administration and turned her in for buying a pregnancy test” (148)

A former student described the atmosphere at BJU:

Expulsion was a constant and real fear. Students “disappeared” all the time, expelled and vanquished from campus without any goodbyes. I can’t really describe it fully. It was like a low cloud always being there over head. Like a “grip” on everything you did or said. It was a real fear with real consequences. It extended to things as simple as cleaning your room and the shoes you wore, but it wasn’t just about physical things, it was about “attitude,” which is where the real meat of the trouble was in my opinion. A wrong “attitude” would get you expelled, or at the very least interrogated. I saw it happen. Grumpiness, sarcasm, skepticism, questioning and even quiet sadness could be seen as “decent” [sic] and could lead to “counseling” or even expulsion if they continued. (149)

The GRACE Report notes,

Some individuals explained that some of the university’s sanctions, including discipline probation and spiritual/character probation, have had a chilling effect upon the disclosure of sexual abuse, and upon the disclosure of symptoms or effects associated with sexual abuse. For example, one victim of sexual abuse explained, “let’s say a student was drinking over the summer and raped by a boyfriend. Or, was making out with a boyfriend and then he ultimately raped her. A student would be way too afraid of revealing those situations, because she could get kicked out of school for the drink/immorality even if the rape component wasn’t her fault.” (150)

Jones, III assured GRACE, “Nobody who is a genuine victim of rape would ever be expelled. She would be dealt with with great compassion and a desire to help her put her life back together. It would not be a discipline matter for the university. She would receive no discipline for that. That would be unheard of” (151).

A BJU student from the mid-2000s had been in a sexual relationship with her pastor since she was 15. She “lied about her whereabouts when she obtained the overnight passes to leave campus” to spend nights with him at a hotel. When she found out that she was expecting a child by him, she packed up her bags and left BJU. “Consequently, she was asked to withdraw at the request of the administration for lying about the overnight passes” (153) Months later, “she called Dr. Berg to ask if she could be allowed to take her final exams since she had been very near the end of the semester. This request was denied” (154).

GRACE suggests that BJU should have handled things differently (this woman is called “777” in the Report):

777 is a tragic example of someone who needed compassion and healing but instead received discipline…. 777’s rules violation needed to be put in its context. She was the victim of a large scale campaign of abuse by a shepherd who preyed on his sheep. She needed compassion and grace but received neither. Though Dr. Berg and Dr. Jones, III each expressed that the situation was “heartbreaking,” sanctioning a victim under these circumstances communicates a concern more for policies than for people. (160)

The GRACE Report concludes,

Instead of feeling safe, some victims reported feeling isolated, scrutinized and shut down” at BJU. (159) “Counselors must remove fear and create a space where the love of God in the gospel casts out any fear of disclosing difficult circumstances. The fear of punishment created by the role of disciplinarian is in direct conflict with this objective. The net result is many students did not receive the counseling they needed. (161)

Should contacting the civil authorities be the first reaction of those who hear about the possibility of sexual abuse? “BJU’s Dean of the Undergraduate School of Religion explained that it is important to report offenses to law enforcement, but he noted that they teach students that it is important to first be confident that an offense occurred before reporting it to law enforcement” (201).

He said,

I realize there are legal things when you are dealing with somebody’s children. We try to caution the students, you do want to be careful, you don’t want to get the Department of Social Services involved needlessly. In other words, you don’t want to be a loose screw, just, oh I bet there is sexual abuse going on here, let’s call them and let them sort out the facts. You don’t want that for sure…. You need to be very careful if you are going to accuse somebody of something that you know what you are talking about and you don’t get unsaved government employees, if you will, involved and as nice as they want to be, you just don’t call them needlessly and say, well they can sort it out. (201)

GRACE did not like the Dean’s answer:

The Dean of the Undergraduate School of Religion explained that they “try to caution the students” to be “sure” that the abuse has occurred before reporting it to “unsaved government employees.” The admission is concerning, because a top faculty member admits training future ministers about sexual abuse reporting standards in a manner inconsistent with the legal requirement to report known information to authorities. All university policies, as well as university administrators and its agents, such as professors, must communicate clearly and unequivocally on this issue. (209)

“Dr. Jones, III stated that the university does not involve the law when it is unnecessary to do so, but will when an issue is ‘deserving of the law’s attention or mandated by the law to do [so]’” (183). The Report replies to Jones, III’s comments,

Dr. Jones, III appears to have taken the position that sexual abuse need not be reported to the police when it is not mandated by law to be reported. Unfortunately, this position has resulted in needless suffering by those who came to university officials for help…. Regardless of whether there is a legal obligation to report, Christians have a sacred and moral obligation when confronted with abuse. (193)

The Report declares, “In cases where university officials did not report abuse or do everything possible to encourage and assist the victim to report the crime, they failed to show victims God’s love” (194).

On a positive note, the Report applauds BJU for its 2014-2015 abuse and neglect policy.

These improvements are highly commendable and signal an increased awareness of mandatory reporting laws. The abuse policy should take the critical step of reporting all known sexual offenders, regardless of the victim’s age and regardless of mandatory reporting obligations unless otherwise prohibited by law. (205)

GRACE also speaks highly of BJU’s new Chief of Public Safety. He “appears to have aided BJU officials in recognizing and reporting sexual crimes quickly” (207).

Pursuit of Excellence

At this point, the Report takes aim at BJU’s pursuit of excellence.

