Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bob Jones and Billy Graham

Fascinating article about Billy Graham's career, by James Shannon in Upstate Beat. I often forget that Rev. Graham started out at Bob Jones University, and had a famous falling-out with our local Jones boys.

Some excerpts:

[Marshall] Frady’s biography of Graham contains details of his tangled relationship with another local institution, Bob Jones University. When Billy’s mother Morrow Graham heard Bob Jones, Sr. speak in Charlotte in 1936, she decided her son would attend what was then called Bob Jones College. Founded in 1927 in the Florida panhandle, the small fundamentalist academy had moved to Cleveland, Tennessee in 1933.

As Graham would recount years later, “I didn’t have the slightest idea what kind of school it was. All I knew is that it was Christian.” When the dutiful son followed his mother’s wishes to Bob Jones, he encountered an environment far different from the family farmhouse where he had been raised. Described as “a kind of an evangelical boot camp,” Bob Jones College in 1936 housed students in “grim brick barracks with long low corridors lit with drab glares and posted with notifications like ‘Griping Not Tolerated’ and presided over by the autocratic and irascible figure of Jones.”

At least that’s how Frady described what he called “the Dickensian bleakness” of Bob Jones in those days. When he went home at Christmas after his first semester, Graham persuaded his parents to let him transfer to Florida Bible Institute near Tampa. There he would find respite from cold Tennessee winters and a place where his outgoing personality could be put to more effective use.
In "those days"? Compared to most colleges, that's how people describe the place now, too.
Gov. Strom Thurmond invited Graham to stay at the Governor’s Mansion when he held a crusade at the University of South Carolina football stadium in 1950, attended by some 42,000. While he was there, Graham received an invitation to speak at his former school. Now called Bob Jones University, it had moved from Tennessee to Greenville, South Carolina in 1947. In a program held on campus before an overflow crowd, Graham was warmly introduced by school president Bob Jones, Jr. Before the decade was over, however, the position of the school towards their former student would undergo a remarkable transformation.

Although Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. had bestowed an honorary doctor of humanities degree on Graham in 1948, the decision to seek sponsorship from officials of other, non-fundamentalist religions for Graham’s New York crusade in 1957 brought him into sharp conflict with Bob Jones doctrine. Bob Jones Sr. said such outreach across denominational lines violated 2 John 9-11, which prohibits receiving in fellowship those who do “not abide in the teaching of Christ.”

Jonathan Pait, current spokesman for Bob Jones University, would not comment directly on these events that occurred years before he was associated with the school – years before he was even born, for that matter. But Pait was frank in describing the theological impasse that led to the split between Graham and Bob Jones.

“As I understand it, the problems arose when he began moving his crusades in a more ecumenical direction,” says Pait. “Having multiple types of theology to participate in his campaigns - liberal theologians as well as people of other religions who would join in those crusades - is basically giving credence to others with quite different beliefs.”

Although at the time Bob Jones (both senior and junior) insisted there was nothing personal in their position, and Billy Graham attested to his love and respect for both men, the controversy was played out against the backdrop of a broader split between fundamentalists and mainstream Christian churches. Not all of the participants in these disputes adhered to the principles of Christian charity professed by their leaders, and it didn’t help when Graham accepted honorary degrees from two Roman Catholic colleges and had his Boston campaign endorsed by Richard Cardinal Cushing.

It all came to a head when the Graham organization announced they would hold their only American crusade of 1966 in Greenville. The Southern Piedmont Crusade was held from March 3 to 14, 1966 at the mammoth new Textile Hall, drawing tens of thousands of participants – but presumably not any of the 3,800 students of Bob Jones who had been publicly ordered not to attend on threat of expulsion.

Just as the Pope in Rome often makes his views known through encyclicals, matters of faith on the Bob Jones campus are often proclaimed through chapel talks, a tradition begun by the founder and continued by his successor son and grandson. “ The Position of Bob Jones University in Regard to the Proposed Billy Graham Crusade in Greenville, A Chapel Talk by Dr. Bob Jones, Jr., on February 8, 1965 ” was the transcript of one such event that surfaced publicly that year. It proclaims, “The Bible commands that false teachers and men who deny the fundamentals of the faith should be accursed; that is, they shall be criticized and condemned. Billy approves them, Billy condones them, Billy recommends them… I think that Dr. Graham is doing more harm in the cause of Jesus Christ than any living man; that he is leading foolish and untaught Christians, simple people that do not know the Word of God, into disobedience to the Word of God.”

The key sentiment expressed in that 1965 chapel talk, “Dr. Graham is doing more harm in the cause of Jesus Christ than any living man,” is repeated to this day as an example of religious intolerance by Bob Jones, though the view makes a little more sense when viewed in context as a matter of doctrine – or at least it did before Bob Jones III endorsed Mitt Romney for president despite the fact he is a Mormon.
Read the whole thing.

Listening to: Etta James - Security
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