An Apology and an Analogy

The Vatican just forgave John Lennon for saying the Beatles were bigger than Jesus.

Now, Bob Jones University is apologizing for its former stance on race:

For almost two centuries American Christianity, including BJU in its early stages, was characterized by the segregationist ethos of American culture. Consequently, for far too long, we allowed institutional policies regarding race to be shaped more directly by that ethos than by the principles and precepts of the Scriptures. We conformed to the culture rather than provide a clear Christian counterpoint to it.

In so doing, we failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves. For these failures we are profoundly sorry. Though no known antagonism toward minorities or expressions of racism on a personal level have ever been tolerated on our campus, we allowed institutional policies to remain in place that were racially hurtful.

On national television in March 2000, Bob Jones III, who was the university’s president until 2005, stated that BJU was wrong in not admitting African-American students before 1971, which sadly was a common practice of both public and private universities in the years prior to that time. On the same program, he announced the lifting of the University’s policy against interracial dating.

It’s nice that they’re apologizing. Too bad it’s decades too late for it to be truly meaningful.

By the way, hold on to this apology script.

It’s the same one Christians will be using in the future when they realize that they are acting the same way towards gay people today as they were toward black people decades ago.

You could practically rewrite the whole thing:

For almost two centuries American Christianity, including BJU in its early stages, was characterized by the discriminatory ethos of American culture. Consequently, for far too long, we allowed institutional policies regarding sexual identity to be shaped more directly by that ethos than by the principles and precepts of the Scriptures. We conformed to the culture rather than provide a clear Christian counterpoint to it.

In so doing, we failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves. For these failures we are profoundly sorry. Though no known antagonism toward minorities or expressions of homophobia on a personal level have ever been tolerated on our campus, we allowed institutional policies to remain in place that were personally hurtful…

Plenty of other groups, atheists included, were against racism long before conservative Christians came around to it.

And plenty of groups today, liberal Christians included, are against the homophobia seen in churches across the country. The churches will come around to that view as well within a couple generations. The faster they can drop their ignorance, the longer they’ll survive. If they don’t, they’ll begin to lose members even faster than they are now.

Where is the anti-gay rhetoric coming from? Some Christians say homophobia is Bible-based. Other try to give their reasoning without appealing to the Bible. Personally, when they try to justify their bigotry this way, it sounds even more ignorant.

Either way, younger Christians are much more in favor of equality for all than their parents and grandparents. That’s good for everyone.

And, by the way, if you ever wanted short and snappy responses to common anti-gay-rights talking points, here you go.

This works just as well:

(Thanks to Anne for the link!)

  • Polly

    There’s a difference between racial discrimination and sex-orientation discrimination when it comes to believers. There’s no biblical basis for condemning blacks (Canaanites were not black) to 2nd class status. But, for homosexuality, the Bible prescribes the death penalty in the OT and eternal hellfire in the NT.

    Acceptance of gays requires a profound paradigm shift away from biblical authority that wasn’t required to denounce racism.
    Indeed, Bob Jones III is right, racial equality is more in line with NT teaching. But, the same cannot be said about sexual-orientation.

  • TXatheist

    Yeah, way to go Bob Jones U. The bible was interpreted for years that whites and black were “kinds” and racial segregation was biblical. Polly, care to show where the alleged jc condemns homosexuality? He doesn’t but good luck.

  • Cathy

    Maybe we need to elect a gay president before they will apologize…

  • penn

    I don’t think it would be that big of a paradigm shift. Even the hard core fundamentalists ignore the stupid laws in the Old Testament. Is anyone in favor of stoning people who pick up sticks on the Sabbath? Is anyone in favor of putting menstruating women outside of the city limits or banning mixed fiber garments? No, it’s ridiculous, and it is this same part of the Bible that denounces homosexuality. Many liberal Christians have already come around.

    I would also argue that the Bible is quite explicitly in favor of slavery and misogyny, but most Christians reject those ideas today. Slavery is completely rejected, and no one really believes the hardcore “women as property” Biblical misogyny.

  • http://extremelyawkward.blogspot.com Spacesocks

    It’s unbelievable how far Bob Jones will go to whitewash its own past to excuse itself and its brand of Christianity for upholding what was once a central tenet of its theology. I can’t believe Bob III is blaming the “culture,” of all things, when BJU upheld its band on interracial dating long after such a ban became unacceptable in the wider culture.

    It reminds me of something Michael Shermer once said in a debate with Dinesh D’Souza:

    “…Within a decade, maybe two or three, Christians will come around to treating gays no differently than they now treat members of other groups whom they previously persecuted—women, Jews, and blacks—but not because of some new interpretation of a Biblical passage or because of some new revelation from God. These changes will come about in the same way they always do: by the oppressed minority fighting for the right to be treated equally, and by a few enlightened members of the oppressing majority supporting their cause. THEN what will happen is that Christians will take CREDIT for the civil liberation of gays, dig through the historical record, find a few Christian bloggers or preachers who had the courage and the character to stand up for gay rights when their fellow Christians would not, and then cite those as evidence that were it not for Christianity, gays would not be equal.”

