Here Come the Signatures

This is Dave and me at our wedding, 44 years ago today. It was small, just a few people gathered at my in-laws’ house. We were married by Dave’s former football coach who also happened to be a justice of the peace.

My mother was a little bit distressed that we weren’t having a preacher. There was one present, but he was merely a guest. No prayers. In hindsight, I’m really glad about that.

But all the picture-taking, and all the words said over us by Coach Lollis were really not the wedding.


This was the wedding ceremony. That’s Lollis standing there with us supervising our signatures on the paperwork.

Marriage is a legal contract. In the years since, we’ve bought and sold a dozen houses, and opened and closed numerous banking and brokerage accounts, and we’ve signed lots of paperwork.

Signing the papers to get married was just like that (except that buying a house if you have a mortgage involves way more signatures and lots more paper).

Never once did it cross my mind forty-four years ago that not everyone could do what we were doing.  In the years since we signed that document, we have almost never (maybe never – I can’t remember a time) been asked to produce it to prove our legal status. We’ve changed our legal residence from one state to another about seven times.  Nobody has ever questioned our claim to be legally married. We have taken it for granted, for forty-four years.

If we had to produce that document today, I’d have to hunt for it.

I am so happy to be living in a period where other people are beginning to get the right to do what we did so long ago.

My sincerest wish for them is that one day, they too won’t know where they put that document. They will be able to just take it for granted that when they tell somebody they are married, it will be accepted without question the way our marriage has been for forty-four years.


Cause it’s starting to rain,
And my cheeks are stained
With all the same old bullshit, misery and pain. . .

And I know I’m to blame, oh, and it’s a lowdown dirty shame
Cause John Coltrane is on my radio again.
Nathan Davis, “John Coltrane,” from Nathan Davis LIVE

Dave and Nathan and I lived in Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina for several years in the mid-to-late eighties. We moved back to the Greenville area from Southern Pines, North Carolina in large part because we knew that Nate was not likely to get a good education at the Christian school that was part of the Fundy Church From Hell.

The lower-grade teachers were fine. It was the upper grades that concerned us, due to inexperienced, untrained teachers and inadequate facilities.

Because of our indoctrination in fundamentalism, we didn’t think that public school was an option. So we decided that we were more likely to find good education combined with our religion in a town peppered with Christian schools.

At first, it seemed like a good thing to do. Nathan started the fifth grade at Hampton Park Christian School in 1986.

But in the fall of 1988 (his seventh grade year), he began to tell me that he was being bullied. Of course, he didn’t use that word. He just talked about how the guys were teasing him. I told him that life wasn’t always about how much people like you, and that sometimes they just don’t and that he needed to grow some thicker skin.


Sometimes, parents need to clean out the cobwebs in their heads.

One day, just before Thanksgiving, while picking Nate up after school, I couldn’t find him. When he didn’t come to the car after a little wait, I went looking for him.


I saw a circle of boys off to the side of the parking lot with Nathan in the center. They were taunting him and shoving him from one to the other. I stood quietly, getting increasingly enraged, just watching to be sure about what I was seeing. I also was afraid that if I went storming up, I would make matters worse.

They finally saw me, and immediately disbanded. Nate grabbed his book bag and came to the car. On the ride home, I asked him about the incident. He said, “Mom, I’ve been telling you. . . ” And the spider webs cleared. I realized I’d been blowing him off and said, “Tell me again.”

He began to describe ongoing, systematic bullying, led almost entirely by one boy. The kid was one of those adolescents who goes through puberty gracefully. No awkwardness, just an easing into adulthood with good looks, and a tendency to look older than he was. His father was also very well-to-do and drove a very nice car.

I drove a red VW bug.

We got home and had a family discussion about the situation. During that conversation, Nathan told us, in tears (and this was a boy who rarely cried, even as an infant), that if we sent him back to that school, he would die. It was drama, yes, but he was seriously upset.

Bruce Mizell

So we went to see the principal, Bruce Mizell.

He informed us that Nathan had had “emotional problems” ever since he’d been at Hampton Park, more than two years.

I asked him when, exactly, he was planning to tell us about that. He had no answer.

It was one of those conversations where the response is “No doubt the problem is with you.” Anyone associated with Bob Jones University for more than twelve seconds knows about this.

It was also obvious to us that the instigator’s father was a heavy donor and there was no way in hell that Mizell was going to offend the man. The son would slide by. [The last time I checked, the son has a prison record.]

We then began discussing what we might do about Nathan’s “emotional problems.” Mizell reached for the phone book. I thought he was looking up the phone number of some counselor he was going to recommend, but no – he had nobody in mind. He was just looking randomly.


We then mentioned possibilities, like home schooling. His response was immediate and vehement. “Whatever you do, don’t home school him.”

At that point, we both knew the answer to the problem. Whatever this idiot man thought we shouldn’t do was very likely the right way to go. So that’s what we did. And we never had contact with Hampton Park Baptist Church or School again, except for one brief visit Dave made to let Mizell listen to an obscene phone message Nathan received from a Hampton Park student shortly after leaving.


Fast forward to yesterday, which was Christmas Eve. Somebody alerted me to a news article, and from there I found myself on Hampton Park’s Facebook page, looking at photos like this.

Pretty bad, huh? The graffiti was everywhere. It consisted of only two words, primarily – “wake up” – with the occasional “please” tossed in.

So I began reading the comments. And I got really angry.

There was another one, but it was removed before I thought to get a screen shot of it. It began with something like “Atheists say they don’t believe in God, but are really obsessed with God,” and went on to assume that the vandals were, in fact, atheists.

This is, of course, typical fundigelical-think. Here’s another gem:

Naturally the vandal(s) cannot possibly be “saved.” They have to be people from Outside – Other. This cannot possibly be rooted within. In fact, the vandalism itself is not cause for asking some questions, “Gee, somebody is really mad. Who have we offended and what could be the problem?”

No. Somebody is royally pissed at us, and that’s proof that we are right.

There’s another Baptist church with this self-aggrandizing attitude. I think the name is Westboro. Check ‘em out. Just use Google.

So, I couldn’t help myself. The comments were open to the public, so I commented. And pretty much thought that was that.

But then, I discovered that a friend of mine who has a bigger beef with Hampton Park than I do posted a comment.  This isn’t it. I cannot post his comment because it was removed by the Hampton Park page administrators. But this is the gist of it.

And Jeffrey brings up a very valid point. It is now two weeks since GRACE issued their relatively scathing report about Bob Jones University. Anyone who has spent more than twenty minutes immersed in the Bob Jones sub-culture of Greenville knows that Hampton Park is a “BJU church.” From the pulpit to the music to the Sunday school to the day school, and probably to the janitor, many if not most of the people hired there are affiliated with BJU. They are grads or former students.

Is it possible, just a teensy, itsy, bitsy bit, that somebody in Greenville is royally pissed that Hampton Park isn’t implicated in the GRACE report, but probably ought to be? Or that somebody has reason to believe that crappy stuff has gone on there?

I know for sure that it’s a shitty school. I know because we paid them good money for a couple of years to educate our son, and then had to spend the following four years rehabilitating him from the damage they allowed those dreadful kids to inflict on him. I know because I spoke with his teachers. One of them assured me that she thought the way those kids treated Nate was terrible, and that she tried to stop it. But another, older, long-time teacher informed me that Nate had only gotten what he deserved. “No doubt the problem was with him.”

So, here we have a reasonable motive. A report comes out that a lot of people are unhappy about for one reason or another, and Hampton Park looks around at the obvious message sent to them in spray paint and says, “Who?  Us?” and blames. . .


