Why this Graduating Senior is Proud that Mitt Romney is Speaking at Liberty University’s Commencement

The Atomic Bomb that was Dropped on April 19

I knew from the moment I learned of the announcement that this was going to create a firestorm of controversy. A Mormon is speaking at the Commencement for the largest Evangelical university in the world. Seconds after Liberty University posted their decision on Facebook, the page was lit up with comments expressing fervent disagreement and bitter disappointment.

It immediately caught the attention of the local ABC station WSET. Since I had posted a few comments trying to calm things down and received support from other Liberty students, a reporter from WSET contacted me and I agreed to a brief, spur-of-the-moment interview. I wanted to support the university’s decision and provide my opinion of Mitt Romney, but unfortunately I am not as eloquent with the spoken word as I am with the written word, so I would like to clarify my position.

Let me preface the rest of this note with a statement of my appreciation for everyone who has respectfully disagreed with me. As of yet, I have only had pleasant conversations with the few people who have confronted me on this, and I hope to continue to foster a spirit of civil discourse and mutual understanding. I’m very proud of these people. Okay, enough introduction! Bear with me as I make my case, and feel free to comment.

Well, there goes another Christian university down the drain!”

This is the first thing I want to address, because some are accusing Liberty of being something it is not. One of the common misconceptions is that LU is a liberal Christian institution, and this decision seems to strengthen that narrative. That was actually the reason in 2007 that I said I would never attend Liberty. But I had been misinformed, according to one alum I spoke with. So I visited Liberty to see for myself. I was impressed beyond words.

As I am now completing my fourth year at LU, I can state with absolute confidence that Liberty University is a conservative Christian university that has not compromised on the fundamental Biblical truths it was founded on by Jerry Falwell in 1971. Every professor and every administrator, is a born-again, blood-bought Christian. These men and women of God are vetted and then required to sign documents that state their agreement with LU on the fundamentals of the Christian faith: God created the universe in six literal days. There was a worldwide flood that wiped out all but eight members of the human race. Jesus Christ was and is God in the flesh, born of a virgin, who died for the sins of the world and resurrected. One day He is coming back for His people and will establish his Kingdom as part of a millennial reign…. The list goes on.

But every student that comes to Liberty is not necessarily a Christian. And if they haven’t heard the Gospel, it doesn’t take long for them to hear it. Each student, regardless of major, is required to take eight semester-long Bible courses: two courses in Theology, Old and New Testament Surveys, Contemporary Issues I and II, Evangelism, and Philosophy. Every student is required to record 20 hours of Christian service per semester. Every dorm has a team of student prayer leaders which lead groups of five students to fellowship, study Scripture, worship, and pray on a weekly basis.

Every week, there are three mandatory services where the entire campus of 10,000+ students gathers to worship God and pray for 30 minutes, and hear from a speaker for the additional 30, usually from a Christian. (This year’s speakers included Francis Chan, Mark Driscoll, Steven Furtick, Vernon Brewer, Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman, Brad Stine, Cal Thomas, founder Elmer Towns, Pastor Jonathan Falwell, and campus pastors Johnnie Moore and Clayton King). Each semester there is Spiritual Emphasis Week where an evangelist or pastor leads a campus-wide revival over the course of several days. Without fail, Christ saves hundreds of young people at these services, every semester. There is also Campus Church on Sunday and Wednesday nights, although Liberty encourages students to get involved in local churches.

The Liberty Way, a rulebook, enforces strict policies. There is to be no drinking, smoking, or drug use. There is to be no cursing or crude speech. There is to be no lying, cheating, or stealing. There is to be no suggestive dancing, kissing, or sexual activity of any kind. There are to be no R-rated movies. There is a modest dress code for both men and women.

We believe there is ONE way to Heaven: that is through Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. As a human race, we mucked it up in the Garden of Eden, and we continue to muck it up to this day. We rebelled against God and separated ourselves from a right relationship with Him, destined for eternal damnation and separation from Him in a place of eternal torment. But God made a way, and the physical resurrection of Jesus was representative of His victory over sin and death. By trusting our souls and lives to Him, we are restored to a right relationship with God, and can now live a life that honors Him by following His Word, the Bible, and loving others and Him with all of our heart, mind, and strength.

