In advance of Governor Romney’s speech at Liberty University today, McKay Coppins at Buzzfeed Politics wrote an article titled “At Liberty, Mormon Cultist for President” in which he expounds on the general intolerance of Liberty University.
His evidence? A single Liberty University course:
Theology 678–Western and New Religions
The history, doctrines, and present state of the major cults such as Mormonism, Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventism. The course will also include a study of the Occult Movement. Emphasis is placed on the errors of these groups and on methods and materials for confronting them effectively.
Coppins takes that isolated course to stipulate this: [emphasis added]
The course is just one reminder that when Mitt Romney takes the stand on Saturday to deliver the commencement speech at Liberty U, he will be addressing more than 2,000 evangelical students who have been taught that his Mormon faith is a cult that must be defeated.
Can they really support a heretic for president?”
First, one of the only programs that requires this course is the Master of Arts in Global Apologetics (as in “to speak in defense of”). There may be a handful of graduates at commencement tomorrow who have even taken the class. Other than that, non-religion undergraduate students are required to take an 18 credit (out of 121) mixture of Bible, theology, and evangelism classes.
I’m not even going to talk about wide-ranging views among conservative evangelical scholars as to what the definition of a cult is.
Yet Coppins misleadingly implies that “more than 2,000 evangelical students” attending commencement took a graduate level seminary course required for an apologetics degree and have monolithic beliefs concerning Mormonism.
Furthermore, Coppins fails to understand Evangelicals if he believes that they seek to “defeat” Mormonism, or in fact, any other religion.
Is a Mormon seeking to “defeat” the Baptist faith when he knocks on one’s door with the intent to persuade someone to become a Mormon? No.
Evangelicals and Mormons alike believe that their specific faith is the only way to avoid an eternally horrific life. Each one believes that he is being beneficent when he shares his beliefs.
And that is exactly the point of a degree in apologetics at Liberty University.
The curriculum is aimed at teaching students to logically yet civilly defend their faith and attempt to persuade others of its merits. The eventual goal is that the person whom they are engaging will come to the same conclusions, thereby avoiding hell.
The only faith I know of which attempts to “defeat” others when proselytizing is radical Islam. No matter what the left wants you to think, Jerry Falwell’s fundamentalism is nowhere near as intolerant as is radical Islam…or for that matter, leftism.
Mr. Coppins seems to indicate, based on conversations with a few students, that those who are okay with Romney speaking are surrounded by a vast majority of others who are picking up their pitchforks and torches.
While he hears the student who says that the dissenters are “radicals” who do not hold the same opinion as a large majority of Liberty students, he does not seem to listen.
Coppins goes on to state that the students’ reluctance to accept Romney as a candidate is understandable– because Jerry Falwell was the founder, of course.
Yes, that Mormon-hating Jerry Falwell who said, “I’m a fundamentalist, but I believe in a pluralistic America. This country belongs to the Hebrew Americans, the Mormon Americans, black Americans, white Americans.”
Coppins subtly indicates that another Mormon invited to speak at commencement, Glenn Beck, was met with resistance. What he fails to realize (or to report) about fickle twenty-one year olds brimming over with so much of what they think they know, is that there are always complaints about commencement speakers.
This author heard complaints first hand concerning Ben Stein and Chuck Norris speaking at Liberty University commencements (Of course, Chuck Norris crushed the resistance).
Are there Liberty students who are apprehensive about Mitt Romney speaking because he is a Mormon? Yes, and the views of Liberty students’ as a whole on Mormonism are probably about as diverse as the rest of the United States. To imply that their views about a Mormon candidate are somehow extreme is simply overreach.
During Reagan’s run for president Jerry Falwell said, “This is the time for Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Mormons, and all Americans to rise above every effort to polarize us in our efforts to return the nation to a commitment to the moral values on which America was built.”
Conservatives at Liberty University and abroad might want to take Falwell’s advice and disregard the media’s cynical and sensational attempts to divide us in our aim to defeat President Obama.