Some individuals described the spiritual damage experienced at Bob Jones University as resulting from what they termed the showcase mentality, noting, “there is this emphasis on being perfect.” The showcase mentality has been reported to be a cultural attitude at BJU that emphasizes the importance of external appearances. Those who described the showcase mentality explained how this ideal harms victims, enables perpetrators, and distorts their view of God. (210)

“The narrative that BJU is a showcase institution,” proclaims the GRACE Report,

can easily contradict the gospel’s basic principles. Jesus rebuked what could be labeled as showcase Christianity when He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” …This showcase mentality impacts the community as a whole, because it gives the perpetrators of sexual crimes significant freedom to reoffend. A BJU graduate, who is now a counselor, explained how the showcase mentality benefits perpetrators because, “a lot of abuse is covered over because it tarnishes that image of perfection…. I think that breeds abuse and it breeds failure.” (213)

The GRACE Report concludes,

The choice of an idealized showcase culture by BJU has impacted victims of sexual abuse negatively, particularly with regard to their spiritual lives. Ironically, victims see this chosen culture to be more welcoming and supportive of perpetrators. Change in this aspect of life at BJU could make a real positive difference in the lives of many present and future students. (219, 220)

Survey Participants

As we come to the end of the Report, let us ask, “Who are the Survey participants? What do they think about BJU?” The attitude of the majority can be summed up by this participant’s quote: “If I can prevent one family from sending their kid there, that would mean so much” (59).

Here is how some of the Survey participants describe their spirituality:

  • “At this point, I identify as a secular humanist, which is an atheist…. The idea of the concept of God as a father is a weird, scary one for me” (215).
  • “I believe in God. I pray. I just don’t go to church” (215).
  • “When people describe God or Jesus as someone to draw close to like a father, or something like that, I feel physically sick. I feel panic. I want to run and get as far away as I can” (216).
  • “I haven’t been to church in years. I have not met a pastor yet that cares any more about his congregation. He cares about his paycheck…. I am not ready to deal with people that are put in a position of spiritual ‘authority.’ I’m kind of tired of men and their spiritual authority over my life” (217).
  • “I don’t read the KJV. I fact I don’t read the Bible at all” (217).
  • “I don’t read my Bible anymore because I don’t know how to pick it up and read it… I just don’t know what I believe… I don’t want to believe in their God” (217).
  • “I walked away from attending church. But I wouldn’t say I have walked away from God. I have been to church maybe four times in the past three years. When I’m ready, I will go back… I see God as I see man, completely untrustworthy” (217).
  • “Me and God are not on the same page right now” (218).
  • “I found a spiritual home in the Episcopal Church where my faith was nurtured and my gifts flourished” (219).
  • “I have never meditated on the gospel and my abuse. I guess to a degree I have because I thought what if [the perpetrator] got saved before he died, and he is in Heaven. I thought that if he did then that means that Christ died on the cross and paid for my abuser’s sins against me. That makes Christ’s death more brutal and his grace all the more wild” (219).

What does this sampling of spiritual views tell us about the Report? Are the Survey participants competent to counsel BJU in the area of Christian counseling?

GRACE’s Recommendations

In conclusion, the GRACE Report offers recommendations for BJU. They include BJU’s issuing a public apology, making reparation payments to sexual abuse victims, and inviting victims to come to campus so that BJU can listen to their stories, acknowledge its sin, and repent “of its failed response to their disclosures of sexual abuse” (224). Other recommendations include erecting a memorial to sexual abuse victims on campus, engaging “outside child protection and assault prevention experts to review and revise all current BJU policies and procedures related to sexual abuse prevention, response, and reporting,” and giving regular sexual abuse training to BJU employees and board members (225, 226).

The Report constantly praises the Julie Valentine Center and recommends “that BJU refer all counseling for sexual abuse victims attending BJU to outside licensed and trained trauma counseling such as the Julie Valentine Center” (227). It calls on BJU to adopt stricter confidentiality standards, move the Women’s Counselor’s office out of the Administration Building into a “private, relaxed, and accessible place,” discontinue “Resident Hall Evaluations,” hire a “third-party victim advocate who shall be available to assist any and all sexual abuse complaints,” and annually celebrate Sexual Abuse Awareness Week. (228, 229). It advises BJU to “remove…from public access…sermons that include statements that are insensitive or hurtful to sexual abuse victims” (230).

GRACE then strikes at the heart of BJU’s counseling program by demanding that BJU stop selling and remove/prohibit “all endorsements and recommendations by BJU or any of its representatives of any and all counseling related materials, books, teachings, or curriculum associated with Bob Wood, Walter Fremont, and Jim Berg” (230). Furthermore, GRACE expects BJU to

consult an outside expert to review the content of all materials, curriculum, and teachings related to sexual abuse and victimization with the goal of ensuring that curriculum is not harmful to sexual abuse victims [and to] work with outside experts to develop some form of curriculum for seminary, elementary education, nursing, and criminal justice students that properly equips them to understand the various issues and dynamics related to sexual abuse. (230)

Of course, “the expert shall be made in consultation with GRACE” (230).

Last, the GRACE Report calls for “personnel action” to be taken against two individuals: Jones III and Berg.

