Glenn Beck at Liberty

Liberty University has decided to invite Glenn Beck as their commencement speaker this year.  I find this to be a curious choice for a speaker.  As a “Christian University” Liberty has found in Glenn Beck neither the qualification of a Christian or as a scholar.  Beck is a Mormon who hosts a regular radio and television show that centers on far-right politics, scare-tactics, and conspiracy theories.

Glenn Beck adds his name to the list of  Liberty commencement speakers that includes Ben Stein and Chuck Norris.

My concern is that Liberty is more interested in indoctrination than education.  While I am open to the idea of a “Christian University,” a commencement speaker such as Beck belies the administrations devotion to conservative, partisan politics rather than the pursuit of intelligent, Christian discipleship.

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20 thoughts on “Glenn Beck at Liberty”

  1. I don’t know anything about Liberty University but I am in agreement with Mr. Beck’s position on respect for the constitution and the value of personal responsibility. Would you be more comfortable with one of the Baldwin brothers?

  2. Hey Mark, Could you quantify “scare tactics”? And I’m not sure that an alumnus of a school that invited Jon Stewart to speak at it’s commencement should throw rhetorical stones.

  3. Mr. Windon: there are a number differences between William and Mary inviting one of its successful alum to speak at its commencement and Liberty inviting Mr. Beck to speak at its commencement. Jon Stewart is, in fact, a W&M alum, which automatically qualifies him more than Mr. Beck. Also, W&M does not have any current political or religious ties, since it is a secular, state institution. They can invite someone from the “right” or the “left” or anywhere in between politically or religiously to speak on their campus without it being against their mission statement. Liberty, on the other hand, is stated to be an evangelical Christian University. So, why would they invite a Mormon talk show host to be their commencement speaker? He is neither an alum or an evangelical Christian, so the only reason that I can surmise is that he fits in line with their political stance. Is that the reason why students go to Liberty? Politics? That is news to me. I always thought that it was because of Jesus.

  4. Once again, my wife has said it better than I!

    I am not opposed to anyone enjoying or even agreeing with Glenn Beck. The term “scare-tactics” might be unnecessarily pejorative. For a while I listened to his radio program. He says some fine things, but he also says some things that are ridiculous. He clearly has an ideological and political agenda. My biggest problem is that he does not represent the tradition of Liberty or the school’s “stated” mission.

    This post is not about me bashing Liberty as much as I am disagreeing with one of their decisions (in the same way I might disagree with a decision at William & Mary while not bashing the school). I never want to see the leadership of a school push a political agenda. This can be a dangerous thing at Liberty because of its private nature and limited authority structure (there just aren’t the same kinds of checks and balances).

    While I don’t like all of my alma mater’s commencement speakers, they tend to be well-representative of many political and ideological positions (e.g., Robert Gates, Desmond Tutu, Jon Stewart, Antonin Scalia, Douglas Wilder, Colin Powell, Elizabeth Dole, etc…)

    That’s all.

  5. I’m a couple days late on this post but I wanted to chime in seeing as I’m pretty much a sucker anytime politics get brought up. Glenn Beck was the keynote speaker at CPAC and he gave a speech about progressivism. CPACers loved this speech, and Glenn Beck has continued talking about progressivism on his television and radio show. He said social and economic justice are the platforms of progressives and they they were/are the platforms of the Nazis and communists. Then Glenn Beck said this on his radio show and I quote “… I beg you look for the words social justice or economic justice on your church website. If you find it run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice are codewords. Now the idea, hang on, [murmuring] am I advising people to leave their church, yes….If you have a priest that is pushing social justice go find another parish, go alert your bishop and tell them….”

    Also I encourage you to listen to all he said, this was not taken out of context, and the idea was repeated on both his radio and television show.

    While there may be some truth in the things Glenn says at times, or while some may agree with him politically, he goes too far into the land of conspiracies with this idea, and this time he directly attacks the churches and how Christ lived and called Christians to live. Clearly Glenn Beck does not know much about what Christ called Christians to do.

