What is Going On At Mid-America Nazarene University?

The college chaplain preached a sermon about peace at the Olathe, Kansas college and, as far as I can tell, he was demoted for it. Here is a taste of an article from the Kansas City Star:

Shortly after Randy Beckum, chaplain at MidAmerica Nazarene University, delivered his morning sermon on Feb. 10, it seemed to have the desired effect.
He said in his sermon that America has a penchant for war and then he pointed to a contradictory Scripture calling for peace. It sparked intense and immediate debate, dominating dining hall conversations and becoming a focal point of social media.
And while there were plenty who disagreed with the message — some, apparently, found it to be anti-military — there was no denying that it had sparked a lively campus discussion.
Just a week later, however, Beckum, the university chaplain, would be relieved of his duties in a second position as vice president for community formation — a move that has been met with scrutiny by many who have come to view Beckum’s changed role on the 1,800-student campus in Olathe as a form of censorship.
“I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt that this was not an intentional attack on free expression,” said Blake Nelson, a resident educator at the university who recently penned a widely read online letter in support of Beckum. “I can’t judge motives or intentions; all I know is that it was an attack on free expression.
“You can’t publicly demote a leader in the denomination and a leader at the university and not expect 100 percent of your constituents to put one and one together.”
University president David J. Spittal has said that Beckum had indicated his desire to be relieved of the vice presidency, but Spittal declined last week to elaborate. Beckum did not respond to phone calls or emails.
As the sermon began, Beckum, a one-time administrator of the year at the university, stood at a lectern wearing jeans and a blazer. After a brief introduction, he mentioned the box office success of the recent Clint Eastwood film “American Sniper,” which details the life of the man considered the most deadly U.S. sniper in history, and noted that it sold many more tickets than “Selma,” which addressed Martin Luther King Jr.’s peaceful tactics in the civil rights movement.
“I am extremely troubled,” he said.
“I don’t think it is an understatement to say that in our culture, in our efforts to be who we are, we are addicted to violence and guns and war and revenge and retaliation.
“Unfortunately, so are a lot of Christians.”
Beckum went on to say, “We have to be very careful about equating Christianity with patriotism,” and he spoke of the biblical call to peace and turning the other cheek.
“It is a scary, complicated world, I know,” Beckum said. “People want to kill us. We have an obligation to protect our children and protect out loved ones. … But (Christian) words are not revenge and retaliation; our words are redemption and reconciliation.”
Even before Beckum finished, his words had begun to stir unrest.
At least one student in attendance left midway through Beckum’s remarks, according to students. And those on campus would soon find their social media feeds packed with comments about the subject matter of that morning’s sermon, many critical of it.
While some took Beckum’s sermon to heart, appreciative of the topics raised, others were leery. One ROTC student would indicate that he didn’t feel his pro-military stance was being represented in chapel. Another would share his opinion that war was simply a reality of life.
Spittal, the university president, would be inundated in the coming days with concerns regarding the sermon.
Still, in those first days, Spittal was publicly outspoken about the need for what he termed “hard lessons.” In a statement to students, he wrote that difficult conversations like the one sparked by Beckum should be encouraged:
“At MidAmerica Nazarene University we encourage the exchange of ideas, and individuals are free to express their individual perspective and opinions, even when those opinions may not reflect the official policy or practices of our university, our core values or our affiliations.”
Then on Feb. 23, students received another statement from Spittal.
In it, the president announced that although he would remain the school’s chaplain, Beckum was being replaced as the school’s vice president for community formation, a position he’d held for several years.
I, of course, don’t know all the details.  I also know that the newspaper coverage at Christian colleges and universities often skew facts due to the failure of reporters to thoroughly understand what goes on at such institutions.
But in this case it seems like Mid-America President David Spittal caved to outside pressure from a constituency that probably equates Christianity and American patriotism.

12 thoughts on “What is Going On At Mid-America Nazarene University?

  1. In an effort to offer a constructive and positive response to this, we have started fundraising for a Peaceable Kingdom Endowment to give a scholarship to a ministerial student at MNU. We hope that it will show our support for both Chaplain Beckum and MNU, while also making a statement that there is room in our church for voices like his, one that asks us difficult questions about our allegiances.
    Please consider giving to the scholarship here: http://bit.ly/beckum-scholarship


  2. Where did Jesus make peace in a anything resembling the Iran situation, one nation committed to the destruction of another?

    Appropriating the Prince of Peace for geo-political propitiation is a category error, unless you think John Kerry is Pope Leo and the mullahs are as reasonable as Atilla.


