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An Island in the Lake of Fire Bob Jones University, Fundamentalism & the Separatist Movement By Mark Taylor Dalhouse University of Georgia Press, 1996 211 pp. Cloth, $24.95 Reviewed by Charles W. Dunn, Thurmond Professor of Politics at Clemson University, and former chairman of the United States J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. Among Dunn's recent publications are The Conservative Tradition in America and Religion in American Politics. Sometimes baffling its antagonists, other times perplexing its advocates, Bob Jones University (bju) proclaims itself"the world's most unusual university." Perhaps it is also the world's most misunderstood university. In his book, Mark Taylor Dalhouse has appropriately labeled bju "an island in the lake of fire." He could just as accurately have called it "an island ofparadoxes in the sea ofenigma." Dalhouse parades before his readers a stunning series of paradoxes that serve to heighten the mystery surrounding this institution of higher learning. But the reader is left with another unsolved puzzle: Is Dalhouse for or against bju? Does he respect this entrenched institution or is his purpose to expose its shortcomings ? His high-powered scholarly microscope magnifies bju's blemishes as well as its often unknown and misunderstood successes. With the brush of scholarly detachment , Dalhouse paints a scholar's masterpiece, leaving friends and foes of bju mystified but edified. Paradox One. Founded in the segregationist South in 1927, bju today draws its largest pool of students from the northern states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. The university's founder, evangelist Bob Jones Sr., cultivated support for his universitywhile on northern preaching missions, but he never forsook his cultural roots in southeast Alabama. Even today his grandson upholds the family's Confederate heritage. Paradox Two. Though it is regarded by critics as a backwater institution, bju has a religious art gallery that has earned a reputation as one of the best in the western hemisphere. Favorable reviews in such places as the New York Times and a steady stream of international critics attest to its credibility. Bob Jones Jr., encouraged by his father, transformed a small collection of primarily Baroque art into this internationally recognized gallery. Paradox Three. Long known for graduating "preacher-boys," bju has at least as Reviews 105 many, if not more, students in accounting and other professional majors. The "preacher boys" graduate to pastor churches, while the accountants and others move into business and industry, including "Big Six" accounting firms. A canopy of Christian indoctrination, of course, overshadows them all. Paradox Four. Clearly, Bob Jones University is a part of what H. L. Mencken snubbed as the South's unsophisticated religious subculture. Yet students are required to attend sophisticated productions of Shakespeare, opera, and other fine arts events every semester. The university somehow obtained a stage from New York City's Rockefeller Center Theater for the productions of its own Shakespearean and opera companies. Perhaps the best equipped in the Southeast, this stage helps bju attract renowned guest artists, bju also has its own symphony orchestra. Paradox Five. Defying popular educational trends, bju's strict rules governing student behavior are throwbacks to an earlier era in American education. In essence , Bob Jones Sr. built a living museum of American higher education—in particular, the brand of education found in religious colleges and universities in the last century. Paradox Six. Bob Jones University is usually thought of as a small southern religious college. Yet its student body includes some 5,000 students studyingin over one hundred different majors and earning various degrees including the Ph.D. Students come from all fifty states and some thirty foreign countries. The "preacher boy" graduates become Christian schoolteachers and missionaries, and many of them guide the young people in their schools and congregations toward bju. These students and the children ofgraduates dominate the roster of each entering class. In turn, they enroll in courses often taught by bju graduates. As Dalhouse points out, this is a self-perpetuating dynasty. Paradox Seven. Resistant to modernism in American culture, bju packages its old message in new media. Behind the iron fence and brick gates surrounding the campus are well-manicured lawns and flower beds, immaculately maintained buildings, and the latest modern technology...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 105-108
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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