    With all this being said, here is the problem. Liberty being the largest christian university picks a controversial partisan pundit who has publicly endorsed and is still currently endorsing ideas that go against Christ’s teachings. I agree with Whitney, what does Glenn Beck say or show to believe that merits a commencement speech at Liberty? My only conclusion is either political alignment or publicity, neither of which Liberty should be about.

    Further churches around our nation are falling into the same trap Liberty is and that is alignment with politics either right or left. When churches choose politics they align themselves with a corrupt man-made system instead of a perfect God-made Kingdom system. While Liberty itself is not a church, its strength and power influence churches abroad. The political alignment has got to stop! Its aiding in the destruction of the church.

  6. Chris, While I admire your passion, I must disagree with your premise. Beck did not attack the Church, he attacked progressivism in the church ( specifically the Red Letter Christian movement and Jim Wallis). And most certainly, Godly involvment in politics is an absolute necessity. Your informed vote should be cast with this one thought – Soli Deo Gloria. As to whom LU should or should not invite to speak at a commencement ceremony, I guess I’ll have to close the argument by quoting one of my favorite bloggers, Rev Mark Turner, ” I love Jesus – Yes I do! I love Jesus- how ’bout you?!” Good to share with you.

      1. Good question – I guess the best answer is how does political progressivism line up with Scripture. For instance, I cannot support a candidate who supports abortion, which makes me a “social conservative”. By the same token, I have a real problem with the Iraq and Afghan wars and government sponsored social programs which I suppose makes me a little more libertarian. But I can say unequivocally that I can support those positions with a clear conscience and line them up with Scripture. I hate to sound like a broken record but it doesn’t matter so much what we call each other politically, as long as we remember Sola Scriptura and Soli Deo Gloria. Glad to clear that up!

    1. This is not to start a Glenn bash. Glenn Beck has not shown that he understands there can be personal social/economic justice (e.g. Someone personally helping those in need vs. government helping those in need) and a governmental social/economic justice. Based on the things he says he fails to see a difference between in views politics and church, and especially in this issue.

      I see Godly churches and Godly people being on both sides of the political spectrum. Christ calls us to help the poor and he speaks against issues such as murder and homosexuality. I know most of the people on this blog and would consider us having similar backgrounds and yet in politics we still have division. Why do churches get political and bring unnecessary division? I am passionate about politics and I am passionate about Christ, I work very hard (and fail quite often) to keep Christ about Christ only. Once we introduce politics to our Christian beliefs I find often that instead of Christ influencing our politics, our politics influence our beliefs about Christ.

  7. And now for all the Windon’s to be involved! I am normally not one to defend LU’s actions and I certainly won’t do it now.

    Mark, I will say this post may not be about bashing- you may be questioning a decision made by Liberty; however it is not the same as you questioning a decision made by William and Mary. Instead, your post comes across as questioning the leaders of LU, their character, and their Christian ethics. I agree with Chris that Liberty is not a church- but the reason why churches are having so many problems is not due to politics. In fact my church history teacher said today “The best way for a pastor to keep their job is to be a good politician. Preaching the gospel will get you fired.” I met with an atheist friend and he asked the same question I have heard from N.C. State, U.N.C, Duke, Panther Creek high school students. The question is why do Christians attack other Christians? Someone makes a decision that is disagreeable and instead of speaking the truth in love, we automatically go to the negative about that person (in this case the leadership and values of Liberty) Beck is the commencement speaker- not the baccalaureate speaker. This does not reflect the values that Liberty has but it does reflect their desire to open up Liberty faculty, students, and families to the outside world (a world which we are called to be lights in) – much the same as reading non-evangelical books or listening to non-evangelical music. Beck may not change his ideas or opinions by the invitation but is Liberty doing a bad thing by showing him respect and love? Perhaps that is what is wrong with the church today. We are too quick to judge. I heard Marilyn Adams speak on the problem of suffering and while I do not agree with her, I did walk away respecting her view on the problem of evil.

