First, I want to express my sincere admiration for Jeffrey Hoffman, the executive director of BJUnity, and all of that organization’s board members. They succeeded in piercing the arrogance of Bob Jones III and holding him to account for his bullying hate speech. Hats off to BJUnity!
But I’m taking a harder line than these kind-hearted, good-spirited people. You see, I don’t believe Jones apologized at all. Allow me to explain the difference between a fauxpology and an apology.
How to fauxpology in just 5 easy steps:
- Announce repeatedly in the press release that you are apologizing–oh for goodness sakes, don’t actually apologize; just say that you are apologizing. Repeatedly make use of the word “apology” as doing so makes these hurt little gay puppies think you actually did apologize! See, isn’t that just awesome?! They have been so abused by your hatred they are willing to believe these pitiful crumbs are offered in goodwill.
- Be very clear. Make a list, not too long, of the people to whom you are apologizing. And this is essential: Do not include the people you have actually wronged. I would suggest including an apology to Jesus (I mean, he forgave everybody. This sets a good precedent, right?!), the institution you failed to lead (repeatedly), and yourself. Apologizing to yourself may seem a little awkward, I know. But, after all: being the center of your own little arrogant universe is hard. Yes, it’s hard to be you. This plays the sympathy card.
- Never ever mention the people you wronged as doing so would add a needless degree of authenticity to the fauxpology. Refer to the group you wronged in an ambiguous, generic way — “sinners.” Yes! “Sinner” is an excellent choice as it serves as code to your base—code that says, “Don’t worry, guys. This is just a fauxpology. I still hate these queer people as much as ever and will continue to market for support off their bowed backs.
- Leave out the fact that, back in 1980 when you were demanding the LGBT community be murdered, you were busy trying to make sure then sitting POTUS, Jimmy Carter, a deeply religious man who has always supported the LGBT community, did not extend civil rights to the oppressed LGBT community. Instead, let’s refer to this bit of unpleasantness as a “political controversy.” Certainly don’t mention you still want the LGBT community to have no basic human rights. That marriage thing is so over-rated. In fact, did you know that fundamentalists have the highest divorce rate of any group! It’s true. But we mustn’t muddle the fauxpology with facts.
- Above all else, do nothing to make amends to the LGBT community you have so grievously wronged. In fact, exactly the opposite: continue to fight to keep them a repressed class with no basic rights. Continue to beat them down or ignore them entirely because, well… you’re just God’s humble, meager servant.
Yes, with a little practice, you too can be as conniving and hard-hearted as Bob Jones, III.
In my opinion, Jones’ statement is no apology at all because he never addresses the group he wronged: LGTB people. He made no effort at all to make amends to these children of God. And he has no plans to.
At the heart of this issue is one thing: money. Bobby’s White Boys’ Club lost its tax exempt status and had to admit black people. If the Civil Rights Act included the gay, those men’s dorm rooms would all start to look much too fabulous, and the lesbians would demand to work in the motor pool – which is just not their place!
So, what has changed? Anything? I think so.
We now live in a country that deems this type of hate speech so unacceptable, so offensive, that men like Jones no longer have a free pass to spread their over-the-top, murderous hate speech. Young people, college-age young people, the very demographic to which he and his business must cater, are vastly more tolerant of gay and lesbian people than any other demographic in this country. Jones is losing these students to other colleges–real colleges and universities with authentic accreditation. He has already lost them literally by the thousands. That’s what has changed. His statement is nothing less than an admission of this fact. His brand of hatred and arrogance just isn’t selling the way it once did.
Jones’ admission that his language was inappropriate is a quiet admission that the way a society, a people, a nation, a body of believers interpret their ancient holy writings changes. (Gasp!) According to Jones, the Bible calls for the stoning of gay people. Indeed, the Bible condones slavery. The Bible condones demeaning women. But civilization has moved beyond the wicked practice of slavery, killing gay people, and mistreating women (to only name 3 such things mentioned in the Bible) to a more enlightened embrace and acceptance of the diversity that all humanity represents.
People of color are God’s children. LGBT people are God’s children. Women are men’s equal. God loves each of these groups just as God made them. Jones’ words are a reminder that the way we interpret our holy books is through a changing lens, one that grows deeper with understanding, humanity and kindness. His view just never budged, as he has always been (very) proud to claim some secret knowledge of God’s heart.
In issuing his statement, Jones publicly admits that an entire class of people exists as more than just one of his whipping posts. His prior 35 years of stone silence was the ultimate ostracism—what this institution touts as “separation.” This fauxpology opens the possibility of dialogue, understanding, and, one can hope: change.
The fundamentalist movement desperately needs to have an ongoing, open, honest conversation with people of good will who do not share their extremist views. This business needs to see the faces of the young people they have harmed, thrown out, abandoned—those who have gone so far as to kill themselves because those they loved and who were supposed to love them cast them out.
Other individuals, organizations and agencies have had to provide parenting, shelter, food, kindness, advice, education, and selfless spiritual guidance to the countless children fundamentalists have thrown from their homes. In short, others have had to redress the ultimate family betrayal and live up to the call for unconditional love that these extremists fail to demonstrate with their actions. If Jones wants to attempt to make some small amends, he should fund an independent group to care for America’s homeless LGBT youth population–a group that has nothing to do with conversion therapy or religion, just loving acceptance.
It’s past time to begin this conversation, way, way past time. It’s time to learn a better way forward. Thankfully, whether he likes it or not, Jones’ fauxpology to himself and Jesus opens the door to this possibility.
Yet once again, Jones is playing catch up and damage control. It took him 35 years to issue his press release. I guess slow progress is better than none at all, but will it be enough to save the family business from closing its doors because today’s young people are more enlightened than the unkind, failed leadership of an irrelevant institution trying to keep from going out of business?
Despite Jones’ fauxpology, I still maintain that Bob Jones University is a very unsafe place for young people of any and all sexual orientations and ethnic backgrounds, male and female. They lack authenticity in their apologies, accreditation, and counseling practices. Stay very far away.
- Bob Jones III Apologizes for 1980 Call to Kill Gays (nbcnews.com)
- Bob Jones III Apologizes For Saying Gays Should Be Stoned To Death (huffingtonpost.com)
- Forgive and Forget After Bob Jones’ “Stone the Gays” Apology? (religiondispatches.org)
- Bob Jones III apologises for saying gay people should be stoned (christiantoday.com)