Increasing Compromise at BJU...?

https://indefenseofthegospel.blogspot.com/2021/11/bob-jones-university-c...

Here is the post that Lou Martuneac released the first of this month. I have not been reading his blog as actively as I once did, but I found this to be an intriguing read.

The most amazing part of the article is that David Beale no longer considers Bob Jones University to be Fundamentalist in character. He knows it better than most, for, if I remember correctly, he taught there for decades under the Bob Joneses themselves.

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Bert Perry's picture

....hasn't BJU presented the plays of Shakespeare for decades?    I'm no great expert on the Bard, but having just read a plot summary, A Midsummer Night's Dream does not seem to be among the more bawdy of his plays, either.  So call me confused at why Beale/Martuneac are up in arms at this.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert Perry wrote:

So call me confused at why Beale/Martuneac are up in arms at this.

See the picture in the linked page on the right, supposedly taken from a promotional/trailer video.  I'm almost certain that that is what caused the uproar, especially when compared with the other picture, described as taken at NIU, which is now gone, having gone down the compromise path.

 

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

An electric guitar, and I'd have to guess that's more than four fingers from her collarbone to the bodice line.  I'm totally shocked.....that these guys see an electric guitar or blue hair as more cringe-worthy than the admittedly pagan-inspired storyline and general bawdiness of Shakespeare.

I'm sure that you're also "just as shocked" that I kinda view this as a nice sign that things are starting to go on the right track at BJU. :^)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Craig Toliver's picture

We should pray for Lou Martuneac. I understand he has terminal cancer.

But he's off base on BJU

W. T. O'Harver's picture

My church has never supported BJU (even in the old days) and I do not recollect more than two of our kids attending there even in the days when we ran 800+ in weekly attendance; however, we have a handful of older alumni from the days when Bob Jones, Jr., and III ran the school (1960s-1990s). They have been displeased since the Stephen Jones administration, and express similar sentiments to David Beale as quoted in the excerpt of his book. Other alumni from bygone days that attend sister churches have not appreciated the "drift," either. That may just be because certain strains of Midwestern Fundamentalism are still holding to their austere roots, but it is telling that a demographic of loyal alumni feel betrayed by their school.

Also, Lou Martuneac often quotes Bob Jones, Jr., when he said that he hopes the alumni return and shut the University down if it ever changes. Would Bob Jones, Sr., and Jr., be pleased with the direction of their institution?

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

As an alumnus of the school (I graduated in 1985), I'm somewhat ambivalent about the changes at BJU.  Some I see as pretty much in a positive direction, and some concern me.  My two children, on their own volition, decided to attend BJU.  Before my first attended, I asked a lot of questions, including to faculty I knew still there.  And of course, over the time that my kids were in school there, I attended a number of classes, events, etc. with them.  I heard the preaching, the music, etc.  I haven't been there much since 2017, though I have been singing yearly with the Rivertree Singers at the summer event they do, only interrupted due to Covid starting in 2020.

I'm still overall impressed with the university, both in the quality of the preaching, instruction, and music presented.  Some of the dress changes have been for the better, while some have definitely resulted in less modesty than before.  Dropping many of the stupid regulations (especially the whole interracial dating prohibition) has been much appreciated, both by students and parents.  Getting rid of the whole "turn someone in anonymously for rule infractions" way of doing things, rather than attempting to come alongside and help one another has been a huge improvement.  However, it does seem to me the school has capitulated to culture in some areas that (IMO) tend toward worldliness, dress just being the most outwardly obvious.

I suppose it's possible that the three Dr. Bob Joneses would rather have seen the school closed than make any changes.  However, if the school had successfully maintained exactly the 1950's fundamentalist culture (that was still much in evidence in the 1980s), I suspect it would be gone now, with no one attending to fund it.  Some change with the times is necessary.  The trick is to figure out what can change while staying true to core beliefs and principles.  You can argue that Dr. Stephen Jones and Dr. Pettit haven't walked that line really well (and some I'm sure think they haven't even done a decent job, let alone a good one).  However, I suspect that even the most necessary changes have not been appreciated by some of the alumni.  Unless they are putting millions on the line to keep the school open as it was, neither their opinions nor mine count for much.

