I first heard your name in church. Leaders I deeply respected had met in your halls. I heard stories on camping trips and on retreats. I pictured my life there as a student and what it could mean. In high school I equated your name with freedom, an escape from my small town to a place full of life and energy. I was never really into sports and felt no kinship with my state, so attending your campus became my goal in higher education. In retrospect education had nothing to do with what I wanted. I wanted to be with people and do something big.
My first semester was magical. We never slept. We traveled. We stayed up all night and drank every cup of coffee available. In full confession I broke nearly all of your rules and broke them repeatedly, but all in good fun. I was young and you were freeing in the way that comes with restriction, in the way any former LU student reading this will understand. I spent hours, every day it seemed, talking and meeting people, feeling the energy build. We were ready to take on the world in the way we do at 18.
It was on your campus that I experienced my first love and heartache, met those who are still today some of my very closest friends, and casually met the woman I would one day marry. I still make the occasional pilgrimage back to visit your campus and awe at the size and stature of your buildings, reliving the days when we were all packed in concrete dorms, even then a decade past their acceptable lifetime. We had a mixed friendship. I walked away once and you gave a little push shortly after. And the last time it was final. I left town and graduated from another school in another state.
You’ve grown a lot. But so have I. And we’ve grown apart. I’ve grown to see many of your views as outdated and harmful to so many who have already hurt so much. I’ve seen friends heartbroken because of you and heard stories of quieted payoffs that have ruined lives in the name of status quo. I’ve seen even more clearly how motivated you were and are by money and influence. There was a time I thought that you could change. I thought it might just be a fluke and you could be better.
You’ve always been hot on the tails of politicians. I remember your founder discussing lunches with presidents and the occasional congressman who stopped by for a visit. I remember how the Right pulled you in, seeing an army of voters ready to take your every word as Gospel truth. I tried to defend you when bigoted statements were broadcast on national TV, like the murmurings of a drunk uncle during a family gathering.
But this… this is too far. Trump doesn’t care about you. He’s using you. He knows that fame is your weakness, your Achilles’ heel. He knows that you will bring a huge crowd who will forgive his blunders because their pastors, professors, and leaders accept him. Not because of his values but because, perhaps, of his hate and judgement of those he does not like. Don’t you see that? Can’t you see that he is nothing like the Jesus you read about in your classes? He is the opposite. He is hateful, bigoted, short sided, greedy and selfish. He is a proud racist and misogynist. He wants power, and it will never be enough. And you will suffer. And the worst part is that you didn’t have to say a thing.
You do not have to get involved with politics. Your gospel, as you say you believe, should be much bigger than an election. Sure it feels good one someone pays you attention, but come on. This is not ok. Is your gospel about inclusion or bigotry? Is your gospel about forgiveness or grudges? Is your gospel about fear and weapons or about courage?
Liberty, once I loved you. Now I feel uncomfortable when you come around. There’s a part of me that will always want to stop by from time to time, catch up on all that has changed over the last 18 years. And I will always hold out a sliver of hope that deep down that you could be great. And you could be great. And that is perhaps the most disheartening part of all. You are selling your self out for disingenuous pats on the back by a hateful, power-hungry bigot who will use you for all the votes you can muster. I hoped you were better than this. Get it together.
Robert A. Murphy