Thoughts on Donald Trump's Speech at Liberty University on January 18

Jerry Jr. likes The Donald and thinks Trump is like Jerry Falwell. Falwell said Liberty wasn’t endorsing a candidate but the introduction certainly sounded like an endorsement.
Rev. Falwell, I think America is still great. We don’t need Donald Trump to make it great again. It is great now.
[youtube]https://youtu.be/E32ZPa4LGkM[/youtube]
John Fea on Donald Trump’s Two Corinthians.
Trump says he is going to protect Christianity. How about protecting all religions? Instead, he wants our country to get together around Christianity. Big fun if you’re a Christian.
Trump wants to knock the hell out of ISIS. He wants a big military to scare everyone. Actually, his simplistic, off the cuff policy statements are pretty scary.
Really? “When I’m president, you’re gonna see Merry Christmas at department stores, believe me.” What, he’s going to use executive orders for holiday greetings?
Trumps big policy planks – knock the hell out of ISIS, tough negotiations with terrorists, make department stores say Merry Christmas, build a Great Wall of China on our borders, keep companies from relocating overseas, stop common core, don’t restrict guns, get rid of Super PACs, and get rid of Obamacare.
I will vote for Trump for Crazy Uncle in Chief. Oy.
Open forum…
 
 

Jerry Falwell Jr.'s Irresponsible Machismo

For so many reasons, I am glad I don’t teach at Liberty University.
I can’t embed the clip so click through to watch Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. encourage students to carry guns on campus. He also seems to challenge “Muslims” (I assume he means radical Muslim terrorists) to come visit Liberty, and not for a college tour.
FalwellI have no problem with self-defense but this seems like an irresponsible challenge to people who are capable of responding to it. As a college president, your first duty is the safety and well-being of your students, not to go all John Wayne.
 
 

Former Aide to Falwell and Colson Nelson Keener: When Kingdoms Collide

Guest post by Nelson Keener.
Nelson Keener graduated from Liberty University and served as the late Jerry Falwell’s assistant during the seminal days of the Moral Majority and later in a similar capacity with the late Chuck Colson. He resides in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
When Kingdoms Collide
At Liberty University College Democrats are not recognized as an official university club.
Neither are College Republicans.
Does this mean the prominent Christian institution, founded by the late Jerry Falwell, adheres to political neutrality or “separation of church and state”? Hardly. Earlier this week the administration freely handed a microphone to U. S. Senator, Ted Cruz (R Texas) and alongside the university seal embossed on the podium, Cruz announced his candidacy for president to a captive audience of ten thousand or so LU students and faculty.
Attendance is required at LU convocations. So my guess is there were more than a few students—and probably some faculty—who wished they had a T-shirt emblazoned with: “My presence does not mean my assent.”
As a person, Cruz comes across to me as sincere and winsome.  He is likeable. In his rousing speech he forthrightly affirmed his faith as a Christian; a follower of Jesus. The audience applauded his religious faith. It’s this constituency Cruz wants to reach. A slice of the Evangelical pie that in the last three decades has become a formidable, some would say contentious, political force known as the religious right.
One can’t fault Cruz for choosing such a venue. It’s the purpose and context that troubles me. But Ted Cruz the person and his tactics are not what is so disquieting for me.

  •               

In The New Testament the John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus’ message and mission of God’s Kingdom then baptized him. After which Jesus immediately withdrew to the desert and spent 40 days and nights fasting alone in the wilderness.

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In the fledgling years of Liberty University Jerry Falwell declared himself a capital “F” fundamentalist, a term he touted often and emphatically, intentionally and proudly. Speakers for chapel services and commencement addresses were mostly fundamentalist preachers. But “Thus sayeth the Lord” sermons simply do not garner networks’ news coverage in the fashion Ted Cruz did recently.
As an alum myself, it was pleasing to see Liberty over time include a wider spectrum of commencement speakers than pulpit-pounding preachers. Now students hear orators like Newt Gingrich, John McCain and Glenn Beck. Same fiery style, different content; some good, some not so good.
But is LU now inviting politicians too often?  In a recent 10 year span, seven of the commencement speakers were politicians or culture war pundits. For an institution with hundreds of majors, that’s rather lopsided representation. Is it time to drop or at least reduce the number of politicians as keynote speakers; especially those running for elected office? Maybe so.
Why? Because too few politicians speak prophetic truth when orbiting for office. They protect their own interests and expound what is expedient to gain votes. Polished rhetoric and partisan ideology seldom stretch students and graduates minds beyond their parochial world.
Another “Why?” Listen to a sage: In the last public speech before he died, Chuck Colson said, “Politics is nothing but an expression of culture…so if things are bad, don’t think it’s going to be solved by an election. It’s going to be solved by us.”

