Home > Current Events > Liberty University integration into the community brings compromise

Liberty University integration into the community brings compromise

Anybody who reads this blog knows how the various Falwell ministries made the transition from fundamentalist to evangelical, and how I tend to think of evangelicals of a certain stripe as being basically fundamentalist, but without the separatist bent. Fundamentalists are right to warn us about compromise on cultural signifiers as we engaged with the broader culture: that engagement in politics would lead us away from simply proclaiming the Gospel (and it has); and that starting universities would cause us to seek the approval of the broader culture and undermine the authority of Scripture (results have been mixed here).

But one of the things I don’t remember them warning us about was how becoming rich would cause us to compromise. I suppose either it never occurred to our mid-century fundamentalist friends that we’d become affluent, or possibly the fundamentalist position on wealth and influence generally at mid-century was already so compromised that they didn’t know to warn us.

So it was with some interest that I noticed a recent article from the Danville, VA paper regarding the purchase of a Cray supercomputer by the Virginia Tobacco Commission [link]. Danville is a formerly important industrial and agricultural center; it was also briefly the capitol of the Confederacy. But changes in wage scales and easy availability of overseas labor have ended most of the textile jobs in the Danville area and changes in the regulatory environment for tobacco have put significant pressure on agriculture as well. As a result Danville is a shadow of its former self and is in danger of becoming a suburb of Lynchburg, just an hour away on US 29.

The article linked above is a by-the-numbers “public spending creates jobs” story; a publicly funded tobacco organization is buying something, and there’s a promise that doing so will create real jobs in the Danville area. That much isn’t interesting; there will probably not be a follow-up story to see whether jobs were actually created, whether they are held by people from the Danville area who would otherwise by unemployed, etc. The current article is a rewritten press release (and making these is cheap); the follow-up would require investigative journalism (and doing that is expensive).

What’s interesting about this from my point of view is the fact that this meeting took place at Liberty University. I’m inclined to think of this as part of the ongoing integration of Liberty into the local economy, allowing its space to be rented etc. for various functions. But of course there are two problems here: one is that tobacco is a net social evil and an part of a culture of socially acceptable addiction. Second, it seems strange for a publicly-funded group to be holding meetings on campus and passing tax dollars back to Liberty University as payment for use of the space.

I don’t mean to suggest that this is or should be illegal; its just that Liberty University and the Virginia Tobacco Commission are strange bedfellows. I wonder if Liberty would be happy to host a meeting of Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control executives. Never mind what they’d do if marijuana were legalized and controlled by the state of Virginia.

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