When Governor Mitt Romney was invited to be the commencement speaker at Liberty University’s graduation ceremony later this month, noticeable protests quickly found their way to the media. Many indicated they were either upset or appalled that a Mormon had been invited to speak. I have been close to the Falwell family, Liberty’s leadership, and many students since the birth of the school. I was impressed to write the following open letter encouraging all concerned to communicate in love with respect and a pursuit for understanding, rather than protesting with expressions of anger and dissension.
To the Falwell Family, Liberty University Faculty & Student Body,
I do not endorse candidates. I embrace truth, endorse principles and encourage prayerful, informed participation in the election process. I want to commend you for inviting Gov. Romney to speak at Liberty University. No doubt as evangelical Christians we have theological differences – very significant differences with Mormon beliefs. I pray this open letter to your family, faculty, board members, students and all Americans encourages you in your decision and provides additional strength to endure misunderstanding and harsh criticism.
It is obvious many Christians do not fully understand the importance of some things Jesus said. This is especially true in areas we find difficult to comprehend. When Billy Graham was working with a diverse group of Christians in his crusades, I questioned him about it. He said it would be wise for me to spend more time with people I had been taught to avoid. For nearly 30 years I have heeded his advice, and I have not compromised God’s Word or any of my convictions. I discovered we don’t know Him as well as we should because we have been taught not to know them (other professing believers).
I am certain Liberty University would welcome President Obama any time just as they welcome other presidential candidates or those elected to office. Dr. Jerry Falwell and I were very close friends and co-laborers and I know he frequently invited people of different philosophical positions and theology.
We must never refuse people because they are different. That’s one of the strengths of our nation. We don’t eliminate candidates because of their party, ethnicity or religious affiliation. We examine their worldview, the principles they hold to and the policies they are likely to support. Respect for marriage, family, the preciousness of life from conception until death, and protecting our citizens, our freedom and the Constitution is critically important. Leadership is always a test of character and requires great strengths to effectively lead and deal with present failures in a principled fashion consistent with those of our founders.
Many times while attempting not to compromise biblical truth or convictions, Christians actually compromise the Lord’s commandments to love our neighbor, to love one another, and to love those who are considered enemies. Love can remove the barriers that so often divide. We must learn in this day the absolute necessity of learning to love people we have been taught to dislike, or even despise, because of differences. Remember, it is love that never fails. Some believers often attempt to justify the lack of love by claiming they are “defending the faith” without realizing they are sometimes destroying the manifestation of faith’s most profound effect: love. Jesus referenced the fact that anyone can love a friend; but He has given us a new commandment: to love not only our neighbors, but also our enemies. We will never love others properly if we do not first love the Father. It is virtually impossible to effectively communicate with people who are convinced we dislike them.
It is absolutely essential that people who understand the importance of faith, family and freedom find common ground to effectively address our legitimate common concerns. If we are serious about these issues, we’re going to have to work with some people and groups we have been taught not only to dislike but to despise. In order to reclaim all that is precious regarding faith, life and freedom that we have forfeited by failing to obey Paul’s command to “seek diligently to preserve the unity of the Spirit in a bond of peace,” we are now going to be forced to come together around the principles our founding fathers established as our nation’s sound foundation. The importance of faith, family and freedom will not only be defended and protected by those who understand its importance, but also by those who demonstrate its importance by the way they live.
All professing Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, should find it interesting and challenging that one of the most powerful secular media voices for conservative values and freedom as well as a leading presidential candidate are connected in some way to the Mormon church. Oh what to do! Love them, hold fast to the faith, preach the Jesus Paul preached, love those we disagree with and prove it by our actions. While never compromising truth, understand also the necessity of not compromising love. We can together witness a miracle because people who clearly disagree on theology can work together to uphold common moral and family values. In doing so, we do not compromise our faith, but help preserve the freedom that makes the public display of our faith possible. This can happen if we will give love a chance and even learn to speak and discuss the truth in love that can only come from God above.
I am personally experiencing the undeniable and uncompromising power of love in a very close personal relationship and friendship with Glenn Beck as we discuss how to encourage the healing of our land. With the prayerful encouragement of many strong Evangelicals, I was led to co-author my latest book INDIVISIBLE with a Catholic philosopher, Jay Richards. (www.indivisiblebook.com) We have proved consistent with biblical truth and founding principles that we can find common ground to address our legitimate common concerns without compromising.
You, too, can remain steadfast in your convictions while allowing students to listen to those outside your traditional group. There will always be some who will criticize you because they do not understand or agree. Remember, Jesus was harshly criticized and He was perfect. America will never have a perfect candidate for any office. But we must pray, listen, and try to select the best qualified, most principled leader to help correct our nation’s perilous course. Our freedoms are at stake. We must not be cowed into submission while the most godless among us impose their liberal, secular, progressive views on the American people. You are not compromising your Christian convictions. You are exercising your freedom of religion and speech while you give students a chance to hear and decide for themselves. Stay strong and be encouraged. Now is the time for all believers to first fall on their face before God and then stand on their feet for God! We must be inspired by what we have, be well informed concerning the issues and the candidate’s worldview, and be actively involved by voting wisely. We are to become a shining city set on a hill that cannot, will not, and must not be hidden.
With love and gratitude for the Falwell family and for Liberty University,