BJU and Me: Queer Voices from the World’s Most Christian University


“Bob Jones University is a Christian, fundamentalist, nondenominational liberal arts school in Greenville, South Carolina. BJU was founded in 1927 by Christian evangelist Bob Jones Sr., who was against the secularization of higher education and the influence of religious liberalism in denominational colleges. For most of the twentieth century, BJU branded itself as the ‘World’s Most Unusual University’ because of its separatist culture. Many BJU students come from fundamentalist communities and are aware of BJU’s strict rules and conservative lifestyle. So why would queer students enroll at BJU?

A former queer student of BJU himself, Lance Weldy has come to terms with his own involvement with the institution and has reached out to other queer students to help represent the range of queer experience in this restrictive atmosphere. BJU and Me: Queer Voices from the World’s Most Christian University provides behind-the-scenes explanations from nineteen former BJU students from the past few decades who now identify as LGBTQ+. They write about their experiences, reflect on their relationships with a religious institution, and describe their vulnerability under a controlling regime.

Some students hid their sexuality and graduated under the radar; others transferred to other schools but faced reparative therapy elsewhere; some endured mandatory counseling sessions on campus; while still others faced incredible obstacles after being outed by or to the BJU administration. These students give voices to their queer experiences at BJU and share their unique stories, including encounters with internal and/or external trauma and their paths to self-validation and recovery. Often their journeys led them out of fundamentalism and the BJU network entirely.” (back cover)

Editor Lance Weldy is professor of English at Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina where Pretty and I met him in April, 2018 when he invited us to his campus to participate in Pride Week with a panel discussion of Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home, the stories of twenty-one pioneers in the establishment of organizations for the LGBTQ communities in South Carolina.

l. to r. Michael, Lance, Pretty, me, Pat at the event on April 04, 2018

When we were there, Lance told me about a writing project he was working on that also involved first person narratives of queer folks who had a Southern connection but his stories would focus more directly on his alma mater Bob Jones University. His project became this important work published by The University of Georgia Press in June, 2022.

I am thrilled for Lance and for the queer students who are the brave survivors of persecution at BJU (a name with a double entendre not lost on them) for making their voices heard. Their oppression done in the name of religion follows a long history of odious acts performed by those identifying as true believers and the equally long tradition of those who refuse to succumb to that oppression.

The book is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other booksellers. Celebrate these stories – a part of the queer fabric that comprises the original coat of many colors.

Onward.

About Sheila Morris

Sheila Morris is a personal historian, essayist with humorist tendencies, lesbian activist, truth seeker and speaker in the tradition of other female Texas storytellers including her paternal grandmother. In December, 2017, the University of South Carolina Press published her collection of first-person accounts of a few of the people primarily responsible for the development of LGBTQ organizations in South Carolina. Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home will resonate with everyone interested in LGBTQ history in the South during the tumultuous times from the AIDS pandemic to marriage equality. She has published five nonfiction books including two memoirs, an essay compilation and two collections of her favorite blogs from I'll Call It Like I See It. Her first book, Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing received a Golden Crown Literary Society Award in 2008. Her writings have been included in various anthologies - most recently the 2017 Saints and Sinners Literary Magazine. Her latest book, Four Ticket Ride, was released in January, 2019. She is a displaced Texan living in South Carolina with her wife Teresa Williams and their dogs Spike, Charly and Carl. She is also Naynay to her two granddaughters Ella and Molly James who light up her life for real. Born in rural Grimes County, Texas in 1946 her Texas roots still run wide and deep.
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10 Responses to BJU and Me: Queer Voices from the World’s Most Christian University

  1. JosieHolford says:

    Hi Sheila – As you know I’m not too fond of this latest use of the word ‘queer” I realize that many are trying to reclaim it from the time when it was a slur. That said – these days it seems to have been appropriate by bored heterosexuals who seem to think they have invented the idea of non-conformity. I also have no time for the so-called new ‘progressive’ rainbow flag. To me it is a desecration and goes along with the fact that “Pride’ has been stolen from gays and lesbians and the whole move appropriated by an amorphous collection of straight people. (Look what happened to the Michigan Women’s Festival.)

    To me, the simple basics are: We are all male or female. No one has ever changed sex.
    We are all hetero, homo, or bi sexual. Sex is immutable and binary and in some circumstances, it really matters.

    I’ve also come to the conclusion that “gender ideology” and “queer” theory are a load of pernicious bunkum.

    This of course takes nothing away from the pioneers who had – and continue to have -the courage to stand up to compulsory heterosexuality and oppression and to declare the extraordinary diversity of what it can mean to be male or female in terms of attitudes, opinions, expression and style.

    That is a great photo of you all!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I’ve read your posts on gender ideology and the use of the term queer. I admit I had a hard time embracing the terms, too. But I like the idea that we can use different words but stand for the same ideals of equality for everyone, and I respect your continuing to disagree on terminology but hanging in for the cats’ sake!

      Liked by 1 person

      • JosieHolford says:

        Perhaps it helps to think of it all from the perspective of women’s and gay rights.

        Does any of this (gender ideology) endanger either in the real world beyond academia?

        I think it does. Think Title IX women’s sports for example. Or the definition of “lesbian”. (Can men be ‘lesbians’ just because they say they are?) Or think of women in prison who must now accept self-identified men as cellmates or be further punished.

        This is not about “transgender” people who of course deserve equal human rights. It is about the erosion of women’s and gay rights. Those rights all took so many decades of hard work to earn. To now throw them aside to accommodate men? Why?

        (And don’t get me started on what is happening in schools.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ok. No talk on schools…and I totally get the fear of the erosion of women’s and gay rights. I also think George Santos is giving drag queens a bad name this week.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wayside Artist says:

    Pied Beauty

    “Glory be to God for dappled things –
    For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
    Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
    Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
    And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

    All things counter, original, spare, strange;
    Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
    He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
    Praise him.”

    ~Gerard Manley Hopkins
    Victorian era poet, Jesuit priest, and most likely queer.

    Praise be to diversity in all forms, and wherever it takes hold. Praise her! ;^)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. An interesting discussion above, and provides things to think about. Thanks to everyone 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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