Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Misology and the Religious Right

In my post about the father blaming Richard Dawkins for his son’s suicide, I argued that such tales are in some circles of the religious right to inoculate young people against learning. I came across a perfect example in an Al Franken book, in a chapter about a visit to Bob Jones University (a chapter that was, oddly, reproduced at National Review Online). He spoke of three letters on the Bob Jones University website that fit perfectly in this genre. Those letters are no longer on the website, but after some searching I found them. They’re really quite funny. It’s actually one letter with three stories in it, all about the dangers of secular education. It’s pasted below the fold.

Three College Shipwrecks
by Dr. Bob Jones Sr., D.D., LL.D. (1883-1968)

Founder of Bob Jones University

If you will read the story of three college shipwrecks and will keep in mind that as an evangelist I have had many such experiences, you will understand why I felt it was my duty and took upon myself years ago, when I was in the prime of life, the heavy burden of founding Bob Jones University.

I have met many young people who went away from Christian homes to colleges and universities and came back not only with their faith shattered but sometimes with their morals wrecked. Being an evangelist conducting large union campaigns, I was in very close touch not only with religious leaders and educators but also with the masses of Christian people. I knew what was going on.

Between my evangelistic campaigns I went from place to place up and down the country giving a special lecture sermon on “Perils of America–Where Is This Nation Headed?” I saw the trend. I knew we were going to have broken homes and juvenile criminals and that a wave of moral looseness would sweep over this country.

I not only felt it was my duty to found an educational institution that would have high academic standards and that would have emphasis upon culture and a down-to-the-earth, practical, Christian philosophy of self-control. but I also realized that if God was going to use the institution for the carrying out of his purpose in the school, it would have to be made a base not just of fighting orthodoxy but also of sane, fervent evangelism. I knew what I was up against. I had counted the cost, but I made up my mind that whatever it might cost it was worth the effort.

I knew it would not only be difficult to start an educational institution of the type that we felt led to found, but it would also be hard to keep it right after it was started.

During the second year of the school, we had to have a house cleaning; and then we realized more than ever it was necessary to hedge Bob Jones University about with walls not only of spiritual protection but also of legal authority. The spiritual lives of many young people are being sacrificed on the altar of what men call academic freedom. We have bylaws that make it legally mandatory that Bob Jones University be kept as it is or the institution must be closed, the property sold, and the money used for the spread of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Under our system of government, we not only have the privilege of running an old-time orthodox, Christian school, but under our bylaws and charter, we are charged with the spiritual and legal obligation to run that kind of school or close it down and get out of the educational business. Bob Jones University year by year has not only grown stronger but has also grown more spiritual. It is in better spiritual condition now than it has ever been.

We are asking Christian people everywhere to pray daily and to pray earnestly that the institution may be more and more blessed of God in its effort to be consistent and to give a faithful, orthodox, evangelistic testimony. We are asking you to help us select the right kind of Christian young people for the right kind of Christian leadership in this day when it takes real Christian character to stand. We are also asking you to invest some of the Lord’s money in the work of the University. When you have read this little booklet, you may put it in the hands of some parents who have children to educate or in the hands of some Christian young people who are planning to go away to school. Thank you and God bless you.

Three College Shipwrecks

I. His Only Daughter
I spoke to a great Southern audience. I pictured the atheistic drift in the educational life of America. A man sat on the front seat and followed my every word with an expression of agony I have rarely seen on a human face.

When the service was over, his pastor said to me, “Did you see that man who looked like the incarnation of agony? He is a member of my church. He is one of the truest Christians I have ever known. He is on my board. He had one daughter. She was a beautiful child. She grew up in the Sunday School and church. She finished high school.

“He sent her off to a certain college. At the end of nine months, she came home with her faith shattered. She laughed at God and the old-time religion. She broke the hearts of her father and mother. They wept over her. They prayed over her. It availed nothing. At last they chided her. She rushed upstairs, stood in front of a mirror, took a gun, and blew out her brains.”

II. The Pride Of His Mother

Let me tell you another story, and I could tell you many of them, for I have had to deal with the souls of many men and women; and I know what is going on. I was conducting a revival campaign in the shadow of one of the great universities in a northern city. One night I dismissed the crowd and started downtown. A young fellow followed me down the street, out of the shadow into the light, out of the light into the shadow. I didn’t like to have him stay behind me like that; so I turned around and said, “Jones is my name. Do you want to speak to me?” I noticed that the young man was crying; so I put my arm around him and took him up to my room in the hotel. We sat down.

I shall not tell you about the preliminaries of our conversation, but at last he told me this story: “My father died three months before I was born. All he left me was his good name, and all he left my mother was the memory of his love. My father had been well-to-do. He lost all he had just before he died. The home where I was born was sold under mortgage. My mother was a plucky little woman. She got a little house on a back street and a job to support herself and take care of me.

“I grew up in Sunday School and church. I am not bragging about it, but I had the reputation of being the brightest boy that ever graduated from the high school in our town. I shall never forget the day I finished. The little auditorium was full. My mother was sitting back there. Her face was beaming. I received every honor that it was possible for a boy to get. I won the medal for being the best athlete. I got the scholarship medal. I got a medal for being the most popular boy in school. It was a great day. They gave me honor after honor, and my mother sat back there and smiled at me through her tears.

