Religion Dispatches: That’s Dr. Glenn Beck–Thanks to Liberty University:
Saturday morning in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University conveyed an honorary doctorate in humanities and scientists on Mormon conservative media heavyweight Glenn Beck.
Breaking into his trademark tears, Beck told the stadium of 8,000 Liberty University grads and 20,000 friends and family members, “as a man who was never able to go to college—I went for one semester but I couldn’t afford any more than that—I am humbled and honored.”
Beck immediately offered an apology of sorts for his Mormonism, saying that it was an act of “courage” for the fundamentalist Baptist Liberty University to invite him to speak and that he understood it was “not meant as an endorsement of my faith,” offering instead his own “endorsement of your faith,” emphasizing his personal belief in Jesus Christ, and exhorting the audience to “look to God and live,” a reference to the story of Moses and the brazen serpent (Numbers 21: 7 -9).
Using research and citation methods that would have earned him a failing grade in any respectable freshman composition class, Beck took a swipe at Barack Obama’s May 1 commencement address to the University of Michigan, suggesting that Obama had discouraged the search for “truth” by describing the incredible availability of information in the digital age as a source of confusion.
The Moderate Voice: The Real Shocker About Beck at Liberty U:
But almost no one is noting what I think is the really interesting oddity here — Liberty University, the flagship of Christian fundamentalism, just welcomed a Mormon to give their commencement address. Coming so soon after 2008 Republican presidential candidate (and probable 2012 Republican presidential candidate as well) Mike Huckabee openly appealed to anti-Mormon prejudices among Christian fundamentalists as a core part of his strategy to take down Mitt Romney, this heretical embrace of a high-profile Latter-Day Saint by Liberty University is to much a reversal of course not to note.
It could be merely that Liberty considers the current partisan political campaign against President Obama — within which Beck is a vocal leader of the most hysteria-driven components — simply a higher priority that enforcing religious orthodoxy about what does and does not constitute a “Christian”. (Note: many Christian fundamentalists consider Mormons a “cult”, though their operational definition of that term appears to be merely “a religion I don’t like,” so it’s a pretty highly-inclusive category.) Or perhaps Liberty has come to a belated decision to move towards a “big tent” definition of “Christianity”.
Politics Daily: Glenn Beck to Address Baptist Grads, but His Mormonism Sparks Debate:
Ryan Begue, a Florida pastor who is in this year’s graduating class from Liberty’s theological seminary, said he was “shocked and disappointed” at Falwell’s invitation to Beck.
“It seems that the leadership’s decision in this matter gives the impression that it is more committed to conservatism than the Gospel,” Begue wrote in the Florida Baptist Witness. “I have no beef with Glenn Beck as a person, but I certainly do with his religious beliefs. Why does Liberty not invite a Christian?”
Liberty University’s Facebook page also lit up with the debate, while prominent Christian conservatives also weighed in.
“Alliances such as these are not glorifying to God, in that what association has God with false religions?” wrote John Ferguson, founder of the Voice of Truth blog. “The tangential dangers when the evangelical community unites with the secular world for the sake of social or political agendas are numerous because it leads to a dilution of truths from the Word of God, opens the door to give credence to non-believers within evangelical circles and ultimately leads to the eternal destruction of lost people.”
A 2007 Pew Forum survey showed 25 percent of Americans would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate for president, with only Muslims and atheists earning higher negatives. But among white evangelicals who attend church weekly — the GOP base and the dominant demographic of Liberty University — the number rises to above 40 percent. In 2008, Focus on the Family, a leading lobby of the Christian right, pulled an interview with Beck over concerns that they would appear to be sanctioning his Mormon faith.
And during his 2008 bid, Romney faced a serious pushback from evangelicals who even opposed the idea of John McCain selecting him as his running mate on the Republican ticket, one of the factors that led McCain to finally choose Sarah Palin.
Aside from the irony of having the Baptists invite a high profile Mormon to speak at the commencement of their flagship university, is the actual granting of an Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree to Beck who at best attended one semester of college. A Doctor of Humanities Degree, to Glenn Beck? Really? Oh, the Humanities! Though, I can’t say the Mormons have done much better in some of their prior selections of commencement speakers and honorary degrees . . .