I do not believe I am overstating it when I say that Liberty University is the single greatest force for God on the planet. With 13,000 residential students and 70,000+ online students, Liberty’s influence is felt around the world. With over 200 fields of study, Liberty continues to fulfill its motto of “Training Champions for Christ” that grow into leaders within their communities and professional fields. I don’t think anyone can say what Liberty University has meant for the cause of Christ, and it was the childlike but insatiable faith of the late Reverend Jerry Falwell that built it.

So Why Is a Mormon Speaking at Liberty’s Commencement?

Many know that this isn’t the first time a non-Evangelical has spoken at Liberty University’s commencement ceremony. In fact, Mitt Romney will not even be the first Mormon. I believe Glenn Beck had that honor a couple years ago, and it caused a similar controversy then. When Beck came on stage to address the graduates and guests, he made his sentiments clear by declaring, “I know that the invitation for me to speak to you today was not an endorsement of my faith, but my acceptance of this invitation was indeed an endorsement of your faith.” The year before Ben Stein, a Jew, spoke at Commencement.

Why would Liberty invite non-Evangelicals to speak at its Commencement? Because Liberty is committed to securing world-class leaders to speak. There is much we have in common with these men, and they often speak out on issues using the same arguments and words that we would use if we had their influence. If anything, these men are an inspiration to achieve and succeed at pursuing big dreams and audacious goals. I’ve heard these men take stands in favor of life and creationism. I’ve heard them cite a need for God in the hearts of men. Why should we deny them a chance to speak to tens of thousands of people who are going to agree with everything they say?

I have heard it said that Commencement should be a final spiritual charge for the graduating class, but I think it is unnecessary, although the Baccalaureate certainly serves this purpose (renowned evangelist Luis Palau is speaking at that the night before Commencement). Every graduate of LU has been educated with a foundation in Biblical truths. Our entire education is explicitly built on the goal of being a light for Christ, with whatever gifts or passions He has blessed us with. There is no need for another speech on that topic. Jesus Christ provided the only one we ever needed in Matthew 28 when he said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” What other charge do we need, as Christians?

I freely recognize that Commencement is a chance for Liberty University to celebrate its influence and broadcast its popularity. I think it is a positive thing that the Republican nominee for President of the United States would be brave enough to want to speak at LU, recognizing its influence. A speech given by anyone else would be less meaningful to the university and frankly less memorable to the graduating class. I believe that God will use Mitt Romney’s speech to inspire thousands and perhaps draw many people to attend Liberty who would not otherwise have attended, and who may not have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. But what better place for those people than to be immersed in the Gospel from day one of their education? And when those students repent and become lights for Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit that is so prevalent on Liberty’s campus, how much more will the Kingdom of God be furthered by the resulting influence of those students? I think it would blow my mind to know the answer to that question.

To put it simply, if Mitt Romney were to be preaching beliefs contrary to the truths of Scripture, or if he was speaking as a pastor, then I would have a huge problem with it. However, because he is merely present as a public figure and inspirational speaker, I am thrilled that I will be hearing from Romney at my Commencement ceremony.

It’s Mitt Romney, for Pete’s sake, he’s a member of a cult”

Thank you for weathering this far through my note, now for the meat of my reasoning. First, I will emphasize my support and admiration for Mitt Romney, and secondly I will make an observation of the Evangelical community, and finally issue a challenge to my Evangelical friends.

Mitt Romney may be a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, but that also means he is amazingly similar to the Evangelical Christian. He believes in the right to life, governing Massachusetts as a pro-life bastion and wants to see Roe v Wade overturned. He would appoint traditionalist justices to the Supreme Court. He has been endorsed by several pro-life groups including National Right to Life, Susan B. Anthony List, and other state-based pro-life groups. He also stands on the side of traditional marriage and favors a constitutional amendment that would require marriage to be between one man and one woman. He stated in his speech on faith in 2007 that he worships Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and he reportedly reads the Bible on a regular basis. He believes that God is the giver of our rights and our freedoms, not government.