Gee fucking thanks.

Let’s talk for a minute about atheists and vandalism.

There is no question that there are more religious people in America than there are atheists. Like, you know, lots more. And religious people not only live and work and hang out – they generally have buildings, churches, where they meet. Atheists? Not so much.

Atheists have billboards.

And not very many of them, especially if you compare them to the number of church signs that are around. Think about the last time you saw a church sign(s) and the last time you saw an atheist billboard.

But this is what happens to atheist billboards, regularly.

It happens so often that most atheists pretty much expect it. Often billboard companies are reluctant to rent space to atheists because they know the vandals are coming.

And you know what Christians have to say when atheist billboards are vandalized?

Usually nothing.

But sometimes, this.

And what do atheists do when churches are vandalized?

Usually, nothing.

But sometimes, this.

And this.

But you know what? The vandals at Hampton Park couldn’t possibly have been atheists. I can fucking prove it.

Update, Christmas day:

They took down the photos and all the comments. They didn’t want to “stifle conversation,” of course not. But the “conversation” had lost its focus – namely, people telling them how great they are and how sad it all is.

And “speculations” resulted in “tensions.”  :-)  Hell, yeah, they did. But long before the admins of that page decided to remove the whole thing, they removed Jeffrey’s comment. So they did, in fact, “pick and choose.”

“The fact is, we don’t know.” Right.

The Tozars Are Still Fake

Mama said it was shame about Billie Joe, anyhow.
Seems like nothin’ ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge,
And now Billie Joe MacAllister’s jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

Bobbie Gentry, “Ode to Billie Joe”

Years ago, I was a pretty devout Christian fundamentalist. Lest you have doubts about that, here I am (standing, on the right with my head just over the head of the pianist), singing in a trio at church in the early nineties. Calvary Memorial Church, Southern Pines, NC, which I refer to fondly as “The Fundy Church From Hell.”

And, while I don’t have a photo handy of anyone preaching, here’s a newer picture of the same church.

You can see the pulpit clearly to the left of the picture, so you can imagine the hours and hours I spent sitting in that place, listening to preaching and hearing not only stories from the Bible, but all sorts of stories about people. Little moral lessons.

Some were warning stories, like the veiled references in the song above, “Ode to Billie Joe.”

But others were these feel-good, sappy stories designed to draw tears and bring out Kleenexes and soften “hearts” for “the Holy Spirit.”

I was well into adulthood before I began to understand that these little stories were mostly composites and in many instances, totally fake. Preachers used them as “illustrations” and somehow thought it was okay to tell fables like this in order to make a point. And it is. From the time of Aesop, people having been telling stories to communicate larger ideas.

Hell, they even sell books of “sermon illustrations” – in other words, maybe true but probably fake stories that preachers can use to sprinkle around on an otherwise very boring sermon to make it more palatable.

Once the internet arrived, we started getting forwarded email. Remember?  With the five-deep “>>>>>” signs all down the part that was forwarded, where you had to hunt to find the actual message buried inside. And they were mostly fake too.

So somebody brilliant came up with the idea of Snopes. They began to check out these stories, so that now you can find out that the story of the adulterous couple is a legend, and is told in various ways, or that the story of the car thief who was smashed in an earthquake is just plain false.

But some of these stories are heartwarming, and who cares if they’re fake?  After all, they make us feel all warm and fuzzy, and maybe something sort of like that really did happen, and besides, I happen to like fiction.

Of course, when I buy fiction and read it, I know I’m reading fiction.

This is from Mark Moore’s blog. It’s an old page, from December of 2011, but he’s dragged it out and dusted it off and thinks it’s appropriate.

It is, because it nicely illustrates my point.

Mark is supposedly a real person (a point of some controversy, but he does seem to be real) who is a moderator on the Truth Seeking Graduates of Bob Jones Facebook page. I’m linking to it, but I don’t recommend it, unless you like your truth mixed with all sorts of fabrication and creative stories.

This heartwarming little story is about an immigrant couple who tragically had their child snatched away from them.  He goes on to compare that couple with Joseph and Mary, and it’s all so lovely and such wonderful things come of “obscure beginnings.”

There’s a teensy problem, of course. The story of “Ed and Liz” is, like the sermon illustrations of my youth, fake. Mark is referring to the very imaginary Ed and Elizabeth Tozar, the supposed Ukranian parents of Cathy Harris, who was tragically abducted from them and then prostituted for years and years.

The Tozars are fake.

I honestly do not know why Mark is recycling this mythology. Does he not know that we proved the whole thing fake months ago? Cathy has never refuted any of this, and in fact, went completely silent about these fictitious parents when we showed that it was all untrue.

But I suppose that’s par for the course. Mark has given us a two-for in this little story.

The Jesus myth is fake, too.  Even if there was a Jesus, there wasn’t any census, nor any tax, nor any trip to Bethlehem, nor any miraculous virgin birth, nor any special star, nor any wise men, nor any angels. There may or may not have been a Joseph and a Mary, and a baby Jesus.  Maybe.

Does the fact that these folks listen to “sermon illustrations” which are the equivalent of those silly stories that float about now on social media instead of email make them more gullible? I guess believing in one myth makes it easier to swallow the other one.

Telling the story over and over again, even for 2000 years, doesn’t make it true.

The Tozars, Mark, are still fake.

Happy Holidays.



Going Over a Cliff

Years ago, Dave and Nathan and I went on a trip out west. One place where we stopped was the Grand Canyon.

I have been aware for a long time that I am really afraid of heights, more so than a lot of people. I don’t like to get on a ladder. Oddly, I’m not overly frightened of flying, but I suspect that’s because I’m enclosed in the plane.

This fear pretty much destroyed my experience at the Grand Canyon, and even though I didn’t mean for it to, that of my family.

I took this photo. I took it under pressure. I remember it well. The feeling going through me was sheer horror. Not only were they standing next to the rail – Dave was more or less leaning on it. They didn’t linger there. I snapped the picture and they came back closer to me.

A really bad thing for me at the Grand Canyon was that so many areas didn’t have any guard rails at all.

We saw people doing this, and even took a photo of a guy with his dog on the edge, but I can’t find it now. This is not our photo, but even looking at it gives me the willies.

And I can think about this rationally and still freak out. Even if Nathan and Dave were standing more than a body’s length from the edge, so it was physically impossible for them to fall over, I still couldn’t watch them. I stayed in a panic most of the time we were there. I knew I was seriously diminishing their experience, but I couldn’t help it.

And what’s sort of odd is that the guard rails help. I’m still uncomfortable, but it’s not nearly as bad if there is a rail.

Years ago, I bought a copy of this book. For one thing, I thought the title was so cool that I wanted it on my bookshelf. Note: It’s a Christian book. As such, I do not recommend it now. Read stuff like that at your own risk.

Anyway, I cannot be absolutely certain, and I tossed my copy long ago, but I think the basic framework of the analogy that I am employing here came from that book. I have enlarged on it and embellished it over the years, but I do want to acknowledge the original source.

I don’t like cliffs.  I don’t like them really a lot, as I’ve mentioned. But almost nobody would think it was a great idea to jump off one.

So, on overlooks, the parks department or the maintenance folks put up fences. You can pretty easily climb over the fence if you wish, but they are there to say, “Stay behind the fence and you’ll be safe from the risk of falling off the cliff.”

And it works pretty well. The fence is a psychological security blanket.

