Newt Gingrich – a Roman Catholic – gave the 2007 commencement address at Liberty University. Ben Stein – a Jew – gave the 2009 commencement address. Glenn Beck – a Mormon – gave the 2010 commencement address. Mitt Romney – a Mormon – gave the 2012 commencement address. Last year, Governor Bobby Jindal – a Roman Catholic – gave the commencement address. Today, Liberty’s commencement speaker was yet another Roman Catholic politician, Jeb Bush.
Interwoven between these speakers include evangelicals like Chuck Norris in 2008, Randall Wallace (the Heaven is for Real director) in 2011, and Shannon Bream (a Fox News pundit) in 2013. In eight years, three Liberty University commencement speakers were evangelicals. The other five commencement speakers belong to other religions. Jeb Bush – a conservative Roman Catholic – speaking at Liberty University’s graduation is nothing new, going back to at least Sean Hannity in 2005.
If a university is trying to brand itself as the leading politically “conservative” place of higher education, it has accomplished that swimmingly and its commencement speakers have been illustrative of that effort, whose speakers include Justice Clarence Thomas, Ronald Reagan, Oliver North, Pat Buchanan and even Karl Rove. It claims, however, to be a Christian university.
Liberty University’s mission statement:
Since 1971, the mission of Liberty University has been to develop Christ-centered men and women with the values, knowledge, and skills essential for impacting tomorrow’s world. With a unique heritage and an ever-expanding influence, Liberty remains steadfast in its commitment of Training Champions for Christ.
It’s not political conservatism that bothers Pulpit & Pen (it would be hard to find a group of more conservative guys), but an obfuscation of the Gospel in the name of political ambition. What Liberty University demonstrates for us is that when you mix religion and politics, you get politics. It would be one thing if a speaker like Jeb Bush came onto the stage and discussed his political aspirations, gave political commentary, and provided political solutions. But that’s not exclusively what happened. Instead, rather, Bush merged politics with what he calls Christianity – which problematically is the Roman Catholic church. And tragically (but predictably), no one at the Christian university corrected him. Politics has trumped religion yet again.
Throughout the speech, Bush touted “Christianity” – his purported faith – for a reason to reform the political system.
“The present administration is supporting the use of coercive federal power. What should be easy calls in favor of religious freedom have instead become an aggressive stance against it…Somebody here is being small-minded and intolerant, and it sure isn’t the nuns, ministers, and laymen and women who ask only to live and practice their faith.”
Bush then called for more of a “Christian voice” to be heard throughout America.
“How strange, in our own time, to hear Christianity spoken of as some sort of backward and oppressive force. Your generation is bringing the Christian voice to where it always is needed, and sometimes isn’t heard enough.”
Bush may be using the words of a sold-out social conservative (he’s not – he’s actually to the left on ideological scoring of every candidate except Chris Christie) and it may play in Nashville (the buckle of the Bible Belt), but left uncorrected by Liberty University and other evangelicals, it is tragic error. For Jeb Bush, Roman Catholicism is the same as Christianity and he’s using the terms interchangeably from an ostensibly Christian podium.
Jeb, like his grandfather (who was a Jesuit-educated Roman Catholic), subscribes to the theology of Rome. Converting to the religion of his wife, Bush has now been Roman Catholic for twenty years. After an election defeat in 1994, Bush went through a period – reportedly – of “soul-searching” and took classes to become Catholic at Epiphany Parrish in Miami and was officially received into the Harlot on Easter Sunday, 1995. Ironically, Bush also credits his decision to become Roman Catholic to the growing liberalness of his former denomination, the Episcopal Church. Of the Roman Catholic church, Bush says…
“I love the sacraments of the Catholic Church, the timeless nature of the message of the Catholic Church, the fact that the Catholic Church believes in, and acts on, absolute truth as its foundational principle and doesn’t move with the tides of modern times, as my former religion did…I loved the absolute nature of the Catholic Church. It resonated with me.”
The sacraments of the Catholic Church, that re-crucify Christ and purport to be his actual body and blood, that require confession to men called “priests” as living anti-Christs, that claim regeneration by priestcraft, that deny justification by faith – this is what Jeb Bush means by “Christianity.”
And sadly, so it seems, no one at the largest “Christian” university in the world corrected him. Rather, they sent the message that they endorse his religion as their own. The illegitimate children in the marriage between religion and politics makes for one ugly, ugly baby.