    In inviting someone who may be controversial about what they believe, my hope is that the graduates of Liberty will not be swayed by every wind of doctrine but will be able to love like Jesus, not casting stones at sinners.

  8. Hi Mark & Whitney,
    Your original posting on FB brought me to your blog. I have found it fascinating and delightfully open and yet still there are expressions of different views.
    You posed the question,”Is it possible to be politically progressive and theologically conservative?” The answer to that question is an unequivocal NO!, in my humble opinion. If you want to get a good look at what happens when progressiveism fully takes hold please go the Europe and visit all the churches that are now only places for tourists to visit and marvel at the architecture and beautiful accessories. But, the churhes in Europe are now essentially dead.
    The primary goal of progressives for God and religion are its destruction.
    My suggestion always to Christians is to use the Bible as the standard. Take every political thought and proposal and examine it with Scripture.
    Would love to sit down with you guys and have a discussion on how a Christian functions in the political world — it isn’t easy, but it is something we must do or we will, all too soon, not have the freedom to do so.
    Your brother in Christ
    Del

  9. Lots of interesting discussion. Just to clear a few things up…

    I am questioning the decision making of the Liberty administration but I would not, necessarily, categorize it as “Christian bashing.” If it is, I apologize. This is more an exercise in Christian thought. I really feel that the confusion of politics and the gospel is at the heart of the issue. When other Christians confuse the gospel, then it is important to point it out. (Stephanie, I really didn’t follow your train of thought in your post. What was the relationship to the McKinion quote with the topic at hand? Is Liberty a church or not a church? Can we criticize other Christians at all? Does a university fall under the category of a Christian? Are you comparing Beck’s positions with the peer-reviewed, published positions of a university scholar such as Marilyn Adams? etc… My original post was really just about the intersection of Christianity and partisan politics. Maybe you read into it more than was there).

    Further, none of the conversation on this blog should be taken as particularly vitriolic or passionate. These are merely ideas. I would not write a blog if I did not think I was correct, but I am open to other opinions. Don’t try to read too much emotion into any comments.

    As far as progressivism and conservatism. I am not happy with either system in a political sense. I do not subscribe to the “everybody is good”/”we are all evolving” attitude of progressives, nor the “every man for himself”/”return to the good ‘ole days” views of conservatives.

    I think it is possible (and maybe even Scripturally correct) to support certain causes of political liberalism (justice for the poor, care for the environment, regulation of individual and corporate greed, etc.) and certain causes of political conservatism (personal responsibility, financial stewardship, etc.).

    Unfortunately, no political party or ideology has proven faithful to Scripture and so we are left in these particular quandaries. Some issues are moral and must never be compromised (e.g., abortion, etc.) but no political ideology has a stranglehold on morality.

    Back to the original question, I feel that Beck is not a good representative of any political position because he makes a living by making controversial and invective statements. Further, I do not see in Liberty’s past or present much willingness to present both sides of the political spectrum. Unfortunately, Liberty has a history of aligning itself with a specific political position by endorsing particular pundits and politicians.

    Just some thoughts, take them for what they’re worth. Maybe it would’ve been easier to criticize if it was another “Christian” university (e.g., Cedarville, Regent, Oral Roberts, etc.) in which some of us were less invested.

  10. Interesting thoughts Mark. This topic happens to fall into a lifelong interest area for me. There is a very marked difference between politics and Christian living. Politicians conspire; “The wicked plots against the just, And gnashes at him with his teeth. Ps. 37:12; “Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him.” Matt. 26:3-4; and, “Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.” John 12:9-11. It was so, it is so, and it will be so until Christ returns. Whenever these worlds of ours collide, the one we are of and the one we are in, we must decide on the side of Christ.

    The qualities you specifically noted, justice for the poor, care for the environment, regulation of individual and corporate greed, personal responsibilities, financial stewardship all hold Scriptural directive basis for the Christian. In politics they become ways to power and abuse. There is no such thing as “government charity” as what the government gives to one it has first taken from others (theft). We are admonished to share with others as we have been blessed with abundance from God. Americans, especially Christian Americans, give many times more money, time, concern, and care than government provides. We also reach out to the world in times of disaster with massive aid, care, medical treatment, support, etc. than any country in the history of the world.

