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Taking the Bob Out of Bob Jones U.

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A month later, Dr. Bob shocked the BJU community by ending the ban, declaring it merely a symbolic protest against "one-world government."

Today BJU is multiracial, although Pait declines to provide numbers, saying, "We don't focus on someone's color." And the school has not petitioned to regain its tax exemption.

Last year, on the day after the presidential election, Dr. Bob took to the pulpit at the school's compulsory daily chapel service to read a letter he'd written to President Bush:

"In your reelection, God has granted America -- though she doesn't deserve it -- a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. . . . Don't equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ."

The students cheered. And when Dr. Bob broke the news that Tom Daschle, the Senate's Democratic leader, had lost his bid for reelection, they cheered again.

Water and the Spirit

In the middle of the BJU campus is a pond fed by cascading waterfalls. In the middle of the pond is an island that contains the graves of Bob Jones and Bob Jones Jr. and their wives.

In the administration building is a gallery of oil paintings of Bob Jones, Bob Jones Jr. and Bob Jones III and their wives. In classrooms, the walls bear printed slogans -- the thoughts of Bob Jones:

"It is better to die for something than to live for nothing."

"You may acquire knowledge but you have to get wisdom direct from God."

The Founder's sayings are collected in a book called "Chapel Sayings of Dr. Bob Jones Sr." It's available in the campus bookstore, along with dozens of books attacking an endless series of apostates -- Billy Graham, Catholics, charismatics, Mormons, Masons, Jehovah's Witnesses, plus Halloween and Harry Potter.

Next to the bookstore is the BJU snack bar, famous for its delicious milkshakes. Brandy Ravan, 20, is sitting there, doing her homework.

She's a sophomore from Spartanburg, S.C., working her way through school with a job in the campus dining halls.

"I'm one of the lucky girls who get to do banquets," she says. "I get to serve Stephen Jones and Dr. Bob."

She was born again in the ninth grade -- "I'm the only one in my family who's saved," she says -- and she paid her way through a Christian high school by working at McDonald's. At that school, she learned about BJU.

"I felt the Lord was saying, 'Go to Bob Jones,' " she says.

She's studying child care, hoping to teach in a Christian school. She loves BJU.

"Everyone is very loving," she says. "They want us to serve the Lord and that's great. I know there are people who aren't serving the Lord, like Catholics. I want to serve the Lord by witnessing to them."

BJU's many rules make sense to her, like the ones against hand-holding.

"One thing leads to another," she says. "Girls like to touch. First it's your pinkies and then your hand and then kissing. It's dangerous."

'You Have to Be Bold'

"We are what we are -- and what we've always been," says Bob Jones III. "So much of academia has turned another way and we're an island in an alien world, a secular world."

He's sitting in the dusky gloom of his office. The walls are dark wood, decorated with mementos of beasts he shot -- a deer head, an elk head, moose antlers.

At 65, Dr. Bob is a thin man with a warm smile and a friendly manner -- except when he's denouncing the sins of his godless nation.

"Homosexuality is a sin -- cut and dried, no question about it," he says. "It's as plain as the nose on your face in the Bible."

He's explaining his statement, in his post-election letter to Bush, that America doesn't deserve God's favor. It's because courts and legislatures defy God's law on homosexuality and abortion, he says.

"God's not going to let America have His favor while the establishment is treating Him with such disregard and insult," he says, his voice rising, his hands chopping the air. "So I don't think America has any reason to expect the blessing of God. This is not a Christian nation."

Dr. Bob won't back down when he thinks he's right, but he says he was wrong when he called George H.W. Bush "a devil" back in 1982.

"I was not convinced that the first George Bush was a real conservative," he explains. "I was afraid that he had ties to certain organizations that revealed what he really was, that his public rhetoric was hiding what he really was. And devils deal in treachery like that, in deceit. 'Devil' may have been a strong word, but you know what? He turned out to be a whole lot better president than I expected, and I shook his hand in the Oval Office and thanked him for being a good president."

