Popcorn Medievalist

. . . for i had perceived that reality is a frightening place, and i did not wish to live there . . .

Location: Canada

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Genghis Khan and Bob Jones Sr: A Study in Similarities and Contrasts

It is perhaps at the risk of being lampooned that the Popcorn Medievalist broaches this subject, doubtless a touchy one amoung fundamentalist Christians and old-school Mongolians; and so I will tread lightly, as I am---some might say---a delicate soul who lacks the stomach for being the target of hurtful ridicule.

So first of all, who are these men? I assume neither of them are universally recognized figures, rightly or not.

Genghis Khan was a great Mongolian general, warlord and emperor who lived in the thirteenth century. He was the founder of the vast Mongol Empire which at its height stretched from China and South-East Asia across Asia, the Middle East and Russia and into Eastern Europe. The Mongol Empire was the largest empire in history until European colonialism. Genghis Khan ruled as the Great Khan (emperor) of the Mongols from 1206 to 1227, when he died and left the great empire to his descendants. During his career he united the various nomadic Mongol and Turkish tribes of central Asia and the steppes, and then he led his armies farther and and through more countries than even Alexander the Great had done.

Bob Jones Sr. was a fundamentalist Christian evangelist from the southern United States. He is perhaps most remembered today for founding Bob Jones University in South Carolina, one the leading fundamentalist Christian institutions of higher learning in the world. Jones served as the university's first president. In his own time, however, Bob Jones was best known for his evangelism; he commanded a large following throughout the first half of the twentieth century through his reputation as a fiery preacher and his early use of radio broadcasts to reach mass audiences. Like the great Khan, Jones left his empire to a family dynasty that continues to this day (the Bob Joneses).

So what do these two individuals have in common? I have identified several different areas of similarity and points of departure between these remarkable men.

First off, there is the matter of race relations. Khan and Bob both generally took a middle-of-the-road approach to race relations. In Genghis' case, that meant complete Mongol supremacy over conquered nations and occasional large-scale massacres of rebellious people refusing to submit to Mongol rule. Jones also followed the usual conventions of his society in, for example, restricting Black students from enrolling at his university until 1971, and accepting monies from and campaigning politically for the KKK; all of which was certainly ordinary practise among American fundamentalists of the time.

An important point of departure between Genghis and Bob is in their views on Roman Catholicism. The Khan generally took a fairly broad-minded approach to religion, permitting the local practise of different religions throughout his empire, including Roman Catholicism. Whether he had any specific views on the Pope, for example, is rather unclear. The Jones family, on the other hand, was always known for its colourful views in this area; Bob Jones Jr. for example wrote after the death of Paul VI, "Pope Paul VI, archpriest of Satan a deceiver and an anti-Christ, has, like Judas, gone to his own place."

I want to point out some differences in dress. You may note in the above pictures that the Khan has a pointy moustache and a long neck beard. Jones, on the other hand, is entirely clean-shaven. This matter appears to be of some importance to the Joneses, who dictate BJU student policy as follows: Men's hair is required to be traditionally styled with a conservative cut. Hair must not be colored or highlighted and is not permitted to be shaved, shelved, tangled or spiked. Sideburns may not reach past the lower opening of the ear. It is recommended that men be clean-shaven at all times. Furthermore, the Khan is not wearing a tie and he has a head covering; this also runs afoul with Jones' sensibilities: Morning dress consists of the following: dress shirt (no denim or chambray) with tie, dress or ironed casual pants (no jeans, cargo, carpenter, or sloppy pants), dress or leather casual shoes. Sweaters should show shirt collar and tie knot. No sweatshirts are allowed. No hats are allowed indoors except in the gymnasium.

In the end I think what mattered most about these men was what they left behind. Genghis Khan left behind an over-extended empire which fell apart rather quickly and left little impact on the countries and cultures which it had for a time lorded over and tyrannized, although it was responsible for temporarily facilitating greater communication and trade between the East and the West. Bob Jones Sr. on the other hand left Bob Jones University, which is known for its staunch conservatism, rejection and banning of all popular culture after 1960, and hostility toward interracial dating.