“Personnel action” includes, but is not limited to, termination, suspension, probation, transfer, remedial education and training, or any other form of corrective action consistent with transforming the employee’s teaching, conduct, or overall disposition regarding sexual abuse matters. (231)

Concerning Jones, III, the Report decrees:

As President of BJU during much of the time that was the subject of this investigation, Dr. Jones, III is ultimately responsible for many of the difficult findings in this investigation. Dr. Jones, III has also repeatedly demonstrated a significant lack of understanding regarding the many painful dynamics associated with sexual abuse. (231)

As for Berg, the Report decrees:

As the most influential member of the BJU community regarding the many issues related to the counseling and discipline of sexual abuse victims, Dr. Berg bears a responsibility for much of the pain caused by BJU’s failure to understand and respond adequately to matters related to sexual abuse. It is recommended that as long as Dr. Berg is employed at BJU, he no longer be authorized to teach on any issue related to sexual abuse or victimization. It is recommended that Dr. Berg also no longer be allowed to provide any counseling and/or discipleship on or off campus. It is also recommended that Dr. Berg not be allowed to speak or consult on any issue related to counseling on or off campus. (231)

A Brief Evaluation

Certainly, the Report contains helpful information. Sexual abuse victims to whom we minster need to understand that God does not judge involuntary sexual activity. Also, we should always follow mandatory reporting laws where we live when we first hear of probable sexual abuse.

However, the Report mainly provides a wonderful opportunity for BJU to defend its Bible-based, Christ-centered counseling techniques. Far from going on the defensive, BJU ought to boldly reply to the criticisms leveled against it. The GRACE Report is the opinion of fallible people based upon the input of mostly dissatisfied acquaintances of BJU. The Report is in no way above criticism.

BJU presents a greater hope for victims than that offered by GRACE. It disagrees with the Report’s assertion that “sexual abuse is a devastating crime that impacts the personal and spiritual lives forevermore” (219, emphasis added).

BJU should not change its current dress code, disciplinary system, spiritual accountability system, or emphasis on excellence. Without these key elements, BJU will lose its niche within evangelicalism and will follow the devastating examples of other fundamentalist institutions that have declined precipitously after lowering their standards.

Do we really believe that “[God’s] divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3)? Do we really believe “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:28- 29)?

Eternal truths are at stake in this debate, and I pray that BJU will not retreat on the biblical counseling principles that many of its alumni continue to embrace. Those principles radically transformed my life, and I pray they will continue to impact others as well.

C. D. Cauthorne Bio


C. D. Cauthorne Jr. earned his BA and MA at Bob Jones University during the 1990s. He and his wife Heather serve at Calvary Baptist Church near Clintwood, Virginia, where C. D. is pastor.

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

If possible, I want to try to avoid one misunderstanding right away. CD's point in talking about his struggles to forgive his father isn't to say to sexual abuse victims "I've suffered just as much as you have." The point of that portion of the piece is that there is a clear biblical message to those who suffer from the wickedness of others, and that as a student at BJU he heard that message and was blessed by heeding it.

I appreciate CD's work here. The actual report is not easy to take in, for multiple reasons... and I suspect few will ever give it a complete cover-to-cover reading.

Also want to say I believe CD is right that there is no point in debating whether BJU should have brought GRACE in to begin with. What's done is done and the thing to do is find the best way forward from here. (But I have to say that I can easily imagine why it seemed like the best option at the time... and even more easily imagine several very positive outcomes from the whole process)

I hope everybody can see one thing clearly: that the questions raised by the GRACE investigation and report--regarding discipline, dress standards, excellence, accountability, reporting, the proper counseling process, and most of all what truly helps victims--call for sober and humble thought and study. Not just "more light than heat" but "a whole lot of light and as little heat as possible."

I hope it's evident as well, that this particular report and how it's handled has implications that go way beyond one school in South Carolina. CD is right that not only is the personal suffering of many individuals at stake, but some very big ideas are at stake as well (and ideas have personal consequences too!).

I have some GRACE Report analysis of my own I hope to post on Monday.

mounty's picture

This feels a bit more like a summary than an evaluation...not to nitpick, but I was expecting more commentary and more explanation/exposition on the quotations cited, not just a handful of cherry-picked quotations set in contrast with each other followed by a disconnected summary that could be rewritten, "BJU's counseling worked for me, so it should work for everyone!" But since this was styled as an evaluation, I feel like I should interact with what little original content there is:

BJU presents a greater hope for victims than that offered by GRACE.

What is this greater hope? What is its basis? If the author wants to make grandiose claims, they need to be supported somewhere.

BJU should not change its current dress code, disciplinary system, spiritual accountability system, or emphasis on excellence. Without these key elements, BJU will lose its niche within evangelicalism and will follow the devastating examples of other fundamentalist institutions that have declined precipitously after lowering their standards.

Honestly, is the worst thing that can happen here that BJU will cease to be a niche school in the rapidly shrinking arena of Christian higher education? And while talk of "devastating examples" of schools that have "declined precipitously" because of "lower...standards" makes for a great sound bite, it's really just a fancy way of dressing up FUD as it slides down the slippery slope of "compromise."

What I just read is little more than a six-point sermon straight from first semester Pulpit Speech class, whose text was the GRACE report and whose exegesis was every bit as careful as that of some of my favorite Fundamentalist sermons. And as a sermon, it demonstrates everything I've come to expect from years of tasteless, gelatinous leftovers reheated for the umpteenth time in the microwave of blind loyalty. As an evaluation, it lacks any willingness to explore the points made and prefers to simply display quotations for their own presumed absurdity with little to no interaction. And as a persuasive piece, the final paragraphs contain enough logical fallacies and misdirection to make Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf shed a single, manly tear.

I'm disappointed. I was hoping for an open, honest interaction with the report, followed by a few open-ended questions designed to further the dialog. Alas, this is not that.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I'm completely neutral on BJU. I didn't grow up as a Christian, so I have no warm fuzzy feeling in my heart for BJU. To be blunt, I don't really care what happens to BJU. 

