The message from Liberty University

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Liberty University describes itself as “the world’s largest Christian college” with the stated mission “to develop Christ-centered men and women with the values, knowledge, and skills essential to impact tomorrow’s world.”

But as you’ve probably heard, the administration has invited controversial talk show host Glenn Beck to deliver the commencement address for the Class of 2010 on May 15.  

In a press release, Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. described Beck as a “conservative leader” and “one of the few courageous voices in the national media standing up for the principles upon which this nation was founded.” According to Falwell, Beck’s presence at the podium will “continue Liberty’s long tradition of Commencement speakers who are making a positive impact on society in all walks of life.”

Perhaps unintentionally, the administration at Liberty sends a clear message with this move.  By choosing Beck for a duty as symbolic as delivering the commencement address, they have in effect declared that:

  1. Conservative politics trump traditional orthodoxy. (Beck is a Mormon, and his beliefs are incompatible with the school’s own doctrinal statement.)
  2. Conservative politics trump Christian unity. (Beck is the definition of a polarizing figure, and offensive to many Christians who consider themselves moderates.) 
  3. Conservative politics trump compassion and justice.  (Beck has publically denounced social justice and instructed religious people to avoid churches that prioritize caring for the poor and oppressed, a position that runs counter to Christ’s teachings concerning the Gospel-Luke 4:18.)
  4. Conservative politics trump civility and love. (Beck consistently employs hateful language, name-calling, and fear to promote his views on TV and radio.)

The message this sends to me— and to many others both inside and outside the Church— is that you go to Liberty University to receive a conservative education, not a Christian one. For what is Christianity if not a commitment to orthodoxy, unity, the Gospel, and love? 

Graduation 2010 confirms once and for all what many of us have suspected for years. Liberty University is characterized not by Christian fundamentalism but by political fundamentalism. For Republicanism is clearly the university's highest and most sacred value.  

What do you think of Liberty’s decision to invite Beck as commencement speaker? What message does it send?  How should students/alums/supporters respond?  

Note: I know that for those of us who long for a day when a new generation of Christ-followers rise up together to pledge allegiance to the Kingdom of God over any kingdoms of this world, a move like this is frustrating. But please respond with the aforementioned civility and love or I shall delete your comment for blatant hypocrisy. :-)

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