Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bible Bending Special: Regent University

Regent University, whose mission is " to provide exemplary education, from a biblical perspective," may be the training ground for aspiring Bible benders within the U.S. government.

The university has recently come into the media spotlight for its connection with the U.S. attorney scandal when it was revealed that Monica Goodling played a key role in engineering the firing of seven U.S. attorney generals. Until recently Goodling was a relatively unknown figure in the Justice Department, but when news of her connection to the scandal broke out, many began to ask how an inexperienced 33 year-old rose to the 3rd highest official in the U.S. Justice Department (her website alone begs questions of her qualifications). Then it was revealed that Goodling was a graduate of Regent University.

Regent was founded in 1978 by Pat Robertson, with the goal of "Change through Christian Leadership" that it appears to be achieving at a remarkable pace. As its website proudly notes, 150 former Regent graduates now serve the Bush administration and former U.S. attorney general (under President George W. Bush) John Ashcroft is among its faculty. (The Huffington Post details more Regent/White House connections.)

Robertson, founder of a number of organizations including the Christian Coalition and the Christian Broadcasting Network and host of the 700 Club, is himself a notable Bible bender. He has become famous, or infamous, for statements that often connect global tragedies to apocalyptic times.

For instance, in 1998 he warned that fires in Florida were a result of Disney World welcoming gay people. Quoting Revelations 8:7, Robertson noted:
"There was an angel who sounded,' it said, 'his trumpet and there came hail and fire' and, of course, fire is lightning 'and it was hurled down upon earth'... And that's exactly what is happening."

In 2004, Robertson told viewers of his show that the Iraq War was "a righteous cause out of the Bible." More recently, Robertson was quick to agree that the Virginia Tech massacre was a punishment from God: "We have insulted God at the highest levels of our government. Then, we say, 'Why does this happen?' It is happening because God Almighty is lifting His protection from us."

In the image of its founder, scholarship coming out of Regent University is steeped in biblical rhetoric. The Spring 2002 issue of the Regent Law Review is dedicated exclusively to the issue of homosexuality. Among other articles attacking the "all out campaign" waged by homosexuals to "normalize homosexuality," Dale M. Schowengerdt presents (PDF) a litigation strategy to oppose gay marriage, chiding Christians for not fighting hard enough to uphold the Bible's condemnation of homosexuality.

In the most recent addition of the Regent Law Review, Craig A. Stern looks at the biblical scope of civil government. He asks how far civil government should go to punish sins outlined in the Bible:
"The Bible itself teaches that civil government lacks authority to punish every sin. If the state, like all human authorities, needs a warrant for all it does, and if the biblical warrant to civil government to punish some sins and not others is to be taken as meaningful, then the absence of biblical warrant to punish must also be taken as meaningful. The silence of Scripture, the absence of authorization, is not the indication of indifference, but rather of prohibition. In matters of authority, of a grant of power, silence means no authority is given. And on the subject of the authority of civil government, the Bible does have its silences."

If it were not for Regent's startling prominence in the U.S. government, Stern's essay and others like it would hardly be notable. But the importance that the Republican Party places on Regent (two GOP presidential candidates, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, are scheduled to speak at the university in the coming months) and the high ranking government roles its graduates land, scholarship from Regent demands scrutiny. After all, Stern's essay opens with a passage from Samuel and Chronicles and then continues with an antidote from "a friend" who is "counsel to the United States Senate judiciary committee, later to become judge, and then federal government attorney." The kind of "friends" of federal attorneys who contemplate the degree that the Bible should dictate civil government are the exactly the kind of Bible benders that this blog was created for.

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