  • If you're tempted to become upset by that remark, let me ask you - do you care what happens to Tacoma Community College? Probably not, because you didn't go there. It's just a name. You don't care. That's how I feel about BJU. Moving on . . .

That being said, I was disappointed in this article. It is a long-running synopsis of some sections of the report (which I haven't read, and probably won't), capped with an unsupported conclusion. Here is how it went:

  • Body - Grace says this!​

    • ​Example, example, example, example, example, example, example, example, etc.
  • Conclusion - They're wrong!
    • ​Nothing else. 

 That's nice that you feel that way, but some analysis would be appreciated. I was actually pretty horrified and angry at BJU after reading the synopsis. It sounds, based on the synopsis, like a terrible place to go to school. I'm sure that's not the case. I only wish someone could have done some forceful analysis of the issue, rather than leaving us with this unsupported conclusion:

BJU should not change its current dress code, disciplinary system, spiritual accountability system, or emphasis on excellence. Without these key elements, BJU will lose its niche within evangelicalism and will follow the devastating examples of other fundamentalist institutions that have declined precipitously after lowering their standards.

This isn't a conclusion, it's just a statement of opinion. More than that - it's an insular perspective that seems to value "the institution" above all. The author did not even attempt to rebut any of GRACE's concerns (whether they're valid or not). He just says they're wrong. I'm glad he feels that way, but those seeking an actual analysis of GRACE's report will have to look elsewhere. All you'll get here is wagon-circling. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Barry L.'s picture

that is much bigger than the survival of a university.

The article does reek with institutional defense which is a shame because it only slightly touches on a more serious spiritual issue that needs to be addressed and debated here, and I hope that some who defend GRACE would join in on the debate. I think you don't  get much argument with most alumni over the disfunctionality of the rules, how they were administered, and how they have harmed people over the years. We have all seen it first hand while we were there. You also won't get much disagreement on the propensity of the school to protect its name when certain illegal and abusive events came to light; but I think the big problem with the GRACE report for me is on the counseling of the victim. Could BJU been more compassionate in dealing with them? Most certainly, but the prospect that you shouldn't exhort victims to do good despite their circumstances is totally unbiblical and needs to be challenged.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Though the post is mostly excerpts from the Report, I recommend noticing three things:

  • Most people will not read the Report, and there is value in at least trying to go beyond "reactions to reactions" and draw some to interact with what's actually there.
  • Notice what GRACE is actually saying on these topics. The way Scripture is being handled in relation to how the current social science consensus is handled...   well, look close.
  • GRACE is still the go-to organization for lots of evangelical ministries. This is really not even close to being "just about BJU." A "ministry near you" is likely to be embarking in the GRACE process sooner than you think.
Ron Bean's picture

I'm a Lifetime BJU Alumni Association member. I'm thankful for what they have meant to my family and what I learned there. I knew it wasn't a perfect place and still isn't but I would hope they'd accept an honest evaluation of their operation.

The GRACE Report reveals that BJU needs to make some changes in its counseling methodology and in its discipline structure. Their in loco parentis practice is flawed in that it practices parental discipline but lacks parental loving instruction. The changes that are needed are not compromise of Biblical truth any more than their change of their dating policy was compromise. 

BJU's student body is declining. The infrastructure is in need of updating. Academic and Fine Arts programs are being cut. IMO, they have failed to cultivate loyalty from their graduates and simply expected it to be there. If they choose to ignore the GRACE Report like they ignored the response to their dating policy 20 years ago, I think they'll be making a mistake.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

TylerR's picture

Editor

Let me suggest some ways this article could have suggested a path forward:

Being Competent to Counsel:

  • The GRACE report suggests that counselors at BJU were ill-trained and equipped. They say that BJU counselors weren't certified or qualified to counsel sexual abuse victims. In short, the GRACE report says the counselors at BJU have no idea what they're doing. I have no idea if that's true. 
  • This doesn't mean all Biblical counselors have to hold secular psychology licensure. It could mean that, going forward, BJU might want to consider having it's counselors and/or faculty in this discipline hold accreditation/certification from CCEF, ACBC, or Jay Adams' INC. Or, even better, they could require appropriate people hold degrees in Biblical Counseling from accredited Christian universities (e.g. Maranatha - [shameless plug alert!]) This could be a prerequisite going forward.

 Reporting to Police:

  • It's idiotic for an institution to act as a filter for police reports. Idiotic. Stupid. Moronic. Irresponsible. Any institution that "decides" or determine whether a report is worth referring to the authorities is irresponsible. The student is an adult, and the student can make their own decision to go to teh authorities. 
  • I was an investigator in the Military Police for 10 years. I can't tell you the number of sexual assault complains that were "kept in house" by tenant commands instead of being referred to Security Forces. 

Spiritual Accountability:

  • Oh, my. I'm glad I didn't go to a Christian university for my undergrad. I couldn't take the kind of silliness that GRACE says goes on at BJU regarding "spiritual accountability." Assuming they portrayed this practice accurately, it is ripe for abuse, pettiness and stupidity. 
  • I had a conversation with Marty Marriott, the President of Maranatha, a year or two ago and he told me that Christian colleges have to do something to keep these students in check. He told me I don't understand, because my perspective is very different. I suppose I don't. I wasn't raised as a Christian, and joined the military when I was 18 - so I realize I don't "get" the culture and challenges of managing an immature student body at a Christian university. I admit it. But surely, there's a better way to do it than what BJU does? Is this standard fare at most fundamentalist universities? 

