I Guess They’re Called Him-nals for a Reason

We know Bob Jones University used to ban interracial dating.

We know Bob Jones University has a “Don’t Ever Badmouth Us in Public” policy.

I did not know Bob Jones University wrote letters to students when they violated their God-given gender roles:

Who knew that holding a hymn book made you a better Christian… and a Real ManTM.

Darrell at Stuff Fundies Like adds:

[If] you strain at the gnat of hymnbook holding procedure while swallowing the camels of racism and sexual abuse… you might be a fundamentalist.


About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    i can read between the lines here.

    what he’s really trying to do is make the men pay attention while in church, men who are dozing off and thinking of the high paying lobbying jobs in republican/christian circles they’ll be getting once they’ve suffered thru the torture of going to a “school” like BJ.

    i’ve done some sociology about gender difference in religious practice and women generally are more concerned with “proper” outward display than men. someone took notice and decided it was bad form at the Bob “Not Dole” Jones chapel. i bet because they have cameras with which they make propagandic youtubes.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      i’ve done some sociology about gender difference in religious practice and women

      But he’s not talking about women, he’s talking about a girl. Adults aren’t supposed to make kids hold their hymnals for them. What’s so bad about that?

      • Sven2547

        I’m 99% sure this was a male/female thing, not an adult/child thing.

        • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

          Sounds like they were all college students, so same-age peers.

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            Et tu Anna? Yes, it’s about college age people. One of whom was referred to as a ‘man’ and the other as a ‘girl’. I think ‘peers’ implies ‘equals’.

            • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

              Ah, I see your point! Fundie men are men, but their women are mere “girls.”

      • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

        don’t you know? girls aren’t women until a man makes her one.

  • busterggi

    If god had wanted women to hold books they’d be born with hands.

    Hey, wait a minute……

  • jdhuey

    Obviously, this is to stop that slide down the slippery slope leading to complete emasculation and the collapse of western civilization First, women hold the hymnal, then before you know it they are opening doors for men. Which, of course, leads to women asking men out on dates and that gives them the edge to become the head of the household and forcing men to help with the housework. And that would make Jesus cry. So, take charge and hold the hymnbook today, so men don’t have to clean the bathroom tomorrow.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

      Thanks for the laugh.

  • ggsillars

    As Christopher Hitchens observed, their God presides over a kind of celestial North Korea.

  • houndies

    and if she doesnt relent and let you hold the hymnal, stone her in public!

  • http://twitter.com/docslacker MD

    Holy buttocks! Talk about Big Brother watching you. I wonder if dorm rooms are equipped with video cameras so school officials can make sure students don’t commit the sin of Onan.

    • Glasofruix

      Or play videogames

  • Octoberfurst

    Thank goodness the Godly staff at Bob Jones University are constantly alert for any deviation of gender roles. I mean, the guy was letting a GIRL hold the hymnal for him for crying out loud! What kind of REAL man lets that happen? Surely that young man would have turned gay if he continued to let her do that! But fortunately Dean Berg nipped that in the bud! I only shudder to think what COULD have happened had that type of activity continued. The next thing you know he could be cooking and cleaning and changing diapers! Oh the humanity! LOL.

  • Rain

    If they don’t have enough hymnbooks to go around for everyone, which appears to be the case, then it would be highly rude and impolite to not let the ladies have first dibs.

    • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

      But why should they get first dibs? Of course, fundamentalists might encourage the outdated notion of “ladies first,” but surely it would be much fairer for the hymnals to be “first come, first served.”

  • Daniel_JM

    This letter is from Jim Berg, the former dean of students. When I attended BJU some of us students made fun of him behind his back because he introduces himself as, and made all the students call him, ‘Dr. Berg”, despite the fact that his only doctorate is honorary! He also uses that degree to sell counseling books, but isn’t very upfront about it being honorary and that he received it when he was very young (when usually honorary doctorates are for elderly, distinguished people, and in any case are not supposed to make the holder equal with someone who has earned a doctorate).