  • Brooks

    We conformed to the culture rather than provide a clear Christian counterpoint to it.

    I’m confused. I thought it was the bible that condoned slavery? And wasn’t it all the bible belt states that supported slavery? So, I don’t get where they get this idea that they were being influenced by this worldly culture when most of the non-bible belt states were already ahead of the times. Oh, but of course, those racist Christians weren’t “real” Christians. “Real” Christians are always super special awesome and never do anything bad. Those were “fake” Christians who were being mislead by Satan and the godless society.

  • http://thehappyhuman.wordpress.com John

    Am I reading the end of that first block quote correctly? BJU lifted its ban on interracial dating in two-thousand and five? As in, three years ago?

    How about apologizing for that one, Bob?

  • mikespeir

    And if in 200 years slavery has come back into vogue, BJU, in the unlikely event it still exists, will be enlightened yet again, apologizing that its erstwhile apology so self-evidently contradicted Scripture.

  • Polly

    TXatheist,

    Polly, care to show where the alleged jc condemns homosexuality? He doesn’t but good luck.

    Most Christians don’t just follow JC, they follow the entire NT without making a distinction.

    Romans 1:26-27

    26) Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27)In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

  • Phillip

    We conformed to the culture rather than provide a clear Christian counterpoint to it.

    Thank God churches don’t do that anymore.

    This is supposed to be a surprise? This is ALL that most churches do. They conform to the prejudices and values of their members, rather than demanding their members change. Churches do not create or change values; they only reinforce pre-existing ones.

  • Curtis

    In 2000, the interacial dating ban was in effect. Bush was losing in the presidential nomimnation and needed to increase his support among racists. He went to BJU without mentioning the dating ban which helped him win the South Carolina primary and ultimately the election.

    After his visit, there was an uproar about BJU’s its interacial dating ban. The ban was lifted soon after.

    Also their racist policy caused them numerous problems with the IRS.

  • Karen

    THEN what will happen is that Christians will take CREDIT for the civil liberation of gays, dig through the historical record, find a few Christian bloggers or preachers who had the courage and the character to stand up for gay rights when their fellow Christians would not, and then cite those as evidence that were it not for Christianity, gays would not be equal.”

    Yup, exactly. That’s what they’re doing now and it really irks me no end.

    After decades of opposing civil rights, calling Martin Luther King an adulterer and a Communist (I heard it my church as a kid) – suddenly the evangelical church is into “racial reconciliation”! Wow.

    After decades of decrying environmentalists as hippies and tree-huggers and anarchists (yes, I heard it all back when) – suddenly evangelicals are leading the charge for “stewardship of the earth”! Isn’t that special?

    I’ve no doubt that some Christians were abolitionists – that’s true. And plenty of Christians were proud slaveowners who pointed to very strong statements in the bible supporting slavery. Interestingly enough, it was Unitarians, Quakers and freethinkers (agnostics/atheists) who truly led the movement to end slavery – and yet Christians today will say that the abolitionist movement is proof positive that Christians are always on the right side of the moral issues of the day.

    The same pattern will assert itself someday in the not-so-distant future with gay rights, and many will conveniently forget the role of the Christian churches in anti-gay bigotry and hatred.

    Disgusting.

  • http://www.myspace.com/scottpairan Scott Pairan

    In so doing, we failed to accurately represent the Lord and to fulfill the commandment to love others as ourselves. For these failures we are profoundly sorry. Though no known antagonism toward minorities or expressions of homophobia on a personal level have ever been tolerated on our campus, we allowed institutional policies to remain in place that were personally hurtful.

    It kind of seems like you can’t have it both ways, though. You can’t critize Christians for “hating gay people” because Jesus wouldn’t have done that, but then saying that believing in Jesus as the messiah in the first place makes a person delusional.
    That is, of course, unless you believe that Jesus was totally misrepresented in the Gospels. But as an atheist, that’s a pretty far stretch, because you’d have to say that 1) Jesus loved people regardless of whom they had sex with (which is the correct thing to do), but also that 2) he wasn’t really a Jew, because that would entail belief in God (which is the incorrect way to think).
    Which is fine, but I would be surprised if you really believed that Jesus wasn’t really a Jew or that Jesus was a member of that particular tribe of people but didn’t really believe in its notion of “God”.
    That’s kind of the way Jesus is. It’s easy (and fun!) to say that his believers are hypocrites (or idiots or delusional or the quasi-polite “wrongheaded”), but that doesn’t get you any closer to an answer about whether any of that crazy God stuff he talked about was true.


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