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At the end of Jesus 40 days in the desert the devil showed up and shamelessly made a couple of propositions that Jesus flatly turned down. Here’s the text.
Luke 4:5-8: The devil led [Jesus] up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And [the devil] said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
Jesus as much as told Satan, “Go to Hell.” And Satan crept away (until the next round), pointed tail between his legs.
Another time the religious powerbrokers brought Jesus to Pilate to be judged.
Luke 23:3; John 18:36: So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

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“Training Champions for Christ,” is LU’s motto, prominently displayed throughout the campus. There’s nothing wrong with it. But did Jesus ask us to “champion” his cause? Jesus seldom used such language. His teachings and temperament did not indicate that political power was something he sought. He didn’t speak about winning. He did speak about losing.
Does the religious right somehow miss, or worse ignore, the principle that Jesus not only eschewed earthly power, he rejected it. Is it not the call of the gospel to work for God’s Kingdom now; not our kingdom? Isn’t it in doing God’s work that His Kingdom will come?
What if thousands of young people were deployed as champions for the disenfranchised. That’s Kingdom work. Wow!
 
Thanks to Nelson for submitting this guest post.
 
 

Does the Liberty University Wing of the GOP Appeal to the Masses?

While asking a political question, Jonathan Merritt’s latest column in The Week provides insight into how group leaders keep in-group members in line. Merritt was slated to speak at a Liberty University function (his alma mater), but was disinvited by the president of the school, Jerry Falwell, Jr. because “We’re just uncomfortable with some of the things you’ve been writing.”
Using the stick is a part of the tactics, promising a return to good graces if one comes around is the carrot. According to Merritt, Falwell, Jr. then said:

“You don’t seem to remember who your friends are,” Falwell lamented. “So we’ll continue to keep an eye on you and if things change on your end, we’ll reevaluate.”

I have had several of those kind of conversations over the years. The power players have been both liberals and conservatives. Group dynamics don’t seem to know party loyalties.
In this case, Merritt uses this story to pursue what promises to be a significant story line of the 2016 election. Can the cluster of religious right positions held by Ted Cruz and featured by Liberty University earlier this week appeal to the rest of the country?
Merritt seems skeptical and I agree with him.
Merritt frames the matter this way:

The question that is yet to be answered is whether their kind of conservatism — the Liberty University kind — is too rigid, radical, and Tea Party-friendly for most Americans, including moderate conservatives and centrists like me.

I am aware that not all people who teach at Liberty University are as far right as the administration appears to be. Liberty is often known for the work of the Liberty Counsel and the law school once headed by Mat Staver. As I just pointed out, Liberty law school associate dean Matt Barber wants the Christian right candidates to cut a back room deal to choose the Christian candidate for president.
In any case, I am not excited about a theocrat as a representative of the GOP, and I suspect most of the electorate won’t buy it either.
Correction: The original post identified Mat Staver as current head of the Liberty University School of Law and implied that Matt Barber was with the Liberty Counsel. Staver completed his tenure as Dean of the law school in 2014 and Barber is not with Liberty Counsel. I regret the errors and thank Mat Staver for pointing them out.

The David Barton Cover Up: More on Gregg Frazer’s Critique of David Barton’s America’s Godly Heritage

On Monday, I wrote about a time in 2012 when David Barton was confronted by evangelical historians. I linked to a devastating critique of Barton’s America’s Godly Heritage by Gregg Frazer, professor of history at The Master’s College.  Much of the critique is helpful even if one has not seen Barton’s DVD because Frazer includes enough of the context to make the critiques clear. However, there is one section which might not be as clear as the others. To help readers use the critique well, I want to provide some additional context.