    That was a problem at BJU, and shows how dishonest and prideful some of the professors and administrator are, several people used honorary degrees given to them by joke schools when they were young to make themselves look respectable (a few people working at BJU even were given honorary doctorates by BJU itself, and then used the title Dr.).

    • anniewhoo

      That’s insane and brilliant at the same time. Why waste time getting a PhD, when you can get awarded an honorary one from your employer?!

  • trj

    Disaster averted. Just another day’s work for… Overzealous Preacherman.

  • Blacksheep

    The big brother aspect is creepy. However in all honesty if I saw one of my nephews standing next to a girl at an event (Church or whatever) and the girl next to them was holding something that they were both looking at, I might say as one guy to another: “You should hold the book next time.” Not all old fashioned stuff is so bad!

    • baal

      Yes, it is bad. Whomever happens to hold the book up should be of no issue to anyone but the two looking at it. For quite a period of time after a surgery, my wife got doors for me. It was bad for my physical health to even open a door. Often these days my wife’s hands swell and it’s an issue for her to open jars (or doors at times). I do now open her jars and doors. Thing is, you can’t know what others are dealing with and it’s looney to judge them for not following your idea of gender roles.*
      *for the pedants, i’m sure physical issues aren’t usually a problem for hymnal holding but it could be and the overall point remains.

      I otherwise agree it’s fn creepy that they watch students (even in the front row) that closely and take the time to send them compliance notes.

      • coyotenose

        This makes me think of all the people who have had their cars vandalized for parking in a handicapped spot because someone watching decided they looked healthy. Because being asthmatic and having one lung couldn’t possibly be hard to spot, oh no.

        • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

          Given the number of times I’ve seen able-bodied assholes take the parking space that I HAVE A PERMIT FOR, it’s perfectly fucking reasonable to assume that the healthy-looking person is misusing someone’s permit (if they’re not just outright illegally parking there).

          If you’re asthmatic and only have one lung, I expect you to have some form of documentation, as the parking permits are only issued to those who actually NEED them.

          • Marco Conti

            No it’s not. There are plenty of illnesses and conditions that do not show on the outside.
            I look perfectly healthy, but I am walking around with someone else’s liver and if I walk for too long my legs cramp and I pretty much drop where I am standing.
            Of course I have documentation for my handicap permit but I am sure as hell not wasting my time showing it to every nosy passers by. The one hanging on the rear view mirror should be enough and I am not walking back to get the paper one from my glove box for anyone outside of the police or parking enforcement, which I did a few times.

            If I see someone healthy looking taking an handicap space, I check for the permit on the windshield. If it’s there, I assume they too have a story. If there is no permit, I know for a fact that sooner or later they’ll get nabbed for a $500 fine (or more in some places).

            • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

              Fair enough. Up here in Washington state, they gave me the parking permit, and I got a card in the mail a few days later — wallet sized — to carry with me stating that I am the registered permit holder. Then again, the wheelchair makes it pretty damn obvious.

              On the enforcement end of things, I swear, it’s below-bottom-rung priority. Nobody is ever ticketed or fined for parking in the big blue space, but they apparently have plenty of time, resources, and officers to harass homeless folk and other “undesirables”.

              I guess I’m just frustrated with the way so many ablebodied people are like, “Oh, it’s only five minutes, I’ll be right back!” and the way the police are like, “so fucking what, deal with it.”

              BTW, good luck with that liver — may it serve you well.

      • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

        Even without physical issues, it’s still horrible to tell men to treat women like delicate little flowers who can’t even hold a book on their own. If you have two perfectly healthy people, it shouldn’t matter which one holds the book. Whoever wants to hold it should hold it. If the book is heavy, it would be considerate for them to take turns so that neither person’s arm gets too tired.

        • Hypatia’s Daughter

          I don’t really think this is about how helpless women are.
          It is about how manly men are. Manly xtian men don’t let women run things, like deciding when to turn a page.
          I don’t think ‘Dr’ James would have a problem with a woman toting a 20lb child or bag of groceries, eve though they weigh more than a hymnal.

          • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

            You’re right. This seems to be more about displays of “chivalry” than anything else. Their thinking is very black and white. Men open doors for women, but women carry children and groceries. All has to be done in accordance with gender roles.

            This reminded me of 19 Kids and Counting, in which the daughters of the fundamentalist Duggar family are the ones who carry the young children. In scene after scene of “field trips,” father Jim Bob walks around unencumbered while his daughters are forced to lug babies and toddlers.

            • NickDB

              Well I for one open the doors for women and carry the groceries and children. Sorry if some ladies find it offensive but it was the way I was brought up, by a very liberal very strong woman (i.e. my mum)

              • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

                Just because your own mother was liberal and strong doesn’t mean that she couldn’t have passed down antiquated notions of chivalry to you. If some women find it offensive, then don’t you think you might want to reconsider some of your actions?
                There’s nothing wrong with being helpful and polite. The problem is when you start treating women as unique creatures who deserve special treatment. If you’re with a woman, you should offer to share carrying the groceries and children. You know, 50/50 would be fair. You carry one child, and she carries the other. You carry one bag, and she carries the other. Whoever reaches the door first should open it. Treat her with the same consideration that you would give to another man, and offer to do your fair share.

                • NickDB

                  No I don’t actually, I do end up sharing the carrying of things, mainly because I can’t carry everything, but I still carry the heavier stuff, not just because of antiquated notions, but because I happen to be a foot taller weigh a lot more and am a lot stronger than my wife.

                  There is a huge difference between being chivalrous and an MCP, does my wife work, yes, does she earn more than me, yes, do I change the nappies and cook dinner and go to the school plays, yes. Are women weaker, (well only maybe physically) – no, are they incapable of opening their own doors, no.

                  Some women may find it offensive, most of the ones I’ve met don’t – actually you’re the very first lady I’ve ever had tell me it’s offensive, so should I change my actions to cater for what in my experience is the minority’s feelings – Hell no.

                  Have to ask, if I’m sitting on a full bus and a elderly lady get’s on, is getting up to offer her my seat offensive?

                  We’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

                • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

                  Whatever works for you and your wife is great, but just because a random woman on the street doesn’t complain about you holding the door open for her, doesn’t mean that she didn’t find it awkward or offensive. I don’t complain to men who do that for me, but I still find it uncomfortable. I’m a perfectly healthy, able-bodied adult. I can open my own door.

                  I don’t know what an “MCP” is, but the very concept of chivalry is sexist and outdated. Women should be treated as equals, not put on pedestals or given special treatment purely on the basis of their genitalia. A general rule of thumb would be to give a woman the same respect that you would give another man. If you wouldn’t do it for a man, then don’t do it for a woman.

                  If something is too heavy for your wife to carry, then, by all means, offer to carry it. Similarly, if there’s something you can’t manage for whatever reason, it would be good for her to do that for you. You know, help each other out. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. The problem comes when people cling to antiquated notions of chivalry. And it’s not just men; a lot of women are still socialized to want to have a man “take care” of them, be their protector, treat them like a princess, etc.

                  As for your bus example, it would be polite and appropriate for you to offer your seat to an elderly person in general, not just a woman. Surely you wouldn’t make an old man stand up? Senior citizens, people with physical challenges, and small children all require a bit of special consideration. Healthy adult women do not.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  MCP = Male Chauvinist Pig

                  I think.

                  And if I want a man to “take care of [me], be [my] protector, treat [me] like a princess, etc”, I’ll go to my Dad. That’s his job.

                • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

                  Ah, thanks! I tried Google, but couldn’t figure out “MCP.”

                  I don’t have a father, but I agree that a romantic partner shouldn’t resemble the type of relationship one would have with a parent. It baffles me that so many women still seem to want to act out these very sexist roles in a relationship, but I think it’s largely a function of the way we’re socialized.

