Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

Tim Murphy is a reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. Last summer he logged 22,000 miles while blogging about his cross-country road trip for Mother Jones. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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Bob Jones University's Last Days

| Wed Jul. 21, 2010 1:39 PM PDT

Cup o' Jones: BJU's history may offend many, but credit where credit's due: A Jonathan Edwards themed coffee shop is an idea whose time has come (photo: Tim Murphy).Cup o' Jones: BJU's history may offend many, but credit where credit's due: A Jonathan Edwards themed coffee shop is an idea whose time has come (photo: Tim Murphy).

Greenville, South Carolina—Some of you may know Bob Jones University as the fun-loving school that briefly held the Guinness World Record for largest kazoo ensemble. More likely, though, you know it as a bastion of the far right: For decades, big-shot conservative politicians from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush have traveled to the self-described "fundamentalist" outpost to pander to the Christian right, all the while pleading ignorance to its institutional opposition to Catholicism ("a Satanic counterfeit") and its longstanding ban on interracial dating.

The dating policy was reversed in 2000 (provided you have parental consent and a chaperone, of course), but the school still has a pretty detailed personal conduct code, which bans, among other things, phones that have Internet access, "contemporary Christian music," Gmail, and "posters of movie and music stars." I stopped by BJU on Tuesday hoping to speak with some current students about what brought them there (the art program is supposed to be excellent), how they like the school, and what they make of the school's not-so-distant history. But, alas, when I approached a group of undergrads, they broke the bad news: "We're not technically allowed to talk to reporters unless we have the school's permission," as one of them explained.

So much for that. Instead, I ended up walking across campus, checking out the Renaissance art museum (quite impressive, in addition to being the only place at BJU where you'll find Catholics); the Shakespeare-centric theater; and the memorial to the school's namesake, which places him in the tradition of transcendent historical figures like George Whitefield and Billy Sunday.

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The View From My Windshield: Southern Strategy

| Wed Jul. 21, 2010 8:43 AM PDT

Wheels of Progress: Greenville, South Carolina espite its namesake's anti-Catholic rhetoric, and the school's longstanding ban on interracial dating, generations of conservative politicians made Bob Jones University a can't-miss spot to speak to the base (Photo: Tim Murphy).Values: Greenville, South Carolina—Despite its namesake's anti-Catholic rhetoric, and the school's longstanding ban on interracial dating (which came to an end in 2000), generations of conservative politicians, from Reagan to George W. Bush, traveled to Bob Jones University to pander to the far right (Photo: Tim Murphy).

Overheard in Murfreesboro: Voting

| Tue Jul. 20, 2010 9:10 PM PDT

Primary Season: Congressional races get all the ink, but thousands of people will vote for people like Pam Hurst in the Tennessee primary. Will they find out who she is first? (Photo: Tim Murphy)Primary Season: Congressional races get all the ink, but thousands of people will vote for people like Pam Hurst in the Tennessee primary—whether or not they know who she is (Photo: Tim Murphy).We left Murfreesboro, Tennessee a few days ago, but since it's stuck with me, and since I've had some down time for the first time this trip, I thought I'd put up this stray bit of overheard wisdom. To set the scene: Murfreesboro is a small-sized city with an old-fashioned downtown square centered around the county courthouse. With the retirement of long-time congressman Bart Gordon, a Democrat, the upcoming Republican primary has taken on an added significance this year; the inside of the City Cafe is cluttered with literature for the various candidates lining up to replace him. In the corner by the window, five elderly women are studying up on the races not just for Congress, but down-ballot positions as well.

"Oh, he's very niiiice," says woman #1. Then she drops her voice: "He talked for quite a while." They talk it over and agree not to let the latter become the enemy of the former. Moving on, now: "This here means they're independent," says friend #2. She's referring to, I think, the box that says "independent." "They don't go either way, really," explains woman #3.

And now they plunge into the unexplored places: county clerk, register of deeds, jailer. "I don't even know who this is," says woman #3, perplexed.

"Oh, that doesn't matter," says friend #2. "You just check one and keep on going."

A Sense of Where We Are: Going South

| Tue Jul. 20, 2010 10:02 AM PDT


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Don't Mention the War

| Mon Jul. 19, 2010 4:36 PM PDT

Global Warming: Whether it's climate change you fear, or just the fiery inferno of hell, things are looking a little bleak here on Earth. This message comes from a chuch in Brownsville, Kentucky (Photo: Tim Murphy)Global Warming: Whether it's climate change you fear, or just the fiery inferno of hell, things are looking a little bleak here on Earth. This message comes from a chuch in Brownsville, Kentucky (Photo: Tim Murphy)Greenville, South Carolina—Greenville, with its revived downtown, Yankee transplants, and bevy of public art, is very much a New South city, but if you walk for a bit off Main Street you can still find a little touch of Dixie. I stopped by the Museum & Library of Confederate History, a Sons of Confederate Veterans-operated facility, which, since its inception 15 years ago has swelled from a one-room exhibit in the side room of a downtown funeral home, to a building of its own with plans to expand yet again. It's a small operation, specializing in genealogical research  and antique sidearms. For $25, a woman calling herself "the research muse" will track down government records to help you find out "what your great grandfather did during the war."

Even in South Carolina, where students study up on "the war between the states," the museum's historical narrative can be a bit jarring: secession, a commonly accepted concept by people like Thomas Jefferson, was necessitated by burdensome taxation (just like the Revolution!); slavery was, if anything, just a side issue.

"Most people are astounded by some of the information I share," explains Webster Jones, the museum's director. "About three years ago we had Upstate high school history teachers up at the museum and we put together a little folder. And my question for them was: How many slaves did Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation actually free? And they were studying that over, and I said 'Zero.' And their faces"—here, Webster contorts his face to express disbelief. Then he explains: "What it did was inject slavery into the war."

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