It was with some bemusement that I took note of the speaker for Liberty University’s 2010 Commencement: Glenn Beck. I am not sure what message was conveyed by this choice. One possibility seems commendable. Another possibility, I fear, may be a sad reflection of attitudes within and around contemporary American Evangelicalism.
Liberty University, long steeped in Baptistic Fundamentalism, maintained its commitment to the conservative politics held by founder Jerry Falwell while broadening its umbrella in recent years by making a transition to be more of an Evangelical institution. I applaud them for this move. Not only do I believe that Evangelicalism is more Biblical than Fundamentalism, an Evangelical worldview is unquestionably more conducive to a comprehensive education.
Glenn Beck, while controversial, is a voice in the Public Square not to be ignored. I don’t much buy into Beck’s conspiracy theories. And I categorically oppose his audacious and unqualified call for people to leave churches that promote ‘social justice’. But I do not dismiss him, as some on the far Left are inclined to do – or, at least, wish they could do. (i.e.: MSNBC) In short, not only is Beck an intelligent and articulate pundit for cultural conservatism, he also freelyspeaks about God. BUT Beck is a Mormon, not a Christian. So the god he speaks about, therefore, is NOT the Triune God revealed in the Bible.
So what is a Mormon doing speaking at a Baptist graduation?
One answer may simply be that Liberty University felt Beck’s views on the state of our nation are worthy to be heard. Beck reflects their conservtive cultural values. And a university is, afterall, about education. In Liberty’s broadened worldview, it is reasonable that the school can embrace Beck’s message without necessarily endorsing his faith. If this is their reasoning, I can applaud them. This is a college graduation service, afterall, not a church sevice. (Incidentally, Liberty’s Baccalaurate service was addressed by prominent Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson.)
But I fear another reason may have been behind the invitation of Glenn Beck to Liberty University. And even if my fear is unfounded, I suspect the message that will be widely inferrred is that whichI fear.
What is my concern?
My concern is, that by hosting Glenn Beck as the commencement speaker at an Evangelical institution, the message conveyed is that Evangelicalism is more about cultural conservatism than about Gospel fidelity.
Whatever Liberty’s intentions are I may never know. In fact, I have no inherent right to know. I don’t need to know. But of the possible implications of their decision: One should be applauded. One I want always to be averted.
2 thoughts on “What’s Glenn Beck Doing at Liberty University?”
Not sure most people (SBC folks anyway) would agree with your word choice about Liberty being steeped in Baptistic Fundamentalism….(at least those who know Liberty) The word “Fundamentalism” for me means more works centered than Grace centered and thats simply not the case in SBC higher ed schools.
Now having said that… Glen Beck as a speaker would be fun to hear. Wish I could have heard what he had to say. It’s probably available on the net and I’ll take a look.
Your issue about cultural conservatism is probably not why liberty had Glen Beck speak. I’ll let you know after I hear what he said. I think he’s funny and has some good things to say…
No doubt Liberty has made the transition from Fundamentalism to Evangelicalism. However, the school itself would admit its founding was as a Fundamentalist institution – and Jerry Falwell was the perhpas the most celebrated Fundamentalist in the country. Legalism did mark the school for a long time. But as Falwell moved more toward Evangelicalism so did Liberty. But Falwell did not join the SBC until relatively late in life – he was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist. But it has probably been a whole generation since that has been the case.