List of past Liberty Universty graduation speakers (2012 update)

May 26, 2012 2 comments

By popular demand, here it is:

  • 1985 Sen. Bill Armstrong, R-CO
  • 1986 Sec. Donald Hodel (Interior)
  • 1987 ?
  • 1988 Lt. Col. (Ret.) Oliver North
  • 1989 W. A. Criswell
  • 1990 Pres. George H. W. Bush
  • 1991 Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA)
  • 1992 Pat Buchanan
  • 1993 Dr. James Dobson
  • 1994 ?
  • 1995 Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX)
  • 1996 AJ Clarence Thomas (SCOTUS)
  • 1997 Billy Graham
  • 1998 Dr. John Borek Jr.
  • 1999 John Maxwell (?)
  • 2000 Tony Evans (?)
  • 2001 ?
  • 2002 ?
  • 2003 ?
  • 2004 Karl Rove
  • 2005 Sean Hannity
  • 2006 Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
  • 2007 Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA)
  • 2008 Chuck Norris
  • 2009 Ben Stein
  • 2010 Glenn Beck
  • 2011 Randall Wallace
  • 2012 Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA)

I’m always looking to fill gaps here; I’ve had no luck tracking down copies of various Liberty publications for the years I don’t have here. Also, I’m always interested in knowing who spoke at baccalaureate various years. I have to admit that while I remember who spoke at my graduation, I don’t remember a thing about baccalaureate that year. I may have skipped it.


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Mitt Romney, graduation speaker

May 24, 2012 1 comment

I’m a graduate of Liberty University; I did not agree with the university’s decision to invite Mitt Romney as commencement speaker.

Tobin Grant did some analysis at Christianity Today [link] and noted that as a graduation speaker Romney’s not out of line with lots of graduation speakers. He mentions John McCain (2006), George H. w. Bush (1990), Newt Gingrich (1991, 2007), Ben Stein (2009), and Glenn Beck (2010). He didn’t mention Oliver North (1988), who subsequently ran as a Republican for Senate in Virginia, Bill Armstrong (1985), Donald Hodel (1986), Pat Buchanan (1992), Phil Gramm (1995), or Clarence Thomas (1996). He fairly notes that Romney isn’t even the first Mormon, and that Stein is Jewish; he doesn’t delve into which speakers are Roman Catholic (Gingrich; Thomas) and which proclaim no religion affiliation whatsoever (Rove).

I have to admit that I’m disappointed in the choice of Romney, for a couple of reasons. One is that I think it sends a message that someone should be held in high esteem by Liberty graduates regardless of their religion so long as they’re Republican. Here Liberty seems to be following the trend we see at other historically Christian but practically secular universities, where the religious or spiritual speaker speaks at baccalaureate and the aspirational speaker speaks at graduation. I think it’s more a question of “isn’t there someone from within our movement, whatever it is, who is worth inviting to speak?” rather than “why are we paying a Mormon to speak at our graduation?”

And finally, I have to admit that I don’t think this bodes well for Romney’s chances in the fall; with Santorum and Gingrich having suspended their campaigns Romney is as they say the presumptive nominee, so by now he should have solidified his popularity with the traditional Republican base and “moving to the center” to court the 20-40% of so-called undecideds. The fact that he’s speaking at Liberty suggests he hasn’t won over his base yet. This reminds me of 2008, where John McCain got almost to the party convention without having won over the so-called values voters, and we all know how that ended.

360: Kissing Cousins

On The Dividing Line James White has been responding to Matthew Vines regarding gays in the church for what seems like forever. Vines doesn’t talk about gay marriage in particular; he’s giving what sounds like a senior thesis on liberal arguments in support of gays in the church. If you’ve seen For the Bible Tells Me So [link] or Fish Out of Water [link] you’ve heard most of what Vines says already; his presentation seems to be targeted at people in liberal churches and assumes a certain level of literacy. I’m not sure who the target audience is for the films listed above.

I’m grateful for White’s response to Vines’s handling of Scripture; I think it’s a pretty good presentation of the conservative position in response to a particular liberal position, and I don’t get to see those very often: liberals tend to offer a response to a generic conservative position, and vice versa, and this is a cut above in my humble opinion.

That being said, I don’t understand why White does some of the things he does; like a lot of conservative speakers he jumps too quickly to slippery slope arguments, and doesn’t spend enough time talking about the continuity between the current discussion of gay marriage vs. older discussions of polygamy, age of consent laws, divorce and remarriage, cousin marriages, etc. And I have to admit I am really tired of hearing arguments of the moral equivalence between gay marriage and bestiality, etc.

This isn’t a topic I want to dig into too deeply at the moment; I have to admit that it seems to me like gay marriage is a subject that gains currency at a certain point in the election cycle, and I have to wonder whether this is just a coincidence.

That being said, interested listeners might find the recent documentary from the ABC Radio National 360 series, Kissing Cousins [link]. Yes, it’s about sexual relationships between cousins. And yes, it’s a sympathetic portrayal. And no, so far as I know, Scripture doesn’t prohibit marriages between first cousins.


let’s not pretend the Yahoo resume flap was about morality

May 22, 2012 1 comment

I’ll admit I’ve been sucked in by the Albert Mohler podcast The Briefing; I think he does surprisingly well in picking topics and doing analysis, and frankly for most current events stories five minutes is about all I can digest/stand. So I’d like to point interested listeners (not readers: Mohler doesn’t currently offer transcripts) to the May 16 edition [link].