Consider this photo. This is 1982, me with Nathan on a ferry. I was decidedly uncomfortable here, not because I have any fear of water ( both Nathan and I could swim well), but because the barrier was netting.

Same ferry, same trip. Solid barrier. Happier Mom. The only reason I’m holding him is to hold him up for the camera.

One of the things that the workmen have to decide is where to put the fence. How far back from the edge of the cliff, or the pothole, or the work site, or whatever perceived danger? Six feet? Two? Fifty?

That’s a subjective call, and it’s based on a number of things, including the condition of the ground along the proposed fence site, the available spare ground in the area, and the perception of how dangerous the situation is in the first place.

We set all sorts of fences in life. Everyone’s comfort zone is different. This is all okay. Some of us are okay with setting our fences right on the edge of the cliff, and having them very low. Others get hives at the thought and like fences set way, way back from the edge. They’re like me. They want that fence back so far that if you fell over it head first, the worst thing that could happen is a bump on the forehead.

The problem comes when we start to get the fence and cliff confused.

The fence is not the cliff. Each individual can have a fence in a different place and that does not change the location or the danger of the cliff.

Authoritarian religion (call it “fundamentalism,” call it “evangelicalism,” or do what I do and call it “fundigelicalism”) gets this very muddled. In their world, the fences are all cliffs. If you put your toe over their fence, you just fell off the cliff. If they acknowledge that you have a separate fence (something that’s not always a given), they are very critical if your fence is a foot closer to the cliff than theirs is.

In some cases, they refuse to admit anyone to their little club if the fences aren’t in the “approved” places.

They insist, of course, that they figure out where to place their fences using their book, but all 30,000 Christian denominations are using the book and the fences are all over the place.

The truth is that we place our fences where we are comfortable with them, where they alleviate our anxiety.

And that is why crossing a fence is really hard.


This is Calvary Memorial Church, Southern Pines, North Carolina. I refer to it affectionately as “The Fundy Church From Hell.” We spent about 14 years there, with a break of a few years in the middle.

I will never forget the last time we went there. I knew we were going to leave. There was no way we could stay. I got up after the morning service, just knowing I was walking out the door and never coming back, and I was crossing the fence.  I was walking out beyond the barrier.

The cliff was there, I thought, and I was going to fall off. Only I had to climb over the fence.

This was in 1993, so it’s been almost twenty years ago, and I can still shudder when I think about it. I can also laugh at the insanity of my delusional idea, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t actually feel the horror.

That’s one way to breach a fence. Just climb the hell over it. It’s fairly sudden and pretty scary.

It feels like that – like walking into a dark tunnel where you can’t see the cliff.

There’s another way to do it, though. It’s not sudden, and it’s very hard work, as you can see. You can move the fence.

Neither solution is easy. Because of that, it’s important to think about fences before you build them, and be sure you like their location for the long haul.

More importantly though, it’s important to keep the fence and the cliff separate. They are not the same thing. 

The fence is simply a psychological security device.

The cliff is, well. . . what exactly is the cliff?

That’s where the hard part comes in. Are there any cliffs?  Sure there are. If I drink and drive, I’m coming really close to the “wreck-the-car-and-possibly-kill-my-sorry-ass” cliff.

But we invent cliffs, too. I would venture to suggest that religious people invent a lot of cliffs.

The cliff I was so afraid of when I walked out of the Fundy Church From Hell that last time didn’t exist at all. It was entirely a figment of my imagination, a bogeyman hiding in the dark.

After breaching the fence, the one I’d built (with help from the pulpit at the Fundy Church From Hell), I spent several years not only moving fences, but also evaluating the existence of cliffs and in many cases, removing fences altogether because I came to realize that the cliffs were imaginary.

But I see this issue as a real basic difference between authoritarian religion and more progressive religion.  The people I know who are still religious and who can tolerate me for more than twenty seconds have a tendency to have the difference between cliffs and fences better established in their minds than those who think I’m evil incarnate.

When I was at the Grand Canyon, I was confusing fences and cliffs and I was doing this to other people – my son and my husband. I was demanding that, for my personal comfort, they see my fence and stay behind it.

I really don’t like doing that. I don’t like it when people do that to me. I understand entirely what is happening when people do it because of love and concern and because they can’t help it – why can’t I see the fence? Why don’t I understand that there is a cliff out there?

You can get paralyzed with fear that somebody you love is in mortal danger because they have put their fence in a different place, or because they don’t even have any fence at all, and oh my god, there is a cliff there.

Doing so does not protect them. It doesn’t make the cliff real. Your fear is real, I know that. My fear at the Grand Canyon was so real I was crying some of the time. But I wasn’t protecting my family. I was just making them miserable.

Confusing fences with cliffs does not do anything but create barriers.

Do you know what our dog does when she sees this?

She saves us from it. Loudly. Vigorously.

And she cannot understand why we are not grateful.

Money? Mouth? Meet?

Put yer money where yer mouth is
Yer mamma sez that you was real
Put yer money where yer mouth is
Yer mamma sez that you was real

Ready or not, come what may
The bets are going down for judgement day
So put yer money in yer mouth
And your hands right upon the wheel 
Noel Gallagher, “Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is”

One of the cardinal tenets of the Cathy Harris/Camille Lewis/Linda Fossen Philosophy of Sexual Abuse is that rape victims almost never, ever lie. They never falsely accuse anyone. Anyone who says they were raped, was raped. There isn’t even room for discussion about this.

This is the “description” note from Truth Seeking Graduates of Bob Jones. I didn’t write this. They did.  Camille Lewis and Cathy Harris.  It’s their page. You cannot question the veracity of any victim’s account, ever, period.

And if you do, even slightly, even regarding something they know nothing at all about, they will come after you with a vengeance. [I realize these quotes come from a different page, but it’s the same people, adding in Linda Fossen.]

I’m covering up for an abuser. Of course.

And after Fossen chimes in with accusations that my father, my husband, and insinuations that maybe I myself, or even my son are all child molesters, Camille can’t stand it and has to make it even better.

Not just my family. [They didn’t know, I guess, that I have a brother, or maybe they would have gone after him too.]  No, it’s a pedophile ring operating at Bob Jones University for years and years and somehow I know all about it and am covering up.

That’s what they do to you if you dare suggest that any alleged victim might be lying.  Please keep that in mind.

Meet John Hawkins.  He’s an attorney, as you can see. This is the banner from his Facebook page. According to his web site, he’s a graduate of Wofford College and then did law school at the University of South Carolina, so he doesn’t appear to have any connections to Bob Jones University.

Well, except that he really, really wants to help the victims. . . sue. See the sad-looking girl? John wants to help her.

Isn’t that nice? What a great guy.

When I first saw his photo on his web site, I thought immediately of another personal injury attorney-turned-politician who is a handsome man with a nice smile.

This guy. Remember him?

But no matter. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.

So, we have this personal injury attorney who is putting up ads on social media soliciting victims to sue Bob Jones University. I suppose that was inevitable. Wherever there is a wreck, there are always ambulance chasers. And besides, maybe there’s a victim out there who actually does have a case and needs representation, so it’s all good, right? John Hawkins is a sort of hero. He’s going to work hard for justice and truth and all that. Right?

Well, there’s a teensy problem. Her name is Angela Tolleson.

Read all about it.

Remember, according to Camille Lewis, and Cathy Harris, and Linda Fossen, and Karen Nelson Lee and all those people who blasted me all over Facebook and on blogs and everywhere they could think of, and threatened me with legal action over and over again, victims never lie. Doesn’t matter if the court tossed the case. It doesn’t matter.

