Bob Jones Me

I Went to Bob Jones University

Most people are surprised when they find out I attended Bob Jones University.

“Why?” “Yeah, right,” or “What the heck were you thinking?” are pretty standard responses.

I was thinking it was God’s will for me to attend BJU.


The truth is I had attended an independent fundamental Baptist church and school for the previous 18 years…

We’d call Billy Graham “liberal,” condemn any music with emphasis on the 2nd and 4th beat (that’s all contemporary christian, jazz and even easy listening) as “satanic,” considered smoking cigarettes the #1 proof of anyone’s true spiritual state (obviously depraved heathen), and heaven forbid if you got pregnant “out of wedlock”… you might as well go join the cult of the Pentecostals because “speaking in tongues” might make you feel a little better about your degenerate condition…

and of the 4 or 5 colleges that my church/school “approved” it was obvious that Bob Jones was the one real Christians should attend.

I wanted to be a real Christian.

I wanted to prove that I had what it takes. To have attended any other fundamentalist institution (in my mind) would have been admitting weakness. To attend one of those “liberal” Christian colleges like Cornerstone University or Cedarville would be like admitting defeat… and places like Liberty University always required “air quotes” if someone called them “christian” – so that wasn’t even in the picture.

(and anything outside those Baptist options I’d probably never even heard of)

I’m a 16/17-year-old kid making this decision and every dominant influence in my life is sending me the message that BJU is where God wants me… and I don’t want to compromise or show any weakness… and I develop a feeling in my gut that “BJU is where God wants me.”

So I figured it was God’s will.

I thought I knew what I was getting into, but I didn’t.

Because I thought it would be just a bunch of rules to follow. I could handle that, I’d been in Christian school my whole life. What I didn’t realize is that it isn’t just rules about haircuts and belt-wearing and co-ed activities… it is an entire culture in itself and it is religion at its worst.

It was a culture that was racist, unloving, and insensitive with no nurturing of hurt kids,  no allowance for humanity, and one that used fear as the primary motivator for religious refinement.

It is a miracle anyone passing through learns anything about grace. (and when they do it’s in spite of, not because of the institution)

It was only years later when I discovered that Jesus’s strongest words in the gospels are aimed at the most religious members of his society.

Out of the sea of pantyhose, floral-print jumpers; starched-shirts, paisley ties I was able to make out a handful of kids who had the courage to attempt being different.

and out of those a few who were authentically different (and not just attention-starved)

and out of those a small number who seemed to be seeking both God and themselves honestly.

It is those few who have had more impact than just about anyone in my becoming an adult and my love of the Bible.

We were like refugees, huddled together around a New American Standard Bible translation, reading it by proverbial candlelight and discussing doctrines of grace with the same hushed tones that we’d speak of pipe smoke or Smashing Pumpkins.

Some of us (especially those that got out early) managed to emerge relatively unscathed, while others took a decade of healing before discovering some sort of balance, and yet others twenty years later continue to nurse the wounds of self-lying required to survive four years of undergrad.

The funny thing is that out of that group I not only came to first understand grace, the thrill of discovering God, and the value of mentoring relationships, I also managed to meet another BJU misfit that now happens to be my wife of 15 years.

(we stole a glance outside Stratton Hall one morning and the rest is history)

So in a weird way, I think it was God’s will for me after all.

It’s a mysterious thing. It rarely makes sense and almost never takes me where I’d most likely choose to go.

So I brace myself for the ride and watch for those glimmers of enlightenment along the way that remind me I’m not in control (and that it’s a good thing).

Comments 57

  1. This was a great artrcle Troy. And with looking back, it may have been all about you and Noel meeting that Freshman year.

  2. Could have added that your parents did not make you go there!! 🙂
    We trusted your desire to follow God and supported your choice. You did find an awesome soul mate there so I do beleive it was indeed God’s will for you.

  3. So the reasons, motivations, influences in your life that convinced you that you should go there, in order to be in God’s will, sound so much like mine….and I was a product of fundamentalism decades before you I think. 🙂

    Yes, and the small group of characters who pulled me through… I love them dearly and do feel that we endured a trial or battle together…

  4. Troy,
    your so honest article is one of the best most honest and humble articles that I have read on line, since I began to research fundamentalism and its deadly/damaging effect on precious people’s lives. Have been researching this subject for a number of years, more than ten anyway. God has given me a deep passion for true freedom in Jesus Christ, to help people understand and enter into, and live and walk in, the true freedom in Jesus Christ, as well as deep love and compassion for those who have been enslaved by false teaching and its negative,undermining effects on people’s lives, which brings them into such bondage of misery and unhappiness. Which keeps them always feeling that somehow they are a failure and always will be. Legalism and all of the deceptive religious substitutes people are deceived into blindly following,cause them to miss and lose their right focus and sound thinking, on what real and genuine christianity, and the ‘real love of God’ , really is and always has been. Legalism is a denial of the Grace of God. We all need a greater revelelation of God’s Grace, and a revelation of the book of Galatians, to combat legalism and keep it outside the gates of our lives, and treat it as a real enemy of trye freedom, which it is. Being deeply committed to living and walking in the real love of God, in His Light, and in His Truth, no matter what happens to me, no matter who persecutes me, has cost me very painfully in the cost of committment for the past thirty one years. But I have realized that the cost of committment, the pain ,suffering, and persecution, because of my following God from my heart, and wanting to obey God from my heart, in true obedience, has all been worth it. I love Him so much. I am so moved by your story and journey. I hope you keep writing about it. God will use you to bring many dear souls out of bondage and into his glorious Grace. Please keep writing. Sincerely, your sister in Christ. Barb.

  5. Hey troy! Just listened to, watched your music video. Great beat, man! Have you posted the words to the song on your blog? I like reading the words to songs. Because language says a lot. What a beat though. Imagine how the pope of BJU would roll his sanctimonious eyes at that beat! An earthquake might hit that part of South Greenville. And the sooner the better. Just demolish all that false religion, but save the people! Love your art postings. not sure how much of the art is your’s and other’s art. It”s really provocative! Makes me think of getting back to art myself. Isn’t it fun doing all the things you used to be told were bad, bad, bad, like drinking beer? Fundies believe that drinking beer is a sign of the great apostacy, like Constantine ruined christianity until the reformation restored it. Some restoration, if you look at what fundamentalism has done to it! Yikes! Really glad you made it to the five year remission stage. Life is sooooooo good! Love that music beat, man.

