A story in the Boston Globe reports that Liberty University is among the top candidates in purchasing the old Northfield Mount Hermon School campus, Northfield, MA, a campus purchased in 2009 by Oklahoma tycoons, The David Green Family (think Hobby Lobby) >>>
Christians who are familiar with evangelical history will immediately associate Northfield with evangelist, D. L. Moody (1837-1899), who, along with Ira Sankey, rocked the 19th century world with simple gospel preaching accompanied by heart-warming gospel music. Moody founded both Moody Church and the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Yet residents of the small village of Northfield (pop. approx. 1,200) still boast Moody belongs to them. The evangelist was born there in 1837 and now makes Northfield his resting place.
Though citizens of Northfield remain weary that the Mount Hermon academy has sat empty for so long, they displayed a silent disappointment when it was revealed LU was among the top candidates to purchase the campus from the Green family. Journalist G. Jeffrey MacDonald describes it like this: "At the meeting, the room got quiet when Pattengale named Liberty University and Jerry Falwell Jr. among the leading contenders, but no one protested."
Not to have rain dumped on Liberty's parade as the front-runner for the purchase of the old Mount Hermon campus, Jerry Falwell, Jr. reportedly offered soothing words to the anxious citizens of Northfield:
“We would just be operating our university and educating our students,’’ Falwell said. “We’re not a church. We wouldn’t be out proselytizing or engaging the local people at all. It would just be a neighborly relationship.’’
Perhaps the younger Falwell made the townsfolk feel much more at ease with his words. Were LU to purchase the property, anxious residents would surely welcome the news that students would neither proselytize nor engage the locals. Instead LU would just seek to be good neighbors.
On the other hand, one must wonder how such an innocuous, tepid vision for LU students will go over with the greater vision of the New Testament for Christians to be "salt" and "light" not to mention going into all the world and preaching the gospel. We understand fully that LU is not a church. No one disputes the focus of educational institutions to mainly educate, including Christian educational institutions.
What we can dispute--and dispute strongly--nonetheless, is the notion that university students are somehow exempt from living normal Christian lives while at the same time pursuing academic excellence. And, normality for Christian believers includes engaging the culture and propagating the gospel, the very practices Jerry Falwell, Jr. appeared to assure Northfield residents LU would avoid. Are we to believe LU wants to place what would be, in effect, an evangelical version of a Christian monastery in Northfield?
I fear the more distance LU gets from Jerry Falwell, Sr. passing on, the stranger still Liberty University becomes. Mark Driscoll's preaching in LU chapel coming up shortly and now this curious non-evangelical vision for Christian education.
What next? A Passion, T4G, or TGC conference? Or, a partnership with Acts 29 Network?
With that, I am...