                  We’re still a long way from true gender equality. Even in 2013, there are a ton of expectations that men and women are supposed to fulfill based solely on their gender. And it’s really both sexes that need to take a long, hard look at the roles that are expected of them. Just as domestic tasks and childcare shouldn’t be dominated by women, neither should financial contributions be dominated by men.

    • Glasofruix

      Sometimes taking something from the hands of a woman can bear dire consequences.

    • http://www.flickr.com/groups/invisiblepinkunicorn Anna

      You’re so entangled in stereotypical gender roles that you can’t see how insulting that is to women. They can’t even hold a book? Seriously? You’re encouraging men to treat women like weak, helpless children. But we’re not. I’m not a baby. I’m not a little girl. I’m an adult. I don’t need special help or protection. I want men to treat me as an equal.

  • atheisticallyyours

    Interesting date of the letter. It was the SAME DATE as the COLUMBINE MASSACRE! I certainly see what this university’s “priority” was/is!

    • Drew M.

      Ah yes, I remember how all 1,500 of us at work that day completely halted everything in deference to that tragic event.

      Oh wait, that didn’t happen. We acknowledged the horror, took a bit longer getting back from lunch, and spent more time than usual chatting with our coworkers. Productivity went down, but it didn’t come to a screeching stop.

      There are a lot of legitimate reasons to despise Bob Jones U. This isn’t one of them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chengis-Khan/100003317165064 Chengis Khan

    Time for Dear T to meditate on what the letter did not consider… the matter of how to use the brain and let the hands be free just to hold and give the shaft to Bob.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=597605006 Mary Driftwood

    Those big ol’ books are heavy! Ladies lack the upper body strength to hold them for the long minutes it takes to sing a hymn.

  • Alexis

    But they cannot both have their hands on the hymnal for that could lead to the sin of premarital interdigitation (their hands might touch)!

  • A3Kr0n

    Berg is such a silly man, Real Men™ don’t sing, they hum along to the tune. The girls are just holding the hymnals open in case the guys have to vomit because of all the drinking they did at the party the night before.

    • pagansister

      You’re accusing the guys at BJU of drinking and possibly being hung over at church? Those “Christian” boys don’t drink—that is against the rules, and they would NEVER break those rules. Good Grief —-a letter is sent because a female was holding the hymnal in church? What do they do to those who are caught with booze? They must have nothing else to do if they think that the issue of hymnal holding is worth a rebuke.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        That kind of micromanagement is not only ridiculous, it’s abusive — and I suspect it sets the women up for abusive marriages (and accepting it as “normal” because Gawd Sez.)

  • Lee Miller

    Wait, it says right here in the Bible . . . hold on . . . I’m sure it says right here . . . no, wait . . . ummm, I’m sure Jesus said somewhere that this is bad. You atheists just don’t understand.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1351473675 Matthew Baker

    Isn’t hymnal code for something else?

    • Glasofruix

      That would be “hymenal”, not “hymnal” :p

  • Jimbeau

    What if she refuses to relinquish control of the hymnal? Must she be smited, verily?

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    Wait, they allow young men and women to SHARE PEWS??? What kind of liberal over-permissive college is this? They need to have gender-segregated pews, or even better yet, separate chapels, lest the proximity of the opposite sex leads to distracting impure thoughts. Can’t have anything interfere with daily grovelling to Jeebus!

  • Abigail Partyka

    In I Remember Dr Bob Jr making an Announcement To This Effect From The Pulpit In Chapel. So many Wonderful Memories.

  • ReadsInTrees

    Let me guess, her hands need to be free for sandwich making?

  • phantomreader42

    I pity these fools…

  • katherine paige

    I’m still learning from you, but I’m trying to achieve my goals. I certainly love reading everything that is posted on your website.Keep the stories coming. I liked it!

  • The Other Weirdo

    Da hell did I just read? Can someone translate religion-speak to normal-speak for me? What is the evil sinner doing and what is the righteous complainant asking for?

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Well, what did you expect? After all they printed the hymnal on God’s second most holy of materials, Lead. The bibles are printed on the most holy material, depleted uranium. The large print versions require a manly forklift and a haz-mat suit.


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