  6. Pingback: Sinful Rebel or Cult Sleeper Agent? | Chronicles of a Serial Dater

    1. Wow, a lot of accusations and assumptions, Katie. Might I suggest that you consider searching your own heart and the reasons for your harsh responses? Probably a good idea to clean your own house… I didn’t go to BJU; however, sorry to say, your response fits perfectly with what I hear of their mentality.

  7. I just read this and your hurt filled my heart. It reminds me of a conversation I had with my sister in law once. I’ll try to replicate it:
    Me: I remember the beautiful flowers. The grounds were kept impeccably. I remember those flowers as a real pick-me-up.
    Sister-in-Law: Gosh, I thought those flowers represented the hypocrisy of BJU.
    Me: (stunned silence)
    My sister-in-law (very beautiful, from a very wealthy family, who went to Christian school all her life and had every privilege) has always struggled with Christian hypocrisy—guess why? Her father was the biggest hypocrite I’ve ever met. I think our conversation illustrates what happened in your experience at BJU. You could have gone to any Christian college and met with the same problems. Why? Look at the common denominator-YOU. Before you write me off (as you seem to do easily) please know I was not the typical student. I came from an abusive background-won’t go into the entire story-but I was one hurting young lady. But then I got saved. A year later, I went to BJU on a spur of the moment decision (borne out of tragedy/pain) and spent the first year looking for what you apparently found: racism, insensitivity, hypocrisy. I didn’t find it and I was looking. Of course, I was quiet about it (that’s how you learn)-because I was always listening and watching. Maybe you were one of “those” who ran around with their mouth running and their brain on stop. Look, I was a different girl-much like you describe as yourself being a different type of student. In fact, at times, teachers or administrators would pull me aside and remark on it-even when I was a senior I would get that. But, it had to do with the circumstances in which I was raised. Unlike you, though, I wasn’t there because of religious pride or expectations, I was there because I NEEDED God to take control of my life. As hard as it was to let go of my old habits and desires, it was a process I knew I needed to go through in order to have a life filled with peace and joy. Guess what I have now? A life filled with peace and joy. I am so sorry for your hurt. I really am. But, I wonder if you were just never honest with yourself and with God? I love BJU but I know it isn’t for everyone…why didn’t you transfer to another wonderful Christian college (PCC or Hyles-A or Tenn. Temple etc.)? It also seems like you didn’t ask enough questions. We may have been there at the same time, and if your wife knew me, she knew me as a curious kitty. I always, always, always asked, “why?” until I understood-whether it was a rule or a doctrine. Maybe that’s what you needed to do. Perhaps you had always been spoon fed and that’s what you continued to expect to do as a Christian. Maybe you should have spoken up more–and I don’t mean in the way most freshman do–but with respect. Did you hunger and thirst after the truth? Or did you moan and gripe in order to fulfill your flesh? I can see satan smiling with delight at that! I wonder if you weren’t listening sometimes as well. The goal of BJU was to be like a “boot-camp”-to prepare you for the rest of your life to not just be an accountant or hairdresser, but to be a Christian. I remember that they attempted to thoroughly explain everything. They did not expect you to only use the KJV the rest of your life…just when you were there. And they explained why…many, many, many times. You have your freedom in Christ. I just recently moved away from Central Washington state-where we lived for 10 years. It is a spiritual desert there. The tools my husband and I learned at BJU helped our family so much during this time. In closing, I believe you are basing your experience on your immaturity at the time. Do you not have insight as to why your experience was not the best? (Like my sister-in-law, was your father a hypocrite?) Or perhaps, it WAS just you. Have you not considered that perhaps while you were there you had an enormous chip on your shoulder? A lot of kids did…some were more determined than others to have a problem. Those were the few that sound like you. I don’t want you to walk away from these words with anger. I want you to know that you had much, much more than I ever did when you went there. You had parents who obviously not only told you they loved you, but also they called you by your name. I didn’t. I was adopted and now they have rules about who can adopt kids. Oh, and I thought my name was “idiot” and “kid.” My mother told me for the first time “I love you” (because she was forced to do so by my Aunt) when I was 34 years old. Have your parents ever told you they loved you? I suppose they hugged you as well. Obviously, it looks like you faithfully attended church. I didn’t. When I got to BJU, I didn’t even know who the apostles were or the books of the Bible. It seems as if you knew to seek God. My childhood was horrible-I always knew that God was there-but for other people…because if there really was a God-why did He hate me so much? (I struggled with this almost all the way thru BJU-but kept asking and seeking the answer to this). Did you go to a Christian school? I certainly didn’t. I attended a tiny, farm town public school in Oregon. After 2 days at BJU, I realized that I had not gotten any kind of education to speak of. I knew nothing-all you Christian kids were so lucky, so blessed in my mind! You are a boy, but I was pregnant at 12 and at 17. Were you ever sexually abused? I was physically malnourished-a forced anorexic. I was punished for breathing air that I did not “deserve to breathe.” At BJU, I sought the answer to my real hurts. I just think that your hurts at BJU were all in YOUR MIND. Your mindset. At 17, I begged God to take control of my life, whatever that meant, and whatever it took. It was 15 minutes later that I lost my baby-a little boy. I was 5 months pregnant. No one knew. No one helped me. There was no counseling. No one cared anyways. I was Trashy Tracy. But, God cared. He didn’t think I was a piece of trash. I left for BJU 10 days later and did my best, with God’s help, to never look back. My “parents” have never forgiven me. To this day. Literally. I paid for it-and often wondered-why did they hate that I went to BJU? Maybe you just weren’t spiritually hungry enough. Maybe the Word of God had always entered your brain, but never trickled down into your heart. It takes work to stay and be at BJU. They care about ALL of you-not just that you paid the bill. Maybe it’s because I signed for my education in blood. REAL blood. Maybe it’s because I knew that my child never had a chance to live life-because I was finally seeking God-and it was with this ever present heaviness that I was propelled to change and grow. We all come to the table with our plates full. To me, I could look over at your plate and it seemed to be filled with ice cream and lasagna-and you were still ungrateful. My plate was filled with hurt and pain. I was always “different” at school-but that rarely stopped me. BTW I didn’t “flaunt” my hurts or abuse or past. I kept them to myself when I realized what a misfit I was there. (Doesn’t that seem like that should have been another “hurt” on my part? It wasn’t. I knew who I was. I knew a bit about who God is and wanted Him and not myself to be in control-thus I decided early on to “man up” and take my “lumps” of hurt-it went along with the growing.) When my boyfriend (now husband) thought God was calling him to be a pastor, I had to tell him that despite what was said from the school pulpit, I was unfit to be a pastor’s wife. I would need to break up with him…not as a threat, but out of love for him and for God. I was too messed up! How could I be a pastor’s wife? In the end, he went on to finish his pre-med degree and we got married. But I’ll never forget how humbling that was to face about myself. But, I had learned to be painfully honest with myself. I hope you see this letter as one that not only chides you, but loves you. God loves you so much. He has a genuine plan for your life and I dearly hope you are serving Him. I want to point out that in trying to hurt other Christians, you are only hurting your own testimony. I don’t want that for you. Again, I read your blog and felt so sad for you: you privileged, Christian boy who never knew want. You had never faced any real challenge and you failed to ask the One who made the universe for a bit of strength and grace and endurance. Instead, you blamed everyone around you for your immaturity. Your response from your Mom was heart breaking. I can see the hurt you have placed on her. I hope you are honest with yourself and God now. I hope you are asking questions and “why” until you understand. I hope you are reading your Bible and loving your wife and family and serving God in your life. Just remember, whenever you hurt another Christian, Satan is getting his jollies. Your blog is out there in the world of the internet, expect it to keep making you look young and foolish. Even in a small way, it holds you back from completely trusting God to do what is right for you. I mean that in love. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and he delighteth in His way.” You WERE right when you decided at 16/17 it was in God’s plan for you to go to BJU. Grow up, dear brother in the Lord. Grow up and be a Man of God! I challenge you!

