Government professor shares his story on how he chose his profession

From the Baltimore Communist Party to the mission field in Belize, Dr. Thomas Metallo has seen it all. After lifetimes’ worth of diverse experiences, Metallo settled down at Liberty University, where he is a beloved professor in the Helms School of Government going on 19 years. 

It would be hard to pinpoint where the well-traveled Metallo has spent the most time before settling down at Liberty. Whether it be living in southern Arizona and Oregon, serving others in Belize and Guatemala or studying for his Ph.D. in international relations at the University of Miami, Metallo saw many sides of the United States and Central America, interacting with many different worldviews and cultures in the world.

Metallo’s life has taken many turns – both geographically and philosophically – before ultimately calling Lynchburg home.

He grew up in a Catholic family, yet he wouldn’t become saved until after a series of experiences. Metallo spent some years at the Air Force Academy before leaving and radicalizing his philosophical and political views. In this phase of life, he was recruited by the Communist Party in Baltimore and also rejected the Christian faith.

“If I was going to reject Christianity, then I should at least know what the Bible had to say,” Metallo said. “So, I sat down and read the Bible cover to cover and concluded what a Christian should be like because I hadn’t seen it.”

A later move to Arizona would be a catalyst for his eventual acceptance of Christianity, where he hasn’t looked back since in his continual study of the Scriptures and biblical languages.

“I had an interest in geodesic domes, and a friend of mine was living and working in one in southern Arizona,” he said. “A couple of years later, I came across an outdoor baptism, and I gave my life to the Lord.” 

He also spent his younger years in the early 1970s going to concerts by legendary acts from the Grateful Dead to Bob Dylan and Fleetwood Mac to the Allman Brothers Band. Unlike radicalism, a love of music still remains from his early days. He collects music of all sorts, especially many iconic live performances by the Grateful Dead. 

“I had gone to a lot of concerts,” Metallo said. “So, I started looking for the shows I had seen live.”

Besides attending legendary concerts in the 70s, Metallo backpacked with a group across Europe, his first time traveling outside the United States. He was only supposed to be visiting Germany, but always the avid linguist, he decided to test his five years of French by traveling through France as well .

“We flew Icelandic, so we stayed in Iceland for a couple of hours,” Metallo said. “Then (we) landed in Luxembourg, took a train to Paris and hitchhiked to Germany and to Switzerland, then (we went) back to Germany.”

While this backpacking trip was his first international encounter, Metallo’s love of travel really started when he worked as a missionary through Youth with a Mission and one agricultural mission in particular called Project LO.R.D. (Long Range Development). 

“The idea was you could feed a family of five on a quarter acre of land, and there would be surplus left over to (take to) market,” Metallo said.

While working on this mission in Belize, Project LO.R.D. raised the question of how one establishes something that has lasting consequences. Metallo said he read a book on economics to help answer this question, causing him to focus his studies on public policy upon his return to education and eventually leading him to get his masters in public policy, with an emphasis on international work.

During his education, he spent two months in Nicaragua for an internship and later did doctoral work in Guatemala. Most of his travels centered around Central America, but from 2005 to 2011, Metallo and a friend lived and taught in Indonesia, presenting the biblical view of government, law and economics to Christian universities there.

He recalled the various political worldviews of the places he has visited, specifically the turmoil in Central America. Parts of Mexico are heavily influenced by communism, and when he visited Nicaragua, the nation had claimed itself to be Marxist. Central American politics has always been of interest to him, as he wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Nicaraguan Revolution. Most recently, in 2019, he taught in YWAM’s School of Biblical Christian Worldview, established in honor of his mentor, Dr. Glenn Martin, in Havana, Cuba.

Metallo was brought to Liberty University in 2004 by Steven Samson, a former Liberty professor and a friend of Dr. Jerry Falwell, to help kick-start what would become the Helms School of Government. His love of travel and study continues to influence his work here. He led groups of students to Guatemala between 2005-2016 to study Spanish and the politics of Latin America.

Metallo sees the effects of political worldviews, touching on the United States government’s actions since 2020.

“With the (COVID) lockdown, you could see the limiting of people’s liberties,” Metallo said. “We still haven’t really recovered from it.”

He also believes there is still evidence of socialism and communism dispersed throughout the United States, especially among the younger generations.

“Historically, there’s been a revulsion against socialism,” Metallo said. “But now, when they take polls, about 50% of people between 18-24 see socialism as a viable economic alternative, which doesn’t bode well with the United States.”

To this day, Metallo holds fast to his purpose in teaching.

“I originally got involved in the teaching enterprise because I was dismayed at the number of Christian young people abandoning their faith when I got to university,” Metallo said. “They encountered professors and peers who could articulate their worldviews better than the Christian students could articulate their faith. I’m called to use university as a platform to reach the world as well as to keep Christian young people from abandoning their faith by providing substance to their faith.”

For now, Metallo will continue using his experiences of travel and knack for scholarly work to teach his government students about the world he has spent his life exploring.

Browder is the opinion editor and Pickard is a feature reporter for the Liberty Champion

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