Not only does Romney share our values, but he also has lived a tremendous life of integrity and accomplishment. He, along with his high school sweetheart and wife of 43 years Ann, have raised a tremendous family of five boys and 16 grandchildren. Romney spent more than eight years as a leader in his local church, being responsible for at least 4000 members, tending to their personal, financial, and spiritual needs. He volunteers his time and energy on a regular basis, including when he helped out a family after the California fires in 2007. This wasn’t a publicity stunt; there were no members of the press, only a curious bystander taking pictures like this one.

When a fellow employee named Robert Gay confessed to Romney that his daughter was missing, Romney shut down the entire company. He set up a command center to systematically search the city, communicating with local authorities and police, organizing Bain employees to physically search the city, and even participating in the physical search himself. They eventually found Gay’s daughter via an anonymous tip, and Gay continues to express extraordinary thankfulness for Romney’s leadership and kindness.

He never smokes or consumes alcohol. He gives about 15% of his income to charity (20% last year), and declined all salaries when he was CEO of the Olympics and Governor of Massachusetts.  Romney graduated with honors from Harvard University with both MBA and law degrees. He went on to found Bain Capital, which helps turn around and start companies like Staples and Dominos, leading to the creation of tens of thousands of jobs.

In an attempt to stand up to the liberal establishment in his home state, he launched an unsuccessful bid to unseat Senator Ted Kennedy in 1992. However, after returning to Bain Capital to lead it out of a fiscal crisis and into its most successful years, he accepted a job as CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympics which was $500 million in debt and marred with scandal until he took the reins; the Olympics ended up generating a $100 million profit. He then was elected Governor of Massachusetts in a time where the state was losing jobs and over $2 billion in debt. By the end of his term, Romney had succeeded in lowering unemployment to below five percent and built a $1 billion rainy day fund for the state, all while cutting taxes 17 times and issuing 800+ vetoes to a Democrat-controlled legislature.

This is a man who through hard work and service to other people has led by example. He is a problem solver, and a true leader of tremendous character. The co-founder of Bain capital wrote a glowing article about him for Time’s list of the world’s 100 Most Influential People, and some of the most prominent men in the country have named Mitt Romney as one of the most intelligent men they have ever met. And even with all of these accolades and accomplishments, it seems that Romney doesn’t let it go to his head. Though he is worth about $200 million, he insists on washing his own laundry by hand and eating peanut butter and honey sandwhiches for lunch. What better man to speak to Liberty grads than a man who has accomplished so much and by doing it the right way—with hard work and integrity. I cannot claim to be able to judge the heart of Mitt Romney, but I do carry a deep respect and admiration for the man and all he has accomplished and stood for.

Furthermore, I believe that Mitt Romney will be the next President of the United States. The last time that Liberty University had an opportunity to host such a prominent speaker was in 1980 when Ronald Reagan was a GOP candidate for President and of course went on to become one of America’s greatest Presidents. Now, we have a chance to see history repeat itself, at a time when America so dearly needs restored to its founding principles, a time of economic crisis and instability and uncertainty. Just as Ronald Reagan took on the failed Jimmy Carter, Mitt Romney now will take on the failing Barack Obama. In both cases, Liberty University will have given these men a platform to speak to the principles and the beliefs that we so hold dear as conservatives and as Christians who recognize that we should not be dependent on government but on God.

Additionally, Mitt Romney has received praise and support from prominent Evangelicals like Franklin Graham, Chuck Colson, Bob Jones III, Mark DeMoss and even Jerry Falwell. Shortly before his death, Falwell had this to say about Romney: “I have no problem voting for a person who is not of my faith as long as he or she stands with me on the moral and social issues. Mitt Romney may be a candidate for president. He’s a Mormon. If he’s pro-life, pro-family, I don’t think he’ll have any problem getting the support of evangelical Christians.”