Specifically, I refer to this section of Frazer’s critique:

Barton’s claims about the percentage of quotes directly from the Bible or based on the Bible or from “men who used the Bible to write their conclusions” are gross misrepresentations that are too confusing and complex to explain briefly here. A few comments will have to suffice. First, his percentages are blown out of proportion. He notes that a study found the Bible to have the highest percentage of citations (34%) and he claims that another 60% came from “men who used the Bible to write their conclusions”; consequently, he claims that “94% of the quotes of the Founders were based on the Bible.” First, neither the 60% number nor the 94% number come from the study – Barton made those up. Second, the study is careful to note that “reprinted sermons accounted for almost three-fourths of the biblical citations, making this nonsermon source of biblical citations roughly as important as the Classical or Common Law categories [10%].” Most importantly, while Barton appeals to this study during his discussion of the framing of the Constitution, the study says that during the debate on the U.S. Constitution, “the Bible’s prominence disappears” and “(t)he debate surrounding the adoption of the Constitution was fought out mainly in the context of Montesquieu, Blackstone, the English Whigs, and major writers of the Enlightenment.” Even at that, the percentages are misleading in and of themselves, as misapplication and misinterpretations of passages (abuse of the Bible) are counted the same as proper use. Satan quotes the Bible (e.g. Luke 3:10-11) too, but that does not indicate any righteousness or interest in promoting Christianity on his part.

The study in question was conducted by Donald Lutz and Charles Hyneman, both then at the University of Houston. Frazer is correct in his criticisms but there is more that can be said about Barton’s misuse of the study. For that additional information, please see my prior post on how the Institute on the Constitution mimics Barton’s errors and then this post by Jim Allison and Tom Peters.

This is a case where Barton cites the study improperly, and then fails to cite all of the relevant sections of the study. Barton’s main argument is that the founders used the Bible as a foundation for our form of government. However, Lutz and Hyneman demonstrate that the Federalist defenders of the Constitution did not refer to the Bible once in their writings.  On page 194 of the study, Lutz charts the analysis of the citations in the Federalist and Antifederalist papers.

LutzHyneman

Note that the Bible was not cited at all by the Federalists. It was those who opposed various aspects of the Constitution, the Antifederalists, who cited the Bible.  While Lutz and Hyneman are fair in their research, Barton spins and omits relevant information to twist their argument beyond recognition.

The title of this post begins by calling attention to what I call “the David Barton cover up.” Religious right leaders know about the many critiques from Christian academics but those leaders choose to ignore them. David Barton’s fractured history is apparently too important to challenge. Major organizations (e.g., Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Liberty University, Gateway Church) and individuals (e.g., David Lane, Glenn Beck, Sen. Ted Cruz) are aware of the findings of numerous conservative Christian historians. However, the work of these scholars does not matter. Countless state and federal legislators have been led astray which has consequences for the state of our political process.

These organizations and leaders are responsible as are Christian media sources who fail to ask these leaders hard questions; it remains to be seen if they will ever do the right thing.

 

Was Glenn Beck Right About Joseph Smith When He Spoke At Liberty University?

When Glenn Beck spoke at Liberty University in April of this year, many alums and other observers were upset that Beck preached a sermon including Latter Day Saint theological concepts. The school and Beck eventually responded to but did not agree with the concerns. Beck was especially bothered and engaged name-calling to defend himself. In addition to the odd pairing of LDS Beck preaching about his religious calling at a Baptist university, Beck’s history caught my eye. In prior posts, I addressed the accuracy of his claims regarding WWII and those who wore the purple triangle in Nazi concentration camps, the Salem witch trials, and the Bibles of British and French monarchs. In this post, I want to address what Beck said about Joseph Smith. In his speech, Beck said at about 15:56 into the video:

Days before Joseph Smith was martyred he was taken out by the sheriff.
They tried to tar and feather him several times. He was taken out by the sheriff and the last time they took him, they said you owe two hundred dollars, I think twenty-five dollars, twenty-five dollars. He said, ‘I don’t owe a man anything.’ He said, ‘No you stole a stove.’ One of the most ridiculous charges I have ever heard. At that time he reached into his pocket and pulled out his pocket watch. This is his pocket watch that he pulled out. He gave it to the sheriff and said, ‘I owe man nothing.’ They let him go and they killed him. But on the warrant for his arrest, he wrote on the back of his warrant to his people, ‘Put down your guns, no matter what happens, put down your guns. Put down your guns and trust in the Lord.’