To conclude, surely GRACE suggested something that BJU can fix? The author was unwilling to admit fault at BJU - period. He is defensive. Is this:

BJU should not change its current dress code, disciplinary system, spiritual accountability system, or emphasis on excellence. Without these key elements, BJU will lose its niche within evangelicalism and will follow the devastating examples of other fundamentalist institutions that have declined precipitously after lowering their standards.

really all the response that is needed? Come on . . .

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

TylerR's picture

Editor

I watched the conference with Steve Pettit once the GRACE report was released, and it sounded as though he's the right man to lead BJU forward. I don't think they'll ignore the report. As I said, I have no vested interest in BJU at all, but I appreciated Pettit's comments at the news conference. I think he'll do well. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

really all the response that is needed? Come on . . .

Nobody is saying that.

Please note also that there is more than this there...

Body - Grace says this!​

​Example, example, example, example, example, example, example, example, etc.

Conclusion - They're wrong!

​Nothing else. 

Since it seems to be  invisible....

Certainly, the Report contains helpful information. Sexual abuse victims to whom we minster need to understand that God does not judge involuntary sexual activity. Also, we should always follow mandatory reporting laws where we live when we first hear of probable sexual abuse.

However, the Report mainly provides a wonderful opportunity for BJU to defend its Bible-based, Christ-centered counseling techniques. ...

BJU presents a greater hope for victims than that offered by GRACE. It disagrees with the Report’s assertion that “sexual abuse is a devastating crime that impacts the personal and spiritual livesforevermore” (219, emphasis added).

...

Do we really believe that “[God’s] divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3)? Do we really believe “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:28- 29)?

Eternal truths are at stake in this debate, and I pray that BJU will not retreat on the biblical counseling principles that many of its alumni continue to embrace. Those principles radically transformed my life, and I pray they will continue to impact others as well.

Though not not well developed, there are not only propositions here but also supporting arguments. (Keep in mind that the post is 8,000 words long as it is... and it's no easy thing to pull a reasonably representative sampling of material from a 300 page report while retaining enough context to avoid the charge of taking material out of context... and then also evaluate it.) 

mounty's picture

Sorry Aaron, but this:

Certainly, the Report contains helpful information. Sexual abuse victims to whom we minister need to understand that God does not judge involuntary sexual activity. Also, we should always follow mandatory reporting laws where we live when we first hear of probable sexual abuse.

However, the Report mainly provides a wonderful opportunity for BJU to defend its Bible-based, Christ-centered counseling techniques.

strikes me much the same way as someone saying, "I'm not _____ [racist, homophobic, misogynistic, etc.] but _______" wherein the second statement completely belies the first statement.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

mounty wrote:

strikes me much the same way as ....

OK. Well, there is not much I can do about how things strike you. Smile  But I will say that there is a very definite clash of counseling models involved here. And that deserves a close look. I hasten to add, though, that it's necessary to distinquish between these things:

  1. a biblical counseling model
  2. implementation/execution of a biblical counseling model
  3. a secular social-science dominated counseling model
  4. implementation of the above

Though I'm going to try not to say too much about the whole problem of determining what the facts are in BJU's case (I have a piece to write for Monday that touches on this some), it's entirely possible to have some major problems w/#2 and still be absolutely right about #1. And no problems are solved by rejecting #1 because of failures in #2.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

This article is the first look I've had at anything of substance related to the BJU/GRACE situation. This post seems as good a place as any to start addressing some of the issues raised.

The GRACE alleges that the BJU Dress Code, which was put in place to protect the virtue of women, actually does the opposite.

In my experience, this is often true because churches and university staff are not educating themselves about the psychology of criminal behavior. Sexual assault is not about sex - it is about manipulation, domination, and control. This is a common misconception about sexual crimes, and probably the myth that does the most damage. Sex is simply the weapon of choice used to inflict pain and suffering on the victim. Sexual crimes are often planned well in advance with the predator looking for a victim of opportunity.

Why is lust not a component of rape? Because no decent man will suddenly feel the urge to force himself on a woman because she is dressed immodestly or acting in a provocative manner or alone in parking garage with her hands full. There is nothing that can turn a good man into a rapist - see the example of Joseph and Potiphar's wife, and then take a look at Amnon and Tamar. 

Dress codes are fine, as many businesses and schools have them so the appearance of their staff, employees, and student body reflect their purpose and values. The dress code is not the problem. The problem is the clumsy and inaccurate expression of principles of purity and modesty which reinforces the idea of women as sexual objects, such as: 

Mtt. 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

This is the verse I have most often heard used to implicate a woman as being a participant in her abuse or assault. But the context says nothing about how a woman is dressed. While a woman is responsible for any behavior that violates Biblical commands or principles, she is not at fault for the actions of others, especially when rape has nothing to do with lust. Young men in our churches and schools are actually being excused for objectifying women with this faulty emphasis.

IMO, unless counselors are trained in how to deal with criminal behavior and the victims of assault, they need to refer students to someone who is qualified. The Bible equips us to do many things, but we don't allow any Joe Sixpack to treat us medically, so why do we let someone with a seminary degree take on this kind of responsibility with little to no training in this area?

When bad things happen to us, what do we do? We look at them God’s way. We become like Job, we get spiritually transformed. We realize that God has a purpose for things, and He has a way for us to deal with even the bad times. Spiritual transformation. That’s the biblical way of doing things. Realizing we are created in the image of God, realizing that God allows bad things to happen to us because it perfects the image of Christ in us. OK? Count it all joy when you encounter diverse trials. Count it all joy knowing that the trying of your faith worketh patience, and more verses we can cite than that. OK? That’s the biblical way of dealing with things. (63)

While this is true and it sounds very virtuous, this kind of healing takes time, and it isn't his place to decide when and how someone should heal.

