The politicization of Liberty University has far reaching consequences that will affect a lot of people and institutions. It will backfire for churches and can result in more discrimination of atheists. This post looks at the influence of Liberty in churches and writes about the ultimate problem of Christian nationalism.
“Nationalism is an infantile thing. It is the measles of mankind.”
“It is nationalism which engenders nations, and not the other way round.”
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who calledyou to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
Galatians 1: 6-9 NIV
Jerry Falwell Jr.
Before I transitioned into the group that is known as the dones, I was involved in a small group at a church I was involved in here in the Washington, D.C. area. The small group leader was actually from Liberty University. I frequently heard of his love of Liberty from time to time. I was reflecting on that before trying to figure out what I wanted to say in this post. Liberty which is located in Virginia is geographically situated to influence a large number of churches in the Eastern part of the United States. And before this latest scandal by Politico exploded in the media I saw the reach of Liberty in writing this blog. In a number of the Evangelical Free churches I have written about and even visited they had pastors or interns from Liberty. When I wrote about the abuse of power in the Evangelical Free Church of Blairstown in New Jersey they had interns from Liberty at that church. You can read about Blairstown in, “The Autocratic Reign of Todd Nathan and the Troubling Story of the Evangelical Free Church of Blairstown, New Jersey.” When I wrote about other EFCA churches they also had a presence there as well. When I wrote about issues in Acts 29 Remnant Church in Richmond, Virginia the lead pastor there came from Liberty. Now having written about all that let me explain why this could become a major problem.
Why Christians Should be Concerned About the Politicization of Liberty University
Liberty under Jerry Falwell Jr has become much more political. This actually poses a threat not just to Liberty but also to the evangelical Christian community and churches that are tied to it. What would happen if Liberty became less about faith and more about politics? Corruption has a tendency to spread and in this situation that could spread to other churches. So people graduate from Liberty and they go to a Baptist, Evangelical Free or non-denominational church. They could affect the course of the church and what is stands for. Traditional beliefs such as God being without sin, or the essence of the trinity could be replaced by a marriage of political and religious beliefs. As Philip Yancey often explains in his books when the church gets involved in politics in the end it always loses and the effects are devestating. In this case the biggest losers in this scenario will be beyond Liberty, but the local churches in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, etc… that take in Liberty gradients. Politics and faith really don’t mix in the end.
Why Atheists Should be Concerned About the Politicization of Liberty University
But the issue goes beyond evangelicals and it should be a deep concern for atheists. One of the issues this blog writes about is how atheists face discrimination. Stop and consider what the implication can be for atheists if schools like liberty become less about theology and more about politics. What is the end goal of the culture wars? Its kind of like a dog chasing a pickup truck what happens when the dog catches up? In the case of atheists what happens if Liberty’s efforts at secular institutions change? For example getting the reigns of a government agency or court system? That can effect and constrain atheists, especially in a society where many have a hard time. How many atheists stay in the closet to preserve their marriage or family? Atheists should be concerned because that their ability to not practice faith can be harmed by those forcing the issue. This can have far reaching consequences if Liberty becomes more about politics. The ability to not believe is an individual choice and if you don’t believe and don’t want to, well your will should be respected. That essence of liberty is threatened by the evangelical embrace of politics.
The Problem of Christian Nationalism
Christian nationalism has been a major issue since 2016. It really caught me off guard in the end when I saw it emerge in circles that I moved in. Here is the problem with Christian nationalism in the end. It warps and threatens the Christian Gospel because its not a part of it. Jesus didn’t suffer and die for a Supreme Court seat. He didn’t feed the 5,000 and give the Sermon on the Mount so a political party could control the United States Congress. I would suggest that Christian nationalism should be put in the same category as Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yes I know conservative evangelicals may be up in arms over that comparison. Why is Christian nationalism more of an issue in the United States than other countries? You don’t see Christian nationalism in Canada or Great Britain. Why does it have to be an issue here? The Gospel narrative as I always understood it emphasized meekness and humility. A manger in a stable is far more appropriate then a mansion or political system. Likewise when Jesus said to render unto Caesar he really divided the issue. You give to God and support God and then you give to Caesar and support him. Jesus’ answer did not go over very well with those that wanted a message that was more about uprising and insurrection. Christian nationalism distorts all that and downplays that message and replaces it with a political one. Hopefully this post gives people something to contemplate in the long term perspective.