Beck is correct that Joseph Smith was accused of not paying for a stove. However, the incident did not take place “days before” Smith was martyred. Instead, Smith was served a warrant on July 27, 1837 (Smith was killed in 1844) to recover the cost of a cooking stove which Smith was trying out. In volume 2 of the History of the Church, page 502, the words of Smith are recorded:

Thursday, 27 [July 1837].–I started from Kirtland in company with Elders Rigdon and Marsh for the purpose of visiting the Saints in Canada. Brother Rockwood on his return home, Elder Brigham Young on a mission to the eastern cities, started with us. When we arrived at Painsville we were detained all day by malicious and vexatious law suits. About sun-set I got into my carriage to return home to Kirtland; at this moment the sheriff sprang into the carriage, seized my lines, and served another writ on me, which was sworn out by a man who had a few weeks previously brought a new fashioned cooking stove to Kirtland, and prevailed on me to put it up in my kitchen, saying it would give credit to his stove, wishing to have it tested by our people; and now he thought would be a good time to get pay for it. I gave my watch to the officer for security and we all returned home.

So the story is correct but incorrectly linked to his martyrdom. The two events have nothing to do with each other.
There are some problems with Beck’s version of Smith’s martyrdom as well. Beck said that Smith signed an arrest warrant with a call upon his followers to “put down their guns and trust the Lord.” There is a historical basis for the story but Beck adds details which make the story misleading. On the trip to Carthage, IL on June 25, 1844, Joseph Smith’s party stopped at the farm of Albert Fellows. On page 555 of volume 6 of the History of the Church, an account is given of an order from the governor regarding the Mormons at Nauvoo:

The company made a halt, when Joseph, Hyrum and several others went into [Albert] Fellows’ house with Captain Dunn, who presented an order from Governor Ford for all the state arms in possession of the Nauvoo Legion, which Joseph immediately countersigned.

The Nauvoo Legion was a militia sanctioned by the state of IL and commanded by Joseph Smith. In Nauvoo on June 10, 1844, at the direction of the Nauvoo City Council, the Legion had destroyed a newspaper which was critical of the Latter Day Saints and declared martial law. Subsequently, Smith and some of his followers were charged with unlawfully destroying the press and his arrest was sought. Furthermore, Governor Ford sought to relieve the militia of their government supplied arms. After evading capture, Smith and several followers surrendered supposedly to be placed in protective custody. On June 27, 1844, Smith was killed in a shoot out with a mob who broke into the jail where he was being held.
Back to the note presented by Captain Dunn. The note was an June 24 order from Ford which read:

You are hereby ordered to comply strictly and without delay with the within order of the commander in chief, Gov. Thomas Ford.

Here is a copy of the document which is in LDS church possession:

According the church history, Smith signed the document but did not write any message to his followers.
In contrast to a message of putting down arms, one Nauvoo Legion member said Smith had given an order to the Nauvoo militia to rescue him but the Jonathan Dunham, the commander, did not heed the order.

And while they were in jail, Brother Joseph wrote an official order to Jonathan Dunham to bring the Legion and reserve him from being killed, but Dunham did not let a single man or mortal know that he had received such orders, and we were kept in the city under arms, not knowing but all was well, until the mob came and forced the prison and slew Joseph and Hyrum Smith and wounded John Taylor severely.

As it turns out, a supporter smuggled in a hand gun to Smith in the jail where he was being held. When the mob stormed the jail, Smith was killed in a shoot out. It doesn’t seem reasonable for him to write what Beck said when he did not completely honor that sentiment himself by giving an order to bring the militia or by having his own weapon. No church source I can find has the quote used by Beck. If Beck has a primary source for that quote, he should make it available.
None of these accounts provide any justification for the martyrdom of the Smiths or for the discrimination demonstrated toward those of LDS faith. The point is only accuracy and fact checking. As with the other claims made at Liberty University, this story had its share of problems as well.
I want to thank a representative of the FairMormon.org website, who helped me put this together. I also consulted the various LDS documents noted above as well as some other LDS sources who wish to remain anonymous.