    1. Katie,
      It sounds like you had a GREAT experience at BJU. That is awesome. It also sounds like you may be taking it as a personal offense when someone else did not have the same great experience. Or maybe you just don’t like it when they blog about it. Is it possible that not everyone had the same great, life changing experience that you had there? Is it possible that others experienced anything different than the spiritual nourishment and “boot camp” training that you are so thankful for? Making blanket statements extolling the glories of any institution without being willing to listen to or understand anyone else’s negative experience seems like of a lack of empathy on your part at best. Making statements like, “you privileged, Christian boy who never knew want…”, isn’t really the best way to defend an institution that you are obviously proud of and interested in representing well. Maybe making assumptions about others–their parents, their past, their motives, their faith–is never a wise thing to do.

    2. Katiemy immediate response to your painfully-long commentary was, “My, someone sure has a lot of time on her hands.” Think about it: in the time it took you to write this, you could have been doing something positive and self-affirming. Instead, you opted to unleash what can clearly be seen as unresolved anger and low self-esteem issues (the big elephant in the room) onto an innocent bystander. Troy is a kind, genuine and highly-talented individual (as evidenced by his work and that finely-rendered halo you see here). So, before you start casting stones onto others, perhaps you should pause for a moment, step back and evaluate your existence. Contrary to what you may think, there are no definitive rules when it comes to issues of faith. It is the personal relationship one has with the entity he/she chooses to believe inwhether it be God, a rock out in the yard or a dead bird on the sidewalk. A person’s worth cannot (and should not) be measured by faith alone. Troy’s shortcomings (as you see them) are more than made up for by integrity.

    3. Speaking of “Strong Odors”…I’m smelling bullshit all over “KatieBelle”‘s story.
      Please don’t get me wrong-I am a victim’s advocate, just filled out a GRACE report against the University myself, but I can smell a fishy story from a mile away.
      I might add also that people also thrived, spiritually speaking or had spiritual awakenings, in Auschwitz and Dachau, but the over-wheming stories and evidence from there tell you otherwise.
      I don’t know of any true victim who has ever thrived in that system-the system of BJU. Much less someone with extremely serious trauma immediately before coming and with such new salvation.
      Suppose you actually hid all those things in your past that BJU would frown upon-supose you never told a soul…not even these new found Christian leaders of faith who you clearly trusted and believed in…suppose you already, after just months of being a Christian, had the wisdom to not repent to them, after the Opening Services, after the Chapels, the hall meetings, the Bible Conferences, etc etc…because the new Christians that I always knew from there were, yes, enamored by BJ, but took it all hook, line and sinker-meaning, they confessed all their wrongdoings to the campus leaders and were counseled and/or punished from that point on.
      You’re newly saved but you can already surmise that these leaders who want you to tell your past to them are not correct? Why would you stay if you knew to keep your past secret? And if you didn’t even know the books of the Bible, surely your Hall leader saw that and automatically put you in counseling…so if you were in counseling, how did you manage to hide all of your past? The first thing they ask you is when you were saved, and if it was later in life, that’s when they start digging. You managed not to tell a soul any of that?
      What did you think during Jim Berg’s Orientation classes when he talked about how anyone who had ever had sex outside of marriage would NEVER have a happy marriage? Did you know enough not to believe that? If you did, why would you stay? Why would you even date? Did you know that many of your Bible teachers (who are also local pastors) would never even marry you, ever. b/c you were “defiled” in their eyes? Did you feel guilty about that? Again, if you had the spiritual wisdom to know these teachings were false, why did you stay?
      I just find it utterly impossible to believe that someone with so much terrible baggage, gets saved, goes to BJ on their own dime and has no guilt from those sermons, or pressure to tell her past to a hall leader or Dorm Counselor…the whole goal of a Dorm Counselor is to spot out people who are newly saved and don’t fit in…
      Even if you sat in Chapel and didn’t know the hymns-like you didn’t know the Bible-you would have been referred for counseling.
      And what year did you meet you boyfriend? He switched over from Bible to Pre-Med? How many more years did he have to stay to make up for that?
      I grew up there, still know people there, have relatives who have been there for decades.
      I know how someone, who doesn’t fit in fundy world is viewed and treated. And it’s not how you described. At all.
      And I’d like to know specific names of Dorm Counselors and Hall leaders, etc who helped you spiritually, but never guessed about your past.
      Your references to your “beautiful” sister in-law who had it sooooo good and easy is a dead give-away that you yourself are still struggling with some bitterness-which is OKAY to admit. Describing her as beautiful in the way you did makes it seem as if that somehow her life was easier because of her appearance? Doesn’t sound like something a person full of grace would say…why did you even comment on her appearance?
      If you liked BJU-FINE. You go and tell the world…but don’t make up a story that’s not true. Because yours clearly is not.

