Liberty University: Mixing Right-Wing Politics & Christianity

I was floored last year when Liberty University invited Glenn Beck to be the commencement speaker. I guess I shouldn't have been, however, because Liberty has a long history of and has made a name for itself by mixing right-wing politics with Christianity. In fact, in many ways, the two seem to be equivalent in the eyes of said university. In the last several years, Liberty has invited the following speakers:

* 2004 - Karl Rove
* 2005 - Sean Hannity
* 2006 - John McCain
* 2007 - Newt Gingrich
* 2008 - Chuck Norris (actually kind of cool!)
* 2009 - Ben Stein
* 2010 - Glenn Beck

Based on this lineup, can you guess who is speaking there this year? Okay, I know the picture above has already given the answer away, but if you said Mitt Romney, you'd be correct. (If you guessed wrongly, you might need glasses!) In the last decade, Liberty has secured and reserved some of the most well-known right-wingers out there to speak at the graduation event. What is the purpose of this? What name is Liberty attempting to make for itself? What image is it hoping to portray? And perhaps, most importantly, what message is it sending about the relationship between Christianity and modern politics?

Now, I know Liberty is not a church; it is an academic institution. Yet, the institution itself claims to be a vessel of the church, and a place for preparing church leaders. The two, then, are not mutually exclusive. But it all leaves me questioning whether or not Liberty University is, as a Christian religious institution, placing its stock and hope in something it shouldn't be, namely, an earthly kingdom? To be sure, I'm not saying that having political passions and aspirations is wrong. Nor am I suggesting that Christians should abstain from politics. Far from it!

Instead, my concern, when you look at this institution's track record, is whether or not they have all but dissolved the line that stands between God's Kingdom and this earthly kingdom, so much that it is just another means of producing vitriol and segregation among Christians themselves...not to mention Christians and non-Christians. Put differently, by continually pushing the view that the "right-wing" is somehow the political arm of God on earth, are they also sending the message that anyone not in line with that, is going to be on the receiving end of God's wrath?

In the reports I have read, it is believed that Romney, for example, is going to give a "groundbreaking" speech at Liberty, in an attempt to unite Mormons and Evangelicals. What does it say about Liberty that they are allowing themselves to be a political pawn so that this can happen? Could not this discussion have happened in another way in another place at another time? Perhaps like Ravi Zacharias's talk with Mormon's several years ago? I find this political ploy of Liberty, quite disheartening. It is more than bothersome that Liberty is willing to draw such sharp lines of demarcation between Christians of the political "right-wing" and Christians on the political "left" (if they can even be called "Christians" by Liberty's standards), but is so willing to align with a famous Mormon. Does anyone else see the problem there?

I'm not saying that Christians should be hateful towards Mormons. Nor am I saying that we should not have anything to do with them. In agreement with Dr. Timothy Tennet, the president of my seminary, Asbury Theological seminary, I do agree that Mormons are not Christians. Even so, what I am saying here, however, is that it is sad when one group of Christians (right-wing) can out another group of Christians (leftists), all the while embracing and welcoming those who are not their true brothers and sisters in Christ (Mormons). Yet, I guess that is what happens when politics get involved. This is what we should expect when money, power (especially legislative power), and connections become the mantra, not unity among believers. Can Liberty really be pleasing God with such actions? Or is this more like a modern-day Corinth?

Finally, I am also not saying that Liberty would be better if they called in leftist speakers for the next decade to balance the scales. If you are reading me correctly, you will understand that what I am saying is, perhaps it is time for Liberty to remove itself from the stage of political puppetry, and to focus itself on creating Christian unity, and advancing unity among Christians. If you have the clout and power, why not use it that way? Isn't that really the ONLY admirable way to use it? And as much as the school might believe that their views are the ones most aligned (if not perfectly aligned) with the "biblical" views of politics, with God's own political views, as a Christian standing outside of the institution and watching its moves, I can't help but think that there is, in all reality, a wide gap between the way the school's leaders want things to be, and the way that God wants them to be.

This is not an attempt to bash Liberty University, rather, it is simply a call for us all to resist the opportunity to use politics to bend the truth, create a domineering theocracy, divide Christians, forsake unity, and become political puppets of a government. These are things we should not identify with! In fact, if the New Testament is any indication, these things are much of what Jesus challenged, and much of what led to his death on a Roman cross. Judas was a political puppet, and we know what became of him. God forbid that should go on happening today. And God forgive us when it does happen today, and let us not use that forgiveness as a license to keep on doing it!

PS: You may want to check this out: HERE. Warning: It is quite disturbing!!!


Koine Verb Contractions

Here's a quick-and-dirty Koine Verb Contractions table for anyone interested. Click to make the image larger.


New Testament Greek: Hewett, Robbins, Johnson

At some point in the next couple of weeks or so, I hope to post a review of a recent book I received from Baker titled New Testament Greek: A Beginning and Intermediate Grammar. The volume is co-written by James A. Hewett, C. Michael Robbins, and Steven R. Johnson. I really like the clean feel of the book, and am eager to check out the CD that accompanies it. For now, however, I'm going to be working through the book and taking some notes. I would like to say "Thank you!" to Baker for the complimentary book. You can pick up your copy at the Baker site HERE, or at Amazon HERE.


Some Great News

Hello friends, I just wanted to share with my readers that I have been selected by A Foundation for Theological Education (AFTE) to be a John Wesley Fellow. This is such an honor, and I feel incredibly privileged to be able to stand in a circle of scholars such as Ben Witherington III, Richard Hays, Lawson Stone, Joel Green, Duane Watson, and so many others.  Ben has written a nice piece about AFTE and its legacy HERE.  Several of my Asbury peers such as Brad Johson, and Brian Yeich are also Fellows. I received the news on Friday, via phone, about 4 minutes before I went up to deliver a paper at a conference. Needless to say, I was pretty amped up, and probably spoke a bit fast. The goal of AFTE is the spiritual revitalization and renewal of the church, particularly within the United Methodist denomination, through theological education. This, of course, is something I am quite passionate about! Anyway, I just thought I'd share the good news with everyone. Again, this is an incredibly great honor and I'm grateful to AFTE (read more HERE) for this wonderful opportunity.


SBL Annual Meeting Paper Accepted

This year I submitted one abstract for the annual meeting of the SBL and fortunately, that abstract was accepted. I submitted to the Performance Criticism of Biblical and Other Ancient Texts section, which I have been attending the last few years when possible. Below is the title and abstract:

Title: Come On Feel the Noise: The Function of Screams in Mark and Ancient Performance

Abstract: A topic that continues to scream for scholarly attention from Markan exegetes is none other than the role of screams throughout the narrative. Heeding the call, in this paper I seek to show how screaming, when situated within the context of ancient performance, sheds light on this fascinating feature of Mark. In particular, I will focus on screaming from the standpoint of the ancient performer and how it might have caused him or her to be viewed. Additionally, I will address the intended effects of screaming in relation to other aural devices. In the end, the hope is that we will not only hear these nuances of Mark’s story loud and clear but also feel their intended effects.