Liberty University and Glenn Beck Respond to Controversy Over His Sermon

Liberty University and Glenn Beck have spoken out about critics of Beck’s speech at Liberty U’s Convocation  last month and neither party is backing down.
Jonathan Merritt at Religion News Service reports on an email from senior vice-president and Liberty spokesman  Johnnie Moore. Moore countered critics by saying the Convocation service was not a chapel. According to Moore:

We have explained over the decades repeatedly that convocation is an opportunity for students to hear from people of all faiths and from all walks of life.  Liberty has also made it clear repeatedly that it does not endorse any statements made by any convocation speaker.

As pointed out at Pajama Pages, the situation is not quite an “opportunity,” it is a requirement, with a fine for lack of attendance.
For his part, Beck today blasted those who criticized his presence at Liberty. Right Wing Watch has the video. Predictably, Beck is bombastic in his response, saying Liberty University is “one of the greatest Universities in the world.”  When Beck decides to attack his opponents, he really goes for it, saying one would have to be stupid to disagree with Liberty’s discernment. He then said, just minutes later, that he looks at his enemies as his brothers. Stupid brothers, I guess.
While I still think Liberty was wrong to give Beck the platform, my objection is not exclusively related to religious matters. As I pointed out in previous posts, Beck’s statements about history are badly flawed and serve no purpose other than to confuse and misinform. How that serves an educational institution, I can’t understand.

More Fractured History Lessons in Glenn Beck's Sermon to Liberty University: The Bible, Cake and Witches

In two prior posts (here and here), I addressed Glenn Beck’s faulty reference to the purple triangle worn by Jehovah’s Witnesses while imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps during WWII.  Beck said Bible scholars were made to wear the triangle without telling the audience that Jehovah’s Witnesses were known as Bible students in Germany at the time. Very few  people (some say less than one percent) from other religions wore the purple triangle.
After he held up the purple triangle, Beck then held up a Bible he said belonged to Louis the 15th and a prayer book he said belonged to British King George III. He remarked that the books were hardly used and proposed the lack of Bible usage led to various problems for the French and British.  He then held up a Bible he said stopped the Salem witch trials. Finally, he told a story about the death of Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saint church. Because I anticipate the Joseph Smith story will raise different issues than the Bible stories, I will take it in a separate post. For now, I want to examine Beck’s claims line by line. Prepare for whiplash.
Here again is the sermon:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYNjZ55nctE[/youtube]
At about 10 minutes into the video, after identifying several colored triangles the Nazis used to identify prisoners, Beck said:

…what got you sent to the concentration camps for the purple triangle? You were a Bible scholar. The Bible is the enemy to fascists.
Why?
When we went to war as a country there were two other great powers on earth one of them was England and the other was France. At the time King Louis was the King of France. This is King Louis the 15th’s Scriptures. If you look at the gilding, it’s perfect, it’s perfect. It’s never been read! How could you live in that society and say let them eat cake? What led to the revolution where the guillotines were the answer? He never read his Scriptures. The other great power that we broke away from was King George. This is King George his book of morning prayer. If you look through this, it is absolutely perfect. I don’t think the pages were ever turned.
What do your Scriptures look like? Will someday somebody say this is my mom, this is my dad, this is my brother, this is my sister’s Scriptures. Look at they’re in perfect condition, or will they have been poured over, dog-eared, written in that tells the story of your life and your path. This [holding up a Bible] is what freed the world and this came at a great price. This is an original William Tyndale Bible, and if you see, it was owned by a Puritan because every time there’s the face of price it’s been blotted out. This was smuggled page by page in bags of rice smuggled in. When they tied him to the stake, he said my only crime is that I believe that you should be able to read God’s Word in your own tongue. Now we have God’s Word in our pocket. We can access it anywhere, in any language. Does it mean anything to us anymore? Is it just a series of words put together?
This is the Bible that’s stopped the Salem witch trials. People will say that the Salem witch trials were caused by Christians, but how come the witch trials happened for decades in Europe but lasted very short period of time here? Why? Because of preachers, preachers that knew their Scriptures and took this Bible and said your misreading the Scriptures, and that Sunday the governor got up and stood in front of the congregation weeping, “I am sorry, I misread.”