Victims never lie.

Here’s some more if you want to read all the sordid details.

It doesn’t matter to me one way or another whether or not John Hawkins was guilty of rape or not. The court dropped the case. We really don’t know why. The news reports (and take into consideration that these are news reports surrounding his political campaign, and you have to sort take those with a grain of salt) seem to lean in the direction of the alleged victim being intimidated and/or threatened in some way, but I have no idea and that’s not what this is about anyway.

What it’s about is whether Camille Lewis and Cathy Harris and their buddies are gonna put their money where their mouths are and condemn this. Or is the man saying and posting on his Facebook page all the nice words they want to hear and so they’re going to do. . . nothing.

As I publish this, apparently there was some conversation about this on TSG, and some posts about how great it was that this lawyer was doing this, but those have been scrubbed. What I see now is. . . nothing.

Call him out, Camille.

Put your money where your mouth is. You didn’t mind blasting away at me. Blast away at him. Or are you a hypocrite?

Update (12/17/14):

So, after having a lovely little conversation with Mr. Hawkins over on TSG, during which Camille gushed with her usual “God bless” (and not the sarcastic version), she found out about his history of legal difficulties. In true Bob Jones University style, she didn’t just add a comment to the existing conversation, saying, “You know, in light of this added information, I just can’t support your efforts.”  Nope. She quietly removed the whole conversation so she can pretend she never, ever, ever. . .

One of the ongoing themes at TSG during this entire GRACE-report-controversy has been the fact that, at BJU, people were engaged in counseling who didn’t know what they were doing. This is denounced, quite rightly, as egregious behavior.

We give people advice and/or information all the time, informally. We offer our opinions on nearly everything, from the best dentist we know of to how to remove ink stains from a dress shirt.

But, after realizing that she’d totally screwed up by basically encouraging an ambulance-chaser to troll for clients and letting him use her Facebook page to do so, she decides to recommend another. . . ambulance chaser.

Jeff Anderson is controversial, to say the least. He is to Catholic-church-abuse cases what Gloria Allred is to celebrity cases.

If you’d like to read all about him, in a reasonably unbiased story, here you go.

But the important thing here to talk about is that Camille/Cathy is giving legal advice. “The best lawyers in the country. . .” Now, exactly how would Camille/Cathy know that?

Right after our son died, we got a sympathy card from the mother of a friend. We didn’t know the woman. Tucked into the sympathy card was a business card. She was a realtor and knew that we’d be in the market soon selling Nathan’s house. The card had a note on it to the effect that she would be willing to help us out.

You can probably imagine how we felt about that. We couldn’t even begin to face selling that house for almost a year. And we didn’t call that realtor.

My advice to anyone who is considering legal action against Bob Jones University is this: You need to talk with a professional, licensed, experienced counselor and get some advice from somebody who actually knows what they are talking about.  I am not such a person. Nor is Truth Seeking Graduates, Camille Lewis or Cathy Harris.

Flying South

He uses all the great quotations
Says the things I wish I could say
Whoa, but he’s has so many rehearsals
Girl, to him it’s just another play but wait

When the final act is over
And you’re left standing all alone
When he takes his bow and makes his exit
Girl, I’ll be there to take you home
Curtis Mayfield, Calvin Carter, and Jerry Butler, “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)”

When you live in Alaska, you either never leave the state, or you get really familiar with the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

While it’s possible to drive to the Lower 48 (or Outside, as Alaskans refer to it), via the Alaska Highway, and we’ve done it several times, it takes a long time and flying is way better.

I used to have a running account with Travelocity, and got periodic email alerts whenever the price of a ticket from Anchorage to Raleigh, NC would drop. We scheduled trips around those sales.

We didn’t fly the plane ourselves, of course. Neither of us know how, nor do we own a plane.

But when the plane took off, we knew where we were going, and approximately when we would get there, barring unforeseen problems. If there was a plane change (and there always was) we knew where it would be – generally Minneapolis.

This is from the GRACE report (PDF, 300 pages), page 10, plus the  footnote.  They’re defining “independent investigation.” Basically, they’re saying that Bob Jones University had no control over the way the report was done.

This footnote from page 13 assures us (and we’re given the same assurances in other places) that BJU did this whole thing voluntarily.

After they were fired and rehired, the terms remained the same. Independent. Voluntary.

Just like us on our airplane flight, Bob Jones University was a passenger. They paid for a ticket to ride, they sat in the seat and they were not in control. They didn’t fly the plane.

Of course, they were served lunch.

During our flights, our pilot would occasionally come on the speaker and tell us our altitude, or the weather in our destination city, or even inform us that if we looked out the window to our left, we’d see a certain mountain range. And before, and sometimes during the flight, the stewards would explain potential dangers to us, where to find the oxygen masks, the importance of seat belts. [Yeah, we were served meals like that on flights to and from Alaska. It’s a long way. And it was a number of years ago. I know times have changed.]

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that Bob Jones University officials, who had paid for the ticket, were kept apprised of the situation as it developed. I strongly doubt that they knew absolutely nothing of what was being discovered and were just in the dark completely until the day the report landed on their collective desks. Nothing in the those declarations of “independence” by GRACE contains any hint of total secrecy. [Obviously, the identities of the interviewees are confidential, but that’s not what I’m talking about. ]

Just like us, they knew what they were paying for. They knew the destination, approximately when they would arrive, and all about layovers. That the plane developed mechanical difficulties and had to land unexpectedly for repairs was something they couldn’t foresee, but other than that, they knew.

So it raises a question? Why did they do it?

I know all the stuff that has been bandied about – that they were placed under extreme pressure from Camille Lewis and her little Facebook page, but that’s just silly. That school has been under pressure before, way more than what Camille has ever dished out, without budging an inch. The IRS swooped in and removed their tax-exempt status, remember? They didn’t even blink. Well, until they finally blinked – on Larry King. A little bit.

There’s way more to this than some irritated alumni.

I think we might be witnessing a hostile takeover of a formerly family-run business. Starting with the ascension of the fairly-handicapped Stephen Jones, going from there to the scare (and I think it scared them) of the Chuck Phelps fiasco and resultant very bad press on national television, all the way through the hiring of GRACE, and then the firing of GRACE, and the re-hiring of GRACE, and the movement down of Bob III to Chancellor, thus eliminating him from the board of directors, and the resignation of Stephen Jones – I believe these are all layovers on the flight.

Some of them were probably planned. Others might have been simple mechanical problems that caused unexpected delays or detours.

But I don’t think for a second that we’re seeing any real surprises here.  We’re watching a play. We’ve gotten to Act V, or Act VI, with who knows how many acts left.

It’s not even reasonable to suggest that men who run a university, even if you think they are inept as some believe these people are, would pay somebody else a great deal of money to allow them to commit institutional suicide. Somebody(s) at Bob Jones University saw the handwriting on the wall.

It’s not about disaffected alumni. Never has been. Nor do I think it’s about sexual abuse or any other kind of abuse.  It’s about a steep decline in numbers of fundamentalists period, but especially in those who would opt for schooling in a rigid, isolated environment with no accredited degree at the end. That’s why Liberty University keeps growing while BJU keeps shrinking. People are voting with their feet and their offspring are attending other schools.

GRACE has a very strange way of doing business. They are essentially asking an institution, business, ministry to pay GRACE money so they can be publicly shamed, ridiculed and possibly sued. Why would anyone in their right mind agree to such a thing?

