Not every Christian institution is rocked by scandal, and there are many Christian colleges that are healthy and vibrant, led by men and women of integrity. Yet as we witness systemic misconduct unfold at institution after institution after institution, often without any real accountability, we can understand that many members of the church have gotten Paul’s equation exactly backward. They are remarkably tolerant of even the most wayward, dishonest and cruel individuals and institutions in American Christianity. At the same time, they approach those outside with a degree of anger and ferocity that’s profoundly contributing to American polarization. It’s also perpetuating the corruption of the church.
Under this moral construct, internal critique is perceived as a threat, a way of weakening American evangelicalism. It’s seen as contributing to external hostility and possibly even the rapid secularization of American life that’s now underway. But Paul would scoff at such a notion. One of the church’s greatest apostles didn’t hold back from critiquing a church that faced far greater cultural or political headwinds — including brutal and deadly persecution at the hands of the Roman state — than the average evangelical can possibly imagine.
Why? Because he realized the health of the church wasn’t up to the state, nor was it dependent on the church’s nonbelieving neighbors. Liberty University is consequential not just because it’s an academic superpower in Christian America, but also because it’s a symbol of a key reality of evangelical life — we have met the enemy of American Christianity, and it is us.