Monday, June 1, 2009

Splitting hairs, parsing words, the “Liberty Way”

Over the last couple of weeks, there has been much said about the shocking decision by Liberty University to not recognize the College Democrats that they recognized back in 2008 prior to the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States. That recognition came with the caveat, the condition that the petitioning LU College Democrats include in their club constitution that they were a pro-life organization and supported “Traditional Marriage” as a Democratic Party affiliate on Liberty University’s campus. While it was a surprise that Liberty would even show this level of tolerance for divergent political views, it is clear now that this little experiment with acceptance of different ideas, beliefs, and attitudes about politics has flamed out.

In Sunday’s Editorial section of the Lynchburg News Advance, it was pointed out that “Liberty University, first and foremost, is a private institution that has every right to craft its own mission, set its own standards and principles and enforce those standards as it sees fit.” This witness, or testament, to the Beast that is Liberty University is as accurate a statement about Jerry Falwell’s school, Liberty Christian Academy, and Thomas Road Baptist Church as I’ve seen in a while. It is also their prerogative to change the rules or re-interpret their policies as they see fit. It is also within their rights as a private institution of higher learning to challenge their students to stretch their intellectual curiosity by their own standards and strengthen their moral and spiritual commitments according to their interpretation of God’s will and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

On May 15th Liberty University exercised those rights and prerogatives to re-interpret their policies concerning recognized clubs and organizations consistent with the “Liberty Way.” Liberty University’s administration changed their mind about the LU College Democrats and decided that putting a pro-life and “Traditional Marriage” plank into their club constitution wasn’t enough to warrant Liberty University recognition. According to the email sent to the College Democrats by vice president of student affairs, Mark Hine:

“The Democratic Party platform is contrary to the mission of Liberty University and to Christian doctrine (supports abortion, federal funding of abortion, advocates repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, promotes the “LGBT” agenda, hate crimes, which include sexual orientation and gender identity, socialism, etc.)”
While abortion will be always be a point of contention conservatives and liberals, I don’t recall from my reading of the Bible where Christian doctrine supports discrimination and marginalization of any person or group of people. I also don’t recall seeing any mention of socialism in the Bible, the literal word of God as evangelicals believe. I also don’t remember reading anything that calls for Christians to exclusively support Democrats, Republicans, Fascists, Socialist, Communists, Libertarians, or any other political party. I do remember reading, in the New Testament, for all of God’s people to share the peace and spread the word about God’s love for me, you, and all sinners who walk the earth. When they talk about putting on the whole armor of God, the “Liberty Way” doesn’t even cover an eye lash.

Such narrow understanding and teaching of Christianity is dangerous. While Liberty University is a forth tier institution, their Law School is very good. What happens if enough of their “Liberty Way” trained lawyers are let loose on the world and evangelicals find their way back to the halls of political power in Washington, D.C.? How long will it take for the legal scholars of the “Liberty Way” to split hairs and parse the words of the Constitution of the United States until we have an Iranian style theocracy and the Bill of Rights is erased? Institutions of higher learning that promote marginalization and discrimination should not be “tax exempt.”

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