What a week for Liberty University, “the largest private non-profit university in the nation, the largest university in Virginia, and the largest Christian university in the world . . . with a vision to train Champions for Christ as a world class university.” (About LU) With the April 19th announcement that Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee, will speak at this year’s commencement ceremony and, the giddy welcome of Mark Driscoll to the Lynchburg, VA campus on April 20th, this has been a “stellar” week for the school that Jerry Falwell built. But, with both those announcements, LU continues to blur the lines between a sound (fundamental, if you prefer) Biblical theology and a watered-down (downgraded, if you will) cultural Christianity far too enamored with the world of politics and society.
First, Governor Romney. I should be clear at the outset that, if Romney is the Republican candidate opposing President Obama in the fall, I will have no choice but to vote for Mr. Romney. I will not like it. It will be painful. But, he is nevertheless 1000x preferrable to the current occupant of the Oval Office, a man who has gone out of his way to preserve the killing of innocent human life in this country (even right up until the moment of birth). For that reason alone (and there are a host of other reasons I could list), I could never vote for President Obama.
But, I am not particularly thrilled at the prospect of having to vote for a Mormon candidate. Of course, Mr. Romney has every right to run for President and religion (or lack thereof) should never disqualify someone from running for office, including the highest office in the land. However, I am not prevented from taking into consideration a candidate’s moral/religious views when deciding whom to cast my vote for. That happens all the time in this country. I’m quite certain that there are folks who would never vote for a conservative Christian because of various views that he/she holds. I do not have a problem with that at all. That is the freedom that we enjoy courtesy of the First Amendment.
However, when it comes to speakers on self-proclaimed Christian campuses, I think that the bar needs to be set higher. In fact, Liberty University claims that they have set higher standards:
“Liberty hosts some of the world’s best-known Christian speakers from all walks of life every semester and our vibrant spiritual life programs are based on a solid doctrinal statement that truly sets us apart from other schools.” (About LU)
Of course, what LU fails to say in that statement is that they also willingly host some of the world’s best-known non-Christian speakers. For most Southern Baptists and conservative Evangelicals, Mormons would simply not fall into the category of Christian speakers. Neither Glenn Beck nor Mitt Romney would qualify as orthodox Christians, at least not by the Biblical standards that have been used at Liberty and elsewhere for the last two thousand years. I’m aware that both Beck and Romney consider themselves Christians, but I highly doubt that Liberty University would, ala Joel Osteen, proclaim Romney (and Beck) a “believer in Christ like me.” If the leadership of Liberty agrees with Joel Osteen’s opinion on this matter, then the university has far greater (and graver) problems than the Mark Driscoll visit.
I guess that Liberty sees Romney’s commencement address, much like Mark Driscoll’s convocation address and Real Marriage Conference, as great opportunities for their students and, perhaps they are. But, by their invitation to both Gov. Romney and Pastor Driscoll, Liberty University has further blurred the lines between Biblical Christianity and Cultural Christianity. They may not see it. The students at LU may not see it. The ardent defenders of Mark Driscoll may not see it. For, when you only look through one blurry lens and one clear lens, things may not appear as blurry as they really are, especially if you close the eye with the blurry vision. But, if you open both eyes and look through two blurry lens — Romney and Driscoll — at the same time, you might just get a clear picture of how blurry the vision really is at the “world’s largest Christian University.” With vision like that, “training Champions for Christ” will be a lot harder.