The only thing I can think of is that doing so is a means to an end, and that the alternative routes, like the Alaska Highway, are less desirable, more expensive, or way too long.

I do wonder, though, if while Boz was writing the report, he didn’t look up from time to time and say, “This one’s for you, Gramps.”

Update (12/17/2014):

That little gem is from Dan Keller’s incredibly boring Storify page dedicated to systematic and ongoing smearing of Jeffrey Hoffman for no reason I can discern.

Dan, dear, there are two giant problems with your “commentary.”

1. This page is not about any federal investigation of anything. It is Camille who is totally obsessed with special visitors who have shiny badges. Remember? I never mentioned any such thing on this page or anywhere else.

2. Camille Lewis has my ISP blocked from her blog. It’s been blocked for I-don’t-know-how-long.  I cannot see it. I cannot read it. Hence, I have never seen the page you reference. How, then, could I plagiarize it?  You probably have me confused with Cathy Harris.

Don’t you ever just get tired of looking like an idiot?


It’s the Sex, Stupid


America has been the birthplace of lots of new ideas, including new religions. One of those was Mormonism, the brain-child of Joseph Smith, in the 1820’s. Not satisfied with just being the religious leader, Smith decided, about twenty years later, that God had told him to take multiple wives.

Not everyone was given such an order – only men in good standing with the church ( i.e., with Smith) – but the group became known as polygamists and consequently weird and cultish.

In 1844, with Smith deciding to run for President of the United States ( a little like Jesse Jackson doing so in terms of realism), a group of former Mormons started writing stuff against him.

Not one to be delighted with criticism, Smith gave the following order:

To the Marshal of said City, greeting.
You are here commanded to destroy the printing press from whence issues the Nauvoo Expositor, and pi the type of said printing establishment in the street, and burn all the Expositors and libelous handbills found in said establishment; and if resistance be offered to your execution of this order by the owners or others, demolish the house; and if anyone threatens you or the Mayor or the officers of the city, arrest those who threaten you, and fail not to execute this order without delay, and make due return hereon.
By order of the City Council,
Joseph Smith, Mayor

Joseph, it seems, wasn’t much on freedom of expression. I bet he used to say that “constructive criticism was welcome, but griping will not be tolerated.”

As a result,  the state arrested him and jailed him and a mob who didn’t like Mormons in the first place stormed the jail and murdered him.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

That unhappy event led to a bit of a crisis of leadership, and the group pretty much split up, with the largest faction heading west to Utah (eventually) with Brigham Young at the helm. And thus we have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

But before we got to the choir, we had 1890. That was the year that the United States government put its foot down on Mormonism’s neck. They could have a church and pretty much run a territory and give up polygamy, or they  could be taken down.  Their choice. It was a serious problem.

Here’s a quote from 1869, by Wilford Woodruff:

If we were to do away with polygamy, it would only be one feather in the bird, one ordinance in the Church and kingdom. Do away with that, then we must do away with prophets and Apostles, with revelation and the gifts and graces of the Gospel, and finally give up our religion altogether and turn sectarians and do as the world does, then all would be right. We just can’t do that, for God has commanded us to build up His kingdom and to bear our testimony to the nations of the earth, and we are going to do it, come life or come death. He has told us to do thus, and we shall obey Him in days to come as we have in days past.  (JOD 13:165 – p.166)

Can’t do it, he said. Just can’t do it. It would take down our religion. God told us to screw every woman in sight and we have to obey.

But then Mr. Woodruff became the president of the church and suddenly God was saying something different (from the Official Declaration I of September 1890).

There is nothing in my teachings to the Church or in those of my associates, during the time specified, which can be reasonably construed to inculcate or encourage polygamy; and when any Elder of the Church has used language which appeared to convey any such teaching, he has been promptly reproved. And I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.

What we had here was some old white guys who wanted to control the bodies and lives of their women without any pesky interference from any outside government.  They were the government. They ran and ran and finally got to Utah and thought, “Now, at last, they will leave us alone and these women will do as they are told.” That’s a paraphrase, but it’s essentially what they had in mind.

So what does this old history review have to do with anything?

Well, there are parallels here.

American fundamentalism is not “that old time religion.” It’s actually fairly new, even younger than Mormonism. Despite the fact that I was taught in my childhood Sunday School classes at Fellowship Baptist Church, Taylors, SC, that the True Faith was embodied in Baptist doctrine and therefore fundamentalism could trace its roots right back to the Acts, it’s just not true.

William Jennings Bryan

And like any new religion, it’s had a rocky road. Almost as fast as the ink was dry on the famous “Fundamentals,” this new(ish) religion had to deal with public ridicule in the Scopes “Monkey” trial of 1925. And after that, it sort of retreated into itself.

When I was a girl, the fundamentalism I knew was not particularly political, or even very public. I had no idea about which political party was “approved” or whether anyone in our church voted or not, or if they did, who they supported.

But what I did know was that girls and women needed to know their place and get in it and stay there. I was told repeatedly as a young teen that I lacked a “meek and quiet spirit”. It certainly wasn’t a compliment.

Controlling women in terms of their roles as wife, mother, “helpmeet” (does anyone else hate that expression like I do?) was a common sermon topic. Fundamentalists were not polygamists, but the double standard was loud and clear.

I experienced it as a teenager. But I also experienced it as an adult. Nothing at all had changed by the time I was married, a parent, and in my early forties. I can’t think of a single change in their thinking during those decades with the possible exception of becoming just a wee bit more forgiving of women wearing pants instead of skirts.

[As an aside, Mormons have a history of racism, too.]

But another thing that I was taught was that psychology was a tool of the devil. Mental illness was a spiritual problem. Depression? Spiritual problem. Insomnia? Spiritual problem. Have a C-section? You guessed it. Spiritual problem. (Exact words: “Hasn’t God had to punish you enough?” with “punish” referring to a C-section.)

Anything that doesn’t go right is a spiritual problem. And that means that all problems have spiritual answers, and they are all found in the church. As a result, the pastor becomes the go-to person for all of life’s decisions.

When I was in nursing school, a man in our church decided he’d been “called” to the ministry and moved his family to Missouri to go to Bible college there. While there, he developed a profound case of schizophrenia and was brought back to South Carolina and admitted to the state mental hospital in Columbia.

I remember being really confused about this. I was in the middle of my psych training at that same mental hospital. Although I never saw the man during his stay there, I couldn’t understand why, if the problem was spiritual, the pastor hadn’t somehow dealt with it. I, of course, was pursuing an education in a medical field, but somehow, he was supposed to be treated differently.

And there was never a question but that the pastor was intimately involved in the man’s commitment. Everyone always called the pastor, first thing, if anything happened. Everything was a spiritual problem. Therefore, the pastor was the doctor who fixed it all.

And that means that when I got that visit from Don after graduating, and I called my mother, nobody even thought for a second that we might need to find some sort of legal authority and report the incident. Nope. She called the pastor. It seemed normal.

And I bet that after thirty years or more of polygamy, Mormons thought of it as normal, too.  It was just the way things were. More than one wife? Of course. Report crimes, especially those involving sex and/or women, to the pastor instead of the police?  Naturally.  Call the pastor when you feel depressed instead of your doctor?  Yep.

But even as Mormons practiced their bizarre religion, there were dissidents. Some of them even got a printing press and started blogging, er, writing pamphlets.  Former Mormons. Former fundamentalists.

Some were content simply to wage a battle of words. Smith, who like Bob Jones III about a hundred and fifty years later, didn’t like anyone who disagreed with him, had the press destroyed.

