Given the increasingly aggressive politicization by both left and right of what should be a moment of honoring a milestone in students’ lives, the fact that talk show host Glenn Beck gave the commencement speech at Liberty University really doesn’t come as a surprise. Reactions from the partisan wings of the blogosphere are predictable and, therefore, quite uninteresting. Most progressive sites excoriate Beck and Liberty University. Most conservative sites have no problem with the speech and might note it only to also note in passing the politically progressive speakers vastly outnumber conservative speakers when looking at the whole range of commencement speakers. Few noted the oddity of an honorary doctorate given to a man who dropped out after one semester of college.
But almost no one is noting what I think is the really interesting oddity here — Liberty University, the flagship of Christian fundamentalism, just welcomed a Mormon to give their commencement address. Coming so soon after 2008 Republican presidential candidate (and probable 2012 Republican presidential candidate as well) Mike Huckabee openly appealed to anti-Mormon prejudices among Christian fundamentalists as a core part of his strategy to take down Mitt Romney, this heretical embrace of a high-profile Latter-Day Saint by Liberty University is to much a reversal of course not to note.
It could be merely that Liberty considers the current partisan political campaign against President Obama — within which Beck is a vocal leader of the most hysteria-driven components — simply a higher priority that enforcing religious orthodoxy about what does and does not constitute a “Christian”. (Note: many Christian fundamentalists consider Mormons a “cult”, though their operational definition of that term appears to be merely “a religion I don’t like,” so it’s a pretty highly-inclusive category.) Or perhaps Liberty has come to a belated decision to move towards a “big tent” definition of “Christianity”.
Or maybe nobody at Liberty U. noticed beforehand. Whoopsie.