Ever since Salman Rushdie spoke at Emory University’s commencement last year and was awarded the Doctorate of Humane Letters, I have been studying American college and university commencement speeches.
Rushdie is a distinguished professor at Emory and his writings and personal works are there, but Rushdie is an atheist. In fact in a PBS interview with David Frost, Rushdie was asked whether he believed in God and replied, “I do not need the idea of God to explain the world I live in.”
In his book, In God We Trust, Rushdie wrote, “God, Satan, Paradise, and Hell all vanished one day in my fifteenth year, when I quite abruptly lost my faith … and afterwards, to prove my newfound atheism, I bought myself a rather tasteless ham sandwich, and so partook for the first time of the forbidden flesh of the swine. No thunderbolt arrived to strike me down. […] From that day to this I have thought of myself as a wholly secular person.”
At the Emory commencement Rushdie exclaimed, “People seem to be ready to believe almost anything – God for example. Shocking how many Americans there are who swallow that old story. Maybe you will be that generation who moves past the ancient fictions. John Lennon said, ‘Imagine there is no heaven. It is easy if you try.’ Maybe that is one ‘antique truthiness’ which you can finally replace with the truth.”
Why would a university founded by an American Methodist bishop who inspired people to walk by faith have an atheist to deliver the commencement address?
In fact, why would any university have an atheist or agnostic or extreme liberal as the keynote speaker for a commencement, thus leaving that speech as the last impression the school leaves upon its graduates?
Young America’s Foundation conducts an annual commencement speakers survey and this year they discovered that in the top 50 schools as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, liberal speakers outnumbered conservatives nine to one. Among the top 10: all speakers were liberal. In the top 100 it was six to one. Emily Jashinsky, writing for YAF, explains, “As usual, our nation’s brightest students will receive one final dose of liberalism from their progressive professors and administrators before heading out into the real world.”
In the 1960s liberalism, counter-culture values and mores, Marxist’s ideology, and neo-orthodox theology began to infiltrate the classrooms of our institutions of higher education. Now, the radical doctrines of Sal Alinsky, Ayn Rand, and Salman Rushdie are so commonplace in our schools that conservative speakers are routinely shouted down, confronted with physical violence, or disinvited.
It is encouraging to know that our Georgia Baptist colleges have commencement speakers who are firmly founded in the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Brewton-Parker College invited Thomas Hammond, president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, as its commencement speaker for this year. Hammond is a well-known Baptist leader and pastor of First Baptist Church in Alpharetta.
Steven F. Echols, president of Brewton-Parker, stated, “We are reminded of how disturbing the moral decay has become in our country when we see the outrageous things being said at commencement speeches. Far left wing radical and decadent agendas are espoused while anyone who dares speak of morality and God are often banned.
“I think of the stark contrast of such destructive thought with that of our inspiring 2016 Brewton-Parker College commencement address from our Georgia Baptist Convention president, Thomas Hammond. We are thankful to Georgia Baptists who support Christian higher education as it is needed now more than ever before!”
Shorter University had for its speaker Mark Demos, a strong Christian and president of The Demos Group, an Atlanta-based full service public relations firm he founded specifically to serve Christian organizations and causes.
Don Dowless, president of Shorter University, declared, “”It has become commonplace for many commencement speeches to be used by liberal speakers as a means of promoting agendas that attempt to excise God from intellectual life and replace His truth with their own world views.
“In contrast, Christian colleges serve to impart God-given truths to help graduates transform our world through the power of Jesus Christ. That truth is timeless, transformative, and contagious.”
Truett-McConnell University’s commencement speaker was Scotty Wilbanks, Truett-McConnell College alum and two-time Grammy nominated, multiple-Dove-Award-winning record producer who has a powerful Christian testimony.
Truett-McConnell President Emir Caner commented, “Well, it’s that time of year again when colleges and universities have their graduation ceremonies. At most universities, that means graduates have the cumbersome responsibility of listening to prolonged lectures from leftists on safe spaces, from Marxists on economic injustice, from politicians like the president who tells them they just got lucky, and from celebrities bloviating about how graduates are still victims.
“In juxtaposition, I thank God that there still are Christian colleges who have ceremonies that give graduates godly and practical advice about the real world, about true faith. May their tribe increase.”