A Call to Love

I have to admit, I was somewhat ashamed of the response on Liberty’s Facebook page. Many of the angry comments were unbecoming of those who profess to follow Jesus Christ, who loves all people, even those that may reject Him. It earned us a headline story on CNN’s website. This type of response does not reflect well on the school or its students, nor Evangelicals as a whole. This is not what Liberty trained us to be nor what Christ calls us to be. We are to be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to get angry. We are to use reason, not resort to knee jerk reactions. Does an outcry against Mitt Romney speaking at Commencement make anyone more open to the Gospel? I doubt it.

Mormon. For whatever reason, the word can evoke strong emotions. It is like a bad word within the Evangelical community. In my opinion, it is because the label “cult” is usually slapped onto it. There are such strongly negative emotions regarding Mormons among Evangelicals. In my own personal experience, these words distanced my heart from Mormons and provoked me to “righteous” anger, not love. Perhaps I do not know what I’m talking about in this regard, but if I am to believe that Mormons are lost without a saving knowledge of Christ as God and Savior, then are they any more lost than an agnostic family member or Buddhist friend? What about a Catholic or a Muslim or a Jew? Why is it that Mitt Romney is viewed with such disdain among some Evangelicals, but not Ben Stein (a Jew) or Newt Gingrich (a Catholic)?

I think that Mormons are not the enemies of Evangelicals, but our friends. They stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us on social issues, and they are very giving people. When it comes to eternal salvation, reconciliation with God is an issue of the heart.

In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” In Romans 10:9-10 Paul says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” I firmly believe that God doesn’t look at the affiliation of my church membership. He looks at the condition of my heart. It is not our good works which earns us salvation, but it is our salvation that provokes us to good works. Eternal salvation requires repentance from sin and complete and total trust in Christ as our loving Savior and Lord.

Scripture says to “speak the truth in love,” not in righteous anger. Are we so adamant about our views, that we forsake the potential influence that the Holy Spirit can have on someone’s soul? It is such a responsibility to carry, as Christians. But to love as Christ does is of the Holy Spirit, not of our own ability.

In conclusion, I would just like to state that bringing Mitt Romney to Liberty University is a decision that the late Rev. Jerry Falwell would likely have agreed with. The Moral Majority coalition was all about uniting those with a common passion: that our country remain one nation under God. Mitt Romney is a man we can proudly support without any reservation.

 

Links:

Romney’s speech on Faith in America: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6IJ_i-4dH-0

WSET original story: http://www.wset.com/story/17587453/lu-students-eager-to-hear-mitt-romney

WSET followup story: http://www.wset.com/story/17590846/liberty-students-react-to-graduation-speaker

http://www.whyromney.com/prolife_conversion.php

Evangelicalsformitt.org

http://www.amazon.com/Evangelicals-Should-Support-Romney-ebook/dp/B006WRFMPI

http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/politics/2011/December/Exclusive-Franklin-Graham-on-Voting-for-a-Mormon/

http://www.christianpost.com/news/chuck-colson-stop-quibbling-over-romneys-mormonism-58555/

http://2012.republican-candidates.org/Romney/Issues.php

http://w3.newsmax.com/romney/

http://www.amazon.com/Believe-America-Romneys-Economic-ebook/dp/B005LEY5Q0

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11 thoughts on “Why this Graduating Senior is Proud that Mitt Romney is Speaking at Liberty University’s Commencement

  1. No. You speak eloquently but you are so very wrong. Mormons are no more similiar to Christians than Muslims are. As a matter of fact Islam has a more correct view of who GOD the Father is than Mormons do. By embracing Mormons you confuse people who may then be lost for eternity as they falsely believe that Mormonism is an acceptable Christian belief.
    It is not. It is a false religion that wrongly defines GOD, Jesus Christ and Salvation. I think that Liberty University is putting right wing political beliefs before GOD and that is a shame.

  2. The Blogger wrote : Perhaps I do not know what I’m talking about in this regard, but if I am to believe that Mormons are lost without a saving knowledge of Christ as God and Savior, then are they any more lost than an agnostic family member or Buddhist friend? What about a Catholic or a Muslim or a Jew.

