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,
Few would disagree with some of the major points in your letter, particularly with the Biblical admonitions of Jesus to love one’s neighbors, to love one another, even to love those considered enemies–and to not compromise love Unity is much more powerful than theological jots and tittles as, for example, immersion versus sprinkling . Few would disagree that faith, family and freedom are essential elements of life.
But your letter carries in it the common fears and alarms that like a virus infects some Christians: that “our freedoms are at stake,” that the godless are imposing liberal, secular, progressive views–not defined–on the American people, that all is lost unless we act quickly even with those people we have been “taught not only to dislike but to despise.” [I hope that doesn’t include Methodists and Presbyterians!].
But the problems with our nation are much more than the usual culprits railed against on Christian radio programs and from some pulpits. Yes, all Americans, Christians and non-Christians, should be concerned about the increasing number of children born out of wedlock, the grossness of topic and language characterizing many parts of the vast entertainment industry, and the ubiquity and availability of porn. However concerned some may feel about the unborn or same-sex marriage, these issues are as stated far less important than other issues. [The silliness about personhood amendments is that some 40 percent of fertilized eggs never reach development stage because the body rejects them].
Let’s look at such issues as the growing income disparity between the very rich and the poor, the greatest since 1928 and the 1890s and what that has meant to the vast middle class in our country. Are we not concerned that in the past 40 years, many, perhaps most business and corporate leaders have lost any sense of responsibility to their workers or to the communities where their are located? And also concerned that one of the deadly sins, greed, has gripped so many so that instead of the average CEO making perhaps 40 times the average salary of his workers, the ration is not several times that amount. Or that we elect to Congress individuals who say “my way or the highway…” instead of realizing that compromise and realization that half a loaf is better than none is the way to move forward. And that in the past decade our leaders, led by an avowed Christian, led us into an needless war in Iraq whose costs in life and treasure are immense. [I have worked for nearly 50 years in the fields of intelligence and foreign policy and teach courses about these topics].
Let’s also combat the uninformed view that President Obama is leading our nation, or has led it, into “socialism,” which means only that those believe–or pretend to believe it–no nothing about the meaning of the term. Or that their are vast numbers of our citizens who are slothful, enjoy living on food stamps and on unemployment insurance. Could we not remember that whatever the ills of our present society–real and important as they may be–that progress has been made. We do not by law segregate individuals by the color of their skin, limited their rights; we have largely stopped making fun about or using derogatory terms about people of different ethnic origins or religious faiths; we now allow women to participate fully in all aspects of life, rather than limiting their opportunities; we no longer carelessly dump pollutants into our streams and rivers and have realized that God’s earth needs protection from our ignorance and carelessness.
The world is not perfect; and neither is America. For all our greatness in terms of opportunity and freedom, our history is stained by intolerance and cruelty. Christians have helped make this nation what it is. May Christians like you and me also have the vision to discern what is truly important from that which is not….
Two things to consider:
If life begins before birth, then abortion is, at some point prior to birth, the taking of a human life. I can find no medical or biological expert who does not acknowledge that a child in the third trimester is a human being. Yet abortion right up until birth is legal. How is that not murder? Or, if you prefer, terminating a life? And if we are terminating the lives of babies, how is that not important?
I will grant you that whether or not an issue is important is a matter of opinion. But do not for one second belittle the view that terminating human lives is a hugely important issue.
Second, the definition of socialism is no great mystery. MW defines it as “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.”
The very idea of Obamacare massively advocates the governmental administration of a significant portion of our economy (about one-fifth, I believe.) When President Obama tells graduates at a commencement speech that they have “an obligation to those who are less fortunate” because “our individual salvation depends on collective salvation,” he further invokes the idea of socialism. The list of quotes is long — from the “spread the wealth” comment to Joe “the plumber” Wurzelbacher, to his many rants about “the rich” not paying their “fair share” — but the most telling things are his actions. Government is expanding at an accelerated rate. That’s an economic fact. The simple act of shutting down private oil and gas production while supplementing “green” companies like Solyndra with millions of dollars in taxpayer funds is one example of the government adminstering the means of production. So the view that Obama has socialist leanings is not uninformed. It’s accurate.
I understand that BYU had an Evangelical Christian come speak for them, someone very close to Liberty. So in that, I appreciate the result in having the “trade-off.” Looking at the flip-side of things, the door was opened to a Christian to speak into the lives of Mormons. If I were a Liberty student, I would gladly give up my most desired commencement speaker to have the open door for a Christian at a Mormon university.
But, aside from that, I am wondering if there was no “trade-off” would someone like Romney still be chosen to speak? Was it an “evangelical” decision to welcome him on campus and show him the love of Christ this way? Is that part of the criteria for speakers? People who not only can influence the students, but rather be influenced by the students and it’s faculty?
Steve Jobs was not a Christian, but I would gladly hear him speak. If I just received 4 years of biblical education, I believe I could handle grabbing pieces of truth from a non-Christian and go on with life.
My only concern about having Romney is if inviting him was purely political in agenda, and that is not fair to the students of a Christian university. That’s like having a politician come speak at church or a Pastor in the pulpit trying to sway people one way or the other. There’s nothing wrong with educating people on how to make sound decisions in politics, but it’s another thing if you are abusing the trust of your audience by using your platform to persuade others into a decision based on your own choices in such a matter.
James Robison so eloquently expressed the truth that I do not believe anyone else could have said it any better! Thanks for the message!