What is the purpose of convocation? Is its purpose to worship God? Liberty has shown that they have no problem removing worship to give more time to political speakers (and no, two minutes at the end of convo does not count, that is an afterthought). Is the goal to allow students to hear a diversity of opinions? Probably not, the last non-conservative speaker in convo was Bernie Sander on September 14th, 2015, two years ago. Even within the Christian speakers we don’t see any diversity of belief (notable exception being Christine Caine, who’s second appearance in convo was cancelled because of student complaints). Is the purpose of convo to educate the student body? If so, why would they invite speakers like D’souza, who spew factual inaccuracies and use arguments that fall apart at the slightest scrutiny? If none of these are the purpose of convo, then what is it for?
I bring this question up because this question tormented me the entire time I was sitting in convo (and it was not the only thing tormenting me in Friday’s convo). Why were we required to listen to an hour of the Laura Ingraham show? What purpose was it supposed to have? If I had wanted to hear her show, and I really, really didn’t, I would have listened to it of my own volition. Instead, we were required to listen to an hour of partisan politics and book-shilling (surprise, I didn’t buy her book).
For the purpose of full disclosure, I will admit that I am not a conservative (Gasp! Purge the heretic!). In fact, I would probably be considered a liberal by Liberty standards (although, probably not by society’s standards). I won’t go in-depth into my personal beliefs (maybe at a later date), I just wanted to be completely upfront with my biases. I won’t be going over the entirety of today’s convo, as that would take far too long, instead I will be focusing on specific statements that I found either troubling or questionable.
Lets start with one of the most troubling statement made in Friday’s convo, Ingraham’s statement on refugees. Upon being asked by a student if Christians should help refugees and advocate for letting them into the U.S, she responded that we should be focusing on helping Christian refugees instead of non-Christian refugees. Matthew 25:31-46, perhaps the most famous verse on christian charity, does not give us any indication that we should only help other Christians or that we should give them precedence over non-christians in giving aid. Instead, it tell us in Matthew 25:40, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ and in Matthew 25:45,”…Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (NIV). No mention is made to the faith of those who are to be given aid in these verses. The faith of the receiver is also not mentioned in Acts 20:35, Hebrews 13:16, Luke 6:38, Proverbs 21:13, or Matthew 7:12, all verses that deal with christian charity. This is not to say that one should refuse to give charity to Christians, but we should not give them preference or refuse to give aid to non-believers.
We also must look at the eternal consequences of our action (this may be a controversial opinion). If we refuse aid to a non-believer and they die, then they are separated from God for eternity. If we provide aid and they escape persecution and death, then there is still the possibility of salvation. If you doubt that this is possible, look at Nasser’s testimony. By refusing aid to a non-Christian refugee, we may be practically dooming them to Hell.
Another troubling statement from Friday’s convo was Jerry’s response to the refugee question. Falwell quoted Matthew 22:21, “…Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” and pointed out that Jesus did not say that we should tell Caesar how to run Rome (NIV). He then argued that even if Christians should help refugees, we should not tell government leaders how to lead. First, that is pretty hypocritical coming from a guy who not only felt he had to endorse a candidate for president using the school’s reputation, but also constantly goes on TV to tell leaders that they are leading wrong. Second, this argument ignores that we are living in a different political reality. At the time of Jesus, Rome was an empire. Nobody could influence Caesar or tell him what to do; he ruled by fiat. If Jesus had said that Christians should tell the Caesar how to run Rome, it would have resulted in their imprisonment and death. Today, we live in a republic. The entire system is built on the individual influencing the leadership of our nation (even if it does not always work out that way). If, as Jerry said, Christians should not try to influence our leaders, then Christians should not vote. This is a preposterous position, Christians are citizens and should be able to express their beliefs through votes and through advocacy like every other group.
Another statement that I found troubling was Falwell’s and Ingraham’s statements about fake republicans. I had several issues with these statements. First, demanding and requiring ideological purity is never a good thing. Several problems arise from ideological purity, such as group-think, an inability to come up with ideas outside the accepted mindset, rigidity of thought and belief, and ultimately stagnation. Second, calling republicans that don’t fit into your very narrow definition ‘fake republicans’ ignores the uniqueness of individuals and communities. Everyone has beliefs that fit outside of the accepted constraints of any specific ideology. This is because nobody is made to fit a mold, instead, our beliefs and values are determined by our experiences. Not only are individuals unique, but so are communities. Every community has different needs, so they elect politicians that they believe will fulfill those needs. The politicians that go to the senate or the house are not just responsible to their party, they are responsible to their state and their constituents. Sometimes, what is good for the republican party may not be what is best for their state. To call them fake republicans for putting their constituents first ignores that they are first responsible to those who voted for them.
I did not like Friday’s convo. It was one of the few convo’s in my four years at Liberty to actually make me angry. Most other political speakers at least say something of spiritual or intellectual value, but not Fridays. Friday’s convo was nothing but political propaganda, and I have no patience for that.
So what is the purpose of Convocation?
Maybe the purpose is to sell books.
Maybe it is meant to make connections so that Jerry can get on TV.
Or maybe the purpose is propaganda. They say if you hear something enough times, regardless of the truth of the statement, that you will begin to believe it is true. Well we hear it three times a week, 32 weeks a year.
I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who reads my posts. I really appreciate your support.
- Why would you mention Bill O’Reilly’s book? You can’t bring up the allegations against Harvey Weinstein and then advertise Bill O’Reilly’s book.
- Ingraham claims that the events that led her to become a republican were the 1979 energy crisis and the Iran hostage crisis, both of which she blamed on President Jimmy Carter. The energy crisis was a result of the Iranian revolution and the ensuing Iran-Iraq war, which stopped all oil production from Iran. The hostage situation is more complicated, involving the Iranian revolution, the overthrow of the U.S.-friend shah, and a desire to avoid open war. To blame either of these events solely on Carter ignores much of the history surrounding these events and is over-simplistic.
- Ingraham repeatedly said that Trump tapped into nationalism to win the election and seemed to think that was a good thing. However, looking at the 1800’s and early 1900’s gives us a different picture of nationalism.
Bible Verses Quoted: 1
Total Bible verses quoted all semesters: 44
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Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Liberty University leadership or administration in any way. The opinions expressed here are solely my own and should be not be taken as the opinion of the University, its staff, or the student body.