    4. Dear Katie….First of all, I am so sorry for what all the types of abuse that were inflicted on you by those who should have loved you. You were a precious child that should have been protected. That causes grief to God and me. Just so you know, I know scrapping for food, huddling to try and get warm, medical neglect leading to hospitalization. I was resented and ignored by my self-absorbed mother, the landing spot for my father’s unpredictable rage, and molested a number of times as I was utterly unprotected. Loved my little rural public schools…..lunches that were warm (and free!) and teachers that were kind and even-tempered enough (not a high bar to beat) and books…how I loved books. Someone invited to VBS and I was in….the sparkley people had the path down and that’s what I wanted to be like. How were people not as serious as me? Was a poster child Christian….as sincere and serious as possible. Went to Fairhaven and became stronger in my “bestness” for God. Eventually married a man also raised in a fundamental baptist background. Family drew us into a BJU-feeder church. (Sparkly school, music, organization, etc.) Then life happened…a lot of hard stuff…an almost zero of the “best” Christians had a shred of Christlikeness or humanity or to honest kindess for us…especially once we didn’t have the strength meet all the unsaid requirements. Almost ten years lived in isolation. Arrogant and empty guilt-mongering preaching. And I could not see Jesus in any of it….we were desperate for mercy, grace, love, discipleship and humility (from ourselves, too.) So, at 40 years of age (decades lost!), we stepped out of fundamentalism and to a rescuing Savior who calls us to love, have mercy, and walk humbly with him. We feel like we are in church for the first time in our lives and I often find myself crying in sheer gratitude. So, Katie, Christ plus nothing is everything. You are precious. May you have healing. God bless you.

  8. Great article Troy, it still blows my mind that you went to a school that actually still banned interracial dating in the year 2000!

    I just read the post above from Katie Belle. Wow.

    Your article was great illustrating the mindset of BJU, but Katie nailed it too. On and on about how YOU aren’t Christian enough, good enough, mature enough, did not suffer enough etc. etc. etc. all because you could not fit into the man-made box they decided was the Christian shape. It takes a special kind of indoctrination to lash out so.

    I remember reading about a group of judgmental religious folks in the New Testament, who thought they had a monopoly on what and who was godly, I seem to remember Jesus not being their biggest fan.

    “Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” – Mahatma Gandhi

  9. Troy, this above poster (KB) has drank too much of the “kool aid”.
    I knew you at NIU and saw a real man of God passionate about His word & how it should have been lived out.
    You keep showing His love & Word through your life bro!
    ***your initial post was spot on.

  10. For anyone who didn’t go there, they have a concept called “spiritual probation.” That should tell you everything you need to know about BJU.

    “It was only years later when I discovered that Jesuss strongest words in the gospels are aimed at the most religious members of his society” is an excellent point that is lost on most of the administration. While I had some excellent professors, the Deans of Men, Women and Students exemplify everything wrong with that place.

  11. Excellent post, Troy. My only beef is the reference to paisley ties: most of the boys at the Bob didn’t know the first thing about pattern beyond republican stripes or cartoon novelties. My own forays with paisley gave me away as someone who did not fit the mold. 🙂

    As to Miss Katie Belle: honey, you need to open your eyes and realize that there is nothing about the BJU cult system that resembles a true, honest, and authentic expression of the grace that is central to Christianity. Certainly there were people who did that in spite of the system, but these were exceptions. Boot camp?! BJU was like the Army without any of the fun, and frankly, we’re called to be lovers, not fighters.

  12. katie,

    i’m sorry for the life experiences that you’ve been through. losing babies has to be really terrible and really hard, especially without love and support from your parents. it’s great that bju became your family and support system, everyone needs that and i’m glad you found it.

    but we all come from different backgrounds and are all called to different things. your assumptions about troy’s love for God and your assurance that he has a bad attitude as well as all of your other accusations are both unfounded and arrogant. you have a pocketful of fundamentalist catch phrases that make no sense in response to troy’s post and you only come across as a person with some kind of agenda, not as someone who cares about anything you say you care about in your post. if you really care about troy, your job is to get to know him, become someone who shows love towards him, and only then will you have the right to point out his faults to him. unfortunately, your behavior on this blog reflects the inconsistencies and lack of love that permeates the fundamentalist lifestyle.

    i hope you find the peace and love for which you search.

  13. to be fair, some of us knew about paisley, plaid, polyester and glasses worn for the sake of style. also, some of us who were employed by “public safety” chose to exercise our style (within the guidelines of the dress code) while working in the front gate. subsequently, some of those students were told by their boss in public safety that one of the deans (miller or berg, i think miller) did not want them to work the front gate anymore.

  14. I was a good kid with strict, loving Christian parents; I had a mostly good experience at BJU, although as I neared graduation, I grew more and more exhausted under the constant stress of the legalism. You expressed it well when you said that there was “no allowance for humanity” and that they “used fear as the primary motivator for religious refinement.”

    I also totally relate to what you said at the end: that God’s will is mysterious, “rarely makes sense and almost never takes me where Id most likely choose to go.” Trying to live the Gospel and follow Christ in love has led us away from the IFB and into grief and pain; I don’t always understand where He’s going or what He’s doing, but I’m going to trust and follow Him anyway.

