“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.