First of all there are a couple of great related stories about demographic trends: first about how dogs outnumber people in the Bay Area, second about how Japanese consumers now buy more adult diapers than baby diapers. Mohler is right in saying that over the long haul low birth rates make for strange societies. He draws the right conclusion for a Southern Baptist audience: any group facing a demographic collapse has to change or die.

But in the closing story, about the Yahoo/Scott Thompson resume flap, Mohler reverts to a standard preacher’s trope of contextualizing a story from the broader world in a narrative that makes sense inside the church but doesn’t in its original context. Thompson, as everyone knows, was removed as CEO of Yahoo after it came to light that his public resume included a degree in Computer Science he didn’t actually have. Mohler’s analysis here is that public lying is immoral, and Thompson was removed because everybody understands that immorality is bad for companies, or some such.

Perhaps it is my imagination, but I think what Mohler is attempting to do is to draw a straight line between an imaginary depopulation taking place in the Bay Area because homosexual couples have so few children, and a claim that companies have some sort of moral center that abhors lying (and should abhor homosexuality, etc.). This kind of missing premise argument drives me nuts when I hear it in church, so maybe I’m being a little sensitive here.

The facts as we know them go like this: Yahoo used to be an industry leader, but it has fallen behind competitors like Google, and so has come under pressure from activist shareholder Daniel Loeb. A Loeb associate found the discrepancies in Thompson’s resume while looking for leverage over the Yahoo board, and Loeb parlayed a small advantage into a seat on the Yahoo board. See e.g. [link], where James B. Stewart of the New York Times connects the dots by way of the peculiarities of Silicon Valley corporate culture; Stewart says it’s not because he was lying, but because he wasn’t a computer scientist.

Either way I think it’s fair to say that if Yahoo were making lots of money and its share price were climbing and Loeb was getting a great return on his investment he wouldn’t care if Thompson had a degree in computer science or not, and Mohler is inserting a moral element into the story that I just don’t see in the facts.


Albert Mohler Jr. and “post-Christian America”

May 9, 2012 2 comments

I recently started listening to Albert Mohler Jr.’s weekday podcast The Briefing [link]. I picked it up because James White recommended it, and he recommends so little that anyone else does I thought I’d give it a listen just on his recommendation.

I’m kind of luke on Mohler generally; I’m already on the record for saying that I agree that the modern American evangelical church is sick but disagree that Calvinism (or Lutheranism, or Reformed Theology generally) is the solution, and I have kind of a wait and see attitude regarding the leadership of any of the new Calvinists within Evangelicalism. By the same token I’m so sick and tired of Richard Land that I’m glad to hear anybody within the Southern Baptist Convention talking about cultural and political issues from a Southern Baptist perspective. It should be a time of great disenchantment, and I’ve been waiting for someone to start doing the heavy lifting of disenchanting.

Mohler works from a fairly narrow palate of themes and a broad spectrum of sources. I’m glad to hear someone cite more than just a handful of mainstream media outlets who doesn’t behave as if Fox News, OneNewsNow and constitute a well-balanced news diet.

Mohler talks a lot about “worldviews,” a word that only conservative Christians use heavily, and after a few dozen episodes I’m still not sure what he means when he says it. I’m accustomed to it meaning “things we/they believe instead of thinking” or “things we believe because they fit other things we believe, not because we’ve evaluated their truth claims specifically.” It is usually taken as shorthand for the great gulf fixed between us and “them:” unbelievers, liberals, Socialists, etc. and which cannot be crossed but can only be identified. I hope he means more than this, but I’m not sure.

Mohler talks a lot about a “Genesis 3” perspective, by which I think he means a world that is already Fallen and cannot be fixed.

And finally he talks a lot about “America as a post-Christian nation,” which after listening to him for a while I have to believe he means as a term of nostalgia, suggesting that America was once a Christian nation and can only be understood as such. And here’s where I have to part company with Mohler. So far as I can tell America was never a Christian nation; it was always a post-Christian nation. So far as I can tell the Christian phase, if there was one, was long over by 1776, and it left no trace in any of the country’s founding documents. And it troubles me greatly to hear revisionists like David Barton taken seriously in various Christian media outlets (I’m thinking of Janet Parshall here, but I’m confident there are others).

I want to come back to this later, but I want to stake out a position first. Let’s not kid ourselves: America was never a Christian nation. I love being a Christian and I’m grateful to be an American, but I always want to remind folks that those aren’t the same thing.

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the return of the prodigal

April 16, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been dealing with mandatory obligations lo these many weeks and had to make some difficult time management choices, so as any of my three regular readers can tell you I haven’t had much to say here in quite a while. I expect to be back blogging again shortly; I’ve got a backlog of comments in moderation, too, and hope to deal with them shortly.

Thanks for your continued patience.


Categories: Self-referential

Marcia Pally on ABC Breakfast

January 4, 2012 Leave a comment

The Australian radio service ABC Radio National has had somewhat piecemeal religion reporting since they canceled The Religion Report, but they’ve recently had an interesting series on religion and ethics with staffer Scott Stephens and various guests. I would like to recommend the recent appearance [link] by academic Marcia Pally as part of her book tour for her recent The New Evangelicals: Expanding the Vision of the Common Good [link].

There’s a fair amount of condescension here toward us evangelicals, as if we’re finally getting our collective act together and joining the human race by rethinking some issues that have historically been important to us and have framed a lot of our political choices, etc. but Pally is basically right in saying there are some of us who have a sort of “post-Bush depression” where we’re having to reconsider what we’ve become, allegedly on the basis of Christian principles. I recommend listening to the whole thing, especially since it clocks in at under fifteen minutes.