I believe the underlying problem is that men and women live very different internal lives. 

“It is understandable that the perspectives of men and women on safety are so different--men and women live in different worlds...at core, men are afraid women will laugh at them, while at core, women are afraid men will kill them.” ― Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence

Another example:

A woman is waiting for an elevator, and when the doors open she sees a man inside who causes her apprehension. Since she is not usually afraid, it may be the late hour, his size, the way he looks at her, the rate of attacks in the neighborhood, an article she read a year ago- it doesn’t matter why. The point is, she gets a feeling of fear. How does she respond to nature’s strongest survival signal? She suppresses it, telling herself ,”I’m not going to live like that; I’m not going to insult this guy by letting the door close in his face.” When the fear doesn’t go away, she tells herself not to be so silly, and she gets into the elevator.

Now, which is sillier: waiting a moment for the next elevator, or getting into a soundproofed steel chamber with a stranger she is afraid of? (p. 31)

I wrote a review of the book The Gift of Fear here for anyone who is interested in more information on the above quotes. But this disconnect is IMO why women get such bad (and sometimes damaging) advice from men about how to deal with sexual aggression and assault. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

There's just something about BJU. Some people have a nuclear trigger switch deep within themselves, and that trigger is only activated when the name "BJU" comes up. On every other subject, they're calm and level-headed people. I want to suggest, very strongly, that anyone who suggests that BJU has nothing to fix has a very serious blind spot. I will summarize my concerns with the article one last time and end, hopefully, on a positive note:

(1) The author basically said that nothing needs to be changed:

BJU should not change its current dress code, disciplinary system, spiritual accountability system, or emphasis on excellence. Without these key elements, BJU will lose its niche within evangelicalism and will follow the devastating examples of other fundamentalist institutions that have declined precipitously after lowering their standards.

(2) The author concluded that, at best, already good policies were carried out improperly. He seems to conclude that all BJU needs to do is tweak the structure that's already there:

Certainly, the Report contains helpful information. Sexual abuse victims to whom we minster need to understand that God does not judge involuntary sexual activity. Also, we should always follow mandatory reporting laws where we live when we first hear of probable sexual abuse.

(3) The author sees the GRACE report as a means to vindicate BJU:

However, the Report mainly provides a wonderful opportunity for BJU to defend its Bible-based, Christ-centered counseling techniques.

(4) The author is writing from a defensive, extremely insular perspective. In short, he appears to be a company man who is not objectively confronting the issues. Observe:

Far from going on the defensive, BJU ought to boldly reply to the criticisms leveled against it. The GRACE Report is the opinion of fallible people based upon the input of mostly dissatisfied acquaintances of BJU. The Report is in no way above criticism.

  • He castigates critics as outsiders; acquaintances. The implication is (1) "They don't know what they're talking about," or (2) "they all have an ax to grind! They hate us!" Certainly there is some truth to that, but is all of it true? I really doubt it. 

BJU presents a greater hope for victims than that offered by GRACE. It disagrees with the Report’s assertion that “sexual abuse is a devastating crime that impacts the personal and spiritual lives forevermore” (219, emphasis added).

  • BJU gives nobody hope. Neither does Maranatha, Faith, NIU or even (heaven help us!) West Coast Baptist College! Christ does. I am sure the author meant that, but it's a troubling statement. 
  • Sexual abuse does scar believers forevermore. They never forget it. By God's grace, they can certainly move forward. But to suggest that sexual abuse victims are not impacted the rest of their days (jn some form or fashion) is absurd. 

(5) We all have blindspots. 

  • Everybody has them. For some people, that blind spot is BJU. They refuse to admit fault or the need for correction. They get defensive. They get upset. 
  • Wake up. That report, even the synopsis in the article, is damning and bad. Real bad. Very bad. Admit fault where necessary (which Petitt did already in his news conference), and move forward.
  • The last thing one ought to do is circle the wagons. Take a step back and be objective. 

Now for the positive:

  • Biblical counseling methods are, well . . . Biblical and they are effective when properly applied to real believers
  • This report is a wonderful opportunity to close the chapter on a painful period for BJU and move forward with whatever positive and necessary change leadership feels is appropriate. If BJU takes the author's advice, I sense nothing but disaster and ruin for BJU. I pray they don't.  
  • I'm not sure about GRACE. But, as with any commentary you read, you're supposed to toss out what is wrong and learn from what is correct. There probably is a lot of gristle in that report, but surely there's some real meat in there, right? 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Zack Murray's picture

I am dismayed by your attitude toward this important document. While I agree that some of what was written is a bit of a stretch (for example, placing a heavy emphasis on the dress code as part of the issue), I fear you miss much of the point.

As one who loves God with all my heart and who is committed to the principles laid out for us in his Word, I believe you invoke the founding principles of BJU in error as the reasons for suggesting they intensify long-held practices, rather than hold them up for prayerful consideration through the lens of God's word.

The report in no way suggested to me that the survey participants or interviewees were counseling the school on anything. They shared their viewpoints, and were honest about where they are in their spiritual life. It is GRACE, through their highly-qualified staff who shared viewpoints, supported by voluminous amounts of scripture, who offered evaluation of what they heard. It's actually a bit rude to disqualify the input of the participants based on where they are spiritually.

My reaction is more to wonder -- "How did we lose these people?". Not "Let us turn a deaf ear to those who have left us."

To me, that is the important question.

