Do Bob Jones graduates have a harder time being "salt and light"?
After being caricatured as bigoted and anti-Catholic during the 2000 presidential campaign, Bob Jones University "seems determined to improve its image, but without abandoning its core beliefs," writes Naomi Schaefer in yesterday's Boston Globe. Not only has it dropped its ban on interracial dating, but it has upped its recruitment of minority students.
Schaefer, an adjunct fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center who has written several articles about religious colleges for The Wall Street Journal, and other publications, doesn't mention that Bob Jones III has also distanced the school from the term fundamentalist, but it would have helped to make her main point:
Overcoming the school's embarrassing racial legacy is a key part of the larger project of molding culturally literate students who can move easily within society and penetrate its elites. But will a Bob Jones graduate be likely to move to New York City, work for a big law firm, spend the afternoon at the Met with some co-workers, and then talk them into accepting Jesus? The school may find it has a much bigger problem to overcome than memory of the dating ban or continuing ban on pop music — its deep insularity.
A Bob Jones graduate may or may not be eager to work for that big secular law firm, Schaefer writes. But a growing question is whether the door will even be open. "We are worried that our graduates won't get jobs because of what's said on the nightly news or that our students won't get into graduate schools," says Camille Lewis, head of the department of rhetoric and public address.
"In other words, the administration has finally acknowledged that it has a vested interest in being taken seriously by the educated elite, the ultimate audience for the Bob Jones message," Schaefer concludes. "But if most of the students still don't see anything wrong with the dating ban or grasp modern ideas of religious tolerance, improving the school's image is going to be a long, uphill battle. It will take more than Botticelli and Shakespeare — or even the Rolling Stones — to turn them into 'salt and light.'"
Schaefer raises good questions here, but one point may be worth further investigation. Schaefer correctly notes that it's not just secularist liberals who have developed negative attitudes toward the school. "If you ask a student at non-fundamentalist evangelical schools like Wheaton in Illinois or Gordon in Wenham, Mass, what they think of Bob Jones, you will get looks of horror far worse than you'll get from secular kids — along with questions about whether Bob Jones really has separate pink and blue sidewalks for men and women. (It doesn't, though women are still forbidden to wear pants.)"
Couple this point with Schaefer's questions about openness among "the educated elite." Do Bob Jones graduates face an uphill battle when applying for positions at non-fundamentalist Christian organizations? Are there many Bob Jones University graduates among the major Christian relief and development agencies, for example?
Billy makes it through
When Billy Graham arrived in Dallas for his four-day mission (they haven't been called crusades for a while now), he warned that he might not be able to preach every night. But it's hard to keep a good man down. The evangelist preached for at least a half hour at each evening session. Other than that, reports The Dallas Morning News, the mission was classic Graham. Attendees "listened to the same basic message that Mr. Graham has been preaching since the 1940s, updated with a few current events," the paper said. And, as always, the mission broke attendance records.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram hits the major points, but one fun item it adds is the mission "notebook," which hits the trivia of the event, such as volunteers' reaction to a downpour ("We had nothing to do," said Jonathan Kropf, who went from seating disabled people to sliding across the tarp-covered field. "We were bored. We were like, it's the biggest Slip 'n Slide in the United States of America.")
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