liberty university

'Stand With the Poor,' Sanders Tells Students at Liberty University

Image via Joshua Roberts/REUTERS/RNS

Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke Sept. 14 at an evangelical school where he framed his fight against wealth and income inequality in terms of morality and justice.

Sanders, a Vermont independent running for the Democratic presidential nomination, conceded that many in the audience at Liberty University disagree with his support for abortion rights and gay marriage. But he suggested they might agree that, at a time when “a handful of people have wealth beyond comprehension,” other people shouldn’t have to struggle to feed their families, put a roof over their heads, or visit a doctor.

“When we talk about morality and when we talk about justice, we have to, in my view, understand that there is no justice when so few have so much and so many have so little,” he said to applause from the audience of nearly 12,000.

Bernie and the Baptists: Why Sanders, Jewish and a Socialist, Will Speak at Falwell’s Liberty University

Juli Hansen /

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I -Vermont) speaks at a presidential campaign rally in Madison, Wisconsin. Photo via Juli Hansen /

The huge Lynchburg, Virginia, campus was started by the late Jerry Falwell, founder of Moral Majority, one of the main engines behind the launch of the religious right, and it is currently headed by Falwell’s son, Jerry Falwell, Jr.

It’s also become a key venue for Republican candidates looking to shore up their bona fides with key evangelical Christian voters.

So why did Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, accept Falwell’s invitation to address upwards of 12,000 students and faculty on Sept. 14?

Next Up at Liberty University: Jeb Bush

Photo via Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons / RNS

Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. Photo via Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons / RNS

Jeb Bush will deliver the commencement address at Liberty University on May 9, becoming the second GOP presidential contender to speak at the Christian school this year.

“Throughout his years of public service, Governor Bush has been a champion of excellence in education and so many other issues of vital importance to our university community,” President Jerry Falwell Jr. said in a statement about the college’s 42nd commencement exercises.

Bush, a former Florida governor, has all but declared he will seek the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was the first Republican to formally enter the field, and kicked off his campaign with a speech at Liberty’s convocation on March 23.

Gov. Bobby Jindal to Keynote Liberty University's Commencement Ceremony

Gov. Bobby Jindal at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, widely considered a rising star in the Republican Party and a possible 2016 presidential candidate, will be the commencement speaker at Liberty University on May 10.

“Many believe [Jindal] could hold the highest office in the land someday,” Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. said in a statement on Wednesday.

In an interview, Falwell was hesitant to give his personal opinion of Jindal since the two men have never met. Instead, he deferred to Liberty’s law school dean, Mat Staver.

“He’s a committed Christian,” Falwell said. “Mat Staver said he heard him speak and he sounded like a Baptist preacher.”

Despite 'Huge' Hesitancy, Seminaries Branch Out in Online Degrees

Daniel Aleshire, executive director of ATS. Photo via RNS/by Allison Shirreffs/courtesy the Association of Theological Schools

Theological education has increasingly left brick-and-mortar schools and headed back to congregations and family homes as more seminarians study online.

“The old move — uproot your family, get a new job, move to the seminary — that model isn’t working for so many people today,” said Ronald Hawkins, vice provost at Liberty University, which has around 9,000 students in its online seminary.

“They are looking for a way to increase their biblical theological knowledge, to expand their ministry skills and to remain within the context of the ministry setting.”

Despite “huge” hesitancy to allow online theological degrees, online education is growing, said Daniel Aleshire, executive director of the Association of Theological Schools, the main accrediting body for more than 270 seminaries and graduate schools.

Beyond 'Kony 2012': Jason Russell’s Attempt at a Comeback

Jason Russell with Ugandan children in the film “Invisible Children.” RNS photo courtesy of Invisible Children.

A campaign to arrest an African warlord generated awareness in more ways than the effort’s co-founder Jason Russell could have ever imagined.

The “Kony 2012″ campaign captured widespread attention for its push to arrest Joseph Kony, head of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which abducts and forces children to become soldiers. For a grass-roots video project that suddenly went viral, it was a phenomenal success.

Two weeks after the group Invisible Children released the video last year, Russell, the group’s co-founder, was detained and hospitalized for erratic behavior after he was found running naked and cursing the devil in the streets of San Diego.

Jerry Falwell’s Legacy: A Thriving Liberty University

Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty University chancellor. Via RNS/Photo by Ryan T. Stone/courtesy USA Today

A crimson-colored “LU,” emblazoned in 11-foot letters on a forested mountainside against a backdrop of white limestone, tells students and their families they have arrived at Liberty University. The cacophony of construction across the 7,000-acre campus it overlooks suggests that the once-struggling Christian college has not only arrived but also plans to stick around.

Dormitories built in the 1970s have been torn down to make room for high-rise residence halls. Soon to be completed is a $50 million library in which robots will retrieve books. The campus master plan calls for more seating in the football stadium, a sign of Liberty’s aspirations to one day participate in Division 1 bowl games.

Who Would Jesus Drone?

A drone launches a missile. Photo courtesy Paul Fleet/

Dear Liberty University,

I want to write truthfully about God. I know many will find that an odd way to begin a letter about U.S. drone warfare, but I see no other way. This morning, I was discouraged to read that Liberty University has been training Christians to pilot armed U.S. drones since 2011 in your School of Aeronautics (SOA). The reasons for my discouragement are many — not least of which is the idea that Liberty graduates can somehow "serve the Lord" by targeting and killing their neighbors. Here, I would like to outline some of my concerns in detail with the hope that Liberty might reconsider, or at least restate theologically, its position regarding U.S. drone warfare.