But what BJU called counseling wasn’t exactly based on psychology’s best practices; instead the school relied on a sort of psychology-alternative known as biblical counseling, common in fundamentalist circles, which argues the Bible is sufficient treatment for almost all mental and emotional problems—and that the root of most people’s problems is sin. To become a biblical counselor didn’t require degrees or experience in psychology or training, but only a strong grounding in the Bible. Indeed, Berg’s only degrees were in Bible studies and theology, and his knowledge of counseling victims of sex abuse came from reading a few books and attending one conference—training he acknowledged to GRACE was “paltry among the research” that is available.
Unsurprisingly, the pattern of treatment that victims at Bob Jones experienced was poorly suited to their needs. When Berg was told of students who alleged abuse or rape, he usually met with them for only one to three sessions, and bragged to a colleague that “in five minutes I can tell you what is wrong with somebody,” and provide them with the proper sheet of scripture verses, “and say go study this and you will be all right.”
Berg often began to immediately ask them probing, accusative questions about their own “moral life”: whether they had been drinking or using drugs when assaulted, whether they were using them at present, whether they watched pornography or indulged in sexual fantasies—and, for women, whether they had experienced pleasure while being raped. One alleged victim says that when she told Berg about being raped by a coworker, he told her “there is a sin that happens behind every other sin,” and they had to figure out what hers was. Though Berg told GRACE he didn’t recall this, in a training video he made that GRACE reviewed, he explains that he asks alleged victims these uncomfortable questions at the beginning of their counseling because “I have to find out where there is guilt that they have to deal with.”
Lectio Cultura Institute
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