An Island in the Lake of Fire

Bob Jones University, Fundamentalism, and the Separatist Movement

Title Details

Pages: 224

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in



Pub Date: 02/28/2012

ISBN: 9-780-8203-4096-8

List Price: $26.95

An Island in the Lake of Fire

Bob Jones University, Fundamentalism, and the Separatist Movement

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  • Description
  • Reviews

The Religious Right's most dogmatic and resolute faction has its roots in three generations of the Bob Jones family of Greenville, South Carolina. An Island in the Lake of Fire is the first in-depth history of this militantly separatist, ultrafundamentalist dynasty to be written by an "outsider" with the Joneses' cooperation. Mark Taylor Dalhouse focuses on Bob Jones University (BJU) and the three colorful, charismatic Jones patriarchs, who, in succession, have led the school.

Founded in 1927, BJU has a student population of five thousand; in addition, it boasts thousands more loyal, well-placed alumni not only in pulpits and Christian day schools across the country but also in elective offices and major corporations. Through their BJU network, and by their vigilance as self-appointed theological watchdogs, the Joneses have, since the 1950s, played a pivotal role in defining the extreme limits of American religious and cultural conservatism. Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell (whom Bob Jones Jr. labeled the "most dangerous man in America") are among the leading figures who have not measured up to BJU's fundamentalist standards.

The defining doctrine at BJU, says Dalhouse, is separation from secularism in the modern world. Drawing on interviews with Bob Jones Jr., Bob Jones III, and others at BJU, as well as on hitherto inaccessible archival sources at the school, Dalhouse discusses the school's separatism in light of such factors as its refusal to seek accreditation and the stringent codes of dress, conduct, and even thought to which BJU students submit themselves.

Attuned to the ironies and contradictions of the Joneses' separatist enterprise, Dalhouse points to the high proportion of accounting and finance degrees awarded at BJU, the school's widely admired cinema department (which has a Cannes Film Festival award to its name), and its nationally acclaimed Baroque and Renaissance art gallery. Dalhouse also challenges some widely held impressions about BJU that have circulated among its detractors, including assumptions about the regional makeup of the student body, and about the prospects of BJU students to gain entry into graduate programs at other schools.

Filled with insights into the attitudes and personalities of the Joneses, An Island in the Lake of Fire offers a unique window into their influential, yet generally unrecognized, place in right-wing Christianity.

A fair and objective account of the roles of the Bob Joneses and Bob Jones University in the history of twentieth-century American fundamentalism. A blend of narrative and analysis, the book focuses on the theme of separatism as the distinguishing mark for the school. . . . Dalhouse has done a solid job in treating this facet of the history of fundamentalism. This is the first history of the school by an outsider, and he is to be commended for taking his subject seriously.

History: Review of New Books

A journey into the heart of American fundamentalism . . . An instructive reminder that within the house of fundamentalism there are many mansions, the residents of which do not always like or trust one another any more than outsiders do.

—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

A clear, relevant and contributory work on an unusual South Carolina family and institution.

Post and Courier

A fascinating look at a still vital fundamentalist institution.

Publishers Weekly

Dalhouse does an excellent job of telling this fascinating story without ever falling into a tone of condescension.

Journal of Church and State

About the Author/Editor

MARK TAYLOR DALHOUSE is an assistant professor at Truman State University (formerly named Northeast Missouri State University).