But Dr. Bob defends the Jones tradition of vitriolic political rhetoric. "I don't believe the defense of the truth should be milquetoast," he says. "Sometimes you have to be bold and say straightforward things."

Will Stephen Jones, his son and successor, be as bold and straightforward?

"He's not weak," Dr. Bob says. "When the Bible is under attack or Christians are being misrepresented, he's going to stand up. He may do it more graciously than I did -- and I hope he would -- but he's not without conviction."

For reasons he doesn't understand, Dr. Bob says, God called the three Bob Joneses to lead this university. And now God has called Stephen Jones.

"If there's another generation, if there's a future, if the Lord doesn't come soon," Dr. Bob says, "then I want Stephen to be the man that God raised up for the next generation."

Waiting in the Wings

Stephen Jones never wanted to be president of Bob Jones University.

"I knew the pressures Dad was under -- the travel and preaching and being away from the family and the national spotlight that so often comes in our direction," he says. "And I looked at that and said, 'You'd have to be insane to want that!' "

He bursts out laughing, which makes him seem even younger than he already does. He's so fresh-faced at 35 that he looks more like a college sophomore than a college president.

Growing up, he didn't expect to become president of BJU. His older brother, Bob Jones IV, was being groomed for that job.

Bob IV got a master's degree in nonprofit corporation management from George Washington University in 1992, but in the late '90s, he told his father that the Lord was calling him to be a writer, not a college president. Today, Bob IV -- who declined to be interviewed for this article -- is the national editor of a Christian magazine called World.

So the burden fell to Stephen. "I surrendered and said, 'Okay, if this is what the Lord wants, I'm willing to do it,' " he says.

No rule mandates that the president of BJU must be named Jones, but, Stephen says, "In each generation, the Lord has called us."

He was born in the clinic at BJU and he never really left. He went to Bob Jones preschool, Bob Jones Elementary, Bob Jones Junior High, Bob Jones Academy. He has a bachelor's degree in public speaking from BJU, a master of divinity from BJU, and on Saturday -- the day he becomes president of BJU -- he'll receive his PhD in liberal arts studies from BJU. He met his wife at BJU and has worked as a teaching assistant, residence hall supervisor and vice president for administration at BJU.

He's ready for the administrative work of the presidency, he says, but he's not sure he has the personality for the other part of the job -- feisty public scourge of wayward preachers and pols.

"Given my disposition, I don't believe so," he says, with a laugh. "I mean, at times I'll have to say that we stand with the word of God and here's what the word of God says. But I'll try to say it as lovingly as possible."

No prayers for God to smite any politicians?

"Probably not," he says, smiling.

He even admits that he's embarrassed by some of the more vitriolic comments of the various Bob Joneses, although he won't identify them. "I don't want to get specific," he says. "But there were things said back then that I wouldn't say today."

Unlike his father, who eagerly rips into liberals during his interview, Stephen Jones dodges political questions. Asked about the school's defense of segregation or the honorary degree for George Wallace or the interracial dating ban, he begs off.

"My dad would have a perspective on that because he lived through it," he says. "I'm afraid if I speak, it's not going to be accurate."

He has no plans to initiate any sweeping changes, he says. He won't alter the rules against rock music or hand-holding or kissing. He'll continue to make sure no liberal speakers appear on the BJU campus, and he'll keep a tight rein on what his drama students perform on the campus stage.

"There are objectionable elements in literature," he says. "There are things that are blatantly anti-Christian. Even among the Shakespeare plays, we pick and choose. There are some we won't do, like 'Measure for Measure.' "

What's wrong with "Measure for Measure"?

"A girl gets pregnant out of wedlock," he says, "and a large part of the play is about this relationship and how it's looked down on socially. And it spends more time focused on that and too little time on the moral repercussions of that. And to put that in front of students who are forming their biblical framework wouldn't be advantageous. So we don't do 'Measure for Measure.' "

What about "Romeo and Juliet"?

"We do 'Romeo and Juliet,' " he says, "but we take out the bawdy elements."


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