    Does Liberty University even teach the Bible ? No seriously, a fifth grade Sunday school student knows this answer. A Mormon or a Muslim or a Jewish person and a Buddist are in fact lost for eternity if a do not find a saving ( and correct ) knowledge of Jesus Christ and then accept him as Lord and Savior. If as a Mormon does, you think that Jesus Christ is born of a sexual relationship and is just one of countless children that a god has fathered through sexual acts. Then you do not know Christ as Lord. That is not the view of an intolerant blogger. It is the Word of GOD. As for Catholics. They know exactly who GOD the Father, the SON and the Holy Spirit is. Many people argue about Catholics being saved but the WORD is clear. You are saved by knowing who Christ is, what He did for You and then accepting him as your Savior at which time you ask forgiveness of your sins by the Blood that Christ shed for you.

  3. Hi, Michael, thank you for your comments! I in no way mean to equate Mormonism with true Christianity, only to make the case that hostility towards Mormons is off-putting and draws no one to the Gospel. I believe there is no difference in the soul of someone who is lost, whether he or she claims to be Muslim, Mormon, or Evangelical Christian. Without true repentance and a relationship with Christ, there is no salvation, regardless of denomination or creed. Therefore, one’s religion is rendered meaningless. It is the relationship with Christ that matters. Of course, I do not believe that Christians should choose a Mormon church, but neither do I believe Mormons are disqualified from the Kingdom of God for simply being Mormon. Being that I am human and do not know the man Mitt Romney, I can no more judge his salvation than I can the Evangelical at the end of pew at the Baptist church I attend on Sundays. Either it’s a religion or a relationship, and that is the difference in his eternal future. The Bible is clear about truth, but I do not read where it disqualifies certain people from the Kingdom of Heaven for holding certain theological beliefs which are contrary to reality. I only read that true repentance and a relationship with Christ can save a man’s soul. I do not mean to embrace Mormonism, but I believe we should love Mormons and share deep and meaningful conversations with them so as to know the individual’s true heart. With discernment, we can properly present the truth in love to them. Then the Holy Spirit can get to work.

    I have made my case in my original article as to why I believe Mitt Romney to be an appropriate Commencement speaker. I have also made my case that Liberty University is a city shining a light into the darkest parts of the world, sending out missionaries and pastors and business professionals who have been taught the truths of Scripture. Having been raised in a fundamentalist Baptist church all my life, having gone to a Christian school for my entire life, and having studied the Scripture myself for the last 15-plus years, I believe Liberty University to be a bastion of truth, in the name of Jesus. Mitt Romney does not necessarily represent the school, but he will be giving an inspirational message based on his tremendous achievements in life. Given that he comes from a similar worldview that professes to see Christ as Savior, I have no problem with him speaking on non-religious issues. He is a man of tremendous influence with commendable achievement, and I’m looking forward to hearing from him. I’ll continue to pray for him and his family as I pray for President Obama and his family: that they may know Jesus Christ truly, and not merely acknowledge him as part of a religion. In the end, does anything else really matter?

    • Therefore, one’s religion is rendered meaningless. It is the relationship with Christ that matters. Of course, I do not believe that Christians should choose a Mormon church, but neither do I believe Mormons are disqualified from the Kingdom of God for simply being Mormon.

      Once again I must disagree. While you are a kind, educated, intelligent , decent Christian. Your World View is almost new age in it’s Im OK your OK theology. While you are correct in that Christ saves and not religion. And that there are non Christians sitting in the pews of Chistian Churches on Sunday.
      A Buddist , or Mormon or Muslim will in fact be disqualified from GOD’s Kingdom based on their beliefs. The Bible is clear on this and it is worrisome that a Senior at Liberty University has not been taught this very important truth.
      Sweet thoughts will not save lost souls. They must come to Christ. And when they do they will flee from their false religion as many thousands have done before them. Do not fear the truth just so you can be politically correct and accepted by your secular friends.