There are several problems here. Let’s start with:

When we went to war as a country there were two other great powers on Earth one of them was England and the other was France.

Not so. Another possibly greater power on Earth at the time was China. According to the British Museum, the Chinese empire of Qianlong “was the wealthiest and most populous country in the world. By the end of the eighteenth century, there were 200 million Chinese.” This is an important point because Beck wants to make a case that the Bible is somehow involved in a nation’s political fortunes. Obviously, the Chinese did not seek to base their culture on the Bible.
Beck continued:

This is King Louis the 15th’s Scriptures. If you look at the gilding, it’s perfect, it’s perfect. It’s never been read! How could you live in that society and say let them eat cake? What led to the revolution where the guillotines were the answer? He never read his Scriptures.

I looked for information regarding King Louis’ Bible and have not yet found anything. However, I assume King Louis had more than one Bible and it seems presumptuous to make much out of the condition of this item unless one has additional primary source confirmation that the King never read any Bible.
Beck then leaps wildly through French history to link Louis’ purported lack of Bible reading with the phrase, “let them eat cake” and the French Revolution. The phrase “let them eat cake” is widely attributed to Marie Antoinette, the wife of Louis XVI, the grandson of Louis XV. However, historians believe she never said the phrase. Instead, the phrase has been attributed to a Spanish princess before Louis the 15th was born. The phrase was also used by Rousseau in the book, Les Confessions, who said an unnamed princess uttered the words. Regarding the French Revolution, Louis XV died in 1774, 15 years before the revolution started. In short, Beck links Louis XV’s alleged lack of Bible reading to events that happened before he was born and after he died.
About King George, Beck said:

This is King George his book of morning prayer. If you look through this, it is absolutely perfect. I don’t think the pages were ever turned.

Again, I have found little on this. Was this King George’s only copy? According to this British Royal Collection website, a Bible, psalter and prayer book used by King George is safely in the Royal Collection. A rare book house has a description of one of King George’s prayer books. In fact, the description says that “George III was deeply devout and spent hours in prayer, making this volume emblematic of his rule at that time.” We do know that King George called for prayer against the colonists and issued a book of prayers beseeching God to turn back the rebellion. King George also may have suffered from an illness which caused mental instability. In any case, without examining the evidence for this item, and given Beck’s other misleading statements, it is possible that the condition of the book he has means nothing about King George’s beliefs and practices.
Beck then claimed he has the Bible that stopped the Salem witch trials:

This is the Bible that’s stopped the Salem witch trials.

I have asked several historians about this with no one knowing what he means. I can’t tell if he means the actual Bible or if he is referring to the version of the Bible which was in common use at the time. Beck continued:

People will say that the Salem witch trials were caused by Christians, but how come the witch trials happened for decades in Europe but lasted very short period of time here? Why? Because of preachers, preachers that knew their Scriptures and took this Bible and said your misreading the Scriptures, and that Sunday the governor got up and stood in front of the congregation weeping, “I am sorry, I misread.”

There is no dispute that the witch trials were conducted by people who claimed to be Christian. Indeed, there were periods of hysteria in Europe, just as there was here. Salem was not the only town in the colonies to experience witchcraft hysteria. Connecticut did as well on at least two occasions. Both were related to Christians who believed witches were responsible for various problems in the community and should be handled in the manner taught by Old Testament law. Marc Carlson has compiled a comprehensive list of nearly 300 people tried as witches in trials in America from 1622 through 1878. There were more incidents in Europe but there were more people in Europe and the duration of the count was over a longer period of time.
The religious leaders in MA initially believed they were in the right. It was when allegations of witchcraft were directed toward prominent members of the community that caution came into play. An appeal to the Bible may have helped support that caution but there can be no mistake that an appeal to the Bible was the foundation for the hysteria in the first place.
All in all, the significant historical problems in this sermon raise questions about the accuracy of the rest of it, including his story of Joseph Smith’s last days. I will take that up in a future post.

