- Published: April 24th, 2012
Editor’s Note: Unlike most universities, Liberty has two commencement speakers each year, one at the baccalaureate and one at the final ceremony on Saturday. Most universities no longer have a baccalaureate service as part of commencement, but Liberty has continued that practice so that one of its two speakers each year is always a strongly committed Christian. Over the past 25 years, many of Liberty’s speakers for the final ceremony on Saturday have been leaders from the worlds of entertainment, business and politics. Most of them did not share Liberty’s doctrinal beliefs, but Liberty has never held a commencement that did not include a strong gospel message from a Christian leader at the baccalaureate service.
Pro: Commencement speakers chosen to encourage graduates, not preach
Two terms seem to be highly misconstrued with Liberty University’s recent announcement of Gov. Mitt Romney as the 2012 Commencement speaker: baccalaureate and commencement.
Romney’s religious belief in a Mormon faith has left many of the Liberty community struggling to reconcile his worldview with the convictions of the school, claiming a breach in the foundational values of the university.
Contrary to that belief, the commencement ceremony is not one final sermon to the graduating class — that role is reserved for the baccalaureate service. Rather, the commencement ceremony is one final challenge to the students. Traditionally, the ceremony may feature persons from the religious, entertainment, or political industries, all of which have been represented at Liberty in past years.
Past commencement speakers have included those such as former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, Billy Graham, Newt Gingrich, Chuck Norris, Ben Stein and Glenn Beck. Liberty’s commencement speakers have represented almost every faith and have even included some with no known religious affiliation at all.
Who better to challenge students to aspire to greatness than a potential president?
Students have the opportunity to hear from a man who may possibly be the next president of the United States. Although some of his beliefs may differ from those held by many in the university community, it’s important to remember that our political leaders are not our spiritual leaders.
This university has always welcomed persons with differing ideals than Liberty. In spring 2006, 40 students from Nepal were admitted into the university. The late Chancellor Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. received numerous complaints regarding the students’ faith, but he did not send the students from Nepal away.
“I understand there are some folks who don’t agree with my decision to admit all these students,” Falwell said. “But let me tell you something: If 25,000 Christians can’t love 40 Buddhists in the name of Jesus, then we need to shut down this university.”
Liberty’s motto is to “train Champions for Christ.” The university has offered students numerous opportunities to gain a Christ-centered education, as well as encouraged students in their spiritual growth through various organizations such as Student Leadership.
By the students’ senior year, their faith should be solidified. That is Liberty’s desire.
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching…” according to Ephesians 4:14.
As Champions for Christ, our faith should not waver based on the person speaking at commencement. Our faith should be challenged and stretched by the speaker — whether he is of Christian or Mormon faith.
Con: Choosing Romney to speak continues a dangerous and unethical trend
Liberty University has spent 40 years maintaining its motto of “Training Champion for Christ,” yet three of its past five commencement speakers have not claimed to hold the Christian faith. This seems to be a cause for concern.
Mitt Romney was announced as Liberty’s 39th commencement speaker, great — but he is a Mormon.
The ethical issue many students are facing has nothing to do with Romney as a person, but everything to do with the foundational values of Liberty as an institution and the apparent lack of concern over sending off the newest generation of graduates with a farewell from a different faith.
Yes, Romney is the forerunning Republican Presidential candidate, but how does that qualify him as the main voice during the “largest Christian university’s” commencement ceremony?
Commencement is, theoretically, supposed to be the last words from the university encouraging its graduates to go forth into the world, maintaining the values that the institution has developed within them.
If Liberty were a secular institution, this would not be a big deal — but it is not. If Liberty wants to wear the Christian T-shirt, so to speak, then it needs to follow through with the guides set forth in the Bible.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Liberty is conforming to the pattern of the world. It is cool and progressively academic to have a potential future president speak at Commencement — but is it Christ-honoring?
Everyone on the other side of the fence is calling out for tolerance, including Romney himself — but biblically there is no such thing as tolerance.
Yes, we are called to love those who are lost. That does not mean we are called to let them live in darkness. We are called to be shining lights —to show people the way, the truth and the life.
“I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God … It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions,” Romney said in his speech on religion back in 2007.
Well, that is taking tolerance to a whole new level. Not every religion draws people to God. In fact, many religions pull people away from the one true God by sacrificing them to idols.
How can one argue that we all worship the same God? That all religions hold the same convictions? This, my friends, sounds like a confused man, not a Christian qualified to send off our class of 2012.