By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Greenville, South CarolinaAlthough being a born-again conservative means never having to say you're sorry to the sinful secular media, George W. Bush, an acknowledged 'believer,' is in full damage-control mode. Hoping the press will ease up on him before the March 7 presidential primaries in New York and elsewhere, he apologized to Cardinal John O'Connor for pandering to the religious right at Bob Jones University in South Carolina. More apologies are on the way.
Next question for G-Dub: Why did you suck up to people who hate, in particular, Catholics who are Irish? Bob Jones U. and its leaders are strong supporters of radical Irish Protestant leader Ian Paisley. The school, in the picturesque town of Greenville, is the buckle on the state's Bible Belt and is notorious for being intolerant of everybody and everything that isn't Anglo-Scottish-Irish conservative Protestant.
Who can dispute that one of the main duties of a president is to provide symbolic leadership? Hangin' with the haters at Bob Jones U. could hang G-Dub.
No matter what you hear about the "negative campaigning" of Bush and John McCain, no vision of America is blackeror whiterthan that of Bob Jones U., where intolerance is a virtue. And South Carolina is the kind of negative space that's filled with black holes for politicians. Take away the Christian right's support of Bush in South Carolina, and you realize that, contrary to the media blather about McCain's "losing" South Carolina, he ran even with Bush even in that conservative state.
These are the people G-Dub chose to associate with. On the way to Sunday morning services at Bob Jones U., the day after the South Carolina vote, a smooth voice on the radio reminds you that "Judaism is NOT the religion of the Old Testament. Christianity IS. Judaism is just a legalistic thing." The several thousand Bob Jones U. students and their parents filing into the Founder's Memorial Amphitorium already know such "facts."
This is fundamentalist Christianity in its purest form. You don't shout "Amen." You come here to get scolded. After a prayer is offered for the school's business office, executive vice president Bob Wood (all top officials here are named "Bob") gives the simple message that every college kid no doubt wants to hear: If you mock or disobey your parents, your eyes will literally be plucked out by ravens. He reads the passage (Proverbs 30:17) twice.
Everybody is inherently evil, according to doctrine here. Only those who accept Christ in this one particular way will be saved.
And you WILL be saved. On a campus video, bright-eyed white kids, standing in front of the campus fountain, smile sweetly and cheerily sing, "Souls for Jesus is our battle cry. We'll fight until we die. We never will give in while souls are still lost in sin!"
Which sinful group do you belong to? Separate pamphlets in the campus bookstore delineate what's wrong with all you Catholics, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, evolutionists, abortionists, mainstream Protestants, even you fundamentalists who speak in tongues. You begin to understand why Pete King, a hero among Irish Catholics here and in Ireland as the foremost congressional supporter of the Sinn Fein, signed on to co-lead McCain's New York campaign when you see the tempting array of Ian Paisley's teachings on a shelf.
There's no pamphlet condemning interracial dating, but the school's rule against it is well known. Even Daddy Bush didn't set foot here during his '92 campaignhe let running mate Dan Quayle pay homage.
G-Dub's visit here "was a big error by his advance people," says Yale grad Marvin Olasky, a Jew-turned-Communist-turned-Christian who invented the idea of "compassionate conservatism" that G-Dub peddles on the campaign trail. Olasky, a University of Texas journalism professor, is not quite the kind of fire-breather found at Bob Jones U., but he's a born zealot who hopped from one extreme to the other. He was still in the throes of Communism, he tells the Voice, when he read a Russian translation of the Bible and was transformed. Now that he's found his soul, he complains that "secular" journalists are still searching for theirs. Made famous when Newt Gingrich waved his books during the "Contract With America" days, Olasky is editor of World, a Christian weekly newsmagazine alternative to Time whose 100,000 circulation is larger than that of the Weekly Standard or The New Republic. As an adviser to Bush's campaign, Olasky swore off covering the campaign himself. Just before the South Carolina primary, however, World published an anti-McCain article written by its national editor, Bob Jones IV, the 33-year-old son of the current president of Bob Jones U. Establishment Republicans connected the dots and found a right-wing conspiracy against McCain.
But Young Bob's anti-McCain story was solid; it was his second anti-McCain piece in six months. World has it in for McCain, but Young Bob is probably a cut above his hidebound dad. In fact, says Joel Belz, the founder and executive director of World, Young Bob now lives in secular D.C. and "is caught between a rock and a soft place," explaining, "Bob doesn't believe in those racial policieshe says the university has been wrong; he even goes to a black Baptist church. But he also loves his parents very much." (Young Bob didn't return the Voice's calls for comment.)