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Jeb Bush Challenges Liberty University Grads to Live Lives of Faith

By    |   Saturday, 09 May 2015 01:11 PM

Jeb Bush challenged graduates at Liberty University in Virginia Saturday to show in their lives "the most dynamic, inclusive, and joyful message that ever came into the world" in a commencement speech that also challenged the Obama administration's use of "coercive federal power" to limit religious freedom.

"It's a depressing fact that when some people think of Christianity and of Judeo-Christian values, they think of something static, narrow, and outdated," the former Florida governor said Saturday at the Christian university in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he was invited to deliver the commencement address to a capacity crowd of 34,000 at the school's Williams Stadium.

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"We can take this as unfair criticism, as it typically is, or we can take it as further challenge to show in our lives the most dynamic, inclusive, and joyful message that ever came into the world," said Bush.

Liberty University, a Christian university that was founded in 1971 by evangelist and Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell, whose son, Jerry Falwell Jr., serves as the college's president, is a popular destination for potential presidential candidates.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz used an address to Liberty students to formally announce his presidential bid in late March. Further, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney delivered the commencement address at the university weeks after becoming the nominee in 2012.

Other previous presidential contenders to visit the campus include Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee, along with vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, another likely 2016 contender, spoke at last year's commencement.

Liberty's convocation speeches, such as the one where Cruz made his announcement, are mandatory for the school's nearly 14,000 on-campus students, and are a popular destination for many conservative politicians.

On Saturday, Falwell said that Bush's father also has spoken at the university, and noted the close relationship his family has held with the Bush family over the years, saying that he'd also like to invite Bush's mother, popular former first lady Barbara Bush, to speak there someday as well.

Falwell awarded Bush with a doctorate of humanities from the college before his speech.

On Saturday, Bush lauded Liberty graduates as "civilized, confident, true-hearted men and women, which happens to be just what America needs. Whatever the need, the affliction, or the injustice, there is no more powerful or liberating influence on this earth than the Christian conscience in action."

As for people who consider Christianity a "static faith," Bush said that "offhand, I cannot think of any more subversive moral idea ever loosed on the world than ‘the last shall be first, and the first last.’”

And across civilization, history would be a radically different thing without Christianity, said Bush.

"Consider a whole alternative universe of power without restraint, conflict without reconciliation, oppression without deliverance, corruption without reformation, tragedy without renewal, achievement without grace, and it’s all just a glimpse of human experience without the Christian influence," Bush told the graduates.

And it's young Christians who are showing the way, said Bush, and they're not moved by pity, "but by a vision of what can be. For all who would serve the poor and homeless, you set the standard with your belief that everyone matters, and everyone has the right to rise.“

Moral standards are universal, said Bush, and do not bend under the weight of cultural differences or elite opinion.

"Wherever there is a child waiting to be born, we say choose life, and we say it with love," said Bush. "Wherever women and girls in other countries are brutally exploited, or treated as possessions without rights and dignity, we Christians see that arrogance for what it is. Wherever Jews are subjected to the oldest bigotry, we reject that sin against our brothers and sisters, and we defend them."

His speech also turned political, when he accused the "present administration" of "supporting the use of coercive federal power," including by forcing laws on groups to require the provision of birth control despite religious opposition.

"What should be easy calls, in favor of religious freedom, have instead become an aggressive stance against it," said Bush. "Somebody here is being small-minded and intolerant, and it sure isn’t the nuns, ministers, and laymen and women who ask only to live and practice their faith. Federal authorities are demanding obedience, in complete disregard of religious conscience – and in a free society, the answer is No.”

Criticism directed at believers "is drawn from hostile caricature," Bush said. "It is a posture that only deepens distrust, instead of inviting understanding. So often we hear language that divides us, when what we need is the language of good will.”

Bush's Saturday speech was seen by some insiders as being made in hopes of establishing his evangelical credentials to a largely skeptical public, reports The Washington Post

Bush has converted to Catholicism and opposes abortion, but still, the GOP's more conservative side is wary of his moderate views on immigration and Common Core educational standards, and his failure to take a strong line against same-sex marriage.

“I think it’s smart of him to go to Liberty,” Richard Cullen, who was appointed U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush and served on George W. Bush’s legal team during the Florida recount in 2000 told The Post. “Nobody ever accused him of not being a conservative until recently, and I think he will survive any scrutiny. He’s a very spiritual and religious person."

But a Bush opponent, Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said he is skeptical.

"We need to be a party that welcomes people back into the fold when they make mistakes, but it's gonna take a lot," Brown told the Post. "An appearance at Liberty is not going to cut it."

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Jeb Bush challenged graduates at Liberty University in Virginia Saturday to show in their lives the most dynamic, inclusive, and joyful message that ever came into the world.
bush, liberty university, commencement, speech
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2015-11-09
Saturday, 09 May 2015 01:11 PM
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