As for the GRACE report, having read it through a few times, at it's core, I believe is the question of counseling philosophy and practices. For an institution of higher learning to disregard the rigors of academic training in a field as important as counseling (evidenced by repeated comments by Mr. Wood and Mr. Berg that they had no training), is a terrible thing. There is a reason that teachers, doctors, lawyers, counselors go through structured rigor to understand the process, ethics, research and various methodologies in their field. Neither of them did so. That is a sad statement for the top counselors of counselors who teach other counselors at a post-doctoral degree-granting institution.

I pray that your heart will be softened in a way that causes you to focus on loving God and your fellow man rather than an institution we all have loved at some point in our lives.

Brian Dempsey's picture

Much of what is stated above could be said about many Fundamentalist Institutions over the last few decades. I think Fundamentalism as a whole has struggled with how to deal with issues of abuse and how they relate to sanctification (ie, how do we sort out the results of abuse from the external indicators that someone is not walking with Christ). I believe that finds its roots in the "anti-education" philosophy that permeated many branches of fundamentalism, and is slowly being eradicated (at least within some segments).

The counseling parts intrigue me. I am a pastor who is trained in biblical counseling (moving toward certification with ACBC). I am unashamedly text-based, and believe in the sufficiency of scripture. Abuse is tough. No one deserves abuse, and no one brings abuse on themselves. PTSD is a very real result of horrible situations. But can the victim grow in his/her walk with Christ while receiving care for the physical effects of their abuse? I don't want to flesh that out too much more here.

I do wonder about the counseling approaches of Berg and Mazak. I have read much of Berg's work, and found much of it helpful. But I was turned off to Mazak by a workshop he did at the National Leadership Conference while I was in seminary in which he took a hard-line antipsychmed stance. While I think many within the ACBC ranks would take a position similar to his, professors like Stuart Scott (Southern Seminary) have taken a much more balanced approach. There is much about the human mind that we simply don't understand and are still learning about. The fact that psychiatrists prescribe medication on a "let's see if it works" basis does not automatically disqualify the premise that someone indeed is going haywire within both a person's mind and soul. Can we not treat both biblically and accurately? I guess I would be curious to know what presupposition GRACE has in approaching counseling...

Brian Dempsey
Pastor, WBC
I Cor. 10:31

 

Brian Dempsey's picture

Zack Murray wrote:

There are so many viewpoints on the issue of counseling both secular
and Christian, and these often disagree radically, the result is that there
is no one methodology which is embraced by all.

This is very true, but not all methodologies are equal, and not all come from the text. I recently heard Al Mohler say (at the AIG Pastor's Conference in October) that he "was at war with Christian counseling." Why? Because all integrationist approaches find their roots in secular and humanistic views of man. Legitimate help in counseling must come from the text (while in no way eliminating legitimate medical treatment).

Brian Dempsey
Pastor, WBC
I Cor. 10:31

 

G. N. Barkman's picture

We've all heard, many times no doubt, that rape is not about sex, but power, etc.  Since I have never raped someone :), I can't speak from experience, but I have always questioned that assertion.  I have no doubt that some rapes may not be about sex, but not any of them?  I wonder if this isn't an unfounded, and probably unprovable declaration?  I suspect that a good many rapes are about sex.  I suspect that a good many rapes are about both sex and power.

Is it possible that this is simply a hypothesis of the immoral left to absolve women who dress and act provocatively from any and all responsibility for the situation?  The "I'm going to dress like a slut if I want to, and don't anyone dare to blame me in any way for the trouble I invite" syndrome?  In  any rape, the perpetrator should be held accountable to the full extent of the law, regardless of how the victim was dressed.  Not everyone who dresses provocatively gets raped, and not everyone who is raped was dressed provocatively.  But surely common sense teaches us that dress is not neutral, and dressing seductively is more likely to lead to trouble than dressing modestly.

Just saying.

G. N. Barkman

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

BJU will not be sacrificing "eternal principles" for making some needed changes in response this report.  What a scary view of "eternal principles." 

Wow.

C. D. Cauthorne Jr.'s picture

Mounty,

The "greater hope" that BJU offers is the truth that we need not be haunted by those things which have happened to us in the past "forevermore."  It is the truth that has helped people like Corrie ten Boom (a holocaust survivor) and others who, under the GRACE model, would always have to struggle with PTSD.

stephen's picture

This article is awful, but, to be honest, it is exactly the type of drivel that Sharper Iron is well known for.

Sharper Iron - helping to kill fundamentalism on article at a time!

Zack Murray's picture

I have been privately address with the following questions after my original post. In the interest of keeping the discussion transparent, I answer these here, and hope to hear some perspective from others:

The person asked:

Do you have experience in the field of Biblical counseling?

MY ANSWER: My credentials are not in question. They are at least as valid as those of Messrs Berg and Wood who say they learned everything they know from reading books and experimenting via counseling many others. I am continually dismayed by the approach of questioning the credentials of a questioner in order to determine the validity of one's point of view.

The person continued:

The reason I ask is this. There are so many viewpoints on the issue of counseling both secular and Christian, and these often disagree radically, the result is that there is no one methodology which is embraced by all.

MY ANSWER: It is not an acceptable argument to say that there are many points of view. I would not accept that logic from my accountant if she told me there are many ways to do taxes and that she has her own biblical method of filling out my tax forms versus secular training. If she told me she is a C.P.A., but her ethics are informed by biblical training, I would accept that. Structured rigor is intended to teach the basic ethical code (of which Messrs Berg and Wood appear to have been ignorant or complacent); understand the trial-and-error that have gone into understanding methods of treatment; and thereby minimize the damage that is done by someone experimenting in real time on real people without academic grounding. I would have expected an institution of higher learning to appreciate the importance of academics in such an important field.