But notice that the 1840 assassination of Smith and the 1890 Manifesto spanned a fifty year period. The dissidents didn’t like polygamy – the control and subjugation of women by the church. They didn’t win the battle for fifty years, and even then, they didn’t win completely. Polygamy is still alive and well in Utah among splinter groups of Mormons.


The GRACE report, and the controversy about Bob Jones University isn’t about a college. It’s about a religion and its future evolution. Fundamentalism has weathered its Scope trial (the media assassination of one of its standard bearers – William Jennings Bryan), but it is now facing a stand-off with government.

This is enough to make fundamentalists everywhere either fighting mad or scared shitless. They are afraid of government. They don’t like anyone telling them anything about anything, ever.


It’s not the first time this has happened to fundamentalism, of course. During the 1970’s, we were involved in a church in Southern Pines, NC, that I have dubbed “The Fundy Church From Hell” that got into a legal brawl [Note: PDF file] with the state of North Carolina over teacher accreditation for our Christian school.


I was someplace in this crowd along with my husband. [I am sorry, America. I am so sorry. I was so very wrong.] In that particular clash between religion and government, the solution was for us to lobby the state legislature vehemently until they changed the law to suit us. North Carolina went from being one of the most heavily-regulated states in the union in regard to credentials for private school teachers to being one of the least-regulated states. Before we were finished dragging the state back to the 19th century, a private Christian school teacher had to be 18 years old and a high school graduate, period.

And stuff like this has happened from time to time all across the nation. I use that example because I was there.

There is a difference right here between the Mormon situation and the current fundamentalist one. Mormons are mostly a monolithic group. A few splinter groups exist, but they are small. Fundamentalism is one giant bundle of splinters. No monolith exists.

There was a voice for Mormonism in the president of the church. He spoke, and to the church members, it was the voice of God, something like the Pope speaking to the Catholic church. But there really is no such office in fundamentalism.

In the years since my deconversion and exit from religion, I have watched as former fundamentalists have morphed gradually into what we called “new evangelicals.” Our pastor always referred to them as “new evangelicals, with the emphasis on the ‘jelly’.” They were considered people who were perhaps “saved” (but maybe not), and certainly spineless and very much out of the will of God.

I’ve wondered, as I’ve watched from outside, if evangelicalism would become more fundy-like, or if fundamentalism would become more evangelical as the flirting, dating, and subsequent, almost inevitable marriage occurred. I’ve thought it’s been mostly evangelicalism veering sharply right as fundies came into their ranks bringing their fundamentalist world-view with them. And I still think that’s mostly the case.

But this is a turning point, maybe. Perhaps we’re going to see fundamentalism become kinder and gentler and a teensy bit more “liberal.”

Or maybe not.

Maybe they will become defiant and insular and retreat like they did after the Scopes trial.

Regardless, I think this is fundamentalism’s 1890 moment. Mormonism met the challenge of change, and even though pockets of splinter Mormons still practice polygamy in Utah, and even though there is reasonable evidence that at least some of Utah’s law enforcement folks turn a blind eye to it, the church as a whole moved from being a new, weird cult into a much more mainstream, if still way too conservative, Christian denomination.

Can American Christian fundamentalism do the same thing?

I’m not sure.

Read again what Wilford Woodruff said in 1869, before he knew he would have to eat those words:

If we were to do away with polygamy, it would only be one feather in the bird, one ordinance in the Church and kingdom. Do away with that, then we must do away with prophets and Apostles, with revelation and the gifts and graces of the Gospel, and finally give up our religion altogether and turn sectarians and do as the world does, then all would be right. We just can’t do that, for God has commanded us to build up His kingdom and to bear our testimony to the nations of the earth, and we are going to do it, come life or come death. He has told us to do thus, and we shall obey Him in days to come as we have in days past. (JOD 13:165 – p.166)

Substitute “counseling” or “our independence” or “our right to manage our own affairs” (meaning “our right to do with our women as we please”) for “polygamy” and those words could be spoken by almost any fundamentalist leader I’ve ever known.


No Humor Permitted

Don’t tell me to be nice,
Because I’m bleeding from my eyes.
I’m seeing red, but I’ve only cried blood once or twice.
Nathan Davis, “Eye For An Eye”, from the album Out of My Skin

The blog is called  “Ink Trekker.” The owner blogs about a lot of stuff, but often about the ongoing saga that is Bob Jones University. He’s also a pretty accomplished cartoonist.

“Apparently, he did not have a Reading Buddy.”

In the wake of the GRACE report being released day before yesterday (good golly, was it only two days ago?), Greg did a simply hilarious page poking fun at GRACE’s recommendation that people find a person to read the report with them, to avoid emotional distress.  Here’s an example. The reason this is funny to him (and to me) is that the report is 300 pages and very heavily footnoted in teensy type, so good luck finding somebody who wants to endure all that with you.  I don’t even want to read it all when I’m alone.

At any rate, that led to some commentary, some of it serious, and some of it a little snarky, as comments on blogs are wont to be. And then somebody wrote this:


The comment went on at length, so I refer you to it if you want to read it all.  It’s the last comment on the article, because Greg closed them at that point, as is his right to do. I’ll add a few snippets as I comment about it.

There is nothing wrong with her opener.  It’s fine. But the comment sort of goes on and on, and gets increasingly strident and preachy. She explains all about going to be interviewed by the GRACE team, and how emotional it all was for her, and how she had to have counseling for a year afterward.

So, seeing the cartoons about “reading buddies,” and reading your criticisms of the process, the report, and the conclusions is hurtful. I realize that it might seem like everyone involved in this has an agenda, but that’s not true. I can only speak for myself, but I was asked by the University to share my experiences, I did, and it was not easy.

Some more stuff continues and then she ends like this:

I’m still digesting it. But, my only purpose in writing this comment is to ask you to please be sensitive. Stumbling across this page today was hurtful. I feel like you have made fun of my pain. I realize I probably don’t understand all the history that you all seem to know. But just please be aware that the response of those who read the report matters to those of us who shared our stories. Don’t let your response be one of mocking.

I want to talk about all this a little bit.

First, I, along with Greg and probably most of the other folks who were commenting on that page are former BJU students. This GRACE Interviewee has no idea of our history. She even says so. She “doesn’t understand all the history that you all seem to know.”

Well, here you go. There’s some history. That’s just a little.

For all our GRACE interviewee knows, everyone who commented on that page was also a GRACE interviewee.  How would she know one way or another? Odd, how she just jumped in with her “admonishment” without knowing who she’s talking to.

The thing Greg was making fun of was the statement made by GRACE prior to the release of the report. Not the report itself. And it was a specific part of the statement – the part about not reading it alone if you’re sensitive to this stuff. That’s not the same thing as making fun of the “people involved in the investigations,” unless you’re including the person who wrote that particular line, in which case, I plead guilty.

This person says:

But I was still very anxious about the report being released. I don’t know how to adequately express this, besides to say that it was a very difficult thing.

Everyone was, my dear. Everyone was. I hardly care what happens to BJU, and I was a little bit, well, not anxious, but interested. The prospect of this report has engendered commentary running to many thousands of words, hours and hours of discussion, a full-fledged war complete with verbal darts and nonexistent shiny badges, and not a little angst. Anybody remember this?


I would suggest that probably this person, “Grace Interviewee,” should not choose any sort of career in the health care industry, most especially not working in an emergency room, or an operating suite, or an intensive care unit.


