Fashion controversy at BJU: art vs a separatist tradition

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I am very late to the party of reading this excellent analysis about a dust-up a few months ago at Bob Jones University in their fashion design program.

What I appreciate about Pidcock’s analysis:

  • He deconstructs the separatist theology and racism in BJU’s history (and current mindset) and ties it to this dust-up.
  • The author is a BJU grad from the religion program so he’s aware of the nuances of culture, theology, and norms which are not obvious to outsiders.
  • He highlights the homophobic nature of the backlash by conservatives in BJU’s circle — while obviously predictable, it’s also a good reminder that the legalistic core of Bob Jones theology has not in any way changed since the school was founded. (Camille Lewis is working on a book about the intertwined relationship of early American Fundamentalism and the KKK which will make this connection much more obvious.)
  • Pidcock discusses what the student who did the fashion designs says about the art and themes he was attempting to communicate. I found the student to be quite articulate about his purpose and goals.

I’m in the middle of preparing for my dissertation defense, so no time for a deep dive. Read and consider the piece; it’s well-done.

I wondered when I heard BJU was adding a fashion major if the university would be able to navigate the chasm between the cave-man thinking of their constituents and the free thought necessary for good art. Unsurprisingly, the answer appears to be “no.” How did faculty not expect this to be a tight rope that none of them could possibly walk?

I am not surprised by anything that comes out of right-wing Evangelicalism, but I did gasp at the Pennsylvania pastor who remarked, “This is what happens when Christians ‘model’ their college programs after those of sodomites.”

“Sodomites.” Good one, Pastor Sweitzer. Way to live in the 1950s with the rest of your shitty theology that classifies every LGBTQ person as a de facto affront to God and creation.

Hope the student involved gets out of Fundamentalism and into a more healthy community where he can grow both his theology and his art.

Personally, I am very curious how long American Evangelicalism and its right-wing fringes (like Bob Jones) can hold out against overwhelming demographic shifts and a rising GenZ (and the Alphas after them) who see intolerance as the worst of all sins.

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