Chicago Tribune 'Jesus baiting'
This piece also appears on The Common Voice.
One of the neat things about having a Web blog is that I can take a media story that includes me and make comments that show my side of the story. However, I'm sure stackofstuff.net doesn't get nearly as many readers as the Chicago Tribune Online!
Mr. Madigan was quite fair to ol' BJU. When you appear in the media, you tend to want the writer or reporter to present you the way you see yourself. We get all frustrated with the media when the stories don't come out quite that way! It pays to be mature and try to read the story through the eyes of the writer and be thankful when they get the story "mostly right."
I'd say Charlie was "mostly fair." I have very few beefs with the piece and the beefs - if they can be called that - I do have, are very minor. I'll go through them.
1. John Ashcroft did not give a commencement address at Bob Jones University. The school does not have a commencement speaker. The graduating students give testimonies. What happened was that Ashcroft was given an honorary doctorate and he asked if he might say a few words at the time the degree was being conferred. Thus we heard the now [in]famous "No King but Jesus
" speech (Which I loved, by the way).
2. Madigan makes a chronological error when he says, "Bush spoke and Keyes and McCain both saw the opportunity to whack him with the race and religion stick, with Keyes saying the place still banned interracial dating
." Actually, that wasn't the issue, during the South Carolina debate the policy still existed. However, Charlie points out the real issues when he writes later, "As for Alan Keyes, now the Republican hopeless in the U.S. Senate race in Illinois, he wasn't at all reluctant to speak at Bob Jones in 1996. But he was left aghast by the Bush visit in 2000. What a transformation!" I would say, what hypocrisy!
3. Charles then appears to attribute the following to me - not as a direct quotation, but as a paraphrased thought. "Pait is the first to acknowledge that those charges didn't come from the ether. The rhetoric of old-time religion and the values of the Old South once drove this place, and it wasn't at all out of character for the fundamentalists of that era to refer to the pope, for example, as an anti-Christ figure."
This will take a little longer. I do acknowledge that the words and phrases that were clearly understood and used in the over 500 year-old debate between Catholics and Protestants cause much confusion when they find their way into a public forum that is not up on the lexicon of the debate. That is true in many instances. However, I did not maintain that the "values of the Old South once drove this place." What has always driven the central focus of BJU was a firm conviction in the fundamental doctrines of the Bible. Other issues, such as the interracial issue or other cultural issues were incidental - not driving issues.
What are the "values of the Old South" anyway? Some of those values were/are very valuable!
4. He says that the interracial dating policy was "aimed at Asians, not African-Americans." To be accurate, the policy was aimed at caucasions. It was an Asian family that first complained about their daughter dating a white American. Actually, we didn't talk about this that much. I believe Charlie picked this one up from research from past pieces on the subject. I only remember giving assent that the policy came into being because of an incident such as above. I never said who it was "aimed at."
5. Another picky little thing. Charlie writes of the 2000 fiasco, "It all became a 'baseball bat' that everyone wanted to use to bash the college." What I recall saying was that everyone wanted to use BJU as a "baseball bat" to bash Bush. Either way, both interpretations are accurate!
6. Getting even more picky. He writes about his visit to the dining common, "It seemed like most of the 3,000 students were at lunch Monday after chapel." He got that number because I had told him earlier that there are just over 3,000 students in the resident halls. The actual number of students on the campus in a given day is more like 4,800.
7. My apologies to the people who live in Mauldin. Josh didn't spell it out to the journalist - so it ended up being printed Malden.
8. In one of the more humorous parts, Charlie writes of his visit to the University chapel service. He writes, "...particulary the part where the speaker noted that babies have fat heads and have to grow into them. Somehow, he made the transition from there to growing into Christ's head. I didn't get it, but it was kind of funny and the students did, which was just the point." Let me explain...
The speaker had as his text Ephesians 4. Specifically the verses, "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." (ESV Eph. 4:15,16) The application was that each student should equip themselves to the best of their ability to help encourage the body (the Church) to mature so that it can most effectively obey the commands of the head (Christ).
The speaker used the humorous illustration of a toddler whose head seems large (as all toddlers heads seem to be in proportion to their bodies), but whose body (thankfully) matures to become more proportional. In other words, the Church shouldn't stay the size of a toddler. A forty year-old person looks funny if they still have the proportions of a toddler! Each Christian has a responsibility to help in that maturity.
That's it. If every writer would be that far "off," I would be a very happy PR guy! Oh, what were some of the things I liked about the piece?
1. I liked the whole tone. Charlie wasn't condescending. He even pointed out that he did not necessarily find the response he expected. Best of all, he didn't try to twist things in order to get the kids to say what would help advance his own premis.
2. "By definition, everyone on the campus of Bob Jones has already turned to Jesus in a very serious way that defines their lives. They believe in their hearts that the Lord tells them what to do. It makes some people very uncomfortable, all that certainty stacked up in one place." Insightful...but take a look at that last statement. It leads me to the question, "Why?" It would certainly make me uncomfortable if that "certainty" was tied up in something dangerous - like I believe is the case with the fundamental doctrines of Islam.
3. "If you are truly American, you don't have to like what they say here at all, but you really have to honor the fact they feel completely free to say it."
4. "I was surprised. The young people here seem to have a filter that they use when they listen to political speech. It's not enough to say you are born again. They look at policies and proposals and decide who is just talking and who is living the talk, in their terms."
5. "You have to play along to be a political tool, and these folks weren't playing along."
6. Thanks, Charlie, for being one of few journalists to print in their stories my point, "Disagreement does not equal hatred."
7. "I left the place firmly convinced that everyone on campus who is old enough to vote will vote for George W. Bush on Nov. 2, but that they aren't blind fools about it. They relate to him. When he speaks the language, the students told me, you can tell it's the language, not an imitation of the language."
8. "Well, it's good to meet people who feel certain about something."
Yes, people here are certain about some things, but not certain about ALL things. The primary thing is our certainty that we know that Jesus Christ is alive and is coming again. We are certain that He loves us and gave Himself for us so that we can have eternal life. Politics don't seem quite so important (not unimportant - just not as important) when your eyes are on the eternal kingdom.