  4. Given that he comes from a similar worldview that professes to see Christ as Savior,///

    Mormons do not have a similiar world view to Christianity. Not even close. I can stick a Cadillac emblem on my Nissan but it will not really be a Cadillac. You know what a Christian believes so I will skip right to Mormon beliefs. A Mormon believes that God is a physical human man. God has many many wives ( polygamy ) and has fathered many many Children and Jesus is but one of them co equal to the many others. When a good mormon man ( based entirely on his works ) dies. The Mormon man will become a God over his own planet or many planets. He will have many wives ( sound familiar to Islam ) and will father many God babies like Jesus.

    Is this in any fashion similiar to your world view ?

  5. Once again, I appreciate your comments, I just want make myself clear. I am in no way a relativist. I believe there is absolue truth. I believe there is one way to God, as I stated in my article. I believe that they who practice religion are in danger of Hell, and I’m not excluding Mormons from that statement; a works-based mentality is based in the pride of the individual, not the sacrifice of Christ. I think we can agree that if I put emphasis on my own works, then I can in no way reach favor with God. It’s only through the precious, universe-altering sacrifice of the God-man Jesus Christ that I can call God my friend and Lord and hope to honor Him by following His Word. I think it’s not wise to assume that anyone is saved, including professing Evangelicals, although generally (in my opinion) the Evangelical doctrines align most closely with Biblical truth. I do not see in the Bible where a Mormon is disqualified simply for being a member of the LDS church. The Mormons I speak to profess to believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord; Mitt Romney has made the same profession. On the other hand, Muslims and Buddhists do not make the same claim. This is why I find it difficult to assume that all Mormons are lost, and I’ve wrestled with this for the past five years. Believe me, Liberty University gives no credence to Mormon theology, and neither do I. The point of my article is simply to point out that we should not be hostile to Mormons, because that does nothing to reach them. I am not making a case for the salvation of Mitt Romney; I mean to make the Gospel more clear: It’s not the name of our denomination but the condition of our heart. I am in no way advocating for the nonsensical New Age philosophy which says all paths lead to Heaven. In fact, I believe the one path is narrower than many know. I don’t think that this way of thinking wins me any more friends but I have possibly lost friends.

  6. I do not see in the Bible where a Mormon is disqualified simply for being a member of the LDS church. The Mormons I speak to profess to believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord; Mitt Romney has made the same profession ////

    We are at the point now where this is a cat chaseing it’s own tail. You say you have wrestled with this for five years. I say continue to wrestle with it because the truth has evaded you. This is why I do not like to see a Christian University honoring a Bishop of a false religion because it leads to just this kind of confusion. The Bible says that if you profain GOD you cannot enter into his kingdom. When a Mormon says that in the future I will be a god just like Jesus is and be worshiped. This is profanity against GOD in it’s worst form. You cannot be saved through Jesus Christ if you think he was born from a sexual union and and is but one of countless god babies. The reason that Christ can save you is because HE is GOD ! Not one of countless children. Pray in earnest for GOD to reveal the truth to you and he will.

  7. I am in no way advocating for the nonsensical New Age philosophy which says all paths lead to Heaven ///

    If you believe that a Mormon can enter Heaven with absolutly no truth in his heart as to who or even what GOD is. Then you are in fact saying that other paths can lead to heaven.

  8. Pingback: Mitt Romney Speaks to Liberty University Graduates…And to Me | muse of Odin

  9. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I would like to belatedly add my voice to this discussion. If you know nothing else of Mormons, know this: I accept Jesus Christ as God and as my personal savior. Most of what my evangelical brothers claim to know about me is clouded in half-truth, innuendo, and misunderstanding. I do not fault anyone for this; it simply is what it is. Nevertheless, it saddens me.

    If you find in Mitt Romney a compelling example of character that matches what you would expect from one who is a true follower of Jesus Christ, then I will call your attention to the words of the Master: “By their fruits ye shall know them”.

  10. Pingback: The People Will Have the Final Say on ObamaCare, not Supreme Court | muse of Odin

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