And finally:

If Berg and Wood had been trained, would you have felt better about their counsel? Probably not.

MY ANSWER: I might not have agreed with their approach, but I hope that had they been trained, fewer mistakes would have been made and fewer people hurt. I also doubt their approach would have been the same. I would hope that they would have been instilled with a code of "do no harm", which doesn't seem to have been what happened. If I felt their approach came from an educated point of view, yes, I would feel better about it. At the minimum, I would feel that there is recourse (via challenging their licensure) if they had done exactly as they have, but with training and certification.

It was then recommended:

Read through MacArthur's book on Biblical Counseling. It is eye-opening.

MY ANSWER:  You have authoritatively made the point that there are many points of view. I suspect I would read one of those points of view in the above book.
 

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Rape is an act of violence where sex is the weapon. Every law enforcement officer I have spoken to and piece of literature I have ever read from law enforcement textbooks, manuals, training etc... separates normal sexual attraction from the act of rape. Rape is not just an overly enthusiastic expression of sexual attraction. If you teach young men that rape is just the byproduct of overactive hormones and women in low-cut blouses and miniskirts, you are excusing deviance and turning women into sexual objects. 

But surely common sense teaches us that dress is not neutral, and dressing seductively is more likely to lead to trouble than dressing modestly.

This is a common misconception about sexual violence. 

Let's look at who the victims are:

1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).

About 3% of American men — or 1 in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. 2.78 million men in the U.S. have been victims of sexual assault or rape.

15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12.

https://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims

Under age 12? What possible sexual component could there be?

Sexual gratification is often not a primary motivation for a rape offender. . .  While some offenders do seek sexual gratification from the act, sexual gratification is often not a primary motivation for a rape offender. Power, control, and anger are more likely to be the primary motivators. . . . Studies suggest that most rape offenders are married or in consenting relationships. http://www.meganslaw.ca.gov/facts.aspx

Barry L.'s picture

Does a victim of abuse have the biblical excuse to be bitter, angry, addicted, etc.?

In the scheme of things it doesn't matter if BJU survives or not. It is a man made institution and man made institutions come and they go throughout time.  However, what is important is that people view their sin from a biblical perspective. I don't see an excuse for sin in the Bible. GRACE seems to imply that there are. I hope I am misinterpreting them, but it sure seems like that their view of counseling is that to not challenge the bitterness, anger, or any other sinfulness the victim may be playing out. It may be an accepted idea in most counseling circles, but it is not biblical.

C. D. Cauthorne Jr.'s picture

Folks,

I certainly acknowledge that BJU is not perfect.  All of us can express God's truths with more compassion for those who have been deeply hurt . . . deeply wronged.  All of err at times in our analysis of the Scriptures.

My goal with this article was not to give a detailed analysis of GRACE's claims.  It was to "briefly" summarize what is in the Report for those who feel like they do not have time to read the whole thing.  It was to whet appetites so that people will actually read the report for themselves and come to their own conclusions.

People need to understand that the emphasis of this Report is NOT rampant sexual abuse on BJU's campus.  Instead, it is focused upon how we deal with sexual abuse within Fundamentalism (a much broader issue that concerns lots of people outside of BJU).  Overall, has BJU been on the right track when it comes to dealing with sexual abuse?  Do people like Berg, Wood, and Mazak have Biblical advice worth listening to?  I would answer "Yes" to both questions.  Others would disagree.

The Report strikes at the heart of what BJU has stood for since its founding.  Can we all agree to that conclusion?

Larry Nelson's picture

 

C. D. Cauthorne Jr. wrote:

Mounty,

The "greater hope" that BJU offers is the truth that we need not be haunted by those things which have happened to us in the past "forevermore."  It is the truth that has helped people like Corrie ten Boom (a holocaust survivor) and others who, under the GRACE model, would always have to struggle with PTSD.

The Bible gives numerous examples of sin resulting in long-term consequences & effects, to both those who sinned & those sinned against.  What's your point in regards to Corrie ten Boom?  Did she instantaneously shed any effects of PTSD upon walking out of Ravensbrück?  (Her books say otherwise.  It took time for her to recover in some ways.)

Even if she had experienced easy, quick, or even instant healing from the traumas she experienced (and they were severe), who are you to say that everyone should likewise?  It seems to me that such an expectation & thinking only piles more shame, guilt, and blame on victims.

Furthermore, the "GRACE model" is that victims will "always have to struggle with PTSD?"  Really?  (I must have missed that somewhere in the 300 pages.)

 

Zack Murray's picture

No one should ever be satisfied with that inside themselves or inside their institutions. There should always be a striving to be perfect. Saying "BJU is not perfect" is excusing them from that striving.

C. D. Cauthorne Jr.'s picture

Larry,

The word "forevermore" bothers me.  What would you assume that word meant?

One weakness at BJU, which Berg admits in his interviews with GRACE, was that many counseling sessions with sexual abuse victims were hurried (almost like "1-2-3 repeat after me" salvation decisions).  Certainly, healing takes longer for some people than others.  Yet, as I understand the Scriptures, healing is a real option for the Christian who has been hurt.

Yes, Corrie ten Boom had struggles but ultimately, by God's grace, she was able to overcome.  That was the main message of her ministry.

Greg Long's picture

Susan, if rape is about power, nothing more and nothing less, than why doesn't the man just beat up the woman?

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

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