  3. But what do you say to the 'over the top' adulation, fawning reception that the Israeli PM got when he spoke to the Congress. It was as if he were saying 'Go to war – tomorrow – with Iran. There is a very real trend in the more conservative political public to support anyone who looks and acts 'strong' and takes no prisoners. There is no place for the peacemaking Jesus – only contempt and a label of weak or winp.


  4. Obama voter perchance?

    Sorry, but the correlation is probably 90%+, just as anyone who criticizes “social gospel” Christianity is 90%+ likely to vote the other way. Just calling a spade a spade.


  5. Yes Paul, to call Jesus Prince of Peace is to align yourself entirely with the American political left. It is to entirely approve of Sex Week at Harvard.


  6. Tom, please allow me to opt out of any Christianity that lacks the resources to transcend the American two party system. So if i get your point, to criticize anything sacred to the right is, by definition, to align with the Democratic Party. Hence, Christianity comes in two flavors: Republican or Democratic.

    And that lying weasel Francis. Claiming to be Argentinian when he is just a poorly disguised American Democrat. That liberal commie bastard.

    Seriously, about the only things we can say as Christians to avoid this trap is to exhort our fellow Christians to pray a lot, be nice to puppies, and hope for heaven.

    To be opposed to abortion means one is a born-again Republican. To have reservations about some forms of patriotism that go beyond love of country to forms of patriotism that elevate nation to a form of ultimate allegiance is to be a Democrat. Perhaps our evangelism needs to conclude with the admonition to check the box “Republican Jesus” or “Democratic Jesus” prior to conversion.


  7. Surely we all remember Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount crying out for his followers to “Kill in the name of Kali!” Wait! That was actually the High Priest of the Thuggee in the movie “Gunga Din.” I seem to recall that Jesus was known as “The Prince of Peace,” or has that changed?


  8. But in this case it seems like Mid-America President David Spittal caved to outside pressure from a constituency that probably equates Christianity and American patriotism.

    Let's not be disingenuous–there's also a constituency that equates Christianity with an antipathy to American patriotism, with an almost perfect correlation to the Democratic Party.

    What we have here is a rather not well-masked attack on the GOP. Since the Dems are now the “anti-war” party, especially after Iraq, the GOP is by default to blame for America's “penchant for war” [a debatable assertion in itself].

    I say this with a certain sympathy for the sentiment–it's really no different than what you hear from Pope Francis. Still, pacifism is not a dominant feature of American evangelicalism, whose ethos is far better reflected in “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

    As He died to make men holy,
    Let us die to make men free

    There's probably almost a perfect correlation between your political party and your antipathy for “American Sniper” and a preference for “Selma.” There may be a “Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” but not being able to recognize blatant partisanship isn't one of them.

    The college administration's reaction is no doubt reflected in O'Sullivan's Law


    O’Sullivan’s Law states that any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time. The law is named after British journalist John O’Sullivan.

    Television shows are the best examples of this. 24, House. Charitable foundations are worse but harder to see.

    One of the reasons for this is leftist intolerance versus right-wing tolerance. Right wingers are willing to hire openly left-wing employees in the interest of fairness. Left-wingers, utterly intolerant, will not allow a non-Liberal near them, and will harass them at every opportunity. The result over time is that conservative enterprises are infiltrated by leftists but leftist enterprises remain the same or get worse.

    Also, leftism is in and of itself a form of decay. It’s what happens not just to television shows but to nations, churches and universities as the energy given off by the big bang of their inception slowly ebbs away. Rather than expend vitality in originality and creation they become obsessed with introspection, popularity and lethargy. Leftism is entropy of the spirit and intellect.

    Another reason is that the parasitic nature of Liberals/Leftists attracts them to existing money.

    An enterprise can stave off O'Sullivan's Law if their creators keep it in mind and remain vigilant and truthful.

    O'Sullivan's Law hit 24 when they finally had a Muslim villain then started running disclaimers that Muslims aren't all terrorists.

    The Annenberg Foundation was started by a Republican but it didn't take long before O'Sullivan's Law had them handing a domestic terrorist money for educating kids.

    The ACLU, the Ford Foundation and the Episcopal Church all fell to O’Sullivan’s Law.

    not to mention America's “Catholic” colleges such as Georgetown and Notre Dame, which as often as not harbor “free speech” that's overtly hostile to Catholic theology.

    The administration at Mid-America Nazarene College may be dumb but they're not stupid. Harvard started out as a religious college; now it hosts Sex Week. This is not the exception in America, it is the inescapable rule.


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