Glenn Beck's Historical Problems at Liberty University: The Purple Triangle and the Jehovah's Witnesses

Leaving aside the wisdom of having a Mormon leader deliver a sermon, Liberty University should apologize for Glenn Beck’s questionable history.
[youtube]http://youtu.be/TYNjZ55nctE?t=9m16s[/youtube]
At about 10 minutes into the video of his sermon at Liberty, Beck went to a table on the stage with various documents. He first picked up a collection of colored triangles used by the Nazi’s to identify why prisoners were placed in work and death camps. He then identified several Bibles, saying one of them put an end to the Salem witch trials. He then told his version of how Joseph Smith died, pulling out what he claimed was Joseph Smith’s pocket watch. While not everything Beck said was incorrect, there were some significant problems. I am going to take each one in a separate post.
Let’s start with Beck’s incorrect identification of the people required to wear the purple triangle.  Beck said at 10:04:

or this one, what got you sent to the concentration camps for the purple triangle? You were a Bible scholar. The Bible is the enemy to fascists.

Jehovah’s Witnesses were required to wear purple triangles in Nazi concentration camps. The Nazi’s called the Jehovah’s Witnesses Bibelforscher (Bible student/researcher) and viewed them as dangerous because they refused to salute Hitler. Beck’s presentation is misleading and obscures the fact that many Protestants and Catholics stood by while the Witnesses were persecuted. Perhaps Beck confused the terms “Bible students” with “Bible scholars,” but the way he used that term without identifying the Jehovah’s Witnesses gave the impression that orthodox Bible teachers were rounded up. While a very small percentage of orthodox Christians (Baptists, Adventists, pentecostals, etc.) were taken into custody, the overwhelming majority of purple triangle wearers were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Given that Beck said he vacationed at Auschwitz and has studied the history, it seems incredible to believe he was unaware of these facts.
According to Auschwitz commandant Rudolph Hoss,* the Jehovah’s Witnesses were particularly striking in their behavior. They were trustworthy and resilient and seemed to revel in their affliction as giving them a chance to stand for their beliefs.

Out of respect for the sacrifices made by Jehovah’s Witnesses, I think Beck should publicly acknowledge how misleading his presentation was at Liberty. The Bible may be a problem for fascists but in practice there was one group the Nazis singled out because of the way the Witnesses interpreted the Bible and lived out those beliefs.
 
*Hoss, Rudolph, Steven Paskuly, (Ed.), (1996). Death Dealer: The Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz. New York: Da Capo Press.

Religion News Services Weighs In on Glenn Beck at Liberty University

Liberty University graduate Jonathan Merritt posted an article yesterday titled: “Glenn Beck Preaches Mormon Theology at Liberty University.” In the article Merritt provides analysis of Beck’s sermon and the Latter Day Saint references in it.
While there has been some outrage expressed by Liberty grads on Twitter, the school hasn’t responded to these expressions with the vigor it did to concerns the school was partnering with Benny Hinn. Merritt seems largely correct when he wrote:

There seems to be no outcry from students, parents, or faculty over Liberty’s invitation of Beck or of his sermon so far. Perhaps the silence is because this is business as usual for the evangelical mega-school.

After clearly identifying the Mormon theology in Beck’s sermon, Merritt concludes:

So what does all this mean?Given the school’s history, Beck’s sermon may be nothing more than Liberty doing what it has always done best: thriving amidst controversy and leading with conservative politics rather than theology. But it may also be one more sign that Mormons are becoming more mainstream in American life–even increasingly welcomed by evangelicals who would have rejected them only a few years ago.

While Merritt says this gently, I do agree that Liberty often puts conservative politics before religion. To varying degrees, one might have a hard time finding a religious institution that has not done this at one time or another. However, there has to be a line somewhere, and for my taste, Liberty crossed that line by giving Glenn Beck a platform to sermonize and in essence to proselytize their students. If Beck provided value to the educational mission of the school then I can see him speaking in classes, or at politically oriented events, etc. However, Liberty showcased him preaching what was in essence a sermon.
More broadly, there are many reasons I think Beck should not be invited to speak at an institution of higher learning. Mostly, the reasons have to do with his endorsement of the historical problems of David Barton. So much misinformation has been spread by Barton through Beck’s media empire that he is culpable for it.  Beck has been approached about the matter by those close to him and he has persisted to give Barton a platform. Barton in turn has softened and minimized the real differences between historic Christianity and the LDS doctrines. All of this disqualifies both of them in my opinion.