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Bob Jones University, Fundamentalism, Sex Abuse

What the BJU Board can learn from the Penn State Scandal

A few people have written great posts comparing the scandal at Penn State and the decision Bob Jones University has made in putting Chuck Phelps back on the Board. I encourage you to check them out.

Click here to see ChucklesTravels’ post Penn State v Bob Jones University

Click here to see The Hidalgo Grain Company’s post BJU: An Institution in Decline.

We should be able to compare different situations in life. No, we don’t have all of the facts to all of the situations out there. And, no, those two situations are not exactly alike. But what should matter more to us as Christians is what a pastor does when it comes to a child. Pastors are to shepherd the flock, to care for their flock, not throw a lamb out defenseless and alone. That is not the heart of God. Jesus said to his followers, “Let the little children come.” In Matthew 5, he says:

“31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me,  was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

Tina Anderson was a “least of these.” Those boys abused by Sandusky are “the least of these.” I believe God cares for “the least of these.” It is incredibly heartbreaking that the leadership in both cases did not do all they could for these victims and that the priority in both cases became the reputation of locations with which they are affiliated.

No matter how many years ago it was when the abuses took place, one thing is clear. Penn State is seeking to do the right thing. Their reputation is now tarnished. But they are firing people who have been key in their university because it’s the right thing to do. Bob Jones University has recently put Chuck Phelps back on their board, even though he has not even so much as made a public statement apologizing to Tina Anderson for not doing more back then. He still believes he has done nothing wrong.

So what can the Bob Jones University Board can learn from the Penn State scandal? To put it simply, to do the right thing today. Forget about their reputation. It’s not about them. It’s about the children who have been victimized.

I first heard about the Penn State abuse scandal from my husband, who’s an avid sports fan. He showed me an article from ESPN about it. A few days later, when looking for info on the press conference that discussed the firing of Joe Paterno, I came across this column from Rick Reilly. I’ve included it here because I think he gets it. Here it is:

*** Warning: May trigger memories if you are a sexual abuse survivor.

Remember the children

This is not about Joe Paterno.

If these boys really were molested, groped and raped by a middle-aged ex-Penn State football coach, then whatever misjudgment Paterno made will be a single lit match compared to the bonfire these boys will walk in for years to come.

Many of them won’t be able to trust. Won’t be able to love. Won’t be able to feel — nor trust or love themselves.

Don’t feel sorry for Paterno. He’s had his life. Feel sorry for these boys, because they may never get one.

Ask former NHL All-Star Theo Fleury, who has reached out on Twitter and radio to the alleged victims of Jerry Sandusky. Fleury was sexually molested once or twice a week for two years by his youth hockey coach, Graham James. It twisted Fleury so inside-out that he numbed himself for years with booze, cocaine and strippers. He blew much of the $50 million he made in the NHL trying to forget. The coach he’d entrusted his hockey dreams to flayed open his soul for his own sexual perversions and left Fleury hollow.

“I no longer had faith in myself or my own judgment,” Fleury, 43, wrote in his book “Playing with Fire.” “Once it’s gone, how do you get it back? … I became a f—ing raging, alcoholic lunatic.”

Ask former Red Wing, Flame and Bruin Sheldon Kennedy. He was sexually molested by James every Tuesday and Thursday night at parent-approved sleepovers at James’ house from age 14 to 19. This snake even took Fleury and Kennedy to Disneyland, where he groped them, by turn, in a motel room. It left Kennedy so shamed and confused that suicide looked better to him than living with the guilt of it another day.

“You can’t trust anybody afterwards,” Kennedy said yesterday from Toronto, where he runs, an organization that teaches adults how to recognize abuse. “So you tend to live a very lonely life. You mask the horrible way you’re feeling with sex and gambling and drugs. You put all these walls up. You keep saying, ‘Why didn’t I say anything? I must’ve done something wrong. I let him do it to me.'”

Imagine: One reported victim in the Penn State case, now 24, has been living with that kind of hole growing inside him since he made allegations against Sandusky in 1998 — 13 years ago. Those allegations never led to charges. That’s 13 years of not being believed, of knowing his alleged perpetrator was out there, volunteering at high schools and running his grisly camp “tours” of the shower room.

The horror of it makes you want to punch somebody. If Kennedy could talk to boys Sandusky might have abused who haven’t come forward yet?

“Tell someone,” says Kennedy, now 42. “Because people are going to believe you. People know it’s not your fault.”

No, this isn’t about 84-year-old Joe Paterno not taking more steps that might have stopped it. It’s about everybody not taking more steps that might have stopped it. Not parents, not teachers, not uncles, not friends, not counselors.

Imagine: Victim One, according to the Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot-News, was often taken out of class by Sandusky to be further molested. Just taken out of school by somebody who wasn’t his parent, with no questions asked until his mother finally called the principal and asked her to check into it. Later that day, the principal called back in tears. “You need to come down here right now.”

According to a 1998 study on child sexual abuse by Boston University Medical School, one in six boys in America will be abused by age 16. For girls, it’s one in four by the age of 14. Those “If you see something, say something” billboards shouldn’t just be about terrorism. They may apply to sex abuse, too. Doesn’t matter if it’s your uncle, your longtime assistant coach or your buddy. You HAVE to say something. And yet, precious few people have the guts to say anything at all.

“The fear is too strong,” Kennedy says. “People don’t know what to do. They think, ‘Oh my god, how bad is this going to look? What are we going to do now that we’ve let this guy operate right under our noses? We better keep quiet.’ But it can’t work like that anymore.”

Does Kennedy blame Paterno?

“Does he have grandkids? [Yes, 17.] How would he feel if it were one of his grandkids in that shower with the coach? What would he have done? Somehow, the perpetrator felt welcome at that school. We need systems in place that make perpetrators feel unwelcome.”

What must those boys feel like, right now, as all this darkness gets played out in front of the camera lights?

“Probably second-guessing themselves,” Kennedy says. “Coming forward doesn’t get these boys any further ahead in life. It isn’t easy. But it has to happen.”

The road these boys are on now is endless and buckled and uphill. Some will hate their parents for not protecting them and hate themselves for hating them. They will hate the pervert for tricking them and hate themselves for being tricked. And just when they think this cruel and long legal process is over, it can start all over again.

Imagine: Kennedy’s abuser, James, got 3½ years but was pardoned by the Canadian National Parole Board in 2007. Currently, he is out on bail, awaiting sentencing on nine more counts of sexual abuse and who knows how many more sinister trips to motel rooms.

If all these charges turn out to be true, though, soon he and Sandusky will both be going to prison — a place where, with any luck, they will feel most unwelcome.



2 thoughts on “What the BJU Board can learn from the Penn State Scandal

  1. See also this site on What Northland and BJU can learn from Penn State.

    Posted by P D | November 13, 2011, 6:00 pm
    • Thanks for sharing this. I believe Northland’s Matt Olson was as involved in covering up Tina’s rape as Chuck Phelps. How else can a 16-year old girl receive prenatal care, give birth in a hospital, and no one question it? Her medical practitioners must have assumed a boyfriend got her pregnant and were not told otherwise. I wonder what Olson’s church was told? How minimized was her situation by Olson that no one in the church cared enough to make sure Willis was arrested and charged? Olson appears not to have cared.

      Posted by GraceGirl | November 13, 2011, 8:22 pm

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