Personally, I still think an education there is very valuable, and will still be in great contrast to what can be obtained at a state school, so even if I don't like all the changes, I'd rather see them looking more like Liberty than not there at all to be a different, and still more conservative, option compared to schools like Liberty and Cedarville.

Dave Barnhart

AndyE's picture

I'm sure Jr would not like the non-traditional version of A Midsummer Night's Dream.  I'd rather them do a standard version as well, rather than this bizarre-looking futuristic setting someone has dreamed up. They are livestreaming the event, though, so people will be able to judge for themselves on the character of the performance.

I have two daughters there now.  It will be interesting to get their take on it after the fact.  I've mentioned before that I have not been pleased with some of the changes that have taken place, especially in the areas of dress and music.  Nevertheless, the good for us still outweighs those negatives.  My son just graduated last year and his overall experience was very good, but definitely not perfect.

I'm not really sure if fundamentalism exists anymore as a movement.  I think there are pockets where the ideals still exist, but I'm not sure there is any national leadership going on or promotion of it.  

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

AndyE wrote:

Nevertheless, the good for us still outweighs those negatives.  My son just graduated last year and his overall experience was very good, but definitely not perfect.

Your view of current BJU and mine are not 100% the same, but this pretty much sums up what I thought after my kids graduated as well.

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

As a fan of classic theater, I should add that I"m not a big fan of "updating" classic works for the times.  Part of the joy and fun of old plays and movies is that they take us to a time and place that is very different from our own, and to "update" them always seems to harden us in the notion that "the today is all that there is."    I try to take my own children to the "Wayback machine" in various ways for that exact reason.

I guess you could argue that the tendency to "update" everything has theological implications, to be fair to Martuneac.  If all that matters in theater is the here and now, then that might transfer in the minds of many to theology.  But that said, it's one play, not a consistent diet, and hence my thought is that the primary sin here is against Shakespeare.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Joeb's picture

I'm not a BJU Grad and have only met people who went there.  Dr Petitt has done a terrific job at BJU and I see the school holding its own and growing.  They may end up as the only kid on the block standing tall.  
 

My two oldest went to GORDON.  GORDON has a new President.  The troubled one resign but not before gettIng a huge Alumni Donation.  My hope is BJU will get the same someday, because they would greatly deserve it. 
 

Talked to my older brother a Former Pastor on this subject recently and he concurred with my positive assessment of BJU.  I pray BJU continues on their positive path from being in the funny papers to being one of the few Christian Universities as a true herald for Jesus Christ with academics bar none.   

W. T. O'Harver's picture

Bob Jones University would never have what it enjoys today without Bob Jones, Sr. and Jr. Junior was a visionary in his time for what the University could offer to students and accomplish for the Gospel (radio station, Unusual Films, Shakespearean drama, etc.).

Few people enjoy ribbing BJU alumni as much as myself, but Bob Jones during its "World's Most Unusual University" years was, as you say, "one of the few Christian Universities as a true herald for Jesus Christ with academics bar none."

Ron Bean's picture

Tonight (Thursday 11/18) BJU is providing a live Webcast so you can make your own decision about the production. Webcast of Midsummernight's Dream

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

Craig Toliver's picture

Lou is on a witch hunt

It's always been his style. 

Remember when Bixby wrote about him, "In the Defense of the What"

 

Rob Fall's picture

is wrongly confused with Christian Fundamentalism. And from a California POV, it's Southern Cultural Fundamentalism.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

W. T. O'Harver's picture

...because BJU is in the South. The Joneses cultivated deep Southern ties for years (George Wallace, Strom Thurmond, etc.) during the latter half of the twentieth century.