If you, “Grace Interviewee,” thought that a few little cartoons and chuckles about “reading buddies” was bad, you’ve obviously never heard the gallows humor that goes on among medical staff in stressful situations.

Nobody thinks it’s bad or horrible. Everyone understands that it is a stress reducer. Tasteless? Often. Something one wouldn’t wish for the patient’s family to hear? Absolutely not. But good for the staff to be able to express it? Yes, it is.

Life, in case you’re unaware of it, involves the opportunity to make choices. Lots of them.


We lost our son in 2006 to accidental methadone toxicity. It was the single worst thing that has ever happened to either of us, and something from which we will never fully recover. In the eight years that have passed since then, I still wrestle from time to time with memories and incidents and stuff that opens the wound and I realize suddenly that I’m still bleeding. I’ve “cried blood,” as he wrote, more than “once or twice.” More like daily.

Sometimes the littlest things set one of us off. We can’t always anticipate it.

However, there are some things that are certain to bother me. I do not buy novels that involve graphic descriptions of autopsies. I especially would not enjoy seeing a comedy skit involving anything to do with an autopsy.

Nor do I enjoy novels or television programs about drug abuse, or drug overdoses or anything related. I don’t want to see them, and I make an effort not to do so.

Occasionally, I screw up and find myself in a situation where something is occurring that is going to really get me upset. When I do, I extricate myself as rapidly and as unobtrusively as possible.

It is not the whole world’s fault that my son died. Hell, it’s not even my son’s fault that he died. It was an accident.

What I do not do is tell anyone who happens to write a novel that bothers me, or produce a television program that bothers me, or post photos of the happy family gathering on Facebook (they bother me too) that they are somehow being insensitive and shouldn’t do that. If somebody makes a joke that cuts a little too close, I know that it’s not personal, that they have no idea it bothers me, and that even if they did, I do not want to live in a situation where people have to walk on eggs around me for fear of offending me.

My particular sensitivity is my problem. It’s not anyone else’s. I deal with it, and do so quite well, I think, for the most part, and when I don’t, you won’t know about it.

Abuse victims didn’t choose to be abused. I understand that.

But beyond that, everything is a choice. Reading the GRACE report is a choice. You can either do so, or not.  Your choice. You can choose to do so with a reading buddy or alone. You can read some of it and not all of it.

And visiting somebody’s blog and reading all the way down through about 15 comments is also a choice.

Stumbling across this page today was hurtful.

Yeah, well, I’m trying to figure out how one “stumbles” across a blog. There’s only two ways I can think of that you might find it.

One is via a Google search. Of course, that’s not “stumbling.”  That’s “seeking and finding.”  Cease doing that, and your problem disappears.


The other is if somebody posted a link on social media someplace and you followed the link. In that case, as soon as you realized the content was “hurtful,” there’s a really easy solution. On my browser, it looks like this. Upper right-hand corner. Click. Your problem disappears.

Free speech is not universal, of course. Some societies legislate against hate speech, for instance. But making a joke about Boz thinking people should read a 300-page document (that’s about the size of a book) with a “reading buddy,” or joking about them recommending a memorial be built is not hate speech. It’s just a joke.

You were hurt in some way, “Grace Interviewee.” I’m very sorry. I’m very sorry that anyone is ever hurt, but people are every day, in lots of ways. Your pain is bad, I’m quite certain, but it’s not the paramount thing in the universe. My pain hurts like hell sometimes, but it’s not the paramount thing in the universe either.

And I would never ask anyone to watch their speech, or curb their jokes, or not to enjoy their families, or not to be proud of their children just because my eyes are bleeding.


Frivolity, Bob-Jones-style

And now I’m looking into darkness;
And everything around me makes no sense.
I feel like hating everyone but you;
You’ve always come to my defense.
Nathan Davis, “Carolina Sky”, from the album Nathan Davis LIVE


I spent two years at Bob Jones Academy, which is the high school associated with Bob Jones University, against my will. My mother dragged me to Greenville shortly after she and my father divorced (in part due to her religious conversion) and stuck me in that place. I was totally unprepared for it – especially for southern fundamentalist culture. When I read the handbook, I remember asking my mother what in the world they meant by “no mixed bathing.” I thought they were talking about boys and girls taking a bath together. I was from West Palm Beach, Florida, where the beach and bathing suits were as normal as palm trees or seafood.

I lasted two years, ninth and tenth grades. During the winter of my tenth grade year, I had dated a guy who was in the 11th grade. He and a group of seniors used to go to some bar in Greenville where the manager would allow them to have a room upstairs which they dubbed “The Upper Room”and they’d drink some beer in privacy, wait until they were sure they were nicely sober, and then go back to the campus.

Only one particular weekend in March, all the seniors had a poetry notebook due for English class and naturally, none of them had done it. So they bowed out and my friend went alone, and got very drunk. And came back on campus in that condition, and got himself very shipped.

And blabbed a lot, more or less incoherently, and got a bunch of us in trouble.


And that is how I found myself in the Administration Building the following week, along with several of my fellow students. There were two other girls and about 12 boys.

We were placed in a waiting room, where we immediately realized we were being tape-recorded, and had to wait there while each one of us was called into an adjoining conference room to be interrogated.

I was the third person in, preceded by the two other girls. Nobody came out the way they went in, so we didn’t see each other again until after it was all over.

In the conference room, at one of those long lawyer-office tables, was Dr. Bob III, Dr. Marvin Lewis (campus “pastor”), Miss Riley (Dean of Women), Miss Barker (dorm supervisor), Dr. Liverman (Dean of Men) and probably a couple of other people I’ve forgotten. Dr. Bob, Jr. was out of town, and Dr. Bob III (who wasn’t using the title of “Dr.” yet) was filling in. He was 25 years old, so young that it’s astonishing to me to realize it now. I turned 15 that week.

They began by telling me that they wanted me to understand that they knew everything I knew, that the other girls had told them everything and that my inebriated friend Steven had told them everything. They just needed for me to verify what I knew that they already knew so they’d know that I was being honest and upfront with them, and insert Bible verse here.


And I answered them, honestly. I told them that I knew exactly what they wanted to know – who was in the habit of going to town with Steven – and that I wasn’t going to tell them because I’d promised not to do so.

Dear Flying Spaghetti Monster, was I ever a dumb kid.

What ensued was utter chaos. Dr. Bob lost his temper, rather rapidly, and began yelling that I was “shipped”, loudly. Dr. Liverman kept trying to reason with me. Miss Riley was saying, “Now, my dear. . . ” in that soft drawl of hers. And I was crying, but stalwart. No way was I going to tell them.

The longer it went on, the more I knew that they didn’t really know anything. And I remember how horrified I was to realize that they were lying to me, but I knew they were.

They called my mother, working downstairs in the Business Office, and got her to talk with me on the phone and try to convince me to tell. No way.

More yelling. “You’re shipped!”

Finally, Dr. Bob said (yelled?) “You’re a silly, frivolous little girl and I have no use for you.” I have never forgotten those words and it has been fifty years. I can still hear them ringing. I replied: “What I think of you, sir, I cannot say because it’s all four-letter words.”

And he went off again, screaming “You’re shipped!  Get her out of here. She’s shipped!”

At this point, I was removed from the room and placed in an office nearby to wait. I wasn’t sure for what. I assumed it was for an escort to remove me from the campus or take me to my mother since I was shipped. My memory of this is of being locked in the room, but I’m not sure that was possible – I don’t know if those office doors would lock from the outside like that and lock somebody IN. I contemplated ripping the office to shreds but thought better of it and just paced.