“The exercises were over, and I made a break to get to my mother, but the crowd flocked around me to congratulate me. Mother is a timid woman, and she slipped out so people wouldn’t see her crying. I ran down the street to the little cottage, and Mother was sitting there with tears flowing down her face. She was smiling through her tears. I put my diploma and the medals in her lap. I leaned down and kissed the tears away.

“‘What are you going to do now, Son?’ Mother asked me. ‘I am going to go to work and support you, Mother, and you are never going to do another thing. You are such a sweet mother to me.’

“Mother smiled and said, ‘You are going to college this fall.’

“‘Why, how am I going to college?’ I asked.

“‘I am going to send you,’ Mother replied. ‘All your life I have saved a little money each week, sometimes two dollars, sometimes three dollars, but always one dollar. I have the money in the savings bank. I have enough to send you to the leading university of this country!’ My heart leaped for joy.

“Last fall my precious mother packed my trunk, and she put her own Bible in the tray of the trunk, the Bible she had marked, the Bible she had prayed over, and over which she had wept. Mr. Jones, I am a boy; but when I came to this school, I was pure as the purest girl who ever lived. I entered the dormitory and took my mother’s Bible out of the tray of the trunk and laid it on the table.

“The students flocked around me, calling to the other students to come see my Bible. ‘We have a country boy come to town, and he has brought a Bible with him!’

“‘He will get over that,’ someone said.

“‘Just give him time. Let him get in biology. The biology prof will fix him. The Bible is all right for country people and for ignorant folks, but we have outgrown that.’ I paid no attention to them. I read my Bible. I said my prayers. I went to Sunday School and church.

“At last I got in the biology class. You have got to hand it to that teacher. He was a better psychologist than he was a biologist. He dropped doubts in my mind every time I went to class. Little by little he broke down my religious resistance. After a while I lost my faith. I didn’t believe in my Bible. I didn’t believe there is a God. I was miserable, but I tried to be decent for my mother’s sake. I do love my mother.

“But I couldn’t be decent. I had lost the inward urge. I had lost the power to be good. I hate to tell you this, Mr. Jones, but one night I went out with the boys. I have lived in awful sin. I have gambled away the money that Mother saved. I have gone with wicked women, and my faith is all ruined.

“Today I had a letter from my mother. She will be here tomorrow. I can’t see her. I couldn’t look at her. She thinks I am pure. She thinks I am the same boy that I was when I left her a few months ago. I couldn’t stand to look into her eyes. If I did look at her I couldn’t kiss her, for I have an unspeakable disease. I am going downtown in the morning before Mother gets here and buy a gun and blow out my brains. If there is a hell, as my mother’s Bible says, it isn’t any worse than the hell I am in.”

III. The Son of An Aged Minister

I was in a city in the Northwest conducting a revival campaign. One night I dismissed the crowd and started out of the building. A feeble old man came down the aisle and took me by the hand. “I would like to speak to you a minute, Brother Bob,” said the old man, with trembling voice.

“All right,” I replied, “I will be glad to talk with you.”

He looked at me a minute and then said, “Let me get where I can prop against the wall, for I am feeble and old and trembly in the knees.” We walked down the aisle toward the door, and he leaned his old stooped shoulders against the wall.

“Brother Bob,” he began, “l am an old superannuated minister of the Gospel. I came to the great Northwest as a missionary. It has been nearly sixty years now since I arrived in this country. When I came here I brought my bride. Oh, how happy we were! We were young and everything was beautiful. We were happy in God’s work.

“After I began my ministry here in the Northwest, it occurred to us that my denomination had no school anywhere in this section of the country. We preachers had a conference. We said, ‘We must build us a church school so we can educate our own children.’ We perfected the plan. I subscribed a hundred dollars a year. You know I never made over a thousand dollars a year preaching. My dear, sweet wife made her pledge; and though she wasn’t strong physically, she did her own washing and saved the money to give to the school. We never had but one child. He was a boy.”

The old man’s face lighted as he continued, “He was a great boy, bright, clean, obedient, Christian. He graduated from high school with honors. We were proud of him. He was president of the young people’s society in my church. He prayed in public. Everybody said he was an ideal preacher’s son.

“The day came when he was to go to college. It was the happiest day of my life. Wife and I stood on the front step and kissed our darling boy good-by. We both cried. We didn’t cry because we were sad. We cried because we were proud of our boy. He looked so manly and clean as he went out the gate; and his shoulders were so broad, and he was so erect. That night Wife and I got ready to retire. We knelt together by the bed to say our prayers. I put my arm around her, and she put her little frail arm around me, and I prayed a prayer something like this: ‘Our Father, we thank Thee that we have a safe place to educate our boy. We don’t have to worry about him. He is all right. He is in a Christian school, and we know he will come back to us as good as he was when he left us.’ ”

Then the old man, straightening up, threw his shoulders back like a soldier on parade; his eyes flashed fire, and he set his jaw. “Brother Bob, while I had been preaching to my country churches, the devil had been sowing tares in the college. A skeptic had got in the Science Department. At the end of four years my boy came home with his degree; but he came home an atheist, laughing at my religion, at the Gospel I preach, and at the faith of his mother. My son is a middle-aged man now; but he is a drunken, atheistic bum. Brilliantly educated, he writes letters to the papers and signs these letters ‘Atheist’ and laughs at the Gospel I have preached for sixty years and makes fun of his old mother’s faith.

“Brother Bob, Wife and I are old. You are a young man. Go up and down this country and tell this story, and warn the people that the educational drift of this nation is atheistic. Tell the people to awake or this nation is gone.”