"Cultural Fundamentalism" is a bit of a straw man, it seems. From my minuscule bubble in my small Midwestern town, it seems odd how there is "Northern Fundamentalism," "Southern Fundamentalism," "Western Fundamentalism," "Landmark Fundamentalism," and more. Lou Martuneac lives in Illinois and held his membership in the Marquette Manor Baptist Church the last I remember. MMBC is an historic institution with deep Northern ties (CBA of A, FBFI).

Yet because of Martuneac's views, people label him as "culturally Southern."

During my college days in the Great White North, the student body at large deemed me to be a "Deep Southerner," even though I was born and raised in cattle and soybean country in the Ozark foothills.

Bert Perry's picture

I'm seeing hair over the ears of the male actors.  

Seriously, my view is that methinks the actors are "too earnest" in their presentation of their lines.  Not that I could do better, mind you.  Good for them, they're trying and learning.  Y'all can watch it at your leisure if you like.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

AndyE's picture

I watched and also got my daughter’s impressions.  BJU really knows how to put on a very impressive professional stage play, but this performance was, to use my daughter’s word, pretty ‘edgy’ for Bob Jones.  The electric guitar scene, while not terrible (it was a version of dueling banjos), was completely unnecessary and not helped by the fact that the fairies were dressed like tamer versions of 80’s rockstars. Some of the stage transition music was edgy, and they used music from the Everly Brothers (the ‘dream dream dream’ song), and a tune that was Elvis (or Elvis-like -- I didn't notice it but evidently some talk about that on campus).  And they had an onstage kiss, which I guess is also becoming common for their stage productions. Why BJU has to include those elements, which they know are controversial, edgy, and not in keeping with expectations, I don’t understand at all.  You could do the play without any of those things, and you wouldn’t lose anything.  You could argue that it was all very tame, and it was, but still disappointing, at least to me. 

Ron Bean's picture

I enjoyed the performance. While the wonderful play was as entertaining as The Bard intended, the staging was unique. The portrayal of imaginary creatures playing electric guitars and dressed in outfits from 50 years ago (I think I still have some of mine) added to the humor. A man playing a woman in the play within the play would not have been unusual in Shakespeare's day but it it was funny in ours. Personally I never thought of the Everly Brother's 63 year old song "All I have to Do is Dream" or Elvis's 60 year old "Can't Help Falling in Love" as spiritually harmful or offensive. As a BJU alum, the onstage kiss surprised me but I think morality has been preserved. I was on campus today and talked with some of the folks in Fine Arts about the play as well. While talking with them and students I thanked God for the work He's doing there. I know the changes concern many but thankfully there are schools like PCC and Crown that meet their standards.....other than that pesky KJVO issue.

 

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

josh p's picture

I have no connection to BJU and I'm not really too concerned about what they do either way, other than their influence on/presence in fundamentalism generally. I didn't watch the video but I am surprised by an onstage kiss. Personally I think that belongs in marriage and I would be disappointed if my kids were going there. 

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

After having finally watched AMND, this version was definitely not as good as the version they did in the early 80's when I was there.  As for the infamous "onstage kiss," it was simply a kiss on the cheek.  It didn't need to be there, but it was hardly something that belongs only in marriage.  I'd agree that this version pushed the envelope more than I would have expected for BJU, but to be honest, the more modern setting, costumes, staging, etc., were all disappointing.  I didn't think the music stuck out more than the rest of it, nor did I think the music particularly harmful or offensive.  I'm still trying to decide if what the play showed was more a spiritual slide than a slide toward cultural modernity.  In my opinion at least, some things from the past still are superior to their analogues from the present.

Edit: It's been pointed out to me (I was sent a screen shot) that I'm apparently referring to a different kiss, and that I missed the one in question.  So I would agree that that was something that should have been left out.

Dave Barnhart