They then interviewed all the remaining kids and somebody came back to get me.

Dr. Marvin Lewis

When I went back to the conference room, Dr. Bob III was gone. I’m not sure how many of the others remained, but a few. They told me that I was being given a second chance, including 149 demerits (actually, fewer than that, since I already had a few), and I was going to have to be counseled by Dr. Liverman and Dr. Lewis at their convenience.

Dr. Lewis did the whole pastor routine. I’ve forgotten most of it and don’t think I had to see him but a few times. He would begin each session with prayer, during which he explained at length to God what a wretched human being I was and asked for mercy for me. Much appreciated by all, I’m sure.

I never knew why I had to see the Dean of Men instead of the Dean of Women, but I suspect it was because they thought I needed a father figure to talk with me.

Nobody told me the why of anything. I just did as I was told. It soon became obvious that the counseling sessions were designed entirely to get me to tell what I knew. The other two girls, far from telling them anything, had just done what brilliant teenage girls have done for thousands of years and I didn’t – burst into tears and proclaim that they knew nothing at all.


The guys didn’t cry, but they also denied knowing anything at all, and it was obvious that Steven had offered up no names in his drunken state. I alone had the key to everyone’s safety. These boys were all seniors. Most of them were already accepted into one college or another. None of them were returning to the University.

At that time, if you were shipped from BJA during a school year, you lost that whole year. So these boys would have lost their senior year of high school, and wouldn’t have been able to go to college the following fall.

No way was I telling.

Dr. Liverman did everything in his power to get me to tell. He cajoled and read me passages from the Bible. He chatted kindly. He begged. I smiled and didn’t answer. I suspected that if I capitulated, I would miraculously obtain that final demerit the following day and be shipped for real. And eventually, he gave up and I stopped getting those lovely little pink slips.

And March turned into April and then May and then school was out. And I was denied re-enrollment for the following year, to my everlasting delight and joy. I went to Wade Hampton High School (public school) for the following two years and happily left Bob Jones behind forever.

Sort of.

After graduating from Greenville General Hospital’s School of Nursing, I moved into an apartment near the BJU campus and was treated to the Don incident, recounted here.

After that, I quit going to church for a while, only to walk right back into the frying pan a few years later. Married by then, we spent 14 years in fundamentalism, and then a few years as kinder, gentler evangelicals before I finally deconverted altogether in the late nineties.

“You’re a silly, frivolous little girl and I have no use for you.” The words have followed me for fifty years. Even though I knew it was baloney, that I was not silly  or frivolous and that he was just angry because I wouldn’t do as he asked, it was still awful.


I cannot be anything but delighted to see him singled out in the GRACE report as a source of serious problems. He certainly was well on his way there when he was 25. How does it feel, Bob old buddy, to be sitting in the hot seat?

For the Birds, Gracefully

“There are today many Communists in America. They are everywhere — in factories, offices, butcher stores, on street corners, in private businesses. And each carries in himself the germ of death for society.”
― J. Howard McGrath

That guy, who most of us today never heard of, was President Truman’s Attorney General, as well as a US Senator and the Governor of Rhode Island. He left the Attorney General’s office shortly after I was born. He was a politician for almost all his adult life.


Surely he knew something about the political ideology of Americans. He was an expert, wasn’t he? A Senator, an Attorney General, a Governor? He was surrounded by politics. He experienced it every day of his life. He lived through World War II. He was a contemporary of this man, who you probably do recognize.

Joe McCarthy could easily have made the same statement that McGrath did. He certainly believed it. He made the lives of many Americans a living hell because he believed it so vehemently. There is no reason to believe that these men were not sincere.

But they were sincerely wrong.

carriage truck

And this leads me to cars. Actually, to be more exact, to a truck. This one. A Chevrolet dually, otherwise known as Dave’s sweetheart. He loves this truck. It is a nice one, I have to admit.

But what is interesting about that truck is that while we were in the market for a truck and shortly after buying it, we were astonished at the number of Chevrolet trucks exactly like it that suddenly flooded the market. They were everywhere. We could hardly go anywhere without seeing one.

General Motors had flooded America with trucks just like ours.


But of course, they hadn’t. All that had happened was that Dave and I had become more aware of these trucks, and we noticed them, simply because we owned one. The effect subsided after a while and while we still own the truck, we don’t notice other trucks just like ours any more.

During that period, though, when we were experiencing that cognitive bias (that’s what it’s called), we would have been very poor people to give any testimony or evidence about our knowledge of the incidence of ownership of Chevrolet trucks in our area. Like McGrath, who saw a Communist under every rock, we saw Chevrolet trucks in every driveway.

And from trucks we go right here:


This is a short excerpt from the GRACE report on Bob Jones University. The entirety is available as a PDF here, but be aware that it’s 300 or so pages long.


So, abuse victims are like canaries. They are more aware than the rest of us of “victim-blaming” and so we have to really pay attention when they “sound the alarm.”

That sounds good, doesn’t it?  After all, “victim-blaming” totally sucks. It does. I know it does. I’ve been there. 


And oh my goodness, how this quote has resonated around social media. Everyone seems to just love it. It’s not just the Queen who loves it, although her remark is the one I’m putting here because I am a nasty bitch and don’t like her, but lots of people like the quote.

“…this is what we’re after here,” she says.  Because it sounds so. . . true. So. . . right.

After all, victims know about victim-blaming. They’ve experienced it. They are hyper-aware, just like we were hyper-aware of Chevrolet trucks.

And just like McCarthy and McGrath were hyper-aware of Communists.

Oh, gee, wait.

That doesn’t really work, does it? There really weren’t a bazillion Communists in America plotting to take over the government, were there?


Because McCarthy was holding a hammer, everything he saw was a nail. We all do it. He did it really publicly and really badly, and that was regrettable, but we’re all prone to it.

But, you see, the GRACE report goes on, with a little paragraph that everyone who is quoting all this leaves out.


Oh, this is better, I think. Some people who were interviewed had positive experiences at BJU. Honestly I don’t know how that’s possible,  but I know some of them and they are honest people and they tell me they did, and their perception is just as valid as those who say that they had negative experiences.

That doesn’t mean that bad shit didn’t happen. That doesn’t mean that BJU is really adept at counseling. They clearly are not.

But it does mean that victims are really not canaries.

One of the positive things I saw in the GRACE report was that they appear to have given a great deal of weight to the actual writing and words of the men that they criticized. That’s far better, far, far better, than condemning these people based on a story told by people who won’t (for whatever reason) step into the light of day and let us see their faces.

So, it’s all good. Bob Jones sucks at counseling. We already knew that. I already talked about it, in fact. And GRACE has called them out on it.  And that’s good.

But the canary stuff is simply bird shit. Victims may or may not be accurate reporters. They may or may not be able to see facts clearly. They may or may not remember details accurately.  Just like the rest of us. They are not super-human beings with special insight.

The fact that I was told that the guy from my church who came on to me did so because I had on jeans doesn’t make me better able to recognize this sort of thing than my husband is. If that were really true, why didn’t Boz and company have victims do all the reporting? Why did they spend a bazillion hours listening to sermons and perusing books and other writings by these men?  Why bother? After all, if the victims are canaries, then the rest of the investigating is simply a waste of time.

I like truth. I like justice.

I do not like witch hunts, or McCarthyism. Not then, when I was a teeny baby, and not now when I’m an old lady. If you’re going to quote this little section of the report, please quote the whole thing. But really, just skip it and use that page to line your bird’s cage.