    America was founded on a wholly new principle – that our rights come from our Creator, by endowment. They are unalienable, meaning that we can’t even give them away. The only way we can lose them is to give powers to a government that will usurp them and use them to enslave us all, Christian, Jew, Muslim, etc. Glenn Beck is one of the few that champion the founding of our country and has directly engaged those who plot against the just generally and against Christ in particular. I care not that he is a Mormon, except that I would certainly try to testify to him about the one true God and His Son Jesus Christ. In the meantime, I will take my own admonitions and test everything he and others are saying in Scripture. I have been engaged in this struggle since the early 1960’s and have fought to maintain my priorities – God, Family, Church, Country, Work. It isn’t easy, but is certainly Scriptural! Father, keep me on the way you have chosen for me and let me not grow weary.

    However, more to my liking and much higher in my respect is the leadership being provided by Congressmen Randy Forbes and Mike McIntire with their founding of the Congressional Prayer Caucus. Take a look at “findroom219.com.” These great men are living Rom. 13 and I Tim. 2:1-4.

    1. Del,

      I agree with much of what you said and respect you greatly.

      The main points of contention I have are the idea that America is someone or ever was somehow a Christian nation. This may not be the forum to discuss such an issue but books such as “Myth of a Christian Nation” by Greg Boyd or “Christian Archy” by David Alan Black might be helpful resources.

      I greatly admire men such as Randy Forbes even when I disagree with them on the “Judeo-Christian” background of America.

      I was particularly confused by your statement “I care not that he is a Mormon.”

      All-in-all I know that everyone who has commented on this blog so far is “on the same team” and we are all trying to figure out how our lives can most glorify God. Fun and lively discussion!

      Blessings and I’ll check out the websites you recommended.

  11. As a current Liberty student, I feel that Mr. Beck’s invitation centers more on his politics than obviously anything Christian he may represent given he is a Mormon. I think its ok to have someone who has good politics but I am more concerned with someone who embodies a Christian worldview to the core to address graduating classes who have worked so hard and devoted their Christian worldview into their respective specialties they will serve in throughout the globe. Try to imagine West Point inviting an anti-war hippie as a commencement speaker just because his politics are agreeable. I think Liberty could have made a better choice, but then again, those choices are few and far between nowadays.

  12. Mark-
    Before I answer your other questions- I would like to ask one. Would you have written a blog if someone who, like Marilyn Adams had been asked to speak at a university graduate like Liberty, Cedarville, Regent, ect? Her politics and theology are radically different than that of many evangelical schools; however she is a noted, published scholar. Is the point that you believe “Liberty is more interested in indoctrination than education” or that you don’t like Beck?

    I was not comparing Beck and Adams as much as I was comparing experiences. I suppose my question is is there a way to push politics out of the picture completely and note the Beck is a man whose is sucessful, whether you disagree with his politics or not, and will be the type of person that grads will face outside of Liberty and need to know how to respond to people with love?

    As far as whether we “criticize” Christians… I suppose I would ask what you mean by that. If you mean speaking the truth in love- that is one thing. If you mean criticizing a decison because you don’t like the decision or the people that may be another issue and could come across as judgement more than truth-speaking with love.

    The first part of my comment before was more in response to Chris (as was the quote). I think we need to be careful to lump Liberty with churches- because Liberty does in fact fall under the catergory of a school- and then blame it for when things fall apart.

  13. To answer your question (sort of), both. That is I don’t think Beck is a good choice and I am worried about Liberty not exposing it’s students to other points of view.

    I think you misunderstand the whole point of a commencement speaker. A commencement speaker is speaking to the student body (giving them advice and wisdom); and I believe Beck is a poor choice.

    At this point the only other response is an Adam Sandler quote (which seems a bit innapropriate) 🙂

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