  15. Katie: Wow, that was really not fair.

    I will be more fair to you by acknowledging that BJU was probably your best life experience to that point. Certainly, you have every right to be grateful for a place where you were probably the safest you had ever been in your life.

    But now from another perspective: I got better treated at BJU than I was at my old Christian school in some ways. I was rejected at the old school, and it was made abundantly clear that I would never be accepted. I was even taught to be suspicious of anyone who did treat me well. In some ways, I was treated worse. In any event, I was trained not to expect to be treated well, even from other Fundamentalist Christians. But here’s the kicker: I realized after graduation that the people in “the world” treated me much better than both my church and BJU, and without strings attached. The human soul craves love, no matter how much the IFB churches and BJU tried to scare it out of me.

    To you, BJU was great and you were treated well. To some of us, we experienced better — either before or after our time there. Seeing a more authentic love and concern made us question whether what we were taught was true, and we came to very different conclusions from you. Some of us who left Fundamentalism still strongly believe in the Scriptures, but not in the IFB interpretations which so quickly toss out love and heap on extra judgment. So don’t be so quick to judge. I don’t know what the post author believes, but then it’s none of my business. He tells it as he saw it, and who are we to say when we weren’t in his shoes.

    I’m glad your experience at BJU was good. Unfortunately, I wish you had picked up a little grace for others somewhere along the way.

  16. If I may, I’d like to my comment to Katie B. First I would like to clarify a couple of things.
    1. I know Troy very little. I new him slightly during college years. But didn’t care for paisley ties back then. That sealed the extent of our relationship.
    2. I know more about Troy through his sister-in-law, who I’ve considered a friend for many years.
    So with that in mind Katie, I would like to disagree with you about your assumptions about Troy. Granted I’ve read his blog maybe 5 times. And I’ve not had a one on one personal conversation with him, well ever. But there are some things I do know about him that I would hope help you have a better,well rounded understanding of him.

    You made this comment “Grow up dear boy and be a man.” I don’t know about you but, being diagnoised with cancer in your 20’s more than once can make a man out of anyone. And Troy has. Troy has a number of kids and one has been diagnoised with autism. That will “man up” a person. He’s personally invested in their community, living out what Christ said was the 2nd greatest commandment- “Loving your neighbor as yourself.”

    I’ll be honest, I didn’t read your whole comment. There was a point when you said you were almost done, but kept going. So I can’t comment on your whole note. But I was getting what you were saying. And I understand all the difficulties you talked about before going to BJU. Really I do. Not only do I understand but have experienced similar circumstances. Personally, grew up in a religious home, check, molestation, check, abuse, check, death of a baby, check. marital trials, check. Not loved by family, check. I say all things to say, yes, you’ve pointed out that life is shit. It is. The sooner we all recognize that the better. But what we do with the shit is what sets us apart. We can choose to wallow in it or get a shovel of grace, prayer, hard work, and dig out of it. That’s what Character is.
    So , you see, you and Troy aren’t much different after all. You both have experienced life. And with Christ, a little community, and a whole lot of work, your growing through it. And at the end of the day, no institution will save us out of anything. The institution is simply a tool. And for some the institutional tool is helpful. It creates new pathways. And for others, it creates road blocks. It pushes the individual to look for other tools to get to the same destination as the next person.

    In the blogging world we assume the fact that one story, one post can collectively describe a person. And that is what you have done. And while your post has given me an assumption about you, I don’t want to do the same to you as you have done to Troy. But my hope is by shedding a little light on who Troy is, maybe next time, your comment will only judge the post, not the integrity of a man.

  17. I attended a high school like this where they pushed all their students to go to Pensacola, which sounds very very similar to Bob Jones University.
    Although I didn’t attend any of these schools, the high school I went to was like a mini versions of Bob Jones and Pensacola.

    I smuggled (haha.. it felt like it, anyway) my NLT Bible into school and used it constantly, even though I got in trouble numerous times for not using the “only” version, the KJV. I believed in the doctrine of TULIP, and my teachers literally told me that all Calvinists were insane, and that I would soon follow down their path to insanity if I kept believing their doctrines. We had chapel twice a week, in which we would be yelled at, guilt-tripped, and threatened hell if we didn’t obey God’s commandments perfectly.
    For some reason, in the midst of that atmosphere, I thrived. Probably because it was a challenge to be different. Most of the students that went there were downtrodden, following rules blindly and not knowing the true grace of God. It was so depressing. God showed me that school was where he wanted me to be- for him to work through me and show others that Christianity doesn’t have to be this way.
    I related a lot to this post. Thank you!

  18. Still thinking about this post and Katie’s reply and I thought of this metaphor.

    Katie’s childhood could be compared to someone who spent their life eating scraps of putrid leftovers and rotting garbage. When she was exposed to Christianity, it was like life-giving water to her; it was wholesome milk that her soul was longing for. She ingested it and was so grateful because it was incomparably better than what she’d experienced before.

    However, those of us who grew up in Christian families experienced filling meals all the time. We were given milk and soup and meat. We ate what was put in front of us. But as we got older, we started realizing that the meat was a bit off, the soup was too salty, and the water was acidic. We compared what we were eating, not with garbage, but with the Perfect Menu (Scripture) and realized that the food was lacking. We are not ungrateful because we refuse the watered-down or distorted food being offered us when the Spirit is prompting us to reject the distorted substitute for the pure milk of the Word. Is salty soup better than garbage? Yes. Is it better than properly spiced soup? Of course not.

  19. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

    In Christ Jesus = Man of God

    Challenge Completed.

    Thank you, Jesus.

  20. Katie, I am genuinely sorry for the difficult things you faced as a child and young woman. But when you say things like “…your hurts at BJU were all in your mind”, you show that you have not come to terms with your own past wounds. If you had, you would not scold someone so unkindly and unbiblically. I, too, thought of BJU as a haven, a place of peace after an abusive childhood and molestation. I loved most of my time as a student, made wonderful friends, and appreciated my professors. But I sense you did the same thing I also did – I put the institution and leaders on a pedestal where only God belongs. It took me many years, including my years on faculty and later as full time staff at The Wilds, to see that many things behind the scenes were problematic, that legalism trumped grace all too often, and to see, again in hindsight, the incredible spiritual abuse that occurred too often. The tone and attitude you show here is indicative of exactly that – a spiritually abusive spirit. Step back, Katie. I’m many years older than you, and once would have written as you did here. You need to do what I had to do – grow up. Grow up spiritually and emotionally, lose the judgmental tone, and remember the pain of your past is not greater or less than the pain of those you disdain here. Grow up Katie, for your own sake, and learn to speak in empathy and kindness.

  21. I was born on BJU. I lived on BJU. Like others posting here, I went to BJ schools from the day I was born until I graduated from the university. The BJU trype was all I knew until I was unceremoniously vomited into the real world with no preparation for real life what so ever.

    What Troy writes is spot-on.

    KatieBelle – wow – I have no clue where you went to school because it certainly was NOT the place I grew up. It was not under the administors who I know personally.

    I was NOT prepared how to live out from behind the iron gate. And more importantly, when I was vomited into the real world I realized I wanted nothing to do with the hatred, vitriol, and grace-less “god” BJU teaches.

    Their god is created by a man. Their god is a man – a ruling family that does nothing more than to use up good, intelligent, wize, Godly people and vomit them out just before they are to retire so they don’t have to keep “the promise.” BJU sets itself up as the pinnacle – the holy see and sole proprietor of truth. That is the lie of the evil one.

    God rescued me. He brought me to a church that actually shows love, actually shows grace, actually shows what Christ came to this earth to do for us at every single mass.

    God is grace. God is love. God is mercy. God is.

    Katie Belle, let me introduce you to the real God!

  22. Now that’s what I call a hug-slug!

    Hey! Anyone want to know what life feels like at BJU? Read Katie Belle’s comment above. The subtle, jealous stabs. The mounds and mounds and more mounds of guilt. The arrogance. The assumption that they have accurate insight into your spiritual problems. The conflation of God with BJU leadership. The sadistic theology. The suffocatingly possessive, controlling tone.

    Now imagine hearing that sort of thing from the pulpit several times a week, from your “spiritual leaders” in the dorm, from so-called friends who “love” you so much they want to make sure you’re on the right path. From strangers on the sidewalk who noticed your backpack had accidentally pulled at your shirt and made it look a little too tight across the bust. Now take all that and multiply it by 4+ years.

  23. I am Troy’s Mom and you would be hard pressed to find a prouder Mom anywhere!! I remember Troy’s year at BJU and though he was learning to reevaluate the fundamentalist viewpont he still did his best to honor the rules and stipulations while he was there.
    What I love about my son is that he searched for the truth throughout his life and continues to try to understand what it means to live a Godly life of grace and mercy.
    He met his wonderful wife at BJU!! So that in itself was reason to go there.
    He showed great courage as he battled cancer not once but twice and won the battle!!
    He is a wonderful son, husband , father and friend.
    God blessed them with 3 amazing and wonderful (Grandma speaking) children
    Their middle son was diagnosed with autism and Troy and his wife continue to grow and learn and trust God in all things. As their son teaches all of us about love and joy and so much more.
    Perhaps Troy doesn’t fit “the mold” of BJU but what he does is fit the loved by Jesus, saved by grace, humble man of God. Troy is sometimes a square peg in a round hole and that is exactly the way I like him!!

  24. I don’t know you, but I LOVE what you’ve written here. It is ssooo true, both about BJU and about grace.
    I grew up around BJU and went to IFB churches. It has taken me years to see past the false god and religion that I was taught… and in the process I have discovered grace. God is beautiful and lovely, loving and gracious to those who fail miserably at the christian life, such as myself.
    Don’t listen to the crazy naysayers. You have truth and life to offer. My heart does go out to those who are hurting so much that they in turn hurt others, but that doesn’t mean I agree with anything they say.

  25. All I can say is “Amen” to this Troy. I also went to BJU and was friends with your wife N. I was a misfit as well. I just couldn’t figure out the Bob Jones game nor could I play it. I went to BJU right after meeting the true God of Love and Mercy, and I still struggle with why God placed me there. I was like a brand new fragile plant and BJU proved toxic to my soul. It almost made me lose my new faith altogether. Six years after finishing at BJU, my family and I moved out to the West Coast and through a mercy of God, stumbled upon a house of Grace. One cannot describe what a place of unconditional love does for the soul. This is what true Christianity looks like- people who love you where you are at, who place value on you for nothing you have done, but simply because you are lovely, you are lovable. Who remind you that Jesus accepts you and there is nothing more you must do or prove to be any more acceptable to Him than what you are right now. This community was a haven for my soul for the next six years and I was able to grow past the legalistic brainwashing and see that Christ was indeed who He had first showed Himself to be to me, before I was sucked into that toxic environment of BJU. My heart breaks for Katie because, whatever happened in her life, it is clear that she is a deeply hurting person. Whenever a person feels the need to lash out at others, it comes from a deep burdensome pain coming from way down on the inside. Hurting people hurt people. Legalism is all about controlling others. Grace can love people where they are at. My message to KatieBelle is this: God loves you more than you can imagine right here, right now, with every single fault and failure that you have. That deep sense of shame that you carry around, He paid for it with His blood and all He has left for you is delight and love and Joy. Do you believe that? Or do you believe there is more you must do? That you must “man up” and figure this life thing out first? THAT is the lie of Satan that you are believing, and that is the lie of Satan that lurks in legalistic places. Performance to earn acceptance is a lie. Jesus paid for you, for all of us with His blood and it is finished. “There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION.” The words you wrote to Troy are extremely condemning and my heart breaks for you because when you condemn others that way, it is clear that you, yourself are still living under condemnation personally.

  26. This school is seriously sick and very controlling. No adult person (and students are adults) should be treated this way. What kind of sick parents would put their children in such a college? very sick.

  27. the person who said this is painting a very accurate picture

    We had chapel daily, in which we would be yelled at, guilt-tripped, and threatened hell if we didnt obey Gods commandments perfectly.

  28. I am a freshman at BJU, and I was prepared by whole life to go to college here. I wanted to go to Penn State for violin performance but I didn’t say anything because I was going to BJU because it was a Christian school.

    I am wondering about my orientation and I will not talk to anyone because I will carted off to counseling because something ” must”
    be wrong with me……

  29. Sarah,
    I spent 23 years of my life on the campus and never had the courage to accept myself for how God created me until after they threw me out because of a lie (it was proven to be a lie.)

    Please, go to We are a group of LGBT+ students, former faculty, alumni of BJU. We are here to support you. But please, do not access the site using any University computer or network. They WILL track you down. There is support for you!

  30. So, I think Troy is spot on in most cases. My parents went to BJU, I went, met my wife, I also went to PCC (I was a lousy student back then – years later went back to school and graduated summa cum laude somewhere else, but 5 years at those 2 schools I couldn’t seem to stick to anything that gave me a bachelors. (just for those of you that don’t think I could have attended both)

    Look, I had some really cocky teachers (like some of the Bible staff, and that one really pompous guy that taught freshman English. Anyone remember St. John? Ugh. I could barely sit through those classes. However, I also had almost as many teachers who really cared – like the Chemistry teacher who memorized the name of every kid in class, and would greet you by name 3 years later. My choir director, who worked with me to arrange the seating chart so I could sing next to the girl who eventually ended up being my wife. My stage crew managers who really cared about me. There were some really great Christian people who really cared. Unfortunately, I don’t think it was a straight 50/50. Fewer came across to me as true Christians than the rest who seemed to be on a little bit of a power trip. Coming out of those 2 schools, I’ve really struggled. I went to several churches trying to find one that had the high church music I liked, with the solid preaching, but then also really loved people. I have never found it. The churches that loved people, I had to wear ear plugs to make it through the music. The ones with great music, even if it was somewhat contemporary, didn’t care about people. And the reformed theology people? There are a few versions of that, that make BJU look like a hippy commune. Seriously.
    As for Katie, I think she’s being honest. If she really was abused, BJU was a safe place. Yeah, there has been abuse there, but it was minimal. The people you see on these forums talking about it? They’re on every forum. They seek it out, because they can’t reconcile their hurt. They haven’t found what they’re looking for, but it’s cathartic to get on these forums and vent against BJU or some of the other schools because those schools failed them. Places that should have provided healing, provided a cold shoulder. They did fail those people. For Katie, she didn’t need to have her lifestyle validated, she just needed safety. It met my needs. I was there to get a little education, enjoy meeting some people, and learning a few life lessons. I was reasonably well adjusted. I adapted well, but I agree that the “fundy” organizations were too busy trying to run a Christian business, and to make it strict enough that no one could have any question about their morality. And in doing so, they forgot the gospel. They forgot about ministering to the tired, the poor, the needy, the outcast.

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  31. Went to a good Baptist school in the NE. Same feelings.
    My best friend from HS went to BJU. I almost wrote a book called “bible college ruined me (almost).” I just never published it.

  32. I can relate with both the writer of the blog and Katie Bell…unlike most on here, I did not grow up in a Christian school. I had a mother that led me to Christ when I was 17. I got to grow up like any normal American child (at least in my eyes) being a tomboy, playing in mud, wearing tank tops and shorts (up until BJU). I was never forced to wear those stupid skirts/shorts to my knees or forced to go door to door (I HATE going door to door). But when I accepted Christ on that fateful night after a football game and dance with the plans on getting drunk for the first time, it was remarkable the change from the events earlier in the night to the point I got on my knees in the bathroom and begged Him to save me. (As if I had to beg) For the 1st time in my life, Scripture spoke to me, verses I never remember memorizing..”Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you”. The rest of my senior year was filled with joy and zeal I never had….but that did not come easily in a public school. I was ridiculed and lies were told and words put in my mouth. I remember feeling sadness and feeling lonely that no one could see the love in my heart…all they saw was stereotypical christian behavior. I visited BJU that February and what I found was love and acceptance. So I enrolled and my years there weren’t easy. It was in fact a culture shock. Giving up my music, changing my attire, I even got called out for tapping a guy on the shoulder and saying the word dang it and my skirt being just an inch too short. But it didn’t bother me, bc I was mature enough to take direction, and also recognize the fake people from the real people. I was in discipline committee EVERY week…but it didn’t bother me. I was placed in the 1st 5 rows in chapel, but I didn’t mind. I was being secretly watched by my dorm supervisor (that I minded, and if I ever saw her I was tempted to trip her). Yes…I was ornery, still am. But I took from the experience what I did, I didn’t learn from the self-righteous, I admired the humble. And there were PLENTY of humble people there. I never saw racism…but I was white, and I was never taught racism or bigotry so I didn’t pay any attention. I rolled my eyes at the ABC 123 sweaters and big hair bows…I was a tomboy, playing hackey sack with my male friends, bending the rules all while I was slowly changing in my walk with Christ. I became more compassionate and understanding and I learned to pray and read scripture…not just for a class, but for myself. So to end this, the writer of this, I saw what you saw (some of it), but to label those that enjoyed their experience there is just as much as judgemental as the ones that were in fact self-righteous. The way I perceived this blog was that unless you felt or experienced the same oppression, then you MUST in fact be the oppressor. Nothing could be further from the truth. It hurts to see someone hate an institution so much that you feel the need to gossip and back stab everything about it. There are those who are admirable, is there not? And there are those who, well, lack experience of the world and how to relate. I guess I’m a hellion now….I cuss like a sailor when I have to cut into a dying man’s trachea to establish an airway, I listen to music that motivates me (slow music puts me to sleep), I don’t pray like I should and I certainly don’t read the Bible like I should….but when I do, I think back to the happiness I felt when I was with my BJU friends and family and remember the peace I felt when there. Despite the hypocrites, despite the “woe is me my mommy and daddy forced me to come here”….I was me, just me, no stereotype, no self-righteousness. I married an ex-felon. And I was judged by so called Christians. But it made me stronger. And I told myself I’d never be like that. Now I have to deal with drug users, drunks, child molesters and everything else. If it wasn’t for my training at BJU, I would have told the child molester how to successfully kill himself. But that little voice inside me told me to remember the compassion I received from an old roommate from BJU, who in my rebellion lifted me up. I told the man about the sins of Saul and about God’s forgiveness and the change that made him Paul, the great apostle.
    Keep growing in love and compassion, and have compassion on those you deem “less Christian” and be the example instead of ridiculing their misguidance.

  33. fellow graduate. Thanks for these thoughts. I’m just now beginning to discover the immeasurable grace and love of God. A lot of good intentions were at BJ, a lot of harm as well. I am just now seeing the light at almost 30 years old.

  34. I went to BJU and believed it was Gods will for me to be there and it was. One of the ways iI knew it was was through some financial assistance provided by anonymous donor’s during my junior year. I appreciate Katie’s comments as different people can have reasons for attending there… There are some folks while I was there that I wondered why they were there as everyone has a free decision as to where they could attend college. If I had to do it all over again I would go there as it was a great experience. It seems some peoples experiences were poor based on comments above. I still would highly recommend the school and have donated to it as some people helped me and this is my opportunity to return kindness bestowed on me. Live goes on but some people can not move on and still live in the past.

  35. I grew up at bju and between the run ins my brothers and I had we could write a book. That place was our everything from day one and the people in it were the foundation layers for our very existence it seems. Our entire family worked there, ate there, our home was theirs…so I understand the issues people have, I just didn’t experience bju like most. I know the people at the top and most of the dirty secrets intimitately. I also understand that any situation is not what people hand you but what you make of it. Bob jones did horrible things to my entire family after 30 years of service and threatened our entire reputation from the ground up over music. Instead of being angry, to this day we all know it was the best move God could have made. We understand grace and love. We also know we learned it while at bju doing everyday activities. While I agree that they were capable of horrible things, I don’t think that gives us the “right” to continually bash them. Vent, be angry, get it out, but the vitriol that comes out so easily is only from nurturing the specific pain that you feel was caused by an institution that you chose to go to. Katie was right in that it’s time to grow up and move on. The rest of her long winded spiel…Lord have mercy, I’m not touching that hot mess. The way your readers attacked her without love and grace while touting love and grace though…that says far more about your blog than anything else. If you are who you hang out with (to be a complete mom about it), than I would hope that what you write and encourage is not just truthful but loving. And to be so down on the university as a whole is to be down on teachers like my dad and uncle and numerous other friends who have dedicated their lives to students like you were. People who did nothing wrong and sacrificed everything, just at a university that happened to be run in the fundamental wall. I would hope that at some point, everyone can come to a point of understanding that there’s good and bad in everything. And that true forgiveness of previous pain caused, means true love for the people who caused it.

  36. I survived four years at BJU. It is not an easy institution. In 1999 my then boyfriend/future husband and I were almost expelled because they were not sure what race he was. We fought them and with support from fellow Christians they backed off. To any young people BJ is not perfect. Do not let them have power over your life by dwelling on their treatment of you. They haven’t given it a second thought and are living their lives freely while you keep staying bogged down. I am speaking from experience and beg you not to make the same mistake. You should the Jones are not in charge any more. Now I don’t know if it is an improvement but they are in charge. Jim Berg is gone as well as Tony Miller. I for one am glad Berg is gone. It took my husband and I ten years but we did forgive the university for what happened to us. I am a fundamentalist. I was one before BJU. I am still one regardless of how people look down on me. I don’t force my views on others. The training and knowledge that I received throughout life is used in ministry to hopefully honor and glorify the Lord. The Lord is the only who determines the value of a Christian’s walk. Plus, I noticed someone saying that Troy needed to check his heart’s attitude or something like that. Again, that is arrogantly said and assuming authority you don’t have. The Lord will see to his own. Apology for the length

  37. I attended Bob Jones. For a long time I was bitter due to my experience there. I recently became a true child of God. The blog along with the comments remind me of a story in the Bible of a man whose children were killed by bandits, whose wife told him to curse God and die, his riches were stripped from him, and to add a cherry to the top he was covered in boils. He used broken pottery to help relieve the symptoms of the boils. His friends told him that he deserved this and God is punishing his transgressions. He lost everything and all he had was God. No matter what we experience in life by the hand of our guardians or the school we trust our education to, remember God is the goal and the prize, not our comfort or ease of life. We are like Peter who took his eyes off God to look at the surrounding storms and waves, if we allow life’s circumstances to cloud our focus of God. Stay strong in the Lord and let nothing weaken your trust in God.

  38. John Piper said and I am paraphrasing….”Would you want to be with God even if He was in hell.” This is a sobering thought, which forces us to question our focus.

  39. Troy,

    I really appreciate the article. I think we had similar experiences while we were there. I have walked away from the school, and at least professionally, away from that circle of ministry. I am glad that I went there and am thankful that my parents were willing to pay for my time there. I would have to say that on the whole, it was a spiritually positive time. At the same time, many of the policies that impeded growth blow my mind; not the least of which is not allowing local church membership/attendance.

    I think the good that I took away from the school is due more to the teaching faculty and not so much from the administrative staff. My concern is that if things don’t change soon it will go the way of Tennessee Temple. I desire to see the school strive, but I think it will require doing things the school is not willing to do like implement the GRACE report recs and completely disavowing the Jones family from the school. I would even like to see the school change its name. Time will tell and, whether we like the school or not, we need to be praying for all the people there.



  40. Last night I was describing to someone my two (Cosmetology) years at Bob Jones. The conversation started by me telling them I had been sent to the Dean of Women’s office for looking too much like Madonna.
    Anyway, I came home and looked up Bob Jones University on Pinterest and found this ever so accurate article.
    I grew up with lots of legalism and rules so what I saw there was only a little stricter than what I knew. I’m glad you found those few friends who understood and knew the authenticity and grace of God. I didn’t know that existed until living in the PNW and basically getting away from the legalism.
    Great article! I’m going to re-pin it.

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