It was an assault. Six fists hit me on my chest, arms, and possibly legs and abdomen. I don’t remember breathing very well, either. It was as if the wind had been knocked out of me. I was trapped in my bed in the R.K. Johnson dormitory. Another bunk was on top of me. The wall behind me. And every other option of escape blocked by hard punches. No striking on the face, of course. That would be too obvious.
There was pain. And tears. Not tears of grief or sadness that come out in big drops. I’m talking about the smaller droplets of pain . The type one might expect after an assault. The man who began the attack was not the prayer captain of our room. In fact, since half the people in this room got shipped or quit within less than three weeks, I’ve often wondered if the fellow who instigated the attack felt jealous that he was not the room’s prayer captain. However, the prayer captain as well as the other roommate participated in the attack. And gleefully so, I might add.
I haven’t thought about this for awhile. It was a memory brought about by the reactions of my previous post ‘Should ‘Boz’ Tchividjian resign from Liberty University?‘ Most are upset by the post, but it was a comment where someone asserted I had never been a student at Bob Jones University that caused me to remember those days. An image of the assault came to mind, and it pretty much occupied my thoughts last night.
The fellow who instigated the attack eventually turned me in to Dean Liverman. I had already decided that I was resigning from BJU. What I didn’t know was that Liverman was expecting me. He took my resignation, for whatever reason I used, and I would be out of there within a week.
What I remember most about the assault, besides the pain and involuntary tears, is the look of glee as the prayer captain and other person joined in the beating. It’s almost inconsequential what started it. I don’t even remember! It could have been because I asked too many questions about BJU and the preachers they opposed. Perhaps the other two joined the thuggery so they wouldn’t be considered heretical? Maybe they thought I was gay and the other two joined in so no one would mistake their orientation? It wouldn’t have been the first time that happened in fundamentalism. Either way, I recognized the true motivation of abuse and its enablers: us versus them.
The true enabler of abuse is ultimately not fundamentalism (which only provides convenient rationalizations), but the abuse that comes through ‘group think’. That’s when otherwise rational people remain silent when a person is being attacked for fear of being ousted by ‘the group’. Fundamentalists don’t have a monopoly on that!
I returned to Jacksonville and thought there would be pressure to enroll in Trinity Baptist College. That never happened. I do remember being confused about what to tell people when they learned I left BJU. One of my friends seriously suggested I tell people I resigned because,“I believe the Bible!”
It had something to do with individuality. Someone even twisted it to make it look like it was about taking a stand on the KJV. I tried to make it look like Howard Roark at the beginning of The Fountainhead when he got kicked out of his college. Rhett Butler was kicked out of college in the book, Gone With The Wind. Getting expelled from bible or military school is practically a Southern tradition! I now wonder if my reason for leaving Bob Jones University, and even Trinity, had to do with escaping the fundamental brutality I accepted as normal life.
Lester Roloff, for instance, was rumored to have hired ‘Christian thugs’ to beat up a husband cheating on his wife. This news came to me from the wife of a Trinity leader. After her husband heard the news, he was pleased and shouted, “Praise God!”
Ruth Graham, the wife of Billy Graham, locked her son, Franklyn in the trunk of a car to discipline him. Franklyn Graham later discussed this in his book, Rebel With A Cause. Ruth would backhand him and sometimes grabbed a shoe tree to extend her reach. She threatened to put him in the trunk of the car for misbehaving. Eventually, she did lock him in the trunk, but only after making sure he could still breath. Franklyn and the entire evangelical community can laugh about it, so it’s okay. Wonder how many copycat parents are out there who might have tried a similar method with not so happy results?
And let’s not forget C.S. Lewis, whose memoir Surprised by Joy tells of his days at an abusive boarding school. It wasn’t that different from the behavior in the movie, The Magdalene Sisters. Lewis took the abuse and moved on, like so many did before support groups even existed.
I didn’t regard the beating as abuse. Not then. Perhaps ‘hazing’? Bob Jones University didn’t have any fraternities or sororities. They had ‘societies’. Technicalities have a way of absolving guilt, don’t they?
I never thought about the beating as abuse until last night. It does meet the textbook definition. There was panic and terror. Wind knocked out of me. Involuntary tears of pain. Cries of ‘stop’ from me. Laughter from everyone else. Then betrayal by the instigator as he alerted the dean about my questionable presence at BJU. I remember my state of mind when the beating happened. For the sake of my own survival, my inner voice coached me in a manner that most likely would be damned on every Facebook survivor site: “Don’t give in! Take it! Don’t cry! Remember everything. Then pull it all together and get out!”
Do I consider it abuse today? Yes, if I saw a boy somewhere around the age I was being beaten by what appears to be a 24 year old man. I would try to rip him off the victim and call the authorities. If one person is beating someone up, it is a brutal attack. If 3 college students are beating on another, it’s considered a comedy. Boys being boys.
Let’s get back to the gleeful looks on the two enablers: they were just going along. Why? Even after I yelled stop and they saw the involuntary tears? Too cowardly to go against the man who would eventually betray the whole room? I could not fight them off, but I would not cave. Or beg. When it was over, I did not reward them with a smile even though there was laughter. One of them apologized while laughing. I didn’t forgive.
My last day at the R.K. Johnson dormitory saw nearly every window filled with students looking at me, and another person whom I will not identify, walk from the dorm to the car. They were just nameless faces and, even today, I’m not sure whether to treat them with anger or pity. Perhaps some of them are now on the DoRight and other Facebook groups? Maybe some of them actually stayed for the entire four years and are now posting about how their degrees are worthless? Perhaps it wasn’t so obvious when they enrolled, but it was obvious to me. I had 99 ways to waste my parents money and pouring it into BJU was not one of them!
I could have submitted this account to GRACE via their online survey. It had nothing to do with sex. Only brutish power. Everybody gets beat up in life, deal with it! That’s probably what most people would think. It’s always been a curiosity with me that a child or teenager can get beaten to the point of nearly broken bones (and possibly death in teen behavioral centers) and no one cares. Yet, let someone lightly touch that child on a sexual organ, even by accident, and all hell breaks loose! Both are unacceptable, but it underscores our dysfunctional views when we gladly welcome violence into our lives but reject anything that’s at odds with fundamentalist Christianity’s views on sex.
It’s been suggested that GRACE should be the determining factor on whether or not my story is relevant to abuse at BJU. Who is GRACE to determine whether my story is relevant to abuse? If I had questions about GRACE before these posts, my confidence in GRACE is shattered because of the reactions of survivors.
The ROC is an abusive organization. Liberty Ministries has embraced Pastor G and isn’t making any bones about their admiration for his organization. The arguments trying to get me to look the other way are very similar to those made by fundamentalists when they argue against survivors. Boz, founder of GRACE, only works at Liberty. Liberty is separate from GRACE. They are two different institutions and neither should be held guilty for the moral lapses of the other. Ya’ll promise not to use that argument again whenever you talk about the ‘network of fundamentalists’?
Here is an article posted on the website of Liberty University praising his ministry: Pastor G of the ROC speaks at convocation.
If you visit Rick Ross, the favorite site for those linking cultish behavior with fundamentalists, you will find testimony after testimony of violence and sexual abuse at ROC. There is even a Facebook page devoted to victims of the ROC. Read their testimonies and maybe you can understand why I can’t take GRACE seriously when their founder is a law professor at a university whose ministry is praising another abusive ministry.
I refuse to let GRACE, or anyone, use my story to give another abusive ministry an alibi! The ROC, or any other abusive ministry or facility recommended by Liberty, could easily say,“We’re not abusive! We’re endorsed by congressmen and. . .Liberty University! Even the head of GRACE works at Liberty! Don’t you think he would say something if his own employer recommended an abusive group?”
And now I’m told I should devote my energies to making a complaint about Liberty? Or actually try to convince Tom Messer of Trinity Baptist Church to call on GRACE? Well, let’s see what kind of bill of health BJU gets after the GRACE report! Maybe Trinity might go for the ‘Better Homes and Gardens seal of approval’? One thing’s for sure, I’m not paying for any investigation and now I’m under the impression, thanks to survivors, that Boz won’t investigate unless someone foots his bill. Smart move! No one should be immersed in this sordid subculture without payment.
It has been suggested that my comments might derail the independent investigation of GRACE into Bob Jones University. The premise seems to be all our hopes are riding on GRACE and if they fumble the ball, all is lost and victims will not find closure. Stop looking for closure with groups and legal decisions! Personal closure is more elusive. Only you can do that! GRACE is not your savior. Abusive ministries have been shut down because of the actions of brave individuals who, more often than not, had no one cheerleading them during their activism.
HEAL-Online has many accounts of programs that have been closed due to little more than victims asserting their rights. Victory Christian Academy in Ramona, CA was shut down after a videotape was sent to an official government investigator. Lighthouse of North Florida, a sister of VCA-Ramona, was shut down after victims gave their story to a newspaper investigator. People stopped sending their daughters to Lighthouse after the complaints rolled in! There really are only two ways to close abusive schools and programs: in court or shame them in the media. Secrecy gets you nowhere.
If I am to take GRACE seriously, GRACE board members should agree not to work for organizations that recommend abusive programs. Either Boz must leave